Move over Ninja Turtles -- it's time for Casey Jones and April O'Neil to steal the spotlight. The most prominent humans in the Turtles' supporting cast will do just that this June in IDW Publishing's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey & April." Written by "Skim" creator Mariko Tamaki with art by Irene Koh, the four-issue limited series spins out of recent events in IDW's main "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" title and features the pair of heroes rolling out on a road trip to the southwest. This isn't just a simple getaway for Casey and April, though, as the duo will attempt to figure out how and why Pantheon has been playing puppet master to them, Splinter and the Turtles.
In an exclusive talk with CBR News, Tamaki and Koh discussed bringing their own styles to these characters, their personal relationships with the Turtles and the driving force of Casey and April's relationship.
When asked for details about the dangers that Casey and April will encounter while on the hunt for Pantheon-related answers, Tamaki kept things vague but did offer a hint at the kinds of threats our heroes will encounter. "Well, when you're dealing with the Pantheon, you're dealing with some supernatural level challenges," said Tamaki. "It's a battle of minds and will."
Though tight-lipped when pressed for more details, Tamaki did add, "I can tell you there is unexpected danger and some twists and turns, but that's about it."
Potentially more pressing than the dangers that April and Casey will run into on this road trip are the relationship problems that the couple will confront in the series. "April and Casey are lovers in a dangerous time," said Tamaki. "The question is, what does it mean to be in love when it's not such a dangerous time? What does it mean to have love last?"
"Loving someone amidst an extremely trying situation -- even if it's not to do with life-endangering villainy -- I think this is a familiar concept to a lot of people, and something I often explore in my own work," added Koh.
Both Koh and Tamaki are known for creating less traditional sequential storytelling in their other work. Tamaki is known for graphic novels like the Ignatz-winning "Skim" and "This One Summer" while Koh worked in the web-based world before her first published work, a Batgirl story from "Secret Origins" #10, hit the stands. Both creators appreciated the challenge of working on someone else's characters in the miniseries format.
"Taking on some existing characters, figuring out who they are and what they're about has been a bit of a challenge," said Tamaki. "It's a cool challenge though."
"Like Mariko said, adapting existing characters is always a delicate thing," Koh continued. "I'm so excited and fortunate to be given an opportunity to give April and Casey my own flavor."
For Mariko and Koh, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey & April" is a labor of love that hearkens back to their childhoods.
"I was definitely a fan as a teen," said Tamaki of the Ninja Turtles. "I remember watching the movie in 1990 and being very 'Cowabunga, dude!' I think it's such a great piece of pop culture. [It's] a mix of three things that feel so rad: turtles, ninjas and pizza. Can't go wrong."
Koh hopped on the Turtles' party wagon a little later than Tamaki. "I was still really young when the series was airing on TV, and I'd just moved to the US from Japan at the time," said Koh. "'TMNT' was probably my first taste of American cartoons; the pizza obsession was definitely formative for me. [laughs]"
The creators both credited IDW Editor Bobby Curnow for bringing them together and setting them down this path of character exploration. "We have the fabulous Bobby Curnow to thank for our collaboration," said Tamaki. "Bobby has been an incredible support for me in this process. He's like a coach or something. I always feel buoyed after our conversations!"
"Total kudos to Bobby Curnow," added Koh. "So grateful."
In addition to fulfilling some childhood dreams, the "Casey & April" creators promise that the miniseries will offer plenty of material for Turtles fans old and new to dive into
"Every comic is a new challenge and they're all important," said Tamaki. "I definitely want to do these characters justice for the 'TMNT' readers out there."
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey & April" #1 from Mariko Tamaki, Irene Koh and IDW Publishing debuts in June.