Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Names and Character Guide (2024)

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are one of the most popular global franchises in the world. Created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the series originated as a small underground comic book. But in 1987, Playmates Toys licensed the comics to create a line of action figures and created an animated series for the series, which went on to become a cultural phenomenon that ran for almost a decade. Between 1988 and 1992 alone, about $1.1 billion in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles merchandise was sold.

Since then, the franchise has grown more over the years, with a live-action trilogy of movies in the early 1990s, a CGI animated film in 2007, two Michael Bay-produced reboots, and multiple television incarnations. 2023 marks a big year for the franchise as a new movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, has become one of the most anticipated movies of the summer. A sequel is already in the works as well as a new animated spin-off series that will bridge the gap between the two movies.

Updated July 27, 2023: In honor of the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, this list has been updated with even more characters from the franchise.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been the stars of multiple comic books and video games and are a pop culture institution that has actually endured. The core elements of the franchise remain the same: four pet store turtles are mutated by a secret chemical that transforms them into humanoid mutants, who then become ninjas to defend New York City from various threats. With all these different incarnations of the Turtles, each creative team has found a way to make the concept seem fresh with tweaks to the origins and adding or subtracting characters making each a unique experience for each generation of fans to latch onto. With all of this material to draw from, there are numerous incarnations and characters. These are arguably the most important characters in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.

Leonardo

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As the original 1987 animated series theme song goes, Leonardo is the team's leader and the oldest brother. He is traditionally identified by his blue mask and dual katanas. Leonardo is typically the most disciplined member of the team. His name is drawn from perhaps the most famous Italian renaissance artist, Leonardo da Vinci (The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper), although he does go by the nickname Leo in many incarnations.

Raphael

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Raphael, nicknamed Raph, is the fighter of the group, often temperamental and quick to action contrasting with his brother and team leader Leonardo who he often feuds with. Raphael is identified by his red mask (in the original comics all the turtles wore red masks) and his dual Sais (truncheons with blades often mistaken for daggers) as his signature weapon. He is named after 16th-century Italian painter Raphael (or Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino). Interestingly, while Raphael was described in the theme song as "cool but rude," his main personality would not be defined until the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, which gave the character a distinct Brooklyn accent that has stuck in further adaptations of the character.

Donatello

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Donatello (aka Donnie or Don depending on who is speaking to him) is the team's technical experiment and displays a special talent for technology and science, often creating fantastical gadgets for the team to use. Donatello wears a purple mask and wields a bo staff. In most incarnations, Donatello is played as the least combative of the team, and often tries to solve issues with science over fighting. Donatello is named after Italian sculptor Donatello di Niccolò di Betto Bardi.

Michelangelo

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Arguably the most famous member of the team, Michelangelo is as the song says "the party dude." Often depicted as the youngest member of the Turtles, Michelangelo (aka Mikey to his brothers) is the most carefree and laid-back team member, using the catchphrase 'cowabunga.' He often speaks with some variation of a surfer/skater accent and is the reason the Turtles are so commonly associated with pizza, as it is his favorite food.

Related: Every Major Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie, Ranked

Michelangelo is the most naturally gifted member of the Turtles but prefers to relax than train like his brothers. He is identified by his orange mask and wields dual nunchaku or nunchucks, but some incarnations have had him wield other weapons in their place. Michelangelo is named after the artist Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, who is known for his works on the Sicilian Chapel, along with the Pietà and David sculptures.

April O'Neil

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April O'Neil is the Turtle's main human ally and is a love interest for the character Casey Jones. While the original comics portrayed her as a computer programmer, the animated series depicted her as a news anchor which has been kept in subsequent adaptations like the 1990 film series and the 2014 reboot (where she was played by Megan Fox). The 2014 reboot also added April to being part of the Turtle's backstory, as she was the one who saved them from the lab, intertwining their fates together. She is the Turtles' most important supporting player and has been included in almost every incarnation of their story.

The Shredder

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The Shredder is the main villain of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, despite dying in the very first issue of the original comic. He is the ruthless leader of the villainous ninja group The Foot Clan (a parody of Marvel's The Hand from the Daredevil comics). In most depictions, he is named Oroku Saki and is responsible for the death of Hamato Yoshi, who is either the owner of Splinter or Splinter himself. In the 2003 animated series, The Shredder was revealed to be a member of the alien race, the Utrom. The character has appeared in four of the six feature films focused on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters.

Master Splinter

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Master Splinter is the Turtles' sensei and father figure. While originally a pet rat of a ninja named Hamato Yoshi, Master Splinter learned the art of the ninja by watching his master from his cage, which was translated in both the 1990 film and 2003 animated series. However, the 1987 series changed his origin to being Hamato Yoshi himself after mutating into a rat, something which was carried over into the 2012 animated series and the 2018 series. Splinter is the one who trains the Turtles in the arts of ninjitsu and also has a long complicated relationship with Shredder and the Foot Clan in all incarnations.

Casey Jones

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Casey Jones is a fellow vigilante and ally to the Turtles, as well as a love interest for April O'Neal. Casey uses a variety of sports-themed apparel as his weapons and wears a hockey mask to conceal his identity. Casey is typically portrayed as the best friend of Raphael. He has been featured in many different adaptations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and is the franchise's second most important human ally that the Turtles have.

Krang

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One of the franchise's most famous enemies, Krang is of a species called the Utrom (which originated in the first comics) and was created specifically for the animated series. Krang hails from Dimension X and pilots a mobile war craft called the Technodrome, riding around in a robotic body with his ultimate goal to take over Earth.

Related: Best Comic Book Movies from the 1990s

Krang eventually becomes the name of the species instead of Utrom in the 2012 animated series, and the Krang will be the primary villains of the upcoming Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie. Despite how popular the character was in the Turtles' mythology after the series, he did not make a feature film appearance until 2016 with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.

Bebop and Rocksteady

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Bebop and Rocksteady are two classic henchmen in the original animated series as henchmen of The Shredder. Typically, they are common street chemicals that have been mutated by the Shredder. Due to their popularity in the animated series and a popular villain of the franchise for the Turtles to fight, the characters were originally set to appear in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze but, due to legal reasons, were replaced with the characters Tokka and Rahzar.

They eventually did finally make it to a feature film in 2016's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadow, which paired them with other characters from the animated series like The Shredder and Krang. They will next be seen in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, with Seth Rogen voicing Bebop and John Cena as Rocksteady.

Karai

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Karai is traditionally a high-ranking member of the Foot Clan and is normally the Shredder's second command. In some versions, she is Shredder's adoptive daughter, while in the 2012 animated series, she was revealed to be the daughter of Master Splinter. Her status as a high-ranking and disciplined ninja traditionally finds her as a rival for Leonardo and, in that aforementioned animated series, a will-they-or-won't-they romantic interest. While often depicted as a villain for the Turtles, she is a more honorable foe than the Shredder and has been an ally to the team on a number of occasions.

Leatherhead

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Leatherhead is a mutated alligator, and despite being a foe in the classic 1987 animated series, Leatherhead is typically depicted as an ally to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Most origins of the character have him as a baby alligator who encountered the same mutagen that created the Turtles and Splinter. Leatherhead will make their first film appearance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, voiced by Rose Byrne, and will be one of the main villains of the film.

Miyamoto Usagi

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Unlike the other supporting players of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Miyamoto Usagi is actually the lead of his own comic series that crossed over with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Created by Stan Sakai in 1984 for Dark Horse Comics, Miyamoto is an anthropomorphic rabbit and a ronin from another dimension. Hailing from another dimension has allowed the character to crossover with the Turtles on a number of occasions, particularly in animation, as he guest-starred in the 1987, 2003, and 2012 animated series. His first appearance in the second season of the 2003 TMNT series was a rescue scene in which he interferes to save Leonardo in his fight with the shadow monsters.

Baxter Stockman

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A classic TMNT villain, Baxter Stockman is a mad scientist who eventually mutates himself into a fly hybrid. The character is often employed by the Shredder and the Foot Clan. In the IDW comic series, the character was the mad scientist linked to the creation of the Turtle's origin story. After five previous Ninja Turtles movies, the character finally made his live-action debut in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and was played by Tyler Perry, but the character did not take his mutated form. In Mutant Mayhem, he will be voiced by Giancarlo Esposito.

Related: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem: Comic-Con Breakdown

Superfly

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Superfly is a villain created specifically for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. He is a mutated house fly created by Baxter Stockman, essentially splitting that original character now into two separate characters. Superfly is voiced by Ice Cube, and will be the leader of a group of mutants who wish to take over the world from humans.

Venus de Milo

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Created for the television series Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, Venus was the franchise's first attempt at adding a new main Turtle to the roster in the form of the team's first female member. However, unlike the other Turtles, she was not named after a Renaissance artist but instead a work of art, and she did not wield a weapon but instead wields magical abilities. It is revealed she was in the bowl with the four Turtles when they were mutated but was separated from the rest. The character was highly criticized and, aside from being reimagined as a Frankenstein-type monster in the IDW comic series, has been completely ignored in other media.

Jennika

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A new member of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise and the latest attempt at adding a female Turtle to the roster. Introduced in the IDW comic series, Jennika, aka Jenny is actually a human member of the Foot Clan who was saved by the Turtles due to a blood transfusion and transforming her into a Turtle, becoming a member of the team and an unofficial big sister of the team. She wears a yellow mask and wields claws. A relatively new character to the franchise, she has yet to appear outside the comics, but the character was well received and likely could appear in a future project.

Mondo Gecko

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Mondo Gecko, also known as Jason in the 2012 series of TMNT, is a supporting character (a mutated gecko) who also happens to be a great skateboarder. He's one of the important Ninja Turtles' allies and a close friend of Michelangelo. The character's story is very moving, especially as his parents abandon him and put him on the streets to fend for himself. His boss, Fishface, agrees to hire him as an errand boy but reveals his true colors by slapping Mondo away during a fight. Following that, Mondo decides to leave the Foot Clan and join Michelangelo and the rest of the group in a life-long friendship. Mondo Gecko will appear in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, voiced by Paul Rudd.

Rat King

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With his filthy, tattered rags and white bandages covering his body, it's hard to conceive of this character as a king of any sort. But his telepathic influence on the rest of the rats kind of makes him, in one way or another, The Rat King. He has appeared in multiple versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series.

This character is highly enigmatic and hard to pin down. He oscillates between being the helping hand and the antagonist and is sometimes depicted as a villain, a neutral character, or even, although rarely, an ally of the Ninja Turtles. He is a neuroscientist known also as Victor Falco who enjoys conducting experiments to read minds and predict the next move of his enemies.

Irma

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Irma is a secondary character in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, created for the 1987 TV series. She is the dorky best friend and colleague of April O'Neil. She usually wears the "I'm not looking for a boyfriend" outfit of a light blue turtleneck sweater, a long purple skirt, and yellow or red socks, even though in many episodes, she is depicted as, indeed, looking to bring some romance into her life. She accepts the Turtles for who they are despite the major differences between them. Despite her incurable clumsiness, Irma gets to have a few adventures with the Turtles and seems to bond mostly with Donatello.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Names and Character Guide (2024)
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