Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, also known as TMNT, is an entertainment franchise created in 1983 by American comic book authors Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. It follows Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo, four anthropomorphic turtle brothers trained in ninjitsu who fight evil in New York City.
Eastman and Laird conceived the characters as a parody of elements popular in superhero comics at the time. In 1984, they founded Mirage Studios and self-published the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1984; it was a surprise success. They licensed the characters to Playmates Toys, who developed a line of Turtles action figures. About $1.1 billion USD of Turtles toys were sold between 1988 and 1992, making them the third-bestselling toy figures ever at the time.
The action figures were promoted with the first Turtles animated series, which premiered in 1987 and ran for almost a decade. In some European regions, the word “ninja” in the name was replaced with “hero” for its violent connotations. Three live-action films were released in the 1990s; the first film became the highest-grossing independent film up to that point. In 2009, the Turtles franchise was purchased by Nickelodeon, a subsidiary of Viacom. Viacom commissioned a new comic series, two new live-action films, and new animated series.