Two years ago IDW announced that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were now calling that California-based publisher its home for future comic stories, and since then the TMNT line has expanded from a single ongoing series to include a regular series of minis like the Micro-Series and the recent Secret History of the Foot Clan, along with an impressive reprinting program of long out-of-print Turtles stories both in handsome hardcovers and single issues. And last month, they took it all to a new level with the first major event in the IDW-era – “City Fall.”
Launched inside last month’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #26, “City Fall are chronicles the Foot Clan’s takeover of New York City and the Turtles’ attempt to stop them. The arc is written by series writer Tom Waltz and Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman and then drawn by series artist Mateus Santolouco and other artists like Ross Campbell, Andy Kuhn and others. As we stand on the threshold of this city-wide invasion, Newsarama talks with the IDW editor responsible for the TMNT comics, Bobby Curnow, about the growth of the Turtles line, “City Fall,” and some surprising returns coming up in a matter of weeks.
Newsarama: Bobby, it’s been less than two years since IDW took over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license, and in that short time IDW has turned it from a single title to an expansive line including the micro-series, annuals, separate miniseries and also the expansive reprinting of old TMNT books. Can you tell us what its like in the TMNT corner of the IDW offices?
Bobby Curnow:Hectic is the first word that comes to mind, but that's a very good thing. It's been really satisfying to see the line grow and remain a strong and important part of IDW's creative output. But it's also a lot of fun. TMNT has always been a concept that has captured my imagination since I was a kid, so being able to work on these books is just tons of fun. I know series writer Tom Waltz feels the same. He sits about four feet away from me at the office, and we're constantly interrupting each other to shout ideas back and forth.
So basically, I'm sure the TMNT corner of IDW is annoying the other corners of the office.
Nrama: What’s been the biggest surprise you’ve had from working on the TMNT books?
Curnow: I think seeing exactly how much untapped potential there is in this almost thirty-year-old franchise. A lot of the core ideas of the Mirage series haven't necessarily reached many of the fans of the original cartoon. And the original cartoon itself had a ton of unrealized potential. When you combine a lot of the ideas and attitudes of those two realms of Turtle-dom, not to mention some new stuff we're adding to the mix, the result is a seemingly endless amount stories to tell. In many way, I feel like we're just getting started, and that's really exciting.
It's also been a pleasant surprise to see the first mutants created for our IDW universe, Old Hob and Alopex, find a place with the fans.
Nrama: How’s it been for you and IDW to attempt to reconcile the two “spheres” of fans in Turtle-dom, some from the cartoons and some from the original comics?
Curnow: There's always some folks who wish we would lean more heavily towards one end of the spectrum than the other, but I think overall we've tried to balance it as well as we could. Overall the feedback we've received on our approach has been positive. For Tom and I, I don't think it's too difficult. We're fans of both spheres, and integrating them hasn't been too difficult. Indeed, that's where a lot of fun comes from for us.
Nrama: And getting back to our point, reconcile the various continuities?
Curnow: Since we're only really concerned with our continuity this hasn't been much of a concern. It's just an issue of keeping the tone consistent and having it make sense in the story. Though making things line-up semi-coherently with the source material in our New Animated Adventures line that spins out of the new Nickelodeon cartoon has some challenges.
Nrama: I’ve noticed that when IDW gets licenses they make big attempts to get the original creators involved, even if they’re not the owners of the concept anymore; James O’Barr withThe Crow, and also Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird with TMNT. What’s it like having the original creators on tap to ask questions to and sometimes even enlist to create new Turtles comics?
Curnow: While I haven't had any personal interaction with Peter Laird, I know he's been incredibly helpful and supportive of the Ultimate Collections, and that's been a huge boon for us. I do work a lot directly with Kevin, and it's a bit of a dream come true. I could go on at length about what a fun, friendly, caring guy he is, but beyond that it's been amazing to see his passion for Turtles rekindled. His involvement has kept a connection to the great history of TMNT comics, but beyond that he's our greatest cheerleader for moving forward and trying new things. When this all got started, I half expected Kevin to say things like "well, this worked better this way in the past" but instead he's always pushing for us to explore new story concepts. He's just plain fun to work with, and his enthusiasm is infectious.
I think everyone who works on these books knows how indebted we are to Peter and Kevin's creation. TMNT just plain excites a lot of people, and we have them to thank for that.
Nrama: Last month IDW launched a new Micro-Series focusing on Villains – can you tell us about these Micro-Series and how’s it being doing these series of one-shots?
Curnow: I'm really thankful we've had the opportunity to do the Micro-Series. I think they've added a lot of depth to the ongoing series, and hopefully are fun to read on their own merits.
When I think of great rogue's galleries, I think of Batman, Spider Man, and then TMNT is right up there. There's so many colorful, memorable villains, and getting them to play off each other, in addition to the Turtles, has led to a lot of fun twists. It's been a blast to get in their head with these Villain Micros and find out exactly how they each consider themselves the hero of their own story. These micros allow us to do that in a way that we wouldn't be able to do easily in the main series. By getting a closer look at their pasts and motivations, we hopefully make them more compelling characters in the long run.
Organizing the villain micros so that they line up with the ongoing has been a challenge, but I think it's allowed us to throw some extra curve balls at readers. I'm excited to see how folks react to them.
Nrama: In addition to reprinting the classic TMNT comics from Mirage, IDW also began collecting the long out-of-print Archie books last August. But the Turtles have been other places in addition to those two, from Image to Dreamwave and even a daily comic strip for a time – are there chances for any other reprints to come out? And do you have any stories you’re particularly interesting in getting reprinted?
Curnow: You know, as I don't work directly in the reprint department, I’m not exactly sure how far-reaching our publishing plans are there. But I think there's certainly a good chance of us doing all of those things. I know they've all been discussed.
I'm personally excited to get to some of the later Archie books. I haven't read all of those, but have heard great things, so as a fan, I'm eager to get to those stories.
Nrama: One of the interesting things about the IDW TMNT books is how it seems to be bringing out some closeted Turtles fans/comic creators out of the woodwork to do work, like Ross Campbell. What’s it like hearing from those people, and with anyone who you’ve brought in to do work on TMNT with was it because you knew they were a fan?
Curnow: That's been a pleasant surprise, seeing how much Turtles has influenced creators I wouldn't normally think were fans. It's not uncommon for me to write someone about doing a cover or something, and have them respond with, "Turtles?! I love Turtles!" Rarely do I know beforehand if someone is a fan, unless they specifically seek me out, like Rob Guillory or Freddie Williams.
One of my favorite things as an editor is working with artists of varied styles, and Turtles, with its roots in both noir and sci-fi, is a perfect opportunity to do that. I think the micros especially have been a great showcase for different talent in the Turtles books. I feel really lucky to get to work with all of the talented folks I have, and I attribute that to Turtles more than any special ability I have as an editor. To think, I might not know the radical Ross Campbell without TMNT!
Nrama: Right now you and the TMNT creators are getting into “City Fall” event, the Turtles’ first at IDW. How’d this come about – and what is it about?
Curnow: In short, this is the story of the Foot Clan's rise in NYC. Shredder has been moving things into place, and now he's ready to show who the real boss is. While he's doing that though, he's made sure to devote some special time and resources to making the lives of his mortal enemies, Splinter and the Turtles, extra hellish. How exactly these two goals (conquering the New York underworld and bringing misery to the Turtles) intersect will be where a lot of the drama of the story arc will come from.
Nrama: That title – “City Fall” – reminds me of the classic “City at War” story title in the early 90s TMNT book. Is that intentional?
Curnow: Not at first, no. Tom and I were batting around titles for the arc (I think I came up with something lame like "The Battle for New York") and Tom just blurted out, "how about 'City Fall?'" and it was one of those moments where you grin because you know you've got it.
Now that being said, there's no doubt that there's some similarities between the two stories. Both are larger-than-average TMNT stories that deal with the machinations of the Foot Clan and their affect on the Turtles and the city at large. "City at War" is a seminal Turtles story line, one of the finest Mirage ever did. I'm really proud of our work in City Fall, but I don't want to overhype it and say that it's our "City at War". It wasn't planned as a direct homage and some pretty different things are going to happen. They're different beasts.
Nrama: People always assume the Turtles are a cohesive unit, but lately Leonardo’s been following his own path. Can you tell us about that and where it might lead?
Curnow: There's not much I can say about this without spoiling the story, I think. But the burden of leadership has caused some strain on Leonardo. Who he is, and weight of the responsibility he carries, will play a pivotal part in the series.
Nrama: I read that some long-dormant characters will be turning up shortly in the IDW Turtles line. What can you say about that?
Curnow: One of the challenges of the series has been figuring out how to introduce favorite supporting characters in a way that makes sense. We didn't want to just throw in say, Fugitoid, because we thought it would be fun to have the Turtles talk to a robot. We wanted it to make sense for the bigger picture. As a result, we've held off on introducing some major players in the Turtles universe because it just wasn't quite the right time. However "City Fall" opens up some doors that allows us to get into some of these characters. I think we've revealed that we'll be seeing Hun, who was one of the most notable new elements of the 2k3 cartoon. I've been really pleased with how he's been incorporated. He'll be the focus of Villain-micro #6, by writers Ben Epstein and Mike Costa, with art by Mike Henderson.
And yep, you can expect to see some more familiar faces as the story goes on. It ends big!