Since landing at IDW Publishing, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” characters have reestablished themselves and their world in any number of ways. Not only has the latest ongoing TMNT series redefined who Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael are, it’s also given readers new takes on Shredder, Krang, Dimension X, Fugitoid and the history of the Foot Clan.
But this May, all that preparation will come to a head in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cityfall” — a new, seven-part event story starting with issue #22 of the ongoing series. Written by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz and drawn by new regular artist Mateus Santolouco, “Cityfall” will focus on the Shredder’s takeover of New York City’s underworld with a new major domo at his side: Leonardo. As the Turtles’ family breaks apart, the series will introduce a number of new and classic characters to the proceedings including some as-yet secret mutants and Purple Dragon leader The Hun.
For an exclusive first look at the proceedings, CBR News spoke with “Turtles” Editor Bobby Curnow about the road to the event. Below, he explains how the seeds for “Cityfall” have been planted since the earliest days of the IDW series, how the story echoes some of the biggest TMNT comics stories of the past, what twists will follow Leonardo’s turn towards the dark side and why the villains will never really lose.
CBR News: IDW’s Turtles series has been working hard to set up the big pieces of the universe from issue #1, and there have been long-running plot threads within that. At what point did this “Cityfall” story become a part of the larger plan?
Bobby Curnow: I’d say it was right when we were wrapping our first Shredder storyline, around issues #10 through 12. That’s where we started thinking about what Shredder’s long term goals were, how that would impact the Turtles and how we could start to introduce other characters that way. Around then, we started thinking about the fact that one of Shredder’s main goals since he learned about the Turtles was to destroy this family. And one of the best ways to do that is take one of them and take him as your own. We’ve been seeding that idea at various places in the story with Leonardo. From there, it was all about figuring out what the most organic time was to let this all fly, and now that time has come.
The thing that immediately jumped to my mind with “Cityfall” was that it feels like a callback to some of the big, event-style stories that Kevin and Peter Laird did back in the original days of the comics. How much were those old stories an influence on what happens here?
You know, it’s funny. “City At War,” which was the 12-part series that was a direct collaboration between Peter and Kevin, is very fondly remembered by hardcore Ninja Turtles fans. Like most things, we weren’t trying to copy that or do a direct homage, but it kind of shook out in a similar way. Whether that was Kevin’s involvement or just how things go, it’s hard to say. We’re doing a lot of different things, but at the same time, this has that big, alpha-level event feel to it. But really, this was a matter of us saying, “How many issues do we need to tell this story?” It was bigger than our regular trade, so we just let the story become bigger, and as we figured it out, we realized it would be a good place to introduce this character or that. It’s been a pretty organic process, and we’re all happy with how it’s shaking out.
From what I understand, we start with Raphael and Casey before shifting to the story of Leo and Shredder. Where did you guys want to place most of the cast to have the biggest impact for the story?
This is a slight spoiler for the current story where they’re in Dimension X fighting Krang, but they come back feeling pretty good. They’re working well together. There’s a lot of potential dangers out there, but they’re a family, and they feel like they’re firing on all cylinders. Of course, that’s when everything completely falls apart.
What we’re going by taking Leonardo out of the picture is that the rest of the Turtles are forced to say, “How do we work? Without Leo, how do we function as a collective core?” And there’s some other big stuff going on, too. One of the supporting characters is going to be fighting for their life. All of the shit is going to be hitting the fan at once, and they realize they’re not prepared for what’s coming at all. Each Turtle is going to take that differently. We’re going to see Raphael at his most angry and impulsive. We’ll see Donatello struggling for a logical response to all this. And Michelangelo is going to be super bummed and depressed because his family and his happy-go-lucky lifestyle is endangered. So it’ll affect each one of them differently. It’ll be interesting to see if they can all come back together and find a way to make their family whole again, because that’s the most important thing right now.
One of the pieces of news that will excite some longtime Turtles fans is the reintroduction of some of the classic characters — some mystery mutants and The Hun from the ’03 series. The marching orders for the IDW series from the start has been to use the best pieces of all versions of the franchise. Why was now the time to work these characters back into the fold?
It really had to feel natural. Something we’ve tried to avoid is just having a “villain of the week” thing where an issue comes up and we go, “Okay, now let’s throw Mondo Gecko in there!” just as an example. It had to feel organic. This is really the story of the New York City underworld falling to the Shredder and him creating his own personal fiefdom. We needed to look at what changes in his modus operandi. What changes come to him that allow this to happen? That seemed like an organic place to introduce some new villains who are subservient to Shredder. They’re new factors in play that no one expected.
When I think about Shredder, this is someone who’s been around in Medieval times in Feudal Japan, and I’d have to think he’s a student of history because of that. He knows that tides turn when someone brings in a new element or a new weapon to the fore. When gunpowder came along, arrows were screwed. I think he’s thinking along those lines and saying, “Now it’s time to bring these mutants — these animal beasts — as a new part of the arsenal.” So it felt like the right time to do it. We try to make any characters play into the story that we’re telling at the time. Like with Slash, that was a reflection of where the Turtles could have ended up if they didn’t have a father figure. Now we’re seeing what happens when one’s environment turns very dark and hostile — as it will for the Turtles. Those are the kinds of stories that are great opportunities for new characters.
And with The Hun getting involved, I assume the Purple Dragons gang have a role here too. Are there multiple factions involved in this battle besides the two most important sides of the fight?
Yeah. We’re going to see the Savate again, this rival ninja group we’ve touched on a couple of times going back to “Ninja Turtles” #6. We’re going to touch on the Purple Dragons. We’re basically going to use a lot of the things we’ve hinted at over the issues, and Shredder plays them all like a giant chess game. We’ll get some focus on all of them at one point or another in the story.
The other piece of news here is that Mateus Santolouco will now be the ongoing artist for the book. How does he match the way the book has found a balance between Kevin’s own art and a more modern take?
It’s really great. Way back when we were getting this all off the ground, I was talking to Rafael Grampa because I’m a huge fan of his, and I was saying, “Do you think you could do some covers?” Being the guy he is, he was busy with his own projects, but he said, “My friend Mateus Santolouco is a huge Turtles guy.” So I started talking to Mateus then, through that connection. It was right around the time he had done a fill-in on “American Vampire,” which I love, so I was happy to have him work with us. He’s full of these great ideas, and his talent is so apparent.
Covers by Dean Haspiel (L) and Kevin Eastman
We already had the ongoing established at that point with Dan Duncan, but I brought Mateus in for the flashback in issue #5 which didn’t have any Turtles in it, but we saw the Foot Clan back in the Feudal Japan. That made it clear that there was a whole giant story to be told there, and that turned into the “Secret History of the Foot Clan” mini series, which we’ve been working on over the past year. Things never quite seemed to work out for more more than that first issue because Mateus was doing DC work on “Dial H.” But then the stars aligned when our current artist Ben Bates had to catch up on some work at Archie just as Mateus schedule was opening up. It just seemed like a dream scenario.
Plus, this is a giant, dark story that I think fits Mateus’ sensibilities perfectly. It was one of those things that could have gone terribly wrong having an artist not being able to continue, but I think it worked out perfectly here. I think Mateus is going to own this storyline and be synonymous with this era of the Trutles, which I think is going to be our best year yet.
Overall, what kind of impact to you expect this to have on the franchise and where the series goes from here?
Basically, this is the Turtles at their very worst. Things are never going to be as bad for them as they’re about to be right now, and I think that’s where the best stories are told. There will be no out for our heroes. Something we’ve been trying to do is to never have the villains lose. We want to keep pushing them forward and forward and getting them closer to their goals. That builds a lot of dramatic tension. And by the end of this, they Turtles may get back together or not, but one thing that’s for sure is that Shredder is going to be top dog in New York City. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything in saying that, and it’s going to be really interesting to see how he gets there. This is essentially the halfway point of the bigger story we’re telling. There isn’t a more exciting time to read the book. Everything’s been keying up to this moment. We’ve set up all our plot points, and now we’re going to run with it and do something really special.
Stay tuned for more on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cityfall” on CBR.