The Heroes in a Half Shell are set for a big return later this year, with IDW Publishing announcing today at WonderCon that it had acquired to license to publish new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” material and also collect classic stories by “TMNT” creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The Turtles debuted in 1984 as a black-and-white independent comic parodying popular series of the day like “New Mutants,” “Daredevil,” Dave Sim’s “Cerebus” and Frank Miller’s “Ronin,” but were made world-famous by an immensely cartoon series in the late 1980s to ’90s; since that time, Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo have appeared in live-action movies, CGI-based films, further animated series and a host of toys, backpacks, lunch boxes and myriad other products. Last year, Nickelodeon bought the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise outright for $60 million, with plans to launch yet another cartoon next year. Mirage Studios, the publisher founded by Eastman and Laird, ceased publishing Turtles comics shortly after the acquisition. CBR News caught up with editor Scott Dunbier to discuss IDW’s plans for the Ninja Turtles.
The Turtles’ arrival at IDW is the result of the efforts of Chief Executive Officer Ted Adams and Chief Operating Officer Greg Goldstein, who “actively pursued the property,” according to Dunbier. “The Turtles are a wide-world franchise, incredibly popular, a good, solid, fun comic book series,” Dunbier said. “The original series by Eastman and Laird, while it was a parody of comic books that already existed, really broke new ground on how to do an independent comic and it is incredibly fondly remembered by millions of kids, as both a comic book and a cartoon. It was kind of a no-brainer to go after it.”
The ubiquity of “TMNT” during the ’80s and ’90s, along with later revitalizations, has made the cast and their story familiar to a wide age group, beginning with fans who grew up with the original cartoon as well as their parents. What might be surprising, though, is how many different styles and genres the Turtles’ home medium of comics has entailed since their origin. That first issue, which introduced readers to the anthropomorphic heroes; their sensei, a rat named Splinter; and their eternal struggle against the evil Shredder and the Foot clan, was somewhat darker in tone than the eventual high-energy cartoon that introduced phrases like “Turtle Power!” and the heroes’ obsession with pizza. Though there were also comic series that capitalized on the popularity of the animated versions of the characters, at one point an Image Comics series took the Turtles toward an even darker turn, with several characters maimed, killed or otherwise transformed; this continuity was ignored in subsequent titles. Dunbier said the tone of IDW’s “TMNT” comics would be closer to later interpretations in other media. “I wouldn’t say ‘all-ages’ necessarily, we’ll definitely skew a little closer to teenagers,” he said. “For lack of a better term, I think we’ll be PG+. Not PG-13, but just a little bit more than PG.”
The new series will not continue the “Tales of TMNT” series Mirage published, Dunbier said, but will be based on the original comics. “We’ll be doing all new stuff. But we’ll also be doing collections of the old material. We’ll be doing a beautiful hardcover collection of the first 11 issues, one giant hardcover volume, over 400 pages of material.”
No creative team was announced at WonderCon, and Dunbier would not comment as to whether “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” creators Eastman and Laird would be involved in the relaunch.
He did, however, tell CBR News that the comics would not be scheduled to coincide with the new cartoon series. “They’ll be out definitely way before that,” Dunbier stated. “Those aren’t coming out until 2012. This is this year, late summer.”