IDW Publishing's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" ongoing series has been shipping regularly for almost two years now, and in that time it's seen two spinoff titles in "TMNT: The Secret History of the Foot Clan" and the "Micro-Series" lineup featuring one-shot stories of major heroic players in the new continuity. The latest spinoff is the "TMNT: Villain Micro-Series," a 4-issue miniseries (that actually maintains the same numbering as the first "Micro-Series," picking up with #9) spotlighting a different TMNT rogue in each issue.
The first bad guy takes center stage this April as writer Joshua Williamson and artist Mike Henderson -- the team behind the digital-first series "Masks and Mobsters" -- pen the tale of Krang before we meet him in the main title. CBR News spoke with both Williamson and Henderson about the issue, how the team managed to portray Krang as an empathetic character, what his life was like before coming to our dimension and how the IDW version of Krang is unique from those that came before.
CBR News:Where in the IDW TMNT continuity is this story set and how does it affect the greater picture of the IDW Turtle-verse?
Joshua Williamson: It takes place right after "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #20 and gives you a glimpse of how Krang became the ruthless killer we all know and love. The "Micro-Series" issue shows his motivation and why he's not stopping until his mission is accomplished. For readers it gives a bigger glimpse into why he is doing what he does. After this issue, Krang is reminded why he has chosen his path with renewed dedication.
The best way to describe our story is "Black Hawk Down" with Krang. Krang sneaks on a mission to assassinate his father’s arch enemies and nothing goes as planned. Krang is stranded without his bodysuit and has to survive... and complete the mission.
The biggest bonus of this issue was working with my "Masks and Mobsters" collaborator Mike Henderson. The guy is so good, easy to work with and knocked his Krang pages out of the park.
The "Krang" solicit mentions the character to be a "prince of a falling dyansty" -- what can you tease about the history of this dynasty and Krang's specific role within it?
Williamson: The Utrom race and the Council was once the greatest kingdom in Dimension X. As it’s been shown in the main books, their race is near extinct and Krang is trying to save them. In our story Krang is shown as a young prince who has everything handed to him. He's never worked a hard day in his life.
Krang is a notorious villain in the TMNT mythos -- how have you succeeded in presenting him as an empathetic creature to readers?
Williamson: By showing his family life sucks! [Laughs] The guy has daddy issues, and by revealing at one time he was just a spoiled prince who didn’t get along with his Father, we start to tap into a part of him most people haven’t seen.
The IDW continuity is its own beast in that it pulls from pre-existing TMNT lore, giving it a fresh spin while simultaneously presenting original concepts and ideas into the universe -- in regards to your "Krang" issue and him being younger here, are you tapping into the original Eastman and Laird depictions of the Utroms, the '80s cartoon Krang or something else altogether?
Williamson: All of that and more. Krang is still a proud member of the Utrom race and is from Dimension X, but he's a bit harsher than both those versions. The IDW version is a badass. Long gone is the whiny, simple mush of brain matter. Now IDW has given us a warrior, a ruthless general that is cunning and stops at nothing to get what he wants.
On your personal blog you mention this issue is "one of those projects that is a bit out of my wheel house" -- what did you mean by this?
Williamson: Well, mostly that recently I’ve been writing crime and horror with the occasional superhero book thrown in there. My preference is writing stories that are real people thrown into unusual circumstances. Those are more grounded. Take a look at Mike Henderson and my "Masks and Mobsters" digital comic. It’s hyper reality but still grounded.
Thankfully, we were able to inject a bit of our style into this story. That being said, this "Krang" issue is the last licensed book I do for a long time.
Also on your blog, you state a vision you had in mind for Krang's story and presented it to IDW for this gig -- can you speak on this vision and how IDW responded to your pitch?
Williamson: When IDW first approached me about doing a Krang one-shot, I didn’t think I was the right guy for the job. I had one idea for the character and wasn’t sure it would jive with what they wanted. So I sat on it. After a few months it came up again and I gave them my idea -- they loved it.
Essentially I wanted to do a "Black Hawk Down"/"Predator" type story. My vision was of Krang trying to survive without his body suit in a toxic wasteland.
Then came the twisted ending I’m surprised we got away with. I wonder if people will get it; if they will catch a small thing we added to the Krang mythos. Krang is one evil little creature.
Oh, and I really wanted to show Krang being badass riding a giant lizard!
Regarding the look of Krang's machine body, what is its relevance and why is it something Krang needs to have?
Williamson: That is something you need to read the issue to really find out. Krang is much, much more than his robot body, but the story behind his current one is -- let's just say it's a fun one.
Do the Turtles themselves play a role in your story? Are there any guest stars you can tease?
Williamson: Nope, the Turtles are only mentioned a little bit. This is Krang’s story. There is a hint of some of his supporting characters, but for the most part it's all Krang.
The Technodrome is gearing up to play a larger role in the main "TMNT" ongoing series -- given Krang's historical attachment to the doomsday machine, how is this angle you explored in your story?
Williamson: It’s touched on extremely briefly. You’ll have to read the "TMNT" issues before ours to really see how it factors in. This is all-Krang all the time, baby!
While The Shredder may not appear in your "Krang" issue, the relationship between the two characters has become a staple in TMNT lore. What are your thoughts on why The Shredder is a necessary tool for Krang to manipulate?
Williamson: Is Shredder being manipulated by Krang or is it the other way around? The way IDW has sold their relationship has been fresh and exciting. It’s much more antagonistic and unclear in our story. These are two men on opposing forces -- they just happen to have a shared past and a common enemy in the Turtles.
Krang is thinking: "The enemy of my enemy is not my friend, but another object in my way on the path to victory."
Hopefully our story shows that aspect of Krang’s personality.
Mike, you're returning to IDW's TMNT Universe after providing art for the "Casey Jones" Micro-Series issue -- how does it feel to be tackling interior artwork for this book?
Mike Henderson: It feels great! It's miles away from the seedy bars and dark alleyways of the Casey Jones story, and a great chance for me to draw steamy jungles and crazy creatures.
Your work on "Masks and Mobsters" is different from this in that you're not drawing human beings in "Krang." Tell us how you've adapted your style to accommodate a TMNT vibe while still staying true to your own personal flair.
Henderson: This particular corner of the TMNT universe is characteristically bigger, brighter, louder and crazier than the dingy sewers the Turtles live in, so it fits my art very well. Stylistically, there is a bit of difference in how I draw everything compared to the black & white "Masks and Mobsters," but that's more a reflection of that universe and its characters.
Krang's a hideous creature to look at -- are you running with this perspective on the character or have you attempted to capture the "softer side" of Krang?
Henderson: I'm not sure there's a soft side to be captured, actually. Or if I would want to make him relatable even if I could. If we can get the reader to root for someone as nasty as Krang can be, then I think we can call this one a success.
What is your creative process with Joshua working on "Krang?"
Henderson: Like "Masks and Mobsters," it involves a lot of late e-mail exchanges, rapid-fire debates, terrible jokes and, finally, success. I'm not really the type of artist to suggest changes to a script unless I really think my idea is going to tell the story better in some way. So there's never any friction of that sort. It seems to be working for us so far.
What are some challenges you faced while drawing this issue? Was there a hard mandate you had to stick with on the look of Krang and his surroundings or were you given liberties to make the look of this issue your own?
Henderson: I was certainly given leeway to draw my own way, but it's important to keep consistency for the audience's sake. A reader who's been following the series faithfully shouldn't have to scratch their heads and wonder "Who's this again?"
Everyone has a unique introduction to the TMNT. When did each of you first discover the franchise?
Williamson: The cartoon. Plain and simple. Then came the comics. Then the movies. I was a big fan of the cartoon and toys. We'd get the cartoon on VHS and watch them over and over again.
Henderson: I was young but aware of Kevin Eastman's "Turtles" comics when the films and the cartoon exploded onto the scene, making them this enormous presence. It was great to see that, but also allowed me to go back and enjoy the comics in a completely different way.
Besides "Krang," the two of you are currently creating "Masks and Mobsters" -- what's this series about and what other projects do you have coming out in 2013?
Williamson: "Masks and Mobsters" is about what happened to organized crime during the golden age when masked heroes started showing up, ruining their businesses. How did that affect their lives? It's all seen from the Mob's point of view. Aside from putting together the "Masks and Mobsters" hardcover collection with Image Comics, I'm also working on "Captain Midnight" for Dark Horse, "Ghosted" with Image/Skybound and some other awesome stuff that's way too early to talk about. 2013 is looking like a great year!
Henderson: I'll be floating around the freelance scene for at least the first
half of this year, getting back at Marvel and possibly other places (no projects have been announced just yet). Getting "Masks and Mobsters" back on track as the hardcover edition is on its way is a big priority for us.
Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Villain Micro-Series: Krang" is on sale now. Check out a preview right here on CBR.