SPOILER WARNING: This article contains a major spoiler for IDW Publishing's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #75, on sale now.
If you are a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics reader or just a TMNT fan in general, you should be buzzing to the point of losing atomic cohesion.
Today is a huge day for the franchise, as IDW Publishing's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #75 is now on sale. The highest any other Turtles ongoing comic book series has ran is 72 issues (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures in 1995), so when IDW’s main TMNT series hit #73 in early August, it was already a milestone. It was also the start of a three-part story arc titled "The Trial of Krang," in which the vicious Utrom is finally tried for his many crimes. This week's oversized #75, written by Tom Waltz and illustrated by Cory Smith, is the conclusion of this circus of justice.
To commemorate the occasion, CBR spoke with the one and only Kevin Eastman, co-creator of our favorite deftly trained tortoises, and the writer of IDW's current main TMNT series, Tom Waltz. The conversation granted us a peek behind the curtain on how this successful series is written, and how the creative team collaborates. Plus, Eastman reveals his favorite TMNT toys ever, and Tom talks what's to come beyond #75 -- so, yeah, you’re going to want to read this.
CBR: With issues #73 and #75 being landmark issues, I was thinking -- there have been a ton of TMNT ongoings, minis and crossovers this year. Has 2017 been the biggest year for TMNT comics ever ever?
Kevin Eastman: In many ways, yes. Actually, I feel like if you look at the entire publishing program IDW has built with Nickelodeon since 2011 it is absolutely the largest TMNT "Comic Series"-based publishing program ever. Not only has the incredible fan support allowed the ongoing "IDW TMNT Universe" series to reach these milestones, [but with] the collections and expansion of historical TMNT works, from the original Mirage Studios series, the Archie series, as well as Ultimate/Archival Editions, it really does seem like a TMNT Renaissance!
The "Trial of Krang" arc is a love letter to the property. What is it like having other creators know your characters as well as you do?
Eastman: What Tom Waltz, with Nickelodeon's perfect guidance and direction as well the incredible series editor Bobby Curnow, have built, carries the torch so beautifully, so perfectly, so much farther than I ever imagined… it really is their series through and through. I always refer to it as the IDW TMNT Universe, and tell fans it is the closest anyone will ever get to what Peter and I originally created, but this is so much more. I am so proud to play a small role in what this incredible team has done, including the many, many other talented writers/artists/creators that handle my children so well. Heck, I guess if I had to boil it down to a simple sum up, I'm pretty much a proud "Poppa" watching all my kids reach a level of creative success I would have hoped for, and they have done me so very proud.
I know the current TMNT series is pretty PG, but any chance we may see TMNT crossover with one of your other properties like Melting Pot or Fistful of Blood eventually?
Great question, but no. This series is a universe of its own and then some. There are so many exceptionally cool things accomplished with the series, and with just the ideas that I'm aware of on the table, where we'd like to take it, the stories we'd all like to tell between now and issue #100, I don't think we could fit another thing in!
I’ve got to ask, what is your favorite TMNT toy ever?
Oh, that is tough to answer. So many choices! I guess, taking the easy way out, the original 1988 line up was pretty awesome. Peter and I never thought we'd actually see the toys made... but the original "soft head" TMNT’s, Bebop and Rocksteady, Shredder and Foot Soldiers would be my first choice. If I had to make the really difficult choice of picking another favorite version, I would have to say the Star Trek TMNT toys. [I] grew up as a huge fan. I actually have the Captain Kirk Leonardo sitting on my studio desk right now.
Tom, within the time TMNT has taken to make it to #75, Marvel and DC have rebooted/relaunched its main publishing lines several times. What do you think are some factors that have led to this run of TMNT being so beloved and long-running?
Tom Waltz: Honestly, with such a huge ensemble cast of characters to pull from previous iterations of TMNT, the story possibilities are truly endless when it comes to this beloved property (and make no mistake -- the TMNT are beloved!). And then there’s the family aspect of the mythos -- and the fact that our heroes are teenagers -- that add to the longevity. As the Turtles grow and learn, we grow and learn with them. It’s always interesting and surprising, and doesn’t require constant reboots because, I believe, the constant character growth and change serves as a natural (and consistent) reboot process within the ongoing series.
Probably my favorite part of the series is how you guys draw on all the incarnations of the Turtles for characters and storylines, and this arc obviously exemplifies that. Is there any character you guys would never bring in?
Our first rule is to never say never -- any character is fair game. Our second rule is to never pander for the sake of fan service. When we do bring in a character (or characters) it has to matter and serve the story being told. If that means we have to wait a few years (as we did before we brought fan-favorite Leatherhead into the mix) then so be it. And I'm proud to say we’ve been very disciplined in this manner, and our stories (and overall ongoing series) have been better as result.
I love that you guys managed to bring in the very ‘80s Neutrinos, and make them work. Whose idea was that?
That was me… I’m the guilty party. When I first witnessed the Neutrinos, it was when my son was watching the Fred Wolf series on old VHS tapes way back when. They were hot-rodding teenagers in that incarnation, which is a bit goofy, but there was something about the fact they were trying to escape from a dimension that was in the midst of never-ending warfare that really spoke to me.
When it came time to visit Dimension X in our own series, I wanted to explore that concept (and the characters) further, and in a more modern and serious manner, without totally losing their “hip cat” uniqueness. Hence, our resistance fighters from Planet Neutrino with far-out hairstyles and an occasional “Daddy-o” when they speak.
While TMNT #73-75 holds the main "Trial of Krang" story, there is also the Dimension X miniseries. How come you guys didn’t tie-in TMNTU for a big three title affair?
As I mentioned earlier, we have a huge ensemble cast we’re dealing with, with quite a few plot threads that we’re juggling, so TMNTU gives us an opportunity to focus on characters and events that we’re not able to fit into the ongoing series. Plus… we’re playing a long game with our overall story, so the things that are happening in the TMNTU currently are setting up big events coming down the line. We like to say, everything is important!
The new characters are awesome too! How did you come up with Hakk-R?
Bobby (Curnow, TMNT editor) wanted us to bring in a new bad guy to the mix for the Dimension X storyline -- a henchman to Krang to do the squishy guy’s dirty work while he (Krang) is stuck in jail. Then Kevin, Bobby and I bounced ideas off each other until we finally agreed on Hakk-R’s personality and purpose, as well as his powers and physical design. Then I gave him the name Hakk-R, which made us all groan but seemed absolutely fitting to the character despite being so corny and on-the-nose.
I did not see that ending coming. But nobody ever really stays dead in comics anymore, not even Uncle Ben and Bucky. Is this really the end of General Krang?
This could be an end… or just a twisted new beginning. You’ll have to stick around to find out.
Can you give us any idea about what we will see after #75?
After “The Trial of Krang,” the Turtles will make a quick detour to pay another visit to the Ghostbusters in TMNT/Ghostbusters 2 (a five-issue weekly event in November). Then it’s back to the TMNT’s NYC to deal with an “Invasion of the Triceratons.”