Back in 1984, Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman introduced their self-published black and white comic book featuring a group of four teenage turtles. Their Sensei, who was a mutated rat named Splinter, named each of the teenage mutant ninja turtles after a renowned Renaissance artist and trained them in the art of ninjutsu to become one supreme green fighting machine.
Laird and Eastman had originally created the turtles to parody Frank Miller’s Daredevil and Ronin series but Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello became a world-wide sensation instead. All 3,000 copies of the first issue, which the creative duo had managed to publish with just $1,200 back then ($500 from Eastman’s income tax refund check and an additional $500 from his uncle, Quentin), sold out of its first print run. This wasn’t just a one-off phenomenon as the second printing sold out its initial print run of 15,000 copies and was followed shortly by a third printing that sold out its run of 35,000 copies.
In 1987, Mirage Studios began publishing a second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles title, Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both Laird and Eastman provided the plot and story with layouts and pencils by Jim Lawson and inks by Ryan Brown. Tales only lasted seven issues but fan-favorite characters such as Rat King, Leatherhead and others were introduced.
Tales relaunched with Tales of the TMNT Vol. 2 in 2004. Originally under the direction of Stephen Murphy, the series is now overseen by Dan Berger.
Kicking off our special pre-25th anniversary “Shell-ebration” of the TMNT franchise, we sat down with Berger, who is also Managing Editor of Mirage Publishing, to discuss about Mirage’s publishing plans.
Newsarama: Tales of the TMNT #46 hit stores last week and the issue tied in to the 13-part "City At War" arc from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1. That storyline basically ended the first volume of TMNT back then. What can you tell our readers about the "Temps" story featured in Tales #46?
Dan Berger: It's an issue that explored a side of the Foot organization that we haven't seen before... to say much more would ruin the story, so folks will have to check it out for themselves. I'd hype it more, but I wrote it, so I don't wanna sound like a boob by gassing it too much.
NRAMA: Did it take place after the decapitation of the Shredder by Leonardo but before Karai, the of the Foot Clan in Japan came to New York to restore order?
DB: Yes - it took place right around the time of TMNT Vol. 1 #51.
NRAMA: The next issue (#48) will see the super-hero turtles, who first debuted in TMNT Vol. 4 #7, making a return while issue #49 will resolve the D.A.R.P.A. arc from TMNT Vol. 2, right?
DB: Issue #49 is an attempt to resolve the mysteries of TMNT Vol. 2 - at least most of 'em!
NRAMA: And Tales of the TMNT is expected to hit the 50th issue milestone point in September with a tale featuring Leatherhead with Leatherhead creator Ryan Brown co-plotting the issue with fan-favorite TMNT writer Tristan Jones and artist Paul Harmon…
DB: Now it's time to get my Stan Lee on since you brought up #50! Tristan and Paul's inspired work on Tales of the TMNT Vol. 2 #36 was much-loved by the fans of the original Eastman and Laird comics who were longing for that gritty, streetwise style, so having these talented Übermensch working on the momentous fiftieth issue is totally awesome! The fact that Tristan worked with Mirage Studios alum and Leatherhead creator Ryan on the story is just icing on the bone-gnashing, action-packed cake. Excelsior!
NRAMA: Basically, who are you guys reaching out to with Tales?
DB: The fans of both Volume One of Mirage comic books series (TMNT and Tales of the TMNT) and people who just love comics in general. With Tales, we're doing "done in one" issues, so you can pick up any book and get a kick out of it, and hopefully you won't be lost (but familiarity with the Mirage universe will make the stories resonate much stronger and hopefully tug at more than a few heartstrings along the way).
NRAMA: Has Tales become sort of an avenue for creators to come back and "tie up" loose ends?
DB: The original goal for Tales Vol. 2 was to tell stories that took place between the end of Volume Two and the beginning of Volume Four so folks could see what the Turtles were up to over that roughly 15-year span. However, the series quickly became a book used to tie-up old threads from both of the Volume One series and eventually Tales Vol. 2 even began to feature stories that take place during Volume Four. Alas! The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry...
But what we're trying to do is tell the best stories that we can, so the timeline has become of little importance and now we're focusing on putting out the coolest issues possible, regardless of when they take place in the Mirageverse timeline.
NRAMA: Is it true that Tales of the TMNT will remain in publication until at least end 2008?
DB: Oh yeah!
NRAMA: Are there plans for more Tales beyond 2008?
DB: Double oh yeah! Mirage plans to continue the series at least through December of 2009 since next year is the Studio's 25th anniversary (man, does time fly when you're having fun).
NRAMA: Other than Tales, there are plans for more special projects like the September-debuting Michelangelo: The Third Kind. Is this part of a series of limited series spotlighting the individual members of the team that started with 2006's Tales of Leonardo: Blind Sight and 2007's Raphael: Bad Moon Rising?
DB: It is indeed.
NRAMA: Is this set in-continuity?
NRAMA: Which continuity?
DB: The Mike mini takes place during volume four and is part of official Mirage Studios continuity.
NRAMA: What else can you tell us about the four-parter?
DB: Jim Lawson is writing and penciling the book with inks by Eric Talbot (Jim and Eric are the art team for Volume Four as well). The mini-series examines the effect of aliens landing on Earth, a pretty massive event (to say the least) that took place early on in Volume Four that wasn't explored in great depth. The Mikey mini picks up that concept and investigates the xenophobia created by an "alien invasion" and runs with it as only Jim and Eric can.
NRAMA: What about the fourth and last member, Donatello? Is he getting a limited series anytime soon?
DB: We do have a four-issue Don mini-series planned for sometime in 2009, but people are still pitching ideas to Peter for that one, so I don't know when it will ship. Probably mid-late '09. Donny is Peter's favorite Turtle, so the plot is gonna have to be a doozy to get him to approve it!
NRAMA: What else have you guys got planned for 2009?
DB: Mirage is keeping mum on its plans thus far, so I don't know what I'm allowed to reveal, but several trade paperbacks are in the works including some that fans have been demanding for quite awhile now. Regarding the details, please ask Steve Murphy this question, as he's the dude in charge of the 25th anniversary plans.
NRAMA: Yes, we will talk to Steve about those plans tomorrow. Thank you for your time, Dan.
DB: You're most welcome - I'm happy to do it!
Come back tomorrow for a discussion with Stephen Murphy about a certain “adventure” that’s taken “forever” to produce