With issue #73 the IDW Comics’ “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” became the longest running series in the franchises’ history. That accomplishment has not slowed the creative team from moving forward with new adventures for the four brothers. Issue #75 wrapped up one of the biggest events in the series run, ‘The Trial of Krang.’ The Turtles now head back to earth from their intergalactic adventures also returning to earth is a small force of armed extra-dimensional Triceratons.
To learn more about this new arc, ‘Invasion of the Triceratons’ and look back on the ‘Trial of Krang’ event we were able talk to series writer Tom Waltz. Tom, who has been writing the series since it launched in 2011, talks about the new arc, how he keeps challenging the Turtles and what it is like being part of Turtles history. Look for the next issue of IDW’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is out today, kicking of the ‘Invasion of the Triceratons.’
Congratulations on now being part of the longest running TMNT series. Ninja Turtles has been one of the most popular properties out there for over 30 years. How does it feel to be apart of that legacy in such an important way? Why has this series worked so well?
Tom Waltz: Thanks so much! To be honest, the full extent of what we’ve accomplished with our IDW TMNT run hasn’t fully sunken in. We’re still very much in the thick of things, working hard toward our goal of hitting 100 issues with our running storyline — as well as hitting specific story beats that we’ve planned since the very beginning — that I really haven’t been able to sit back and soak it all in. There are still deadlines and still goals. But that’s good — it keeps us on our toes and striving to do our very best for as long as the fans will have us. And that’s a big part of why the series has worked so well — the fans (not to mention IDW and Nickelodeon) have been wonderfully loyal and extremely patient, allowing Kevin (Eastman, TMNT co-creator), Bobby (Curnow, TMNT Editor), and me to play the long game and tell a story that not only spans the ages within in the context of plot, but has literally taken years of comic book issues to tell. I like to think that we’ve shown them time and again that their loyalty and patience is both appreciated and will inevitably pay off. We’re all in this together!
You guys wrote a story about the intergalactic trial of a talking brain. How do you even set out to tackle an event like that, make it interesting and still feel like a TMNT book?
TW: You know, it sounds a lot more difficult than it really is. The truth is, all the many TMNT characters we are graced with possess interesting and entertaining personalities – human traits, if you will, that make them relatable (and understandable) on so many levels. All the other stuff – the ooze and the weapons and the ninja skills and cosmic powers, what have you – is really just a part of the overall setting. The icing on top, so to speak. We just find normal situations (e.g. a criminal trial) and stick these weird elements in there and let it all come together as it will!
I have to imagine a lot of discussion went into how you were going to handle the outcome of Krang’s trial. Was this a story line you had been working on for a while? Do you feel it was a fitting end for Krang?
TW: Kevin, Bobby, and I have monthly “mind meld” meetings where we discuss current and future storylines – evaluating where we’ve been, contemplating the present, and spit-balling the future. There were many discussions about the Krang trial. ur biggest concern was that we wanted to stay true to our mantra that nothing in our TMNT universe is cut-and-dry, black-and-white. We operate in gray areas, which we feel keeps the story and the characters more interesting. We didn’t want the Trial of Krang to be an exception to that rule, so we worked hard to come up with a way to keep what should have been an obvious verdict in doubt to the very end. And in the end, I think we pulled it off — it was a tough arc to write (lots of words during the testimonial scenes and every one of them needed to count), but readers seemed surprised by the outcome…both the trial’s and Krang’s. As for it being a fitting end, well…time will tell (evil laugh).Continued below
The team is coming off a pretty eventful space adventure and returning back to earth. What does being back in their home and the city mean to you as writer and the Turtles as characters? In space they can be out in the open and visual heroes and then to have to go back and save the worlds from the shadows is such an interesting dynamic for essential a bunch of teenagers.
TW: It’s interesting right now, because we are dealing with a Triceraton “invasion” on Earth, so our heroes will have the opportunity to operate more in the open than normal as the chaos unfolds. Conversely, it will also allow us to take them back to their stealthier ninja roots at the same time. It’s going to be a nice mix of military and martial arts action… with some heavy inter-personal drama coming to a head within the ranks of the Hamato family.
The epilogue of issue 75 set up the return of the Triceratons to earth and I am just assuming that is going to go well with no conflict what so ever. So what can readers expect going forward?
TW: Lots of misunderstandings followed by lots of missiles! Multiple fronts! Clashing armies! Crazy alliances! And the TMNT are stuck smack dab in the middle of it all!
With everything the Turtles have seen and done how do you continue to challenge them in new and interesting ways going forward? How do you challenge yourself as creators?
TW: Again, I think it really goes back to the human aspect of our characters. All the crazy stuff aside, they are really just four brothers and their father, trying to survive and find happiness in this world that can be cold and cruel at times. Most of us never have to resort to ninja fighting in back alleys, but we all face life’s ever-changing challenges each and every day, and it’s no different for the TMNT and their friends (and enemies). We see a little bit of ourselves in these characters and their adventures. It’s these challenges that keep things interesting for the creative team…and, well, challenging.
75 issues in and the series must have over a hundred characters and a handful of active story lines. As a team how do you juggle all these elements and tell a consistent and coherent story?
TW: HA! That’s definitely a challenge. All credit goes to Bobby Curnow for keeping the massive logistical aspect of our series under control and moving forward with a purpose. Adding our sister series “TMNT Universe” has certainly helped to expand our storytelling ability for sure.
What has been your favorite moment looking back over 75 issues of the series?
TW: Story-wise, issues #5 and #50 hold a special place in my heart, but really, I’ve loved every issue for so many unique reasons. It’s really hard to pick a favorite moment – it’s been a long, blessed string of them and I’m thankful every day for the experience.
The series has some of the best artist to draw the Turtles. Can you tease any upcoming artists?
TW: Bobby’s in charge of hiring the artists, so sometimes he even surprises me. All I can say for sure is, whoever gets the gig, they’re going to be good because Bobby has a very discerning and keen eye when it comes to choosing the right artist for the right arc.
There has yet to be any sign that this series won’t make it to 100 issues. Given the monthly pace you guys should be there in just about 2 years. 2 years from now what do you hope to see out of this series?
TW: If I told you, I’d have to send a team of ninjas out to silence you. Let’s just say we’ve got big plans and some surprising milestones we want to hit before we get to the big 100.
I think we can all agree the most important element to come out of this arc was the return of Ace Duck. When is his solo series? Has there been talks off a 5th member of the team? Will he be it?Continued below
TW: HA! Everyone loves Ace Duck, including yours truly! He was a blast to write and we’ve gotten a lot of requests for his return. I don’t know of any specific plans at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes an appearance in the pages of “TMNT Universe” before too long. Can’t keep a good duck down!