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Franchise / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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"Man, I LOVE being a Turtle!!!"

The Heroes in a Half-Shell. The Green Dudes with Attitudes. The World's Most Fearsome Fighting Team.

The Animal Superheroes. COWABUNGA, DUDES!!!

Indie comic book turned multimedia empire, starring the eponymous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or TMNT) started as a parody. In fact, the entire premise is built around the question of what happened to the radioactive canister which gave Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) his superpowers. The original comic was at first largely an affectionate riff on Frank Miller’s ninja-tastic reinvention of Daredevil in the 1980s,note  mixed with just a little of the other most popular thing on the shelves — teenage mutants.

Aspiring comic creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, founders of "Mirage Studios" (so named because it didn't actually exist yet), came up with the concept one night after work, sketching their increasingly goofy ideas. The paradox of supposedly slow and cumbersome creatures being such stealthy, deadly warriors proved irresistible.


The resulting one-shot (ha) comic revolved around four titular turtles named after Renaissance artists — Leonardo, Raphael, Michaelangelonote  and Donatello — battling the ninja crimelord Oroku Saki, better known as "The Shredder", and his Foot Clan. The Turtles were trained by Master Splinter, a mutant rat, to avenge the murder of his owner Hamato Yoshi, a fugitive Foot member.

The original comic also recounts their origins through flashback. Once normal pet shop baby turtles, their aquarium was smashed by a metal canister which had flown from a van.note  The baby turtles and the canister fell into the sewers where Splinter, still a regular rat, came across them. They were all covered in a strange chemical ooze from the canister, which led to them growing in size and intelligence and developing anthropomorphic appearances.


A surprise hit (credited to the bizarre name), later stories applied a Fantasy Kitchen Sink approach, with time travel, robots, and aliens introduced within the first ten issues. The series became so popular in the indie comics scene that it spawned a bunch of imitators and branched out into merchandising with T-shirts, figurines and the like. But the Turtles finally broke from Cult Classic status to mainstream success when an action figure deal was struck with Playmates Toys, and an animated series was created to accompany the toyline. The show became one of the most popular animated series of all time, which in turn led to movies, games, and every type of merchandise under the sun, turning TMNT into one of the biggest cash cow franchises of the mid-eighties/early nineties and one of the most iconic brands in pop culture.

The major incarnations of the franchise are as follows:

Comic Books

  • The Mirage Comics (1984-1993, 2001-2010): Stories featuring the original incarnation of the turtles. These are notable for its semi-real time storytelling (stories written after 2001 featured the turtles in their thirties); its lack of a consistent Rogues Gallery; and alternating between "throw-everything-at-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks" and "heavily focused" approaches to storytelling. This incarnation comprises Volumes 1, 2, and 4 of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book, two volumes of Tales of the TMNT, and a multitude of one-shots and mini-series.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures (1988/1989-1995/1996): Shortly into its run, the first cartoon spawned its own comic book, published by Archie Comics. While it initially limited itself to adapting some of the cartoon stories, it eventually evolved into something as different from the cartoon as the cartoon was from the original comic book. This incarnation of the turtles is generally regarded favorably, with a notable contingent of fans clamoring for inclusion of its characters into future incarnations.
  • TMNT Vol. 3 (1996-1999): Published by Image Comics, this series was the official continuation of the Mirage continuity, until it was subsequently ignored by Peter Laird upon the publication of Volume 4. Mostly remembered for mutilating three out of the four turtles, and for a plot featuring a three-way struggle for leadership of the Foot involving Raphael, who had taken on the Shredder identity after finding his armor; Pimiko, the original Shredder's daughter; and Lady Shredder, a ninja of unknown origin dressed in the familiar armor. The series was abruptly cancelled with issue #23 with the plot unresolved, but almost 20 years later as part of their projects to republish vintage turtle comics, IDW, the current publisher of TMNT comics (see below) began a color reprint series titled TMNT: Urban Legends that brought back the original creative team to produce three more issues to conclude the series.
  • The Dreamwave Comics (2003): The second cartoon had its own spinoff comic, published by Dreamwave Productions. Unlike Adventures this comic proved to be incredibly short-lived as it was abruptly cancelled seven issues in.
  • The IDW Comics (2011-): The first new incarnation of the Turtles following the purchase by Nickelodeon and published by IDW Publishing, it features elements from all previous incarnations before it, as well as heavily revised origins for the familiar characters.
  • The Nick Comics: (2012-2017; 2018–): The third and fourth cartoons, both from Nickelodeon, have their own spinoffs also published by IDW. The 2012 series's comic was launched as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures and later relaunched in 2015 as Amazing Adventures. This also had a crossover with Batman, specifically the DCAU version.

TV Shows — cartoons

  • The first cartoon (1987-1996), commonly called the "1987 series" after its premier year. Resemblances to its source material are mostly superficial. The first cartoon featuring the turtles proved even more popular than the comics (and it definitely remains the best-known TMNT incarnation among the general public), thanks to the distillation/flanderization of the four turtles to easily identifiable character types; the addition of villains Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady; the promotion of the Shredder from one-shot baddie to Arch-Enemy; gleeful breaking of the fourth wall; the addition of a Trademark Favorite Food (pizza) and a Catchphrase ("Cowabunga!", although there were others), and a general Lighter and Softer comedic bent (for instance, Hamato Yoshi isn't murdered; he instead becomes Splinter). The series ended in 1996, after ten seasons, 194 episodes, and one retool nicknamed the "Red Sky" period by fans, which attempted to make the series more dramatic in the wake of more serious cartoons like X-Men and Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Legend of the Supermutants (1996). An Anime. It is a two-episode OVA which adapts (very freely) the Turtles into Japanese anime format, although they're mainly thinly-veiled ads for Takara's Japanese version of the Turtles toyline. Among the changes made, the turtles have the power to transform into "Super Turtles" for about three minutes, have an animal-themed armor each (like in Saint Seiya) and can fuse together to form the "Saint Turtle". Besides that, the bad guys also have transforming powers, and Shredder turns into a Dragon. For further info, visit Wikipedia or just see this video.
  • The second cartoon (2003-2009): Mirage teamed up with 4Kids in order to produce this new cartoon, this time making sure it had a closer resemblance to the comic book it was based on. Nicknamed the 2003 series, the series featured faithful adaptations of most of the comic book's stories, contained major story arcs, and straightened up the original patchwork narrative and made it more coherent. However, it also exercised its own creative license, introducing new friends and foes and perhaps most notably, playing with the Shredder's identity; by the end, multiple characters had taken the role. Surprisingly for a show produced by someone with the 2003 series' pedigree, it avoided several of the tropes associated with Saturday Morning cartoons, such as Thou Shalt Not Kill and Status Quo Is God. It ended in 2009, after six years, seven seasons, and two retools.
    • Turtles Forever (2009), an animated movie crossing over this incarnation of the Turtles with that of the first cartoon, and acting as a celebration of the franchise's 25th anniversary. It also serves as a Grand Finale for both the '03 cartoon and the franchise's pre-Nickelodeon era.
  • The third cartoon (2012-2017): A CGI animated series that aired on Nickelodeon. The series uses and/or modernizes a significant amount of characters and elements from the first cartoon series, although it does utilize characters and elements from the Mirage comics and other previous incarnations. It is also the most Animesque take yet, full of Manga Effects and other Japanese visual humor. It's somewhat Younger and Hipper — the Turtles act more like adolescents and several human characters have been aged down — but it still has dark moments.
  • Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2018-2020): The fourth cartoon and second Nickelodeon show. A 2D animated series considerably Denser and Wackier than the 2012 series. It mixes up the formula a little, like by making Raphael the leader instead of Leonardo, changing most of their signature main weapons, and having a strong mystical focus.

TV Shows — live-action


  • The Original Film Series
    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990): The first movie combined events from the comic book with the cartoon's humor. It went on to be extremely popular, breaking records for an independent film and even though reviews weren't glowing, praise was given to Jim Henson's Creature Shop for the costumes.
    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze: A follow-up movie, recasting April O'Neil and Casey Jones disappears. Criticisms of the mature content of the first film lead to some changes, with a more lighthearted tone overall and the Turtles fighting barehanded. This movie didn't do as well as its predecessor financially or critically.
    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Revamped Turtle costumes resulted in reduced facial expressions, but more agile and swift action. The reduced budget and half-hearted promotion led to this installment performing even worse than Secret of the Ooze, not helped by it being critically shredded.
  • TMNT (2007): Following a 14-year absence, the Turtles returned to the big screen with the release of the fully-CGI TMNT. Made as a tenuous continuation of the original movies, it received respectable reviews for the animation and character storylines, but was criticized for the main plot mysticism, some blurry character motivations (Leonardo in particular), and the marginalization of half of the turtles. A sequel was hinted at, but never came about.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014): A Continuity Reboot with Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes serving as the production company. Where the previous live-action films used people in animatronic suits to portray the Turtles, this one uses CGI motion-capture.
  • Batman vs. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: A Direct to Video animated movie based on Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  • Untitled CGI Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Reboot: Another Continuity Reboot with Seth Rogen's Grey Point pictures serving as the production company. Like the 2007 film, it will be completely computer animated. In a first for the franchise, it is planned to have actual teenage actors voice the turtles.

Pinball Machines

Tabletop Games

Video Games

  • Nickelodeon Kart Racers (2018). The 2012 Ninja Turtles appear as playable characters.
  • Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix (2020). The 2012 Ninja Turtles and Shredder appear as playable characters.
  • Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl (2021). The 1987 versions of Leonardo, Michelangelo and April appear as playable characters.
  • Smite (2014). The Ninja Turtles, Splinter and Shredder appear as skins for six playable characters in November 2020.
  • Brawlhalla (2014). The Ninja Turtles appear as skins for four playable characters in June 2021.
  • Injustice 2 (2017). The Ninja Turtles appear as a Guest Fighter in the game's third and final DLC Fighter Pack.

Other media franchises: There are also other media franchises of the series, including food tie-ins (Ninja Turtles cereal, Chef Boyardee TMNT pasta, Ninja Turtles cookies, etc.); a Coming Out of Their Shells concert tour that first premiered at the Radio City Music Hall (with Donatello on keyboards, Leonardo on bass guitar, Raphael on drums and sax, and Michelangelo on guitar, as the story had a feel similar to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, with its theme of the power of rock n' roll literally defeating the enemy, in the form of the Shredder (who only rapped about how he hates music) trying to eliminate all music; a behind-the-scenes documentary from 1991 called "Behind the Shells" about the making of the first two live action movies; and a stage show at the Disney-MGM studios theme park in Orlando, Florida from 1990 to 1996. The franchise is also the subject of a documentary film titled Turtle Power, fan-made but distributed by Paramount.

TMNT remains a pop-culture phenomenon to this day. It inspired the entire Teenage Mutant Samurai Wombats genre, and is a multimedia Cash Cow Franchise still beloved by many fans new and old.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise has the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The 2003 series and the fourth movie. The first movie successfully blends the original comics and cartoon into a coherent whole.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • The characters are reinterpreted in every retelling, especially Michelangelo and Raphael. They typically fit the same archetype, but express it in different ways.
      • Michelangelo is usually the comic relief, but his approach to the role varies: In the Mirage Comics he's a laid-back Nice Guy, in the 1987 cartoon he's a Surfer Dude, in the film series he's a Motor Mouth jokester, in the 2003 cartoon he's a prankster and a Gadfly, in the 2012 cartoon he's an outlandish Cloudcuckoolander, in 2018, his tendency to joke around has been downplayed, given partially to Leo.
      • Raphael is always the team rebel, but again his method of rebelling varies from incarnation to incarnation: In the Mirage comics he's a violent and sometimes unstable berserker, in the 1987 cartoon he's a wisecracking slacker, in the film series he's a brooding loner with a huge temper, in the 2003 cartoon he's gruff and standoffish, in the 2012 cartoon he's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold with a Hair-Trigger Temper, and in 2018 where he's the eldest, he still has a temper but is an Adaptational Nice Guy Bruiser with a Soft Center.
    • All four Turtles were flanderized in the 1987 series, except for Leonardo who was only mildly flanderized. Donatello went from being intellectual to being a Gadgeteer Genius, Michelangelo went from being mostly laidback to being a surfer dude obsessed with pizza, but most egregiously, Raphael went from being dark and violent to being snarky and constantly breaking the fourth wall.
    • Not discussed above with Rise 2018, Leonardo has become Brilliant, but Lazy, and Donatello is even more of a Deadpan Snarker than usual as well as a Mad Scientist.
  • Adaptation Species Change:
    • Shredder was changed to a Utrom (an alien in a robot suit) in the 2003 series.
    • Splinter is always depicted as a mutant rat, but sometimes (like in the first, third, and fourth cartoons), he started as a human. Other times (like in the Mirage comics, the 1990s film and the second cartoon), he started as a pet rat.
  • Aerith and Bob: When the turtles are addressed by their nicknames, Leo, Don/Donnie, and Mikey/Mike are all fairly common, and then you have Raphael's nickname, Raph.
  • Age Lift: In the original comics, Oroku Saki was appointed leadership of the New York branch of the Foot Clan when he was eighteen and within a year built it into a forced to be reckoned with, at which point he would have been nineteen. According to Splinter in the first issue of the first volume, it had been fifteen years since Oroku had murdered Hamato Yoshi and Tang Shen, telling us that Oroku is thirty-four at least by the time of the present day. Oroku Saki is typically portrayed as older, of Hamato Yoshi's generation, when in the comics his elder brother Oroku Nagi was of Yoshi's generation.
  • Amphibian at Large/Amphibian Assault: In both the first animated and the 2012 Nickelodeon series, the Punk Frogs are introduced as Psycho Rangers to the Turtles before pulling a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Animal Nemesis: The feud between Oroku Nagi and Hamato Yoshi is taken up by Nagi's brother and Yoshi's pet rat, and the Turtles themselves when they mutate.
  • Animal Superheroes: And one example who got many follow-ups.
  • Another Dimension: A whole lot of them, most notably Dimension X in two continuities.
  • Anthropomorphic Transformation: The titular reptiles started out as ordinary pet store turtles that were mutated by a chemical that turned them human-sized and anthropomorphic. In some continuties, their mentor Splinter started out as a normal rat who was mutated with the turtles. Whether other mutants started out as animals or not can depend on the continuity as well.
  • The Anticipator: Master Splinter usually plays this role in the show, as he is very wise and skilled. And a ninja, of course.
  • Art Initiates Life: Kirby's crystal allowed him to do this.
  • The Artifact: As the series became more kid-friendly it became fairly impossible to show Leonardo and Raphael slicing and dicing their non-robotic foes, as that would be bloody and gruesome. However, their weapons of katanas and sais are so iconic to them that they could never get rid of them. Thus more often than not, and particularly in the movies (which feature no robots) they'll just be seen fighting with their bare hands — their more effective weapons strapped to them untouched.
    • Reimagining the Artifact: Which might be the reason why few of the foes (Foot Clan Ninjas e.g) were turned robotic midway in the animated series just to compensate for the lack thereof.
    • The title itself became this as the Turtles continued to age in the comics well into their thirties.
  • Ascended Extra: The Shredder died in the first ever Mirage issue, but he was promoted to the Turtles' arch-enemy in most other versions. The Foot tried bringing him back but it didn't stick.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Hamato Yoshi's surname (Hamato) doesn't exist in real Japanese. The Japanese dub of the 1987 cartoon called him "Yoshihama Takeshi" instead. Similarly, Oroku Saki's given name (Saki) is real but feminine. Thus the Japanese dub and the Legend of the Supermutants OVA called him "Oroku Sawaki".
  • Audience Shift: While the franchise was originally conceived as an indie comic for adults, the large majority of the media inspired by it tend to be aimed at children. These family-friendly versions usually have their own comic continuities.
  • Author Appeal: Jack Kirby and the cosmic themes of his work are often referenced in the various Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continuities, with at least one story in the Mirage Comics that was adapted as an episode for the 2003 series even featuring a thinly-veiled version of Jack Kirby. The adaptation was itself dedicated to his memory.
  • Avenging the Villain: The basis of the Foot's vendetta against the turtles, after The Shredder's death in the comic books. In the 2003 series, this becomes Karai's motivation during the fourth season, after The Shredder (here her adoptive father) is exiled to an icy asteroid.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Renaissance Artists and Japanese names and Irish names and Athletes and Violent Verbs and Notorious Conquerors, oh my! Wait; I think I missed some!
  • Badass Bookworm: Donatello, the one who builds machines.
  • Badass Pacifist: Donatello is known as the least violent of the four turtles and would rather use his intellect to solve conflict than his fighting skills. However, he is VERY competent in his fighting when it is needed.
  • Badbutt: Nearly as iconic to the heroes as Totally Radical is their application of Unusual Euphemism, at least in the 1987 series. "What the Shell" is one of the most uttered phrases in the 2003 series; at least as often as "Cowabunga" in the 1987 series.
  • Beauty to Beast: April when turned into a fish mutant. And the time she was made a cat mutant. And then there was the time in the Archie comics when she became a mutant turtle herself! Luckily, each time she was mutated, she was cured by the end of each story.
  • Beneath the Earth: The Turtles have lived in sewers and on subway platforms from time to time.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Let's just say that you would want to stay on the good side of Michelangelo & Donatello.
  • Big Applesauce: New York is the primary location for all incarnations.
  • Big Bad: Although the different incarnations may have their own individual Big Bads, The Shredder is the most traditional and consistent foe the turtles come across.
  • Big Brother Instinct: The turtles all fall under this trope at one time or another, in all the various incarnations. It has also applied to Casey and April.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: The Shredder
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Shredder's Elite Guard.
  • Bumbling Henchmen Duo: Bebop and Rocksteady are a pair of incompetent goons working for the Shredder, originating in the 1987 series.
  • Canon Foreigner: Krang, Bebop, Rocksteady, Venus de Milo, Tatsu, Tokka, Rahzar and many more.
  • Canon Immigrant:
    • Archie Comics to Mirage: Cudley the Cowlick
    • 2003 series to Mirage: Foot Mystics, The Battle Nexus, Hun and Bishop, Shredder's armor.
    • First Film to Mirage: Charles Pennington
    • Any of them to IDW Comics: If they've made a significant impact on any version of the Turtles, odds are they're in it.
  • Catchphrase:
    • 1987 series: "Cowabunga!" "Turtle power!"
    • Films: "God, I love being a turtle!!
    • 2003 series: "It's ninja time!" (Fast Forward only) "Goongala!" (Casey) "None of you will leave here alive!" (The Shredder), "Oh, crud." (Hun).
    • 2012 series: "Booyakasha!" (Mikey)
    • Rise "Hot soup!" (Raph, Splinter), and a return of "Cowabunga!"
  • Cephalothorax: Krang, after being stripped of his body when he was banished from Dimension X. Shredder designed and built a humanoid exo-suit for him when they teamed up.
  • Character Select Forcing: A few video games, be it due to combat (the original Nintendo Hard game, where Donatello was the only one with a decent range) or abilities (the Game Boy Advance version of Battle Nexus had some crystals accessible only by certain turtles).
  • City of Adventure: New York City, as well as Northampton, MA in the Mirage comics and 2003 series.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Since the original comic was in black and white, there wasn't much of this to begin with as each turtle was identified by their Weapon of Choice. Even the special colored issues had the bandana masks they wear all red. The original cartoon gave the turtles different color bandannas (which have since been used in every successive incarnation) and the action figures, different skin colors (ignored until the 2003 cartoon).
    • The Archie comic series Lampshaded this with a Truth in Television flashback story about the pre-teenaged Turtles all wearing red headbands and Splinter having difficulty telling them apart until they decide on color coding their masks a la Donald Duck's nephews. This crosses into Only Six Faces.
    • The newspaper strip, as it was also in black and white, took a page from the 1987 cartoon and the turtles here have their initials on their belts instead.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: SUBVERTED of all things! In the First Movie and the 2003 series, The Foot have got alot of mileage out of sending wave after wave of Mooks after the Turtles (Raphael in the 1990 movie, and Leonardo in the Comics and 2003 series) and whooping their asses.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: The turtles' way of staying hidden. On the other hand this IS New York, where nobody looks at anybody else, so, fair enough.
  • Cosmic Keystone: The dimension of the original Mirage Comics for the Multiverse in "Turtles Forever".
  • Crossover:
    • Most important is Miyamoto Usagi of Usagi Yojimbo, who has appeared in the Mirage comics, the 1987 series and the 2003 series; the Turtles have also made the occasional appearance in the Usagi Yojimbo comic books.
    • And Turtles Forever, a crossover between the 2003 series and 1987 series. Did we mention the Mirage comics?
    • Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue features 1987 Mikey among many other toons.
    • The Next Mutation guest starred in the Power Rangers in Space episode "Shell Shocked".note 
    • The Raving Rabbidsnote  in the Smash-Up video game. They immediately became new Scrappies for the TMNT fandom.
    • There was a crossover with Planet Racers, another comic created by Peter Laird, in an episode of the 2003 series.
    • Because the brainchild of Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa did some of the issues of the original comic series, Cowlorado Kid, Moo Montana and Dakota Dude appeared in some of the Tales of the TMNT issues and made non-speaking roles in an episode in the 2003 cartoon.
    • Due to IDW owning the rights for TMNT comics as of 2011, the Turtles have also become recurring characters in IDW's yearly Massive Multiplayer Cross Throughs, having appeared in 2012's Infestation 2 against the Cthulhu Mythos and in 2014's The X-Files: Conspiracy. No, the Turtles don't get to meet Mulder and Scully (though Mulder does get a one-panel cameo), but they do tangle up with Mulder's buddies The Lone Gunmen and the vampires from the X-Files episode "Bad Blood."
    • Since it's now a Nickelodeon property, the TMNT have a few appearances in online games with other Nick stars, both cartoon and live-action. Funnily enough, they once again crossover with the Power Rangers and the Rabbids.
    • The original comic series also crossed over with Cerebus the Aardvark; the most recent IDW version crossed over with the goddam Batman.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Michelangelo, in every incarnation, is the usually the goofball/slacker/fun-loving guy of the group, but when it comes down to having an actual don't really wanna be on the receiving end.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Repeatedly subverted by Baxter Stockman. In the Mirage comics, after making a large legitimate fortune with his Mouser robots, he then proceeds to use them to commit terrorism for kicks. In the 1987 series, he tried using them legitimately but was rejected by every pest control company in town. In the 2003 seires, he makes a huge legitimate fortune with them, and then starts using them to rob banks simply because he's a greedy bastard.
  • Cycle of Revenge: One of the most important themes in the original Mirage books.
  • Damsel in Distress: April O'Neil always, though taken Up to Eleven in the first cartoon where the turtles can recognize her by her "mmphing".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Being teenagers, all four of them usually do it at some point, but Raphael is the one that's known for it the most. Master Splinter also has his dry humor moments.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Venus de Milo, who fit in as an Action Girl and The Chick in Next Mutation since it didn't even feature April as a character.
  • Distinctive Appearances: The original comics run had the turtles effectively defined by their Weapon of Choice and nothing else, being they were in black and white. Even early color issues had them all with red bandannas, only after a few years did they get their distinctive colors. Various incarnations continue to play with tricks to make them stand out from each other: Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation played with the styling of the belts and bandannas (with Michelangelo having frayed edges and Donatello having a full cap), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) gave them all slightly different green skin pigments and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) did some more subtle things like Donatello's chipped tooth.
  • Ditto Aliens: The Utroms; Triceratons.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: In Issue #1, the turtles were barely distinguishable from each other, each with a similar personality, though Leonardo and Raphael show a few hints of some, but the turtles were defined by the fact they're a parody of Frank Miller style writing. Later installments started adding personality to all four of the turtles, with the adaptations adding colored bandanas to help recognize them without their weapons. The new show takes it even further by giving the Turtles their own body-types, allowing you to distinguish them from each other without the weapons or bandanas.
  • Dual Wielding: Three of the four turtles use their weapons in pairs, with Donny being the odd man out. Though since his weapon is a bo staff, it's justified (although his original action figure did come with a pair of bo).
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Splinter and the Turtles not treating or addressing each other as father and sons respectively in older works feels pretty alien now, given that pretty much every major fiction for the past few decades has the five explicitly considering each other family even though they're not blood. Lampshaded in Turtles Forever, where the '87 Turtles are surprised to see that their 2003 counterparts explicitly call Splinter "father" and he calls them "my sons".
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The turtles' lair is usually one of these.
  • Emerald Power
  • The End of the World as We Know It: TMNT just wouldn't be the same if this trope were non-existent.
  • Every Japanese Sword Is a Katana: Occurs with every ninja-to in the series.
    • Except for Leo's swords in the 2003 seires (even though everyone still calls them katana), or the 2007 CGI movie, one might point out...
      • In the live-action movies, Leo is obviously wielding ninjato.
      • The RPG makes a point of defining Leo's swords as a daisho, a set of katana and wakizashi.
  • Evil Power Vacuum: Occurs after the Shredder is defeated at the end of the Return to New York arc in the Mirage comic books and in the second cartoon.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: In all of their incarnations, the turtles are seldom seen wearing anything besides their bandanas and weapons, unless it's part of a disguise.
  • Expository Theme Tune: "Splinter taught them to be ninja teens!" "He's a radical rat!"
  • Expy: The Ninja Turtles were originally a parody of Daredevil. Splinter was a stand-in for Daredevil's mentor Stick, while the Foot Clan was a parody of the Hand, a secret group of ninjas fought by Daredevil.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Prevalent through all incarnations of the series, to varying degrees. There's also quite a bit of overlap between the disparate fantastic elements.
  • Far East Asian Terrorists: The Foot Clan engages in terrorism at several points in the franchise. The 2014 movie portrays them as Western Terrorists, however.
  • Fighting with Chucks: Michaelangelo uses chucks as his primary weapon.
  • Final Exchange: In the "hidden episodes", when a spirit form of Hamato Yoshi defeats the demon form of the Shredder.
    Shredder: I will fight you to the last breath!
    Yoshi: Your dragon form was your last breath. [performs One-Hit KO]
  • Fish People: Mona Lisa's nemesis Captain Filch has minions who fit this trope in the original series episode "Raphael Meets His Match"; the fish people from "Sons of the Silent Age."
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: The turtles are wont to do this.
  • Faint in Shock: In nearly every version, April O'Neil does this on her first sight of the turtles, whereupon they pick her up and take her home. In a possible Running Gag, Michelangelo asks "Can we keep her?" in both the first movie and the second series just after she faints.
    • In the first movie, April did not faint upon seeing the Turtles for the first time — her unconsciousness was due to being attacked by the Foot Clan before they got their ever-loving asses kicked by Raph. When she woke up in the sewer den, she freaked out instead, which ended up freaking the Turtles out as well.
    • Splinter elicited a fainting reaction from Keno and Kenshin in the second and third movies, the latter being lampshaded.
      Donatello: You sure have a strange effect on people, don't you, Master?
      Splinter: Hmmmm... out cold.
  • For the Evulz: In the original comics, April asks Baxter Stockman why he is using his Mousers to hold the city for ransom when he has already made a vast fortune with them. He answers that it's fun!
  • The Future: Plays a significant part in several incarnations, particularly in the Mirage and Archie comics, which had several stories starring future versions of the turtles, and the second cartoon, whose setting for the entire sixth season was the year 2105.
  • Genius Bruiser: Leatherhead in the 2003 incarnation.
  • Genre Savvy: Michelangelo with his vast knowledge of pop culture usually is the one to reference how something they're dealing with is similar to a movie, tv show, or video game he knows about.
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Averted all to hell in the 2003 series. Both The Federation (humanoids) and The Republic (Triceratons) are pretty nasty.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: D.A.R.P.A. in the Mirage comic books and its animated counterpart, the Earth Protection Force.
  • Grand Finale: Turtles Forever.
  • Have You Come to Gloat?: Happened in the comic. The turtles were being held prison by a crazed whaler who was essentially a Japanese Captain Ahab. When his first mate visits them in the brig, they start cursing at him and one of them shouts, "Come to gloat?" Subverted in that the whaler has actually come down to free them.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: In the 80's cartoon, the turtles were once framed for a crime they didn't commit and nobody believes them, not even April and they have to prove themselves innocent.
    • Whenever the 2003 turtles are seen by humans, said humans usually end up running away screaming, notable occasions are when Raph returned a lady's purse only to be told to stay away from her and Mikey's failed attempts at being a hero as he's either given no thanks or mistaken for the perpetrator. In Season 4, Bishop creates a fake alien invasion to trick the President into thinking his organization doesn't deserve to lose all their funding, and afterwards, a news report depicts the turtles as malicious aliens.
    • In the 2007 movie, Nightwatcher AKA Raph was either feared or despised for fighting crime and when Leo discovers his secret identity, he gets called out for risking the safety of his keeping his family's existence a secret.
  • Highly Visible Ninja: The turtles, of course. There are other ninjas present too (some of the Shredder's minions for an example) who stand out from the crowd.
    • In the Turtles' defense, it's not like they chose to look so recognizable, what with not even being humans to begin with. In fact, in many versions, that's the very reason Splinter trained them to begin with: so they could make up for their appearance and avoid persecution from humans by being stealthy and constantly hiding in the shadow.
  • Honor Before Reason: A trait seen in most incarnations of Leonardo. It goes both ways though- either he is commended or, if something goes horribly wrong, grievously injured.
    • Also Karai, whose loyalty to the Shredder conflicts with her strong sense of honorable behavior.
  • Human Aliens: A large part of the Federation, including most of its army.
  • If I Can't Have You…: The reason why Oroku Nagi beats on Tang Shen in the original comics, and why Oroku Saki and Yukio Mashimi kill her in the movie and the 2003 series, respectively.
  • "I Hate" Song: "I Hate Music" from the Coming Out of Their Shells Tour, where Shredder sings about how he wants to get rid of music. The song's name is also ironic, as Shredder technically makes music despite hating music. It's also one of two songs that didn't appear on the tour's album, the other being "Follow Your Heart", which was sung by Michelangelo.
  • Intra-Franchise Crossover:
    • Turtles Forever is a textbook example with the Turtles from the 2003 series meeting up with the Turtles from the 1987 series, the two versions of the Turtles exist in alternate dimensions and meet each other when messing with interdimensional travel, in the end both versions meet the original Turtles from the Mirage comics, they're presented as the prime Turtles, and erasing their existence would do the same to all the other versions.
    • Also, a computer screen shows the Multiverse, with the many dimensions populated by other versions of the Turtles like the 2007 movie, the live-action movies from the 90s, and even the bizarre two-episode anime, however, missing from the screen are some Old Shames like the Live-Action Series and the Rock Musical, but even the incredibly weird two-part anime is there.
    • The 2012 animated series did it again, with an episode crossing over with the 1987 series with a plot similar to ‘’Turtles Forever,’’ again having the original 1984 Turtles at the end, and since the 1987 series was hand-drawn but the 2012 was CGI, the episode uses Art Shift, alternating between hand-drawn animation and CGI depending on which universe the scene takes place, and converting the look of the Turtles in the process, for some reason, 1987 and 2012 Donatello stay in their original 2D and 3D forms when they enter the 1984 comic universe, they even have color when the whole comic-book world is black and white.
  • Irisless Eye Mask Of Mystery: They originally had Irisless eyemasks to simulate Glowing Eyes of Doom, without actually making their eyes glow. When they gave the turtles visible irises? They looked cute instead, regardless of how menacing they make their faces look. The only other media to retain this look from the comics was the 2003 cartoon (although the 2012 show uses them whenever things get serious).
  • Legacy Character: Several people have taken on the Shredder's mantle after besides Oroku Saki, with Karai being the most popular one.
  • Lighter and Softer: Fans of either cartoon series who then read the original comic book rarely expect its much darker tone, and may be shocked that the turtles actually kill people.
    • And often heartbroken by the issue where Master Splinter dies. Hell, even many fans who started with the comics find it a Tear Jerker.
  • Long-Runners: 30+ years and still going strong.
  • Lost in Imitation: The turtles' tails and red bandannas.
  • Love Triangle: Hamato Yoshi, Tang Shen, and Oroku Nagi (or, alternatively, Oroku Saki or Yukio Mashimi, depending on the incarnation) form one of these. Also, Stainless Steve Steel, Dr. Dome, and Battling Bernice.
    • The 2012 series is clearly building up to one between Donnie, April, and Casey.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Several, most notably The Foot Soldiers in the first animated series.
  • Medium Awareness: A regular feature of the first cartoon.
  • Merchandise-Driven: TMNT didn't start this way, but it moved in this direction once the toy line became hugely successful. Ironically, it was originally intended as a slightly Darker and Edgier parody of merchandise-driven cartoon series and comics. Then the creators realized it was becoming one, and just rolled with it, and now the series has become the archetype for such franchises. It's even had a parody or two.
  • Mistaken for Aliens: Occurs to the turtles a lot, once the existence of aliens is actually made known to the general population.
  • Mobile-Suit Human: The alien Utroms used robotic exoskeletons to hide among humans while stranded on Earth. Also used by the Kraang in the 2012 cartoon.
  • Monochromatic Eyes: Several incarnations of the turtles—but only when they wear their masks.
  • Mooks: Of all stripes, the most common and consistent being the Foot Ninja.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Dome, Dr. Malignus.
  • The Multiverse: Turtles Forever, a crossover between the 1987 series and 2003 series, introduces the idea that all incarnations of the franchise exist in different dimensions. Destroy the core, that being the Mirage universe, and all will cease to exist.
    • This may have been hinted at as early as the Battle Nexus arc, when the 2003 characters are said to come from Dimension 3rd Earth, implying that there are at least 2 other versions. The 2012 series confirms the multiverse by having the 2012 characters observe and interact with the 1987 cast as well.
  • Nanomachines: Used by Baxter Stockman in the 2003 series to form Nano, a sentient nanomachine colony.
  • Nebulous Evil Organisation: The Foot Clan in some incarnations.
  • Ninja Brat: The turtles are this in any flashback to their childhoods.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Do we really need to explain this one? Besides the obvious, there are also robot ninjas.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Venus de Milo has these.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: The 2003 series has a cyborg and an infomorph, but only villains are non-organic, for the most part. Honeycutt, an uploaded man, is a subversion.
    • In the 2010 series, it's hard to find a good guy other than the turtles and Splinter who has become a mutant, or a bad guy who stays human long.
  • Rubber Man: Joey Lastic of the Justice Force.
  • Samurai Shinobi:
    • The Shredder is supposed to be a ninja yet wears samurai-like armor.
    • Leonardo is The Leader of the "Ninja Turtles", however he uses a couple of katanas (a classic Samurai weapon) and follows the Bushido Code of Honour.
  • Secondary Adaptation:
    • All the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video games are based on the Film or Cartoons, which themselves were based on the Comic.
    • The films also take influence from the cartoon, making video games based on films a tertiary adaption, in a sense.
  • Secret Public Identity: Ananda of the Justice Force; her mother, Battling Bernice; "Stainless" Steve Steel, and Joey Lastic.
  • Sewer Gator: Leatherhead in most incarnations is an alligator who ended up in the city sewers and was exposed to the same mutagen as the turtles, resulting in him growing into Lizard Folk and becoming sapient.
  • Shout-Out: Their origin story in the original comics suggests the radioactive waste that mutated them is the same stuff that gave Daredevil his powers.
    Splinter: At the last moment a young man leaped at the blind man and knocked him out of the truck's way ... a metal canister bounced out of the back of the truck and struck the young man near his eyes ... the strange canister bounced ... striking and smashing a glass jar which held four small turtles ... you four as infants!!!
  • Sixth Ranger: Usually April and/or Casey act as the brothers' fifth teammate; the 2012 cartoon even subtly hangs a lampshade on April by having her wear a #5 sports jersey. In Next Mutation, it was Venus de Milo.
  • Slime, Snails, and Mutant Tails: All the radioactive waste, mutant friends and foes, ooze etc.
  • Speedy Snail: Despite being anthropomorphic turtles, their characterization has much more emphasis on the Teenage and Ninja aspects. They're so good at Stealth Hi/Bye, they could give Batman a run for his money.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: These guys could give Batman a run for his money at this.
  • Stock Ninja Weaponry: Frequently used by the turtles.
  • Super Strength: Although it's never really touched upon except in a few instances, all four of the turtles are obviously stronger than most humans. Though when they start battling other mutants, technology and aliens it starts to not matter as much.
    • Brought up a little more in an episode of the 1987 show, where Michaelangelo managed to briefly become human, but lost the ability to do most of his ninja tricks, more so than can be explained by being used to a different body.
  • Teenage Mutant Samurai Wombats: Possibly the Trope Codifier.
  • Teleportation: The Utroms' Transmat and Honeycutt's Teleportal. Cudley the Cowlick can do this naturally.
  • Theme Naming: All the turtles are named after Italian Renaissance artists. Bebop and Rocksteady are musical references. The Mutant Frogs are named after great warlords, and more.
  • Theme Tune Roll Call: The one from the 1987 series is the best-known, but the 2003 and 2012 series also has one.
  • They Do: Casey and April in various media.
  • They Would Cut You Up
  • Third-Option Adaptation: Splinter defeating Shredder in The Movie.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: The phrase used, most often by Raphael and Hun, is "Ah, crud."
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Used or averted, depending on the incarnation. The 1987 series and its spin-off comic book use it; the original comic book, movies, and 2003 series generally don't.
  • Time Police: Renet and Lord Simultaneous, who form part of a larger, if unseen, organization.
  • Title Theme Tune: All of the western cartoon themes.
  • Took A Level In Bad Ass: Bebop and Rocksteady in the IDW series. Although still idiots, they're now competent idiots, and pose a legitimate threat to the turtles. In issue 44 they apparently kill Donatello.
  • Totally Radical: They live in New York City, but sound like a bunch of surfers from Southern California. (Especially Michelangelo, and sometimes—depending on the continuity—excepting Raphael.)
    • It's usually only Mikey. Raph has a Brooklyn accent in the films too, and even in the 1987 series, Mikey was the only one to sound like a surfer dude, though they all used "Cowabunga."
  • Toxic Waste Can Do Anything:
    • If it's not explicitly presented as Mutagenic Goo, the 'ooze' that created the title characters is this: a garbage chemical mix on its way to be disposed that grants four turtle babies and a rat bipedal humanoid forms, sapience (at least in the Turtles' case; sometimes Splinter is suggested to have been far smarter than the average rat before mutation), enough physical gifts to be trained as master martial artists/weapon wielders, and in Donatello's case, near-genius level intelligence with mechanical devices. Not bad for a bunch of waste chemicals.note 
    • This fact makes a scene in the second live action film, The Secret Of The Ooze, strangely more poignant. Donatello is upset when he finds out the titular ooze's creation was just a mistake and that he had felt like that the truth would mean he and his family were 'special'. For being the smart one, he doesn't seem to realize that the fact that a bunch of chemical garbage instead of a purposely designed product made him and his family what they are makes them very special indeed.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Pizza, at least in the 1987 series and movies.
    • Though not necessarily true in the 2003 series, it's been alluded to several times. Especially related to Mikey.
      • Outside of the 1987 series and movies, every turtle actually has their own favorite food. Leo's is sushi (or some other appropriately Japanese food), Raphael's is cereal, Donatello's is hamburger, and Mikey's is, naturally, pizza. This just doesn't reach Trademark Favorite Food levels and is usually barely mentioned, though in the GBA classic beat 'em up style TMNT movie game, each Turtle is healed by their favorite foods.
      • The fourth film gives Splinter one: Cake.
  • True Companions: The turtles + Casey and April form this unit, most notably in the movies and 2003 series.
  • The Team: The Turtles and their allies in most continuities.
  • Turtle Power: The Trope Namer, given the main characters.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Ananda to Battling Bernice (daughter/mother)
  • Vague Age:
    • Occurs with several of the characters throughout incarnations, due to a lack of specific dates or starting ages. The mutant ninja turtles are nearly always teenagers. Nearly all fans seem to agree (based on the average confirmed starting ages per post-comic continuity, if given any) that the four are fifteen, and gain a half-year per season or age in real-time (week-for-week).
    • The Mirage comics were notable in averting it. The Turtles started out as fifteen (but acted much older) and continued to age pretty much in real time until the present day where they're currently in their 40's and Splinter has since died of old age.
    • In the 2007 film the Turtles' ages are never specified, however they are supposed to be roughly 19 years old, so in this instance they did not age in real-time since the films in the 90's.
  • Video Game Adaptation: Several games were made for TMNT starting with the NES / Famicom game and ending with the latest Arcade game dated 2009!
  • Volleying Insults: Done playfully between Casey and Raph in the Mirage comics, in a scene which was later adapted for the first movie and 2003 series.
    • The first movie even turned it into a game with actual rules. Each insult had to start with the next letter of the alphabet from the previous one.
  • Web Comics: Online fan comic/manga "MNT Gaiden"
  • Weirdness Magnets: Aliens, demons, robots, ninjas, Atlanteans, monsters, corporate executives, crazy people, members of near-extinct races and species, spirits, ghosts, psychics, alive machines, time traveling miscreants, evil AI, gangs, anthropomorphic animals, and many, many mutants.
  • Western Samurai: While technically being a ninja, Leonardo is a warrior born and raised in the sewers of New York City with katanas as his Weapon of Choice and who follows the way of bushido and values honor.
  • Widget Series: Seriously, the only reason this franchise makes any sense is because we're so used to it.
  • Xenomorph Xerox:
    • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) episode "The Case of the Killer Pizzas", Pizza Monsters have elongated skulls and bodies similar to the Xenomorph.
    • Pizza Monsters resembling Xenomorphs appear in the games Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist.
    • The Squirrelanoids from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) are a pack of mutants that spawned when a squirrel discovered a spilt canister of mutagen. The squirrel found a homeless man and forced itself into the bum's stomach where it divided into two squirrels (a process similar to the chestburster), one of which repeated the process with Raphael. They later underwent a transformation, becoming more monstrous mutants similar in appearance to the xenomorph, including an elongated, translucent head, a second mouth hidden within its first one and a skeleton-esq exoskeleton.



Video Example(s):


Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation

Venus de Milo gets a strike in bowling, yet she keeps calling it by the wrong term... [From episode 10, "Meet Dr. Quease"]

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

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Media sources:

Main / GretzkyHasTheBall