The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles face their greatest challenge yet this May, when IDW Publishing kicks off the seven-part event "City Fall" in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #22 by co-writers Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman with Mateus Santolouco on art.
In the past two years, readers have seen the mean green fighting team take on mutant cat Old Hob, mad scientist Baxter Stockman, evil inter-dimensional warlord Krang and more. The worst is yet to come for the Turtles in "City Fall," however, when Shredder attempts to take over the New York City underworld -- and does his best to recruit Leonardo to help him achieve his goals.
Eastman, who co-created "TMNT" with Peter Laird in 1984, and Waltz discussed "City Fall" with Comic Book Resources, sharing what the will Turtles face in the months ahead, what it's like for Waltz to co-write with "TMNT" co-creator Eastman and more.
CBR News: With "City Fall" approaching, can you bring readers up to date on what's been happening with the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" so far?
Tom Waltz: Well, the Turtles, alongside their father Splinter and good friends April O'Neil and Casey Jones, have experienced a number of highs and lows since we first began the series at IDW. We learned early on that the mutated turtles and their rat father are, in fact, reincarnated ninja from Feudal Japan, having been ruthlessly executed by Splinter's (nee Hamato Yoshi) arch-rival from that same time period, one Oroku Saki.
Since being reincarnated (into four humanoid turtles and one humanoid rat), the strange family has faced everything from a greedy mad scientist (Baxter Stockman), a vengeful mutant cat (Old Hob), a psychotic mutant snapping turtle (Slash), killer robots called MOUSERs, gang bangers (Purple Dragons), an inter-dimensional warlord alien bent on terraforming Earth (Krang) and other ninja, including those from Yoshi's former clan, the Foot -- most notably, their leader, Shredder, who, as it turns out, is the resurrected Oroku Saki.
Oh, and Saki's got fierce descendent working alongside him, a young female ninja named Karai, as well as a mutant snow fox named Alopex. So -- yeah, the TMNT have been busy, and as I mentioned, it hasn't always been easy, though most recently they've been on a bit of a winning rush, having travelled via inter-dimensional portal to the Planet Neutrino to rescue the royal family there alongside a fugitive robot named, aptly enough, the Fugitoid.
Did I mention they've been really busy? [Laughs]
Kevin Eastman: What the?!!! Is that what's going on?! Crikey! [Laughs]
What is so fantastic about Tom's re-imagining of the "TMNT" is how awesomely well he draws it back to, and grounds it pretty solidly in, "TMNT" lore -- or at the very least, is wonderfully inspired by it. The whole IDW team, as well as the relationship and support from Nickelodeon, has been incredible -- I am personally very pleased they let the whole team have the breathing room to tell some really fantastic stories. What really has excited me about the entire series is how much this new direction has really excited me about the entire series! [Laughs]
Seriously -- I have not had this much fun working on the "TMNT" since the very early days with Peter Laird -- I have really found out how much I loved and missed drawing and working on the Turtles.
So, what's happening to the Turtles in "City Fall?"
Waltz: In a nutshell (heh -- shell), "City Fall" will detail Shredder's first major offensive against his NYC underworld enemies. He's got world domination on his mind, but he knows he has to start his campaign in his new backyard -- New York City -- and build his empire from there. But, he has no plans to do this alone as he's set his sights on making the eldest TMNT, Leonardo, his second-in-command, no matter what it takes and no matter whom he has to crush in the process.
Eastman: One of the final "TMNT" storylines I worked on with Peter (plotted/etc.) was the "City at War" series, which was produced as a wonderful solid team effort (Jim Lawson pencils, Keith Aiken and Jason Minor inks, A.C. Farley covers and more… AND actually is just about to be printed in a two volume hardcover set by IDW) and a series that always remains near and dear -- and this arc feels very much like a love poem to that final run -- but I'll tell you, the direction Tom has decided to go -- and how far we've been able go by Nickelodeon gives me goose-bumps. Much like putting April back in the lab -- but having her "name" the TMNT's in the first four issues, or Raph getting separated at exposure and having him bond with Casey first -- this is the kind of re-adjustment stuff. There's tons more besides these two examples I am totally grooving on -- and it really seems like the fans have been as well. Man, I think fans are going to go even more completely nuts for this run, I certainly did when I saw Tom's final breakdown -- really rockin' stuff!
Kevin, is the name "City Fall" an homage to "City at War?"
Eastman: Well, I'll touched on this a little more later -- but at the end of the day, each is its own beast, has its own merits and qualities. But speaking for the here and now, after watching what has been building to get here over the last twenty months or so -- I just say, buckle up and enjoy the ride guys -- things are about to get seriously fun! [Laughs]
Will "City Fall" have any long-lasting effects on the Turtles?
Waltz: Absolutely! We honestly try to make all of our plots important (and matter) to the overarching story being told in the ongoing, but this one's extra big as it really brings the Foot out of the shadows, where they've been lurking in the modern era to this point.
Individually, it will affect different characters in significant ways, with some of our players stepping up to become more than they have been to this point, while others will find their self-confidence, honor, and courage sorely tested. New alliances (some very surprising) will form as a result of the war the Foot rain down on NYC, as well as new enmities (also surprising). And, we will be bringing new characters into the mix, some of them old and beloved fan favorites from TMNT iterations past.
Eastman: This arc, much like all the chapters in the series, including the one-shots or miniseries, has a certain level of weight to the total story and inter-connects so incredibly well -- it really blows my mind -- yet, I still feel there are easily a number of different places for new fans to enter the storyline without having had to have read them all -- and that is fantastic -- but once they get in, they want the rest for sure! Even when Tom and I were working out my crazy detective-style digression for last year's annual, great care was taken to have it tie into the overall series -- and man, what a great time that was!
How dramatically will Raphael's allegiances to his family be tested during "City Fall?" He's still a relative newcomer to the team in the IDW series, and with Leo ostensibly going rogue, it seems Raphael might be the only turtle who won't feel any remorse about taking him down.
Waltz: Great question, because this arc is very important as it pertains to Raphael's growth in this series. As you mentioned, he's still a relative newcomer -- still learning how to be one amongst many, part of a family, etc. The troubles with Leo will force Raphael to face his own demons and, hopefully, overcome them in order to best serve his family, his friends… and himself. I really believe he's going to surprise readers during "City Fall," and it's my hope we all know him much better as a person (or, if you prefer, turtle-person) by the time the arc is complete.
Eastman: Agreed, and then some. I am so in love with each character's ongoing growth and development in the past twenty months of stories/plots/sub-plots and twists -- I feel like I get to completely rediscover some of the very characters I helped create in a whole new way -- fresh life injected into them, and I get to learn more about the people I thought I knew everything about. The tweaks and nudges, especially what the guys have done and are doing with say, the Fugitoid for example, are personally very satisfying -- yet still firmly based in familiar "TMNT" histories, but with so much room to move more, grow more and that is what excites me as a fan -- as well as the other real fans. I think that it is the charm in the series, and the suspense, and the drama that has been grabbing everyone once they have jumped in.
Tom, what's it like working with "TMNT" co-creator Kevin Eastman on the Turtles? It must be pretty daunting, pitching stories to the original series creator.
Waltz: You know, at first I was terrified. Me, pitching "TMNT" to one of its co-creators? ME?!! But, no lie, no exaggeration, Kevin is one of the nicest, most open-minded, humble and supportive collaborators (and friends) I have ever worked with. He made me feel absolutely at ease from the very start, letting me know he was fully behind the story we at IDW wanted to tell. From day one he's been our biggest cheerleader as well as the first person to offer sage advice when it's been needed. The best part is that he's having fun, which makes it even more of a blast for all of us lucky enough to work alongside him on this latest iteration of "TMNT" madness.
Personally watching his mad genius at work as he and I collaborated on the first "TMNT" annual has been a highlight of my "TMNT" experience so far. When he brought that outline to me for scripting, my head nearly exploded! He had flowcharts and graphs and page after page of awesomeness ready for me to tackle -- I honestly thought there was no way I was gonna be able to do it. But, as always, Kevin gave me all the encouragement and confidence I needed to turn his noir zaniness into a "TMNT" comic both he and I are very proud of. Great guy, that Kevin, no doubt about it -- my brother from another mother.
And, I'd be absolutely remiss if I didn't say how important editor Bobby Curnow is to all things IDW "TMNT." He is the glue that keeps us all together, and by us, I mean everyone working on TMNT, from the ongoing to the many associated micro and miniseries. The overall story we're building is not an easy one, filled with many twisting plotlines and complicated character evolutions, but somehow Bobby finds away to keep it all rolling forward. I can honestly say the success we've experienced all points directly to his able captaincy of this whacky ship we're all sailing aboard.
I feel absolutely honored and extraordinarily lucky to work with both these fine gentleman, not to mention our wonderful partners at Nickelodeon, all the fantastic artists who have graced our pages, as well as our unsung hero, colorist extraordinaire Ronda Pattison!
Eastman: Whoa! Well -- no one could have said it better than Tom -- especially all the nice stuff about me! [Laughs] I know I touched on this a bit above, but I will tell you, I have worked with a lot of really talented folks on "TMNT" projects over the last thirty years -- from the comics, to the animated series, to the films -- and I put Tom, Bobby and Ronda right at the top of my all-time favorites -- just under Peter Laird, mind you -- but these folks are the best of the best. I am simply thrilled to be on their team, to work with them and celebrate each new success they create. They have set their own bar very high, and continually top it. One of the great joys in my life, calling these guys my friends.
Speaking of Bobby Curnow, is Burnow Island, one of the major settings in your "TMNT" saga, an homage to your "TMNT" editor?
Waltz: Yep, Burnow Island is a reference I made to Bobby Curnow. Matter of fact, the Neutrino city in the "Krang War" arc, Smada City, is in reference to IDW CEO Ted Adams (his last name backwards).
Are there any classic "TMNT" elements that will make their debut during "City Fall?" I'm still waiting for the Rat King to reappear in this new continuity…
Waltz: Yes -- we've got some classic characters ready to make their IDW "TMNT" debut. Beloved characters. Cool characters. Bad-ass characters. Oh, and characters who shall remain nameless for now. Yes -- I'm a tease.
Eastman: [SOUND OF ME BITING MY TONGUE AGAIN AND AGAIN] Yes, kills me not to spill the beans -- but it will be exceptional Trust me.
Will "City Fall" go any further in to how exactly the Turtles, Shredder and Splinter were able to become reincarnated versions of their former selves? Or is the new origin, as far as the two of you are concerned, done with at this point?
Waltz: Actually, the awesome miniseries "Secrets of the Foot Clan" covered Shredder's resurrection in a most excellent fashion, so we probably won't broach that too much in "City Fall" -- well, not in a way folks might expect, that is. We'll have some fallout from "Secrets of the Foot Clan" to deal with, but I'm gonna keep that, well, secret for now (I will say, however, that Kevin has drawn art for that scene already, which appears in issue #21, and it's sweet!). As for the TMNT/Splinter reincarnation, that will be something we will continue to explore as the ongoing progresses (matter of fact, we touched upon it in a "scientific" manner in "TMNT" #20).
Eastman: I'll tell you, when I first saw Mateus Santolouco's work rolling in for "Secrets of the Foot Clan," I wanted to break all my pencils and look for a new job! [Laughs]
Man that really blew my mind! The talent spread throughout the series, starting with the incredible Dan Duncan, is one of the many, many inspiring parts to working with the team, and then getting to do a fill-in issue on my own in between them all -- was honestly scary! [Laughs] I really wanted to nail it on behalf of all the troops in the trenches -- and I guess the fans will let us know if I pulled it off or not! But as far as digging in deeper on the reincarnation -- there's a lot of cool stuff in the pipeline here -- I just pitched Tom and Bobby another thread/concept earlier this week…
Are there any plans for a second ongoing "TMNT" series if "City Fall" is successful?
Waltz: Not that I know of. Right now, we're keeping retailers and fans pretty busy with the ongoing and associated micro and miniseries, as well as classic reprints and an upcoming "TMNT Animated" comic book (based on the great new Nickelodeon TV show), so I think we've got our turtle bases covered, so to speak. Our goal with "City Fall" is to tell an awesome story that we can build upon in future arcs, which, as I mentioned above, is our goal for all our arcs. We really do care about the tales we're telling -- where they come from and where they are going.
Eastman: That couldn't have been said better -- and coming from me, someone who isn't doing the day to day heavy-lifting Tom and Bobby do, I think to do anymore would take away from the incredible amount of time they find to put in to the series, to make each issue of such high quality that they do -- and getting these out on time to me is epic. Beyond. I am a very proud sensei…
"City Fall" will be ending less than a year before the debut of the new movie. Are there plans for any ‘movie-centric' plot elements during or after "City Fall?"
Waltz: Though I think Kevin does have some involvement in the "TMNT" movie being developed, neither Bobby nor I have anything to do with it -- at least at this point in time, that is. I'm getting all my "TMNT" movie news the same way everyone else is: via the Internet.
Eastman: What is cool about the IDW series is that it really gets to stand on its own ground, on its own two feet, basically the same, but different than the New Nickelodeon series and the movie -- and that is the way it should be -- that really was the way we always did it back in the day.
The black and white series ran different kinds of stories than we did in the animated show -- and often times, the films would end up a hybrid of both. I respect Viacom's position here, as they have allowed Nickelodeon and Paramount and IDW to do basically the same: exist all in the same universe, but spinning on slightly different axes -- and we can all certainly mine each of the others ideas, and make everything stronger. It's a very cool place to be, actually.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #22, the first part of "City Fall," goes on sale May 22 from IDW Publishing.