Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Man, I LOVE being a Turtle!!!

An indie comic book turned multimedia empire, starring the eponymous Ninja Turtles. Exactly What It Says on the Tin personified.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or TMNT) began as a comic book by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, who formed the idea from a napkin drawing one of them made while eating at a pizzeria. The first story began as a tale in the vein of Frank Miller's Daredevil, with the four titular ninja battling the Shredder to avenge the murder of Master Splinter's master, Hamato Yoshi. After a fierce battle, they successfully kill him. A surprise hit (often attributed to the unique name), the series continued with applying a Fantasy Kitchen Sink motif: with time travel, robots, and aliens introduced within the first ten issues. Despite their inauspicious beginnings, the series became so popular that an action figure deal was struck, which then snowballed into an animated series, movies, and every type of merchandise under the sun, turning it into one of the biggest cash cow franchises of the mid-eighties/early nineties.

The major incarnations of the franchise are as follows:

  • 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.
  • The first cartoon (1987-1996), with Fred Wolf at the helm: Resemblances to its source material are mostly superficial. The first cartoon featuring the turtles proved even more popular than the comics, 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 food addiction (pizza) and a catch phrase ("Cowabunga," although there were others), and a general comedic bent. The series ended in 1996, after ten seasons, 194 episodes, and one retool which attempted to make the series more dramatic.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures (1988/1989-1995): Midway through its run, the original 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.
  • The movies: Debuting in 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 the Jim Henson Shop for the costumes. The resulting two sequels cost more and made less, started to fall into self-parody and ended the series. More than a decade later, the TMNT movie franchise was revived with the 2007 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. Another reboot of the TMNT film franchise was released on 2014, with Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes serving as the production company.
  • 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 (during which they look really manly), 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. Oh Japan, what would we do without your Wacky Dragon-Based Hijinks... For further info, visit The Other Wiki [1] or just see this video.
  • 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.
  • Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (1997-1998), a live-action Saturday morning show by Saban (guys behind Power Rangers), aired on Fox Kids in 1998 shortly after the animated series ended. It lasted only one season before going belly-up. The new series added a new character, Venus de Milo, a female turtle with knowledge of the art of Shinobi (and playing the foil to the scientifically-minded Donatello). Many fans were antagonistic to the series, and Peter Laird was even more antagonistic to Venus, although nobody knows why because she doesn't exist and never did.
  • 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 TMNT 2k3, 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. Surprisingly for a show produced by someone with 4Kids' pedigree, it has 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, 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.
  • The IDW Comics (2011-): The first new incarnation of the turtles following the purchase by Nickelodeon, it features elements from all previous incarnations before it, as well as a heavily revised origins for the familiar characters.
  • The third cartoon (2012-): The first cartoon produced by Nickelodeon.
  • Videogames: By both Konami and Ubisoft. Notable entries include:

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 Teds 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); and a stage show at the Disney-MGM studios theme park in Orlando, Florida from 1990 to 1996.

TMNT remains a pop-culture phenomenon, though the property has been sold to Nickelodeon with a new CGI cartoon in 2012 along with the aforementioned Michael Bay movie. A new Eastman-helmed TMNT comic series has started in August 2011.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise has the following tropes:
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer
  • Action Girl: Several, most notably April O'Neil (depending on the incarnation), and Karai.
    • Ninjara in the Archie series.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The 4Kids series and the fourth movie. The first movie successfully blends the original comics and cartoon into a coherent whole.
  • Adaptation Overdosed: You think the list above is already long? Well, there are also the newspaper strip, a series of British-made short comics, two anime OVA, two live action musical specials, a couple of novels, several kid's books, magazines and crossovers and heaven know how much toys and merchandise.
  • Alien Among Us: The Utroms, initially.
  • Aliens and Monsters
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Several times, across incarnations more faithful to the original comic books, the attack on April's shop being the quintessential example.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: The Justice Force and its members, to varying degrees.
  • Alternate Continuity: Tons—see above.
  • Alternate Universe
  • 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
  • Another Dimension: A whole lot of them, most notably Dimension X.
  • 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.
    • The title itself became this as the Turtles continued to age in the comics well into their thirties.
  • Ascended Extra: The Shredder; the Purple Dragons.
  • Avenging the Villain: The basis of the Foot's vendetta against the turtles, after The Shredder's death in the comic books. In the 4Kids cartoon, this becomes Karai's motivation during the fourth season, after The Shredder (here her adoptive father) is exiled to an icy asteroid.
  • Awesome McCoolname: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Canon Foreigner: Krang, Bebop, Rocksteady, Venus de Milo, Tatsu, Tokka, Rahzar and many more.
  • Canon Immigrant:
    • Archie Comics to Mirage: Cudley the Cowlick
    • 4Kids Cartoon to Mirage: Foot Mystics, The Battle Nexus, Hun and Bishop,Shredder's armor.
    • First Film to Mirage: Charles Pennington
  • Cash Cow Franchise
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Fred Wolf series: "Cowabunga!" "Turtle power!"
    • Films: "God, I love being a turtle!!
    • 4Kids series: "It's ninja time!" (Fast Forward only) "Goongala!" (Casey) "None of you will leave here alive!" (The Shredder), "Oh, crud." (Hun).
  • 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.
  • City of Adventure: New York City, as well as Northampton, MA in the Mirage comics and 4Kids 'toon.
  • Color Coded for Your Convenience: 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 don't had different masc color since it were in black and white, but in opposite to the original comic the turtles here have their initials on their belts instead.
      • That's taken from the 1987 cartoon.
  • Competitive Balance: In terms of the Video Games.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: SUBVERTED of all things! In the First Movie and the 4Kids 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 4Kids 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 original comics and the Fred Wolf,4Kids cartoons; the turtles have also made the occasional appearance in the Usagi Yojimbo comic books.
    • And Turtles Forever, a crossover between the 4Kids and Fred Wolf shows. Did I mention the 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".[1]
    • Rabbids 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 Larid, in an episode of the 2003 series.
  • 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 fight....you 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 1980s cartoon, he tried using them legitimately but was rejected by every pest control company in town (They Fail Economics Forever). In the 4Kids cartoon, 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.
    • Even Master Splinter has his dry humor moments.
  • Did Not Do the Research: Several aspects—the proper spelling of "Michelangelo" and the various inaccuracies surrounding the turtles' weapons (for example, nunchaku are not ninja weapons) are a couple of the most apparent.
    • The earlier episodes of the 1987 series feature numerous references to the turtles as amphibians, by both them and others. This was corrected later on, and in one episode the turtles were even offended when called amphibians.
    • The Vol. 4 of the comic book series, they rectify Michelangelo's name to the correct spelling.
  • 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.
  • Ditto Aliens: The Utroms; Triceratons.
  • 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).
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The turtles' lair is usually one of these.
  • 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 4Kids cartoon (even though everyone still calls them katanas), or the 2007 CGI movie, one might point out...
      • In the live-action movies Leo is obviously wielding Ninjatos.
  • Everyone Is Gay: For better or for worse, there are several fanfics detailing romances between the turtles. Not only that, but there are also drawings of turtle (literal) bromance. Some are actually well done. Of course, this gets a little weird when they're supposedly brothers but MST3K Mantra.
  • 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!"
  • Faceless Goons: The Foot Clan
  • 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.
  • Fighting with Chucks: Michaelangelo uses chucks as his primary weapon.
  • Fish People: Mona Lisa from the original series' "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.
  • For the Evulz: In the original comics, April asks Baxter Stockman why he's using his Mousers to hold the city for ransom when he's already made a vast fortune with them. He answers that it's fun!
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: In most incarnations, the turtles can be classified in the following manner:
    • Leonardo is Phlegmatic.
    • Raphael is Choleric.
    • Donatello is Melancholic.
    • Michelangelo is Sanguine.
  • 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.
  • Generican Empire: The Federation.
  • Genius Bruiser: Leatherhead in the 2k3 incarnation.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the episode "Fallen Angel" in the 4kids series, Leo (in disguise) asks Raphael "What is the deal with humans and clothes?" Raph's response? "You ever see a human in his skivies? Trust me, It's not a pretty sight." So what does Raphael do with his free time?
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Averted all to hell in the 4Kids 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hot Reporter: April O'Neil.
  • Human Aliens: A large part of the Federation, including most of its army.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think: In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III Whit says "I think she's telling the truth" to which Walker replies "Really? Well, I don't pay you to think, do I? I pay you to lie, cheat, and steal."
  • 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 4Kids cartoon, respectively.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja:

"Hey, are you interested in a cartoon /comic/ movie/ toyline about Teenage Mutant Turtles?"
"No way!"
"What if they were ninjas?"
"SOLD!"

  • Legacy Character: Several people have taken on the Shredder's mantle after besides Oroku Saki, with Karai being the most popular one.
  • Licensed Game: So very many.
  • Live Action Adaptation
  • 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: 25 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.
  • Masquerade
  • Mecha-Mooks: Several, most notably The Foot Soldiers in the first animated series.
  • Medium Awareness: A regular feature of the first cartoon.
  • The Merch
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Mutually Fictional: The Next Mutation turtles-'verse and the Power Rangers 'verse.
  • Nanomachines: Used by Baxter Stockman in the Mirage comics during a murder attempt on April, and by the turtles in order to foil said attempt. Also used in the 4Kids animated series to form Nano, a sentient nanomachine colony.
  • New York Subway
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Do we really need to explain this one? Besides the obvious, there are also robot ninjas.
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: Depending on the incarnation.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Venus de Milo
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Partial aversion. The 4Kids series has a cyborg and an infomorph, but only villains are non-organic, for the most part. Honeycutt, an uploaded man, is a subversion.
  • Old Superheroes: The original Justice Force.
  • Opposites Attract: April and Casey.
  • Papa Wolf: Splinter.
  • Popular Saying, But...: Wise man say: Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza.
  • Portal Pool: The main method used to enter the Battle Nexus.
  • Posthumous Character: Hamato Yoshi, Tang Shen, Oroku Nagi/Yukio Mashimi, and Professor Obligado.
  • Powered Armor: The future versions of the turtles wore these for an arc in the Archie comic; the same armor also showed up in an episode of the Fred Wolf 'toon. Also, villains Baxter Stockman and Darius Dun have worn these on occasion.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The original movie and 4Kids cartoon.
  • The Professor: Tons: Donatello (when he's not a Teen Genius), Professor Honeycutt, Leatherhead, Glurin, Professor Obligado, Dr. Chaplin... Ironically, the one guy actually called "The Professor", from the 4Kids cartoon, isn't an example.
  • Race Lift: Baxter Stockman in the Fred Wolf cartoon and one-shot villain Skonk in the 4Kids cartoon, who were both changed from African Americans to Caucasians.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Raphael and Leonardo. Heck, even their headband's colors match.
    • Also, Michelangelo and Donatello, to a lesser extent.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Occurs with April and Casey at several points in each incarnation.
  • Roof Hopping
  • Rooftop Confrontation
  • Rubber Man: Joey Lastic of the Justice Force.
  • Secret Public Identity: Ananda of the Justice Force; her mother, Battling Bernice; "Stainless" Steve Steel, and Joey Lastic.
  • Shout-Out: Many of them, particularly in the 4Kids 'toon. Mostly from Mikey.
    • 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!!!

  1. Retroactively, this did get Power Rangers to beat Super Sentai to the punch at an Intercontinuity Crossover with an eleven-year gap. For the record, the Sentai crosover was Kamen Rider Decade/Samurai Sentai Shinkenger... and Shinkenger is as just as well loved as In Space, like Decade is as hotly contested as The Next Mutation (albeit for different reasons).