Everyone knows Splinter trained the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to become four of the bravest heroes New York City ever saw. But what if that father/sons dynamic is disrupted by Shredder brainwashing the quartet and bending them to his will? That's the premise behind Tom Waltz and Zach Howard's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Deviations."
Announced today as part of IDW Publishing's just-announced Deviations initiative (which will also include alternate reality, "What If...?"-style takes on "The X-Files," "Transformers," "Ghostbusters" and "G.I. Joe") the Turtles entry comes from the regular series writer and the artist of "Wild Blue Yonder" and "The Cape." In the March-arriving one-shot, Splinter must put together a new team to save his young charges from Shredder.
In the exclusive first interview with Waltz and Howard, CBR News learned where, exactly, the one-shot's continuity diverges from the original story, how the creative team went about exploring new sides to these characters, and the challenge they faced in redesigning these classic characters.
CBR News: Tom, you obviously have plenty of experience with the Turtles, but what elements does this Deviation allow you to play with that just don't work in the usual continuity?
Tom Waltz: Well, with all apologies to "Star Wars," I got to play on the dark side a lot in this one-shot, which I received a twisted kind of enjoyment from. Not that our ongoing doesn't have its darker elements at times, but to be able to slot all four of our main protagonists into the role of vicious antagonists has been both thrilling and chilling.
If the fans think Dark Leo was scary during "City Fall," just wait until they meet Dark Mikey! I've gotta give most of the credit to editor Bobby Curnow -- I worked directly from his initial outline and he brought some really wicked (literally) ideas to the story that were tons of fun to script out.
Along those same lines, are there character aspects that shine through regardless of the circumstances?
Waltz: Yep, definitely. Master Splinter, in particular, has to dig deep and rely on his patented strength and discipline -- and honor -- in this one. His four sons are out for blood -- his blood! And still, he knows they aren't quite themselves and he must find a way to break through the spell they're under and save them before they kill him. And we have special appearances from other fan-favorite characters of our ongoing series, many of whom will commit acts that are both expected and surprising!
Zach, on the art side of things, what kinds of existing and new elements were you able to play with when designing this version of the Turtles, Splinter, Shredder, etc.?
Zach Howard: Since the world and characters already have been refined for decades, all I had to do was take Leonardo's uniform elements and toy around with them on the other three Turtles. I tried to mix it up and make it fit their personalities and physical builds a touch. There wasn't any really heavy design work for this gig; I more just get to play around with a well-established IP, and tell a neat story through my visual filter.
Visually, I just stuck close to the established source material, but added my own flavor to all the characters. To expand on this, I take the feel of the story, individual personalities, overall visual presentation and try to get a good sense of what type of object construction will tell the story in an illustrative way. Then, I play around sketching the characters until I find a direction I like and I know I can get away with in approvals.
The Turtles took the most work, obviously, but they still remain the core characters they have always been, just polluted, more dangerous looking. My biggest obstacle with them was making them look like individuals while wearing matching uniforms -- without the different colored headbands that usually provide the trick needed. I mixed and matched armor, straps, pockets, symbols, etc. until I got a balanced look that I could make work in both heavy lighting and dynamic character movement. I'm happy with how they turned out -- they look like they belong together, but are distinct enough for quick visual separation so it doesn't interrupt the flow of the story.
Can you talk about the specific moment in time when this continuity deviates from the one you've been developing over the years?
Waltz: This story deviates exactly at the moment Shredder guts Casey Jones in Issue #22, at the beginning of the "City Fall" story arc. Everything changes from that point on.
The Turtles, of course, come with very distinct personalities. Do those come through at all in these new versions, or has Shredder kind of beat them into submission?
Waltz: One thing I absolutely wanted to do was to keep facets of their personalities intact, despite the brainwashing they've been subjected to -- it still had to feel like the TMNT in my opinion, or else we could just throw four other characters in there and be done with it. As a result, they are loyal to Shredder and the Foot now, but they still act like themselves for the most part, though in a much more sinister fashion. Like I said earlier, Dark Mikey is notably eerie -- there's just something about a murderous party dude that is extremely creepy.
How has Shredder leading the brainwashed Turtles changed the landscape of New York City?
Waltz: The landscape has changed somewhat, and will do so even more during the course of the story. With four turtles in his control, Shredder (nee Oroku Saki) ratchets up his takeover of NYC, big time, while still focusing on his personal vendetta against Splinter (nee Hamato Yoshi).
Howard: I'm mostly concentrating on city buildings and structures. Coming off of "Wild Blue Yonder," I've gotten little chance to play with real world environments for quite some time. I'm really having a blast drawing odds and ends like bricks and water towers. They really lend themselves to my gritty illustrations.
Splinter puts together a group to help save the Turtles. Will they be familiar faces, or brand new ones?
Waltz: All familiar faces, including Slash, who was still in his pre-psychotropic serum stage at that point, with an infantile IQ. It was a bit odd to write him like that again, but it's another of the things about this project that was fun and challenging. Look for some surprise alliances in this one, and for some important folks to not make it out alive!
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Deviations" from Tom Waltz, Zach Howard and IDW appears in stores towards the end of March.