Five issues into IDW Publishing’s relaunch of the evergreen “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” property, the creative team of Tom Waltz, Dan Duncan and “Turtles” co-creator Kevin Eastman have regrown the amphibious heroes from experimental ooze, introduced a new and deadly villain, established a cast of human allies and adversaries, and set one of the ninja brothers apart from the rest. “TMNT” has been through several incarnations throughout the years, beginning in 1984 as a black and white independent comic by Eastman and Peter Laird before rocketing to worldwide fame three years later. Nickelodeon ultimately bought the franchise in 2009, and IDW picked up the license for “Turtles” comics shortly after, bringing Eastman on board as co-writer and layout artist.
The new IDW continuity, still in its infancy, begins with the intelligent (though not-yet-humanoid) rat Splinter and four turtles Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael undergoing genetic experiments at a shady research facility. When ninja Foot soldiers break in to steal the lab’s secrets, they take the turtles along. Splinter, already a fierce fighter, manages to free the captives, but in the process accidentally douses them — and a nearby alley cat — with a mysterious substance from the laboratory. The rat, the turtles and cat soon mutate into anthropomorphic forms, but Raphael finds himself separated from the others. The first arc of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” follows Leonardo, Donatello and Michelangelo as they search for their prodigal brother, while Raphael undergoes trials of his own.
With the first arc of the relaunched “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” behind him, series writer Tom Waltz expressed extraordinary enthusiasm for the title. “Honestly, this has been one of the best — if not the best — writing experiences in my career, and that’s saying a lot because I’ve loved nearly every project I’ve been fortunate enough to be a involved with over the years,” he told CBR. “I’m having an absolute blast working with crazy Kevin Eastman and the gang — artist Dan Duncan, colorist Ronda Pattison, editor-extraordinaire Bobby Curnow and all the fine folks at Nickelodeon. I love the story we’re building — every time I finish a script, I’m ready to dive right into the next one. And the fans have been great! I’ve worked on a number of what I call fan-driven licenses — things like ‘Silent Hill,’ ‘Duke Nukem,’ ‘Dead Rising,’ ‘Ghostbusters,’ etc. — and I always do my best to be active in online forums, etc., not only because I like to see what the fans are saying, but because, first and foremost, I’m a fan myself. The ‘TMNT’ fans have welcomed me with open arms and, best of all, open minds. There is heated debate that takes place, but for the most part, it’s civil and never boring — I dig watching all the cool theories develop about what we’re doing and what we might be up to.
“Also, ‘TMNT’ is something I can share with my entire family — my lovely wife, my kids, everyone in my clan who has always supported my work — which makes it even more special to me,” Waltz continued. “So, yeah, awesome experience, and I really feel the best is yet to come.”
Continuing on the topic of supporting characters, April O’Neil, while integral to the Turtles’ origin, has yet to meet the Heroes in a Half Shell in Waltz’s story. Casey Jones, another human ally, has already fought alongside Raphael and has now been taken into the brothers’ and Splinter’s confidence. Waltz promised there are big plans for both non-mutant heroes. “April has always been one of my favorite popular culture characters. She’s smart, feisty, brave, cute, loyal — you name it! I’m a huge proponent of strong female characters in stories and April is one of the best and I’m absolutely honored to have the chance to write her. So, yeah, she will continue to play a big part in the ever-evolving storyline,” Waltz said. “As for how she’ll handle meeting the big, green, fighting machines, well, all I’ll say is this (and Bobby C’s gonna kill me for admitting this) — make sure you buy issue #8 to find out! But, before that happens, plenty of other neat April moments in issues #6 and #7. Casey Jones, too!”
Artist Dan Duncan, working from Eastman’s layouts, has given the series an interesting and distinctive look. Waltz said that he met Duncan through writer Scott Lobdell, who was writing the “Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Music Box” miniseries Waltz edited. “He told me to check out Dan’s stuff (which he loved). I did and, man, I was floored. Dan has a very distinct style — indie and inky and exciting. He’s not an artist to dwell on gobs of background details — rather, he gives each panel a fun, open, kinetic energy, which works perfect for a story featuring giant turtles with a penchant for ninja fightin’!” Waltz said. “He just keeps getting better and better — the pages he turned into us today for issue #8 were bombastic, man! And, I totally dig how he still finds ways to give each character — including our heroes sans pupils — so much emotion and character in their faces and their actions. I can’t thank ol’ Scotty Lobdell enough for introducing me to Dan and I hope to work with Mr. Duncan for a long time to come.”
Waltz went on to further praise the rest of the “TMNT” creative team, including colorist Ronda Pattison (“She flat out rocks!) and, of course, Kevin Eastman, whom he described as “one of the nicest friggin’ guys in the comic book biz and such a cool cat to collaborate with.” “I’m here to tell you that I pinch myself every day to be sure I’m not dreaming, and remind myself that I’m very, very lucky to do this for a living,” Waltz said. “I couldn’t be happier to have my fellow fans right alongside for the ride. Turtle power, indeed!”
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