In the years since Nickelodeon kicked off its reinvention of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" franchise, the four brothers from NYC have traveled through time and across the far reaches of outer space. But since the animated series brought its cast back to earth in the recent Season 4 episodes, the show has been pushing in a slightly darker direction toward one inevitable foe: the Super Shredder.
And so Friday during New York Comic Con, the creative minds and cast behind the series appeared on stage at the Hammerstein Ballroom to talk about the future of TMNT. Taking the stage were executive producer Ciro Nieli and series stars Rob Paulsen (Donatello), Greg Cipes (Michelangelo), Kevin Michael Richardson (Shredder) and Kevin Bauza (Tiger Claw) as well as voice director Andrea Romano.
Moderator and comedian Andre Meadows started the show off by promising an early look at unannounced twists to future episodes. And the way they fulfilled that promise was to immediately move into a live cast "table reading" of the upcoming "Super Shredder" episode's first scene. Nieli and Bauza covered any parts of cast members who couldn't make it, and the producer did a well-received take on mutant fly Baxter Stockman.
The story focused on the wounded Shredder's turn to mutagen to save his own life with Romano pushing Richardson to deliver a string of gravelly bellows. Meanwhile at the Turtles base, Master Splinter has premonitions about a dangerous battle with Shredder – one the villain seems eager to incite...but with that tease, the reading ended.
The cast then talked about their camaraderie in the recording booth, with Cipes noting that his first ever audition was for Romano many years ago, and he credits the director with giving him his career.
The action then moved to showing off the final product with a scene from another part of the episodes showing off the reveal of the demonic-looking Super Shredder – pulsating with mutagen veins – as he fights to take back the Foot from his "daughter" Karai. Unsurprisingly, things don't go too well for the young ninja and her new supernatural allies. The clip ended with the Turtles arrival to try and run Super Shredder down with their party wagon. The full episode will air on Nickelodeon on Sunday, November 6.
Nieli then talked about the need to up their mutation game. "What's the ultimate bad ass mutant to make?" was the question they wanted to go for, and the producer said, "It was really important to make him look as physically bent as his mind has become." Richardson said that the idea for the performance, "This is basically a roided out monster" adding that he used a similar performance to when he voiced the video game villain Goro in the "Mortal Kombat" film from the '90s. The actor then provided some of the joking versions of Super Shredder he provided for a new "audition" video that's been burning up the TMNT social media presence.
Nickelodeon then provided a handful of advanced copies of the Super Shredder action figure from Playmates to the crowd, including one that was gifted to a Shredder cosplayer who hung out in the Hammerstein's balcony, earning him the nickname "the Shredder in the Opera."
The panel then showed off another clip – the secret origin of the villain Tiger Claw in the show's signature "manga flashback" format. Nieli explained that in the early seasons, he always drew the flashback illustrations, but now they are done by staff artist Vicki Brewer so she can fully commit to the detail of the art.
The villain's backstory in the show will draw in a new TMNT character to the show, the mutant fox ninja Alopex – a character created by Kevin Eastman upon his return to the franchise with the IDW comic books. "When it came to flesh out the backstory of Tiger Claw, as opposed to always sharing things with IDW, we wanted to use one of Kevin's new creations," Nieli said, nothing that the TV version of the character was designed by Felipe Smith, the co-creator of Marvel's new Ghost Rider. Nieli shared that the inspiration for the story was to answer the mystery of what happened to Tiger Claw's tail.
The preview show continued with an unfinished clip introducing the new demon dragon character Kavaxas (AKA Hot Head), of whom Nieli said, "The day the actor came in to do this voice was the day before he was flying back out to London to resume his role as a now wizened Luke Skywalker." Then the crowd was treated to the reveal of the villain to which Nieli declared, "Mark Hamill's back!" The actor, of course, played the Joker for years under Romano's direction, but he also played the Skeleton King in Nieli's previous series "Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!"
On the more fun side of the Turtles universe, Cipes shared a song he wrote about Ice Cream Kitty. Nieli joked, "One day, Greg comes in and says 'In my spare time, I've written 50 Mikey songs!' He kept saying 'Put one in the show, put one in the show,' and then one day I was like, 'I need two more minutes of footage.'" So the panel shared an animatic for the music video of the hip hop track where Mikey sings of his love for the pet that can melt. The video may involve Shredder and the show's villains doing a "Thriller"-esque dance. Just FYI.
The panel then shared a look at the new crossover action figures with the WWE known as "Ninja Superstars." The larger-than-average toys will be exclusive to Wal-Mart, and they will include Leo dressed as John Cena, Donny as the Undertaker (complete with goatee), Mikey as the late great Macho Man Randy Savage and...as a final surprise a Raph figure presented by its inspiration: WWE Wrestler Sting.
The wrestler entered to his traditional industrial music with his manager and a security detail in tow. In full makeup and a floor-length, rhinestone red cloak, Sting mock-took on Cipes before joining the panel onstage. "I am really honored," he said. "I'm actually a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and Raph and I have a lot in common. We have anger issues, and we've got stuff going on." Cipes jumped in to say, "Backstage I beat Sting in arm-wrestling, and now he wants to put a move on me." Then Sting demonstrated "the flying toe-hold" where he simply had the actor stand on his foot and flap his arms.
The panel wrapped with a giveaway of the Raph Sting figures before the whole crew headed off to experience the con. Though as things ended, fans called out for Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo to appear in the series, which Nieli couldn't confirm as a possibility.
Stay tuned for more from NYCC 2016 all weekend on CBR!