Hitting stands this week is one of the most hotly anticipated comic book crossovers of the year: "Batman/TMNT Adventures." Combining the worlds of "Batman: The Animated Series" and the currently-running "Ninja Turtles" cartoon on Nickelodeon, the series melds the worlds of the animated Gotham and the Turtles' New York City for a mash-up perfect for longtime fans of each show, and new readers seeking a solid all-ages adventure. Packaged as a "mini-movie," the series aims to combine both universes for a crossover of epic, animated proportions.
CBR had the opportunity to speak with Matthew Manning and Jon Sommariva, the dynamic duo behind the crossover, in a conversation that covered their inspiration for the series, the similarities between the mega-popular animated series, their favorite character interactions in the crossover, and much, much more.
CBR: How did this project come about?
Matthew Manning: After the original Batman/Turtles crossover proved such a hit with the readers, IDW and DC decided to pair their animated counterparts. I’d been writing for the last two incarnations of the Turtles animated tie-in book ("Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Amazing Adventures"), so my editor, Bobby Curnow, got in contact with me and asked if I’d be interested in coming up with a Batman/TMNT pitch. I always jump at the chance to write Batman, so I immediately got to brainstorming.
Jon Sommariva: For me it was a matter of timing and all those pieces falling into place. I had been doing covers for IDW on their "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Amazing Adventures" line while I was working on a large game project. Once the game art wrapped up I mentioned to my editor, Bobby Curnow, that I was available for some work and really keen to get into some comics. While I love drawing covers, it's storytelling that gets me really excited. I was just about to start working on an 8 page back-up for the final issue of that series when Bobby mentioned that they were planning on doing another Batman/TMNT crossover in the animated style, and that they had me in mind for the art. A couple of sample pieces later, and here we are.
Apart from the visual, animation-inspired aspect, how will this crossover feel different from the last Batman/TMNT crossover?
Manning: This is definitely set in the worlds of the two cartoons. That means it’s all-ages, but it’s not dumbed down in the slightest. "Batman: The Animated Series" was an extremely sophisticated show, and despite its lighter tone, so is the current "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cartoon. In fact, "B:TAS" originally attempted to make each episode a sort of “mini-movie.” We’re running with that idea, and our great artist on the series, Jon Sommariva, has even crafted some awesome “title cards” for the credits of each issue as a nod to those great art deco illustrations that began every Batman cartoon. There wasn’t really a budget to do those title cards in the comic, but IDW is backing this book 100% and did it anyway. It’s really a fun little extra to start off each issue.
Why do you think TMNT and Batman go well together?
Manning: "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" and “Year One,” the two comics that set the modern tone for Batman debuted in this boom of gritty, street level comics that really epitomized the 1980s. The original Ninja Turtles comic was a major part of that boom, proving that indie comics could find an equal standing on the racks of fledgling comic book stores. Then both Batman and Turtles went on to generate blockbuster summer movies, cartoons, and toy lines. Growing up in that era, there was no escaping that. I absolutely loved both franchises, so getting the chance to write them together is not only a dream come true for me, but just a natural fit for the characters. Their modern incarnations are part of the very same wave of pop culture.
Sommariva: They have so much in common! Masks, ninjas, gadgets, a secret hideout, a crazy themed out vehicle, rooftops, working at night and some great mutants and freaks. At this point it is hard to imagine that these guys don't come from the same world.
Was it difficult establishing a tone that fits both properties?
Manning: I just kept throwing shadows everywhere. There’s a common ground of rooftops, dirty alleys, and even the sewers where Batman and the Turtles really shine. When I started with those types of scenes, everything else just fell into place. The Turtles often embrace humor and serve as the perfect foils for Batman and his serious attitude. They really just all work well together.
Sommariva: On the art side of things, I already had a little experience working with the Nickelodeon turtles, and translating them to a 2D style that I was comfortable with. From there it didn’t take much to merge them with what feels familiar to fans of "Batman: TAS." I've made some adjustments to my style here and there and have been studying the work of master Bruce Timm to try and capture something that feels both familiar and new. It's a work in progress and I feel that I am learning new tricks the deeper I get into it.
Does the series take place at a particular moment in each series?
Manning: The series is set in between the original "Batman: The Animated Series" show and the WB revamp, "The New Batman Adventures." So we’re seeing the Dick Grayson Robin, the classic yellow oval Batman, and an inexperienced Batgirl. As for the Turtles, it’s a bit more up in the air. There are some transitions going on with the Foot Clan in the current season of their show, so our story is probably taking place even before the heroes went to space in their recent season. April is still wearing yellow and Shredder is still around leading the Foot Clan from his traditional lair.
What bring these two universes together?
Manning: You’ll have to read the series to find out! But it seems the Turtles already have an enemy or two with the ability to travel to other dimensions…
Sommariva: I was gonna say cash, money! But, Matt’s answer is much better. I think it's so cool that DC and IDW are able to collaborate in this way, because at the end of the day the fans win. It's a very exciting time, and I'm so happy to be a part of it.
What character interactions can you tease for the series, beyond the first issue?
Manning: There’s a really fun Shredder/Joker relationship that has probably produced some of my favorite scenes. The characters are so different, putting them in a room together has just been a blast to write.
Sommariva: I love what Matt has been doing with our main cast. There are lots of really fun moments there with the main characters interacting, but right now I'm working with a villainous pairing that is a match made in heaven - Poison Ivy and Snakeweed (as teased on the cover to issue 3). Both plant based characters. It's this kind of thing that makes this project so much fun to work on. Nothing feels forced. It’s all so very (pardon the pun) organic!
If you could crossover different eras/incarnations of Batman and TMNT, what would they be?
Manning: "Batman" ’89 and the "Ninja Turtles" '90s movie. That’s another childhood sweet spot. But I would also love to write "Batman ’66" teamed up with the original Turtles cartoon characters. There are really so many great possibilities. I hope IDW and DC continue to mine them.
Sommariva: I'm lucky enough to be working on my favourite version of Batman right now, but if there was a chance for a different take, I would love to see Batman from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight teamed up with a very gritty and hardcore original turtles - all red bandanas and with a hard R rating. Would be nice to see them all just let loose. A chibi Batman/Turtles one-shot could also be very cool! I know a dude that could draw that.
"Batman/TMNT Adventures" #1 is in stores now.