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These turtle boys can cut a paycheck.
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A common western action cartoon format that was very popular in the 1980s and 1990s (after the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles spawned a crop of imitators) and still continues to this day.

The format is more or less this: A team of heroic monsters (aliens, mutants, or magical beings) are somehow created, awakened, or arrived in the modern world. Usually a modern American city. They are honorable creatures who set out to fight crime. The average person fears them for their appearance, and they must hide from Muggles or humans. However, they befriend one or two open-minded humans, usually either children or career women. These women or children end up being the team's friends and guides to modern Earth, and are Secret Keepers, and may also be the Kid with the Leash. Together, they all fight supervillains and evil creatures in a City of Adventure.

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Since these shows are usually aimed at young boys, expect The Smurfette Principle to be in full swing. The heroes are usually The Last of Their Kind, with no females.note  Consequently, Interspecies Romance will usually be explored, particularly by fans, especially if the Secret Keeper is a career woman.

The Secret Keeper will often be hiding them in the beginning, but since the monstrous team is usually a Five-Man Band or Power Trio, they usually get their own headquarters. It's a good thing that Abandoned Warehouse/office building/ornate palace was around!

These series tend to be Merchandise-Driven.

Not to be confused with Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot, though the Rule of Cool often plays a role.


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Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Chiisana Kyojin Microman: Five "Microman", coming from the planet Micro Earth at the far end of the universe, are sent to Earth in order to protect it from Acroyer (who seeks to conquer the universe); their human friend is Kohei Kuji, a young school boy, who receives the package with them and initially mistakes them for action figures.
  • Jewelpet (2009) starts out as this, but it's dropped after 11 episodes.
  • Samurai Pizza Cats: Implied with the theme song, but the actual show doesn't follow any of the trope's characteristics.
  • Sonic X: Utilized this format with Sonic and his Furry pals as the "monsters" (albeit cute ones) and the Thorndyke family as their human allies. This was ostensibly to give the audience a human identification character — Chris. They quickly dropped The Masquerade though, and Sonic became an instant celebrity.

    Comic Books 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the Trope Codifier, of course — with April O'Neil and Casey Jones as the human allies. Later volumes have humanity meeting aliens like the Utrom, so the Turtles begin going in public but still hide their mutant nature by pretending to be aliens.
  • Going way, way back, the original X-Men basically started off this way, minus the pet human.
  • Conversational Troping in an early-90s issue of Green Lantern set at a toy expo: "Buddy, every ten minutes I've got someone trying to sell me 'the new Turtles'. I've a warehouse full of stupid dinosaurs named after dead presidents!"
  • The original The Transformers — with the Witwicky family and G.B. Blackrock as the human allies.
  • Many other anthropomorphic animal superhero comics which were "inspired" by the Turtles. They spawned a bunch of "adjective, adjective, adjective, noun" anthropomorphic imitations/parodies, but those were mostly dreamed up by fans and wannabe pros looking to cash in (TMNT #1 was VERY rare and up to $2-300 in demand). This didn't stop until it crashed the comic market (the famous "black and white implosion" which was a dry run for the Dork Age market collapse).
  • Mini-Comics Included is a series of mini-comics based on toylines that aren't real but could easily have been; Prime-8s, about a squad of 8 intelligent, superpowered apes and monkeys, is partially based on TMNT and this trope in general. This group was a little larger than most, and had two females.
  • In a back-up story of a Count Duckula comic book (Marvel), Danger Mouse faces Enraged Mutant Ninja Poodles.
  • In Super Sons, Superboy's jamas have a Turtles-like logo reading "Boxer Frogs".
  • The Cheetahmen of Action 52 had a comic that was filled to the brim with these clichés: a Mad Scientist named Dr. Morbis and his cyborg hunchback sidekick Cygore kill a mother cheetah, kidnap her three cubs, mutate them, train them in martial arts and other fighting styles, give them themed names (Apollo, Ares and Hercules) and then order them to raid the nearby villages. When the Cheetahmen protest, Morbis kicks them out and creates three new mutants (a hyena, rhino and vulture) that are completely under his control. The Cheetahmen realize Morbis killed their mother and return to his hut, where they fight the new mutants. After defeating them, Morbis and Cygore escape, Morbis swearing to destroy the Cheetahmen, while they swear to protect the world from Morbis and any other evil.
  • In issue 17 of Cherry Poptar-uh, sorry, Cherry Comics Cherry dons a yellow jumpsuit,and as "May O'Doul" reports on the Young Genetically-Altered Samurai Lizards Warhol, Picasso, Lichenstein and Keane. And then of course she has sex with all of them.

    Fan Works 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Often parodied on Late Night With Conan O'Brien, where Conan's mock fall previews often feature programs such as Embryonic Rockabilly Polka-Dotted Fighter Pilots or Country Cuckoo-Clock Codpiece Zulu Warriors.
  • Israeli satricial show TV from the Future also presents a parody in the form of the Krav Maga Stellions, Avigdor, Mordecai, and El'or, who also parody the attitudes of overly-excited IDF brats, chanting chants like "About all those/About all those/who dump warriors/they should all be thrown to Gaza/to be w***s of the Arabs".
  • Beauty and the Beast (predating the Disney film): There's a secret community of outcasts living in tunnels under the city, and lawyer Catherine Chandler begins keeping their secret after one of their members, the leonine Vincent, rescues her after she's abducted, beaten, slashed and left to die in Central Park.
  • The live-action show Dark Angel was similar in premise, with the exception that most of the Chimera could at least pass for human (with the notable exception of Joshua in season 2). Nevertheless, Logan acted as a Secret Keeper for Max and the rest.
  • In-show commercials in the first episode of Roundhouse gave us these parody titles: "Adolescent Deformed Tai-Kwon-Do Tortoises", "Pre-teen Genetically-altered Martial Arts Iguanas", and "Kinda Young Really Screwed Up Karate Koalas".

    Music 
  • In the wake of the craze, Ray Stevens recorded "Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens", about a quartet of fighting chickens.

    Radio 

    Toys 
  • The Snailiens: An obscure action figure line, featuring a quartet of anthropomorphic mollusk-like aliens who for some reason are named after famous U.S. Presidents.

    Video Games 
  • The Battletoads from the videogame of the same name. Unique in that it doesn't follow many of the sub-tropes, instead taking place in a world that looks like it came from a heavy metal record cover.
  • Parodied in the old adventure game The Big Red Adventure. One TV showed the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Beetles", who were four cockroaches with the faces of the Fab Four!
  • The Cheetahmen from Action 52.
  • Paper Mario features the blatantly obvious Ninjakoopa Bros.

    Web Animation 
  • Mighty Magiswords: Parodied in the episode "Working For Scales" with the Dino Patrol.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • The anime parody Japanoschlampen by Coldmirror features the NINJAMUTANTDUCKS!

    Western Animation 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the Trope Codifier, of course, with April O'Neil, Casey Jones, and Irma Langenstein (and later on, Carter) as the human allies. Interestingly, the show only kept the idea of the Turtles trying to hide their existence from the world for a short time, with them wearing Conspicuous Trenchcoats and human masks in public but soon switching over to them being publicly known heroes. April's career as a news reporter probably helped in that regard.
  • Adventures of the Gummi Bears might count... only it's pseudo-medieval instead of modern day, and it averts The Smurfette Principle (the original six had four males and two females).
  • The Adventures of T-Rex (or just T-REX in Japan) takes this to Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot levels. It was a cartoon co-produced between USA and Japan, based on a Japanese property, featuring five T.Rex brothers with superpowers, matching colored armors, a Rexmobile... but this was only their secret identity they accessed by touching a crystal. Usually, they were part of a vaudeville act, in a club that was part of a very Film Noir-like setting... In a World... where everyone was some kind of human-like dinosaur or reptile. So, this was a comical cartoon with anthro dinosaur comedians that were secretly superheroes, pitted against dinosaur gangsters and dinosaur mob bosses.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force spoofs this. (Or at least the title does.)
  • Avenger Penguins was a spoof of this set-up. Three motorcycling humanoid penguins thwarting the plans of an evil genius villain once a week.
  • Avenging Apes Of Africa, an 80s Marvista Entertainment animated movie which featured six African gorillas orphaned by an Evil Poacher who gain super-powers and human-like intelligence after being exposed to an ancient healing potion, growing up to become defenders of Africa's wildlife, specifically seeking to defeat the poaching kingpin Harry B. Richbone. Yes. This existed.
  • Biker Mice from Mars: Three alien mice allied with Charley, a Wrench Wench mechanic who own a garage where their bikes ( actually war machines equipped with AI ) are repaired and equipped with new gadgets. One of them has a crush on her, as she reminds him of a girl back home.
  • Bucky O'Hare was this In Space, with the strange twist that the anthropomorphic animals are the norm, and it's the human character that has to be kept hidden from that reality's "muggles".
  • Butt-Ugly Martians was a 2000s show, unlike most of these, involving Martian commandos sent to conquer Earth... only to discover Earth has a lot more nice stuff than Mars, so they abandon their mission to camp out in an abandoned movie lot with their human Secret Keepers and stage fake battles to explain their delay in conquering the planet.
  • Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys: Anthropomorphic monkeys and apes fighting crime IN SPACE!.
  • Challenge of the GoBots: The initial Five-Episode Pilot was like this. Since the Gobots' cover has been completely blown by the end of that Story Arc (it's not as if Leader-1 didn't try to observe the Obstructive Code of Conduct at first), subsequent episodes show the Guardians interacting with Earth's people and governments completely out in the open.
  • Creepy Crawlers combined the Ninja Turtles format with the ever-popular "Creepy Crawlers" Thingmaker.
  • Darkstalkers: The cartoon version, with Felicia, Jon Talbain, Sasquatch, Rikuo, and later Hsien-Ko as the good guys, with a wizard named Harry and a butler named Klaus as human allies. Pyron, Demitri, Raptor, Anakaris, and even Morrigan were bad guys, and Bishamon, Donovan, and Hutzil showed up as neutrals.
  • Dinosaucers, in which good and evil teams of evolved dinosaurs engage in more-or-less comic battles on modern day Earth. The good guys have a bunch of human teenagers as their Secret Keepers.
  • Extreme Dinosaurs!: A Divorced Installment spun off from Street Sharks, featuring anthropomorphic alien dinosaurs.
  • The Fairly Oddparents: Parodied in the movie "Channel Chasers", where one of the TV shows Timmy travels through is "Adolescent Genetically-Altered Karate Cows".
  • Gargoyles: An ancient clan of "garagates" (who lived alongside humans) awaken in the '90s, after a thousand years frozen in stone, with policewoman Elisa Maza as their human ally. Gargoyles was one of the few shows to acknowledge that a situation like this simply can't last forever, and slowly had the Gargoyles transition from complete secret, to urban myth, to publicly known... and feared.
  • Kung Fu Dino Posse, a 40-episode cartoon series that aired on Starz in 2009, is an homage to several Secret Mutant Hero Teams before it, including the Street Sharks spinoff Extreme Dinosaurs and TMNT. In modern times, a quirky science geek accidentally thaws out four anthropomorphic dinosaurs, whereupon they inflict inexplicable Kung Fu upon evil raptor villains and their army of generic mutants. The series is well aware of its own cliches and often leverages them for comic effect.
  • The Mighty Ducks cartoon, which may as well been called "Hockey-Playing Twentysomething Extraterrestrial Mallards". About a group of anthropomorphic ducks from a world surronded by puck-shaped asteroids where hockey is Serious Business (...you mean they're Canadian? *rimshot*) fighting space dragons and posing as a regular hockey team in modern-day California.
    • To be fair, they 'pose' as a hockey team by actually playing hockey in a league. But they still fight space dragons and villains-of-the-week. They're pretty much outed as aliens in the first few episodes.
  • Mummies Alive!: Centuries old Mummies able to summon Powered Armor, one of them a Sweet Polly ... Cleopatra?... Ride around in weird ancient Egyptian vehicles and got an Egyptian version of a boomerang whilst protecting a child reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh from an advisor of said Pharaoh.
  • Road Rovers is Warner Bros' equivalent, although in this case, they were normal dogs owned by world leaders that were routinely summoned by their ally and then transformed into humanoid forms and garbed in battlesuits.
  • Rugrats: Referenced in the episode "The Santa Experience", in which Angelica asks Santa for a "Teenage Nuclear Fusion Squad" video game.
  • Stone Protectors: A 1993 series that attempted to market the troll doll craze to grade school boys. The heroes are an awful Fake Band from New York City who are transformed into troll-like super heroes by magical crystals, then have to protect the crystals from the Saurians, reptilian bad guys who would use their powers for evil. The problem of hiding the conflict from the public is averted because the heroes are quickly transported to the Magical Land where the crystals came from.
  • Street Sharks: Teens turned anthropomorphic sharks with a Surfer Dude as their human ally.
  • SWAT Kats could count in a sense, but compared to their contemporaries, there were several major differences- for one, they were living in a world full of other anthropomorphic "Kats", and they became vigilantes because their former commander in the Megakat City Enforcers (essentially cops but with air and navy forces) caused them to crash into the Enforcer HQ while chasing a villain after trying to pull an Only I Can Kill Him (see the main article for more details). Also, it was produced by Hanna-Barbera, and was perhaps the darkest series they ever made - people actually got killed, for starters; it was an early, but failed, attempt, at breaking out of the Animation Age Ghetto.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: Parodied - Plucky is a fan of the "Immature Radioactive Samurai Slugs" franchise.
  • Toxic Crusaders, the kid-friendly animated Spin-Off of The Toxic Avenger movies.
  • Transformers: The many animated adaptations zigzag the use of this kind of archetype:
    • Although the Autobots never really hid from anyone in the Sunbow series. They were acknowledged by the world's leaders as early as the end of the three-part pilot.
    • Transformers Animated is more in line with this trope, featuring Sari as the kid, a smaller Five 'Bot Band, and an abandoned Detroit car factory as their HQ. The Autobots still don't hide from anyone, though; in fact, they rather visibly help repair the damage their fights cause, which helps keep them in the city's good graces.
    • Played straight with Transformers Prime. The Autobots have a secret base, three kid sidekicks and a government liaison, and both sides try to avoid too much human attention.
  • Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa is TMNT in The Wild West with cows, though like the Swat Kats they lived in a world with others like them (the Mesa in question was a Hidden Elf Village created an irradiated comet struck the late 19th century Western plains, raising it above the clouds and anthropomorphizing all the cows and some other animals) and they were lawmen.

Alternative Title(s): Radioactive Teenage Samurai Robot Wombats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Team, Teenage Mutated Samurai Wombats, Secret Mutant Hero Team

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