“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” turns 30 this month, making it officially older than many of our Multiversity staff. To celebrate, this week we are featuring a lot of Turtles content, including interviews from many of the creators who have made the Turtles what they are over the past 30 years of comics, all of whom are featured in the brand new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 30th Anniversary Special,” on sale on Wednesday from IDW. This afternoon, we have a chat with two of the creators currently working on the IDW iteration of the book, Tom Waltz and Dan Duncan. We also have some exclusive pages from the “30th Anniversary Special” by Dan to share with you today.
What was your favorite era (other than yours, of course) of the last 30 years of TMNT, and how have you tried to incorporate that into the version you’re currently producing?
Tom Waltz: You know, truthfully, I like ‘em all – starting with the classic Mirage era all the way through to the current animated run on Nickelodeon. Each version throughout history has something I can look at and say, “Man, that was/is totally cool!” (And, yes, I can tell you now the new movie will be no exception.) And, as anyone following our current IDW run will attest to, we do our very best to cherry pick from all iterations, seeding our own stories with characters and concepts from TMNT lore that we love and feel will make our own stories even better.
Dan Duncan: My favorite era was the cartoon in the 90’s because it introduced me to the Turtles! But the first few issues of the book (that I found a few years later) were what kept me a fan over all these years. That gritty look is definitely something I’ve tried to incorporate into my work on the book.
Are there any elements of the prior eras that you’d like to bring into the current book that you haven’t yet had the chance to?
DD: I don’t think so, everyone was, and continues to be really supportive of what I bring to the table. So overall, I just feel really fortunate.
TW: I’m always looking for those elements. Everything’s fair game, in my mind, as long as it truly serves the story we’re trying to tell. We never want to be accused of fan service for fan service’s sake or shoehorning in story elements or characters that don’t make sense.
When contributing to this 30th Anniversary special, why tell the story that you told? What was the desire to go back to the beginning of the run as opposed to where the story is currently? Was it just a function of you both having worked together early in the run and just feeling more comfortable as a result?
TW: Actually, this was a fantastic opportunity to go back and tell a story from the early period of our run that a lot of fans have been asking about – namely, what it was like for Raphael during the time right after he’d been reunited with his long lost family. In our ongoing run, we jumped forward a few months chronologically – from the initial reunion in “TMNT” #4 to our big reincarnation reveal in “TMNT” #5. We never really got the chance to show Raph’s adjustment to family life after living lost and alone on the streets for the first year of his mutated existence. The 30th Anniversary book gave Dan, Bobby (Curnow), and me that chance, and we jumped right at it!
DD: Well for me, I think that bringing Raph back into the fold was a really important storyline. And expanding that storyline makes all of the characters more three dimensional to me. Knowing that it wasn’t just a “happily ever after” once he came back makes them more human to me. Or at least more mutant, ha ha.Continued below
Which Turtle or TMNT character is your favorite or the one you find the most interesting?
DD: I always liked Donatello as a kid because I thought it was cool that he could invent all these gadgets to help the team AND he was a ninja on top of that.
TW: I know it’s a cop out, but I don’t have a favorite. Honestly. I love them all so much – both the good guys and bad (and gals! We’ve got a ton of strong female characters in our ongoing, a fact I’m EXTREMELY proud of). As for most interesting, I have to say that Baxter Stockman always intrigues me no end. He’s so canny and intelligent and unpredictable and smug and sly and… so many amazingly cool and crazy things! We’ve definitely got big plans for him. Or… maybe I should say he’s got big plans for us?!
When the TMNT 60th Anniversary comes around what do you hope your impact is on the franchise? Is there any element you’re most proud of that you hope endures as a lasting portion of the mythos?
TW: I hope folks will look back at our run with fondness, knowing that every step of the way we put our hearts and souls into the work we were doing. And, as for the a particular memorable element, I’d have to say the curveball we threw in issue #5 when we showed our TMNTs had been reincarnated from a former human life in Feudal Japan will likely be the thing that most memorably sets us apart. That… and the insane moment we’ve got planned for issue #50. But that’s a memory we’ve yet to unleash on the world…
DD: Oh man, there has been so much talent and great story attached to this franchise that I’ll be thrilled if I’m remembered at all!
When you both first took on the series were you intimidated at all that you were coming aboard a franchise with such a storied history?
DD: Not at first. I was such a fan that I was just overwhelmed with excitement and completely immersed in the work. I’m also not very active online so I can forget sometimes how vocal the fans can be. But right before the first issue hit the stands I remembered how many people there are like me and I got kinda nervous. But thankfully most of the feedback that made it back to me was incredibly kind and supportive!
TW: Terrified. I was terrified.
I can only imagine. Was there anything that stood out as the most terrifying whether it be the fan base, your own fan expectations or living up to the legend of the franchise itself?
TW: Living up to the legend was bad enough — not to mention fan expectations — but a huge part of my terror derived from the fact I had big ideas for what I wanted to do and now I had to put my money where my mouth was, so to speak. It’s one thing to have these ideas bouncing around in my head…another thing completely to present them in a way that not only makes sense, but also gets your fellow collaborators as excited as you are by them. Fortunately, it all worked out, and we’ve built a solid (and consistent) team over the years that has taken those initial ideas/plans and molded them into concepts and realities that have far surpassed what I’d hoped for in the beginning. And every single day I thank my lucky stars that I’ve been — and continue to be — a part of it all.
If either of you could work with one of the creators from any of the other stories in the Anniversary issue who would you most like to work with and why?
TW: I’d love to collaborate with all of them – this book is like a treasure chest of rich talent, any of whom I’d be honored to work alongside. But, if I had to pick, I’d have to say that, having had the distinct honor to collaborate with the amazing Kevin Eastman, doing something with Mr. Peter Laird would go a LONG WAY in making my TMNT experience complete. I’d love to work with him on a Triceraton story – one he draws, of course…LOVE his Triceratons!
DD: Well I really just love working with Tom, I fell into a groove with him and his scripts, and every time I get to come back it’s like riding a bike. But, it would be fun to collaborate with Kevin (Eastman) again.
With the comic culture really pushing to see more strong females in their books have you thought at all of adding Venus, the female turtle, to the mix or do you feel April and Karai, both of whom are very strong characters in your iteration, fill this role?
DD: I agree with the push for strong females, but I also feel it needs to be relevant to the story. But if you look at what you have with April, Angel, Karai and Kitsune I think you’ll see that no one is afraid of strong women. But no one wants to arbitrarily include them to pander to a vocal subsection. To me that’s just as insulting as leaving them out all together. When these guys do something, they really want to do it right!
TW: Well, I don’t know about Venus (never say never), but strong female characters are something I love to write/include and are something all of us working on the IDW ongoing pride ourselves in having in our book. You mention April and Karai, but don’t forget Kitusune, Angel, Alopex, Koya, Beth O’Neil (April’s mom), Tang Shen, Detective Kara Lewis, Kala, Queen Gizzla, Princess Trib, Lindsey Baker…the list goes on. All of these strong ladies, both human and mutant alike, have played or will play an important role in our unfolding drama and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Are there any characters that you really would love to find a way to fit in but just haven’t to this point?
TW: Yes…gobs and gobs of them.
Any characters in particular that you love and would like to use? Give us your top choice to incorporate into the book.
TW: Well, Leatherhead’s definitely high on the list, but he’s an obvious choice. As far as a more obscure characters, I’ve always thought Man Ray, Dreadmon, and Jagwar would make some kick-butt additions to our series someday. Agent Bishop’s another one I dig a lot. Perry Grey’s another character that intrigues me, as does the Demoness of Yomi. But that’s just a small sampling — I’ve got my eye on a plethora of characters, trust me.
What about you, Dan?
DD: At this point they’ve hit all my favorites, so now I’m just along for the ride!
Are there any big plans for the TMNT title to correspond to the 30th Anniversary that you could share with our readers?
TW: Well, the TMNT 30th Anniversary Special, of course, and something else we’re working on in secret right now that might explode a few heads if we can make it happen. Stand by…