One of the most iconic and vicious villains to come out of comics has been Shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. Through those original comics and countless movies, television shows and toys, Shredder and his deadly Foot Clan have been forged by fire like the very blades they wield. And in the current IDW miniseries Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret History of the Foot Clan, we're seeing ofr the first time the humble beginnings of the Foot Clan and how Shredder, then known by his real name Oroku Saki, seized control of the fledgling group and how Hamato Yoshi – who would later become Splinter – plays into that.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret History of the Foot Clan is a series that was born out of IDW's desire to do more work with cartoonist Mateus Santolouco after his well-received work on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5 back in 2011. Santolouco, who's also working on DC's Dial H and did an arc on American Vampire, came into comics alongside his fellow Brazilian artist Rafael Albuquerque and is making a name for himself with his work recently. On this new series, IDW partnered him with writer Erik Burnham to help hone Mateus' ideas for the tone and direction of the story.With the third issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret History of the Foot Clan due out on February 27th, Newsarama spoke with both Burnham and Santolouco about their series and their nuanced portrayal of Shredder and the Foot Clan in a "Year One" frame of mind. Newsarama: Mateus, Erik, what can you tell us about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret History of the Foot Clan?
Erik Burnham: This tells the story of not only how the Foot Clan came to be created by a man named Tatsuo, but how - and why - Oroku Saki took it over and was resurrected into the present day (as opposed to being reincarnated like Splinter and the turtles were.) Mateus came up with a great story that's been a lot of fun to work on.
Mateus Santolouco: Yep. Erik said it all and I'm pleased to have him onboard to help me out and make this an even better project to be a part of.
Nrama: Erik mentioned this is a history of the Foot Clan, but this isn't just a period piece -- I read that it’s split between the modern day and Feudal Japan. Can you tell us about these two narratives?Burnham: It is. The past segments are about how Oroku Saki became the master of the Foot Clan, and how, in a way, he was destined to be the villain from the start. The present focuses on a professor who has a gift for uncovering obscurity from the past, and has locked on to the legend of the Foot Clan -- both Shredder and the turtles will be interested in talking with him; the turtles to see if they can learn anything more about their enemies, and Shredder to get this man to hunt down something important that has been lost.
Santolouco: Yeah, we kind of swing between these two narratives while people, objects and situations build the links of present and past.
Nrama: Who are the big players in this series?
Burnham: There's Tatsuo Takeshi, the founder of the Foot Clan; Kitsune, who met Tatsuo's (and saves his life) in issue #1; and Oroku Maji, Saki's father... not to mention Saki himself. The present day chapter has Professor Miller, Karai, the turtles, Splinter, April, Casey, and, of course, the Shredder.Santolouco: Don’t forget Alopex, Erik. She will growl at ya. I guess we can say we have pretty much the whole family in this mini.
Nrama: How does Shredder, the most famous of the Foot, play into this series?
Burnham: Easy -- that's... wait a second! You can't trick us into spoiling it! Seriously, this is all about how he took over the Foot - why it was his destiny - and how he came to the modern day relatively intact. We also show Oroku Saki as a toddler, which I think is a first in all iterations of the franchise.
Santolouco: Personally, it's nice to see a Shredder that is not ALL evil and for no particular reason. I enjoy the fact that we first see the human and then the bad guy.
Nrama: Mateus – you’re not only drawing this but also co-writing, with Erik calling this your baby. How’d the idea to do this series come to you?
Santolouco: TMNT Editor Bobby Curnow invited me to write the origins of the Foot Clan when I was drawing the feudal part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5. From the start I knew I wanted to make something related to that side of the new series, but I also wanted to draw some Turtles. [laughs]
We went back and forward with a few concepts but there’s one element that was here from the very first draft and I can’t really talk more about it without spoiling it.
Nrama: One of the many things I love about this series is how the individual turtles are drawn with different features, more so than just different colored masks and different weapons. How’d you go about developing their unique physical characteristics, and was it hard to get IDW and Nickelodeon to sign off on it?Santolouco: Not hard at all. The only thing I had to change from my first sketch was their statures. Originally I was planning to make them even smaller compared to humans and with truly contrasting heights between each other. And for that I got a “no sir”. Aside that I did as I wanted. I’m really glad to finally get the chance to officially draw my personal view of the Turtles since the visual concept here is an idea that has being orbiting my head for almost a decade now. I obviously have new influences to add to the soup, like Ross Campbell’s Turtles and the new Nickelodeon animate show, yet my main goal was to make them individuals. I wanted people to look at them with the red masks, un-armed and still be able to tell who is who. So all the design was thought towards this objective.
Nrama: The origin of the Foot has briefly been touched upon in other comics and cartoons, but this miniseries you’re doing is the first time it’s been squarely taken on. What kind of research did you two do to determine this story?Burnham: I was lucky that so much spadework done before I was brought in -- I did do some research when I was doing my part, especially with a couple of scenes in issue #4 -- but Mateus has been working on this sucker since 2011, so a ton of the work was already done and inserted into the plot. It was kind of nice.
Santolouco: I didn’t research previous versions of the TMNT. If there is something that can be related to those was already in my system. My researches were to make the feudal Japan as genuine as possible. To find a historical period where this story could fit, the cultural and religious aspects that could help to build the plot and to validate some concepts and elements that I had already came up with, such as Kitsune -literally the Fox- for example, I created a witch and the ancient Japanese beliefs about Fox as magic spirits came just in handy.
Basically I needed to be sure I was not fantasizing too much, but just a little bit.