Since 1984, Kevin Eastman has been known as the co-creator (along with Peter Laird) of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and his work in comic books has been almost singularly focused on those creations. Now, as announced at Comic-Con International in San Diego, the writer-artist is expanding his comics horizons later this year with the release of the first issue of the six-part miniseries "Lost Angeles."
Released through IDW Publishing, a post-apocalyptic adventure set in Los Angeles a decade after a world-ending disaster, Eastman described the series to CBR News as "literally the first non-Turtles thing I've done since I can remember."
"Lost Angeles" has been in the works for quite some time, with Eastman developing it alongside collaborators Simon Bisley and Joe Pearson. "The 'Lost Angeles' concept came from multiple meetings with Simon over a number of years," Eastman said. "We'd always be working on some project or another back in those days -- I've been working with Simon for 15 years on various things -- and we'd get on these crazy marathons late at night, talking about this idea and that idea, and favorite movies and things like that. I always liked 'Escape From New York' and 'The Warriors,' post-apocalyptic stories. I just liked this idea of, after the bomb, different things that could happen."
The coming series' story focuses on two characters in the post-apocalyptic Los Angeles landscape, Mikal and Angel. "It's a 'Romeo and Juliet' sort of aspect," Eastman explained. "Mikal is the main leader of a group called the Stompers. Their main turf is based around Hollywood and Highland, the true heart of Hollywood area. Angel is this new Aztec princess that wants to sort of escape the wrath of her father and what his plans are. They share a similar dream of a better world, a better place, a better freedom. I love the 'West Side Story' sort of element of, they find each other, immediately bond and then decide to partner up in life and a mission to change the world they live in."
Despite the comparisons to "Romeo and Juliet" and "West Side Story," though, this isn't simply a star-crossed romance. "It's got a good heart and a good soul, but at the same time I really want to have a good solid foundation for the characters that I can wrap around into some pretty intense action sequences," Eastman said. "That's the fun. I'd like to split it up the middle, but knowing me, I'm going to lean heavily toward the action stuff. But again, I hope that if I do my job right, the story and the characters will be strong enough to hold together some of the intensity of the action stuff I want to do. If we can achieve a little nail-biting along the way, and some intensity, all the better for all of us."
Eastman and Bisley started putting together the idea for the series "seven or eight years ago," before bringing in Pearson later in the process. "Simon and I really created the world of 'Lost Angeles' -- the title, the world, how it got there, the basic origin story, the structure. We even broke down the different gangs, the different groups that would be components in the story, and had this structure in place."
At this point, Eastman turned to Pearson, with whom he'd worked on the animated movie "War of the Worlds: Goliath," to help develop the concept into a screenplay. "We kind of reformatted the structure and the flow of the story in a way that we liked enough that we swapped back and forth a 50-page treatment," Eastman explained. "We used the one that I had written originally with Simon as a jumping-off point, and we just sort of emailed it back and forth until we both were happy with what it looked like."
Although it was initially fashioned as a screenplay, "Lost Angeles" is definitely primarily a comic book. "I felt, having lived in Hollywood for so many years and been in that kind of environment, you can adapt up or down in a number of ways from a screenplay," Eastman said. "The screenplay seemed to us to be the best jumping-off point. It offered all possibilities."
While those possibilities include pitching the idea as a feature film and as an animated TV series, at this point Eastman is focusing all his energies on comic-book creation. While Bisley and Pearson worked on developing the initial idea (and Bisley will be contributing covers), the end result is all Eastman's. "We have a script that we both like, and I'm going to be the sole guy to basically adapt the script into comic-book form and actually finish the art," he said. "It's almost from this point on that Simon's contribution, both in story and concept art -- his job's done. Joe, for the most part, his job's done. Now, it's sort of up to me to see if I can make it all work as a comic book."
After years of working in other media, Eastman is making the most of his full-time return to comics, between "Lost Angeles" and his work on IDW's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" series. "It was like riding a bike, I guess," he said of drawing full-scale comics again. "It was these perfect worlds colliding in that, 'Wow, this is really fun!' 'Wow, I used to do this for a living!' 'Wow, Turtles are fuckin' awesome!' Lots of happy, happy, joy, joy feelings. I liked them so much that I said I wanted to take some pretty dramatic steps to make sure that I can go back to this and go back to literally drawing full-time again, in publishable form."
That includes Eastman's ongoing "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" work, the six issues of the "Lost Angeles" miniseries and, he hopes, more stories in the world depicted in "Lost Angeles." "[The first series] was just a great jumping-off point that I think would be familiar enough so that it would give a setting to start a concept, start a story and develop some characters that exist in this new world, the post-apocalyptic world, that you can then carry far beyond Los Angeles into other landscapes, other cities and the world beyond," Eastman said. "In comic books, with a series like this, your only limits are the limits of your imagination, when you carry the story beyond the initial one."