Writer James Tynion IV has a lot of experience working on Batman stories for DC Comics, but his latest project has some new situations to resolve. For example, what would the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles think of the Batcave? Of Killer Croc? Of Batman himself?
Those questions are no longer the stuff of fan fiction. Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a six-issue mini-series that starts in December, will bring together Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael with Bruce Wayne Batman for an adventure that involves Shredder and the Foot Clan on the streets of Gotham City.
A joint project between DC and IDW (which has the current comics license for the Turtles), the mini-series will feature art by Freddie Williams.
Newsarama talked to Tynion to find out more about his plans for the series, how it fits into current continuity and why Batman works well with the enthusiastic teenage ninjas.
Newsarama: James, you've written Batman before, but this is a really different situation for him, isn't it?
James Tynion IV: Oh yeah. This project is like a fanboy dream come true, and being able to put such iconic characters like the Turtles in front of Batman. But yeah, this is a crazy situation, but Batman is familiar with crazy situations. But all of the sudden having a bunch of teenage turtles running around Gotham City is a situation he was not anticipating in any way.
Nrama: Let's back up to how this project came together. You said it was a dream come true. How did it come about?
Tynion: From what I understand, this is something that's been a dream project on all fronts — like, Nickelodeon has the rights to the Turtles, IDW does the Turtles comic books and DC has Batman. These days everyone's a fan of the Turtles. This has been an institution in comics and the pop culture world for, literally, my entire lifetime.
DC had some other crossovers with the Star Trek property at IDW, and that opened the door to conversations about this crossover. So the conversation started, and DC and IDW signed off.
I remember I was at C2E2 this year when I got the email from Jim Chadwick at DC asking if this was something that I would be at all interested in.
I was completely floored, because the idea of this crossover is, like, it's too good to be true. And it's a first. Back in the '90s, there were lots of different comic crossovers from lots of different properties, during that era, but this is a crossover that has never happened before.
And it's also very natural. When you look at the Turtles, their roots — their comic book roots in particular — they come very much from Frank Miller, and Batman of the modern era comes very much from Frank Miller. The Turtles were a bit crazier expression of that. But there is a natural core center that you can take them back to, which is that — you know, Batman is also a ninja. Batman was trained in a very similar way to these Turtles.
Also, Batman has a huge legacy of working with young, teenage heroes, and trying to shape them to become something better. So it was a very natural fit.
The second the offer was put down, there was no question I wanted it. But I had to figure out how to make it work in my schedule. Because I knew I needed to work on this book.
Nrama: OK, so the Turtles have crossed to the DCU? How did they get there?
Tynion: Yeah, the core premise is that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as Shredder and the entire Foot Clan have been transported into Gotham City. We will reveal over the course of the series that this is part of a plot by Krang to get them off the table so he can accomplish his goals back in the New York City in the Turtles world.
But in terms of this story, we're going to start in a Gotham City where there are now Turtles and ninjas running around in secret, and it's Batman trying to figure out what on earth has happened.
So that's really where it starts. The Foot Clan is trying to get back to their world, and the Turtles are trying to get back to their world. But the Foot Clan's goal is to get back to that world in a way that the Turtles are left stranded on earth, on the DC Universe's earth.
Then obviously, it's the story of the Turtles meeting up with Batman and figuring out where things go from there. And each of them have a very different relationship and reaction to the very concept of Batman.
Back when I was pitching the story, at the beginning, they didn't know if I was well enough versed in the Turtles mythology. And I wrote this page document, which was basically how each one of the Turtles would react to being in the Batcave for the first first time. And that was the document that got them to say, OK, all right, we're confident enough that this guy knows what he's talking about.
You can just imagine, because each of the Turtles has a very core, archetypal personality that plays off the Batman mythos in very different ways. In some ways, Batman is very much a teenager's dream of a superhero. So you can see Michelangelo's enthusiasm; you can see Leonardo being completely enamored by this, like, perfect ninja warrior adult who is everything he wants to grow up and be; you can see Donatello loving all the gadgetry and what he'd be able to do if he had the budget to come up with anything his heart desired; and Raph would be a bit more hesitant on the whole thing, because to him, this is some lunatic wearing a mask, who is just a regular guy that throws on a Bat-suit, and all his brothers are worshipping him, but he's not buying it, not so quick.
But really, the relationship between Raph and Batman is right at the core of the entire story.
Nrama: That's fantastic. I can hear the excitement in your voice, and I hope some of these documents you put together end up in the hardcover collection.
Tynion: Yeah, we'll have to see about that.
Nrama: So with them in Gotham City, will there be other Bat-characters showing up?
Tynion: Absolutely. But one of the guiding rules I wanted to shape this story is that I didn't want to throw in the kitchen sink. Although this is a story that might be the only time the Batman universe and the Turtles universe ever cross over, I didn't want to overwhelm the story from too many characters from both franchises to the point that it's so cluttered that there isn't a core emotional story. At the end of the day, what people want are the Turtles and Batman.
So those relationships and those moments are the ones I really wanted to build. But there will be Batman characters coming into the book — some big villains, some smaller villains. Obviously, when we were talking about this, we knew Killer Croc needed to make an appearance because he's the closest thing in the DC Universe to what the Turtles are. But we'll have a lot of fun.
And of course, there are Batman allies who come into the story — a few familiar faces.
And although some beloved characters won't be part of this story — characters like Bebop and Rocksteady, or Tim Drake, Jason Todd and Dick Grayson — they are ripe material for, you know, when this book sells a million billion copies, and we do Batman/Turtles 2. You want to save some of the good stuff so there's a big story left to be told.
Nrama: OK, so where in Batman continuity does this fit? What Batman is this, because there have been a few? And where is it in the Turtles history?
Tynion: Right now, that's a question that's a little abstract. In the main line, New 52 Batman book, Jim Gordon is Batman and Bruce is in a very different state. And in the Turtles books, there have also been dramatic changes to lots of key characters in the mythos.
So one of the first things is, we wanted this to rest in a very pure, iconic moment for both of them. So this is the New 52 Batman. And after the story is told, I can point you to exactly where, in my head, this story happens in continuity. But right now, I need to leave that a little abstract. And I also know exactly where it takes place in terms of the IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics. But once again, that reflects some of the big, amazing things that have planned for that book in the next six months, so I don't want to step on those toes.
For the fans who are wanting to know exactly where it takes place in continuity, I do have an answer, but they'll have to wait for that. For the fans who haven't been following that one but they love Batman, and they love Teenage Mutant Turtles, these characters are going to be in their core iconic states as part of this story.
Nrama: And Freddie's doing art? Mixing styles of these two worlds must be a challenge.
Tynion: Freddie Williams is absolutely destroying it on this book. As this project was coming together, I think Freddie had actually, I think, sent Jim Chadwick a drawing of the Turtles and Batman together just being like, if this is ever a thing that happens, I'm the guy. Like, don't even look at other people. I'm the guy. And the sketch was one of the promo images that we released. It was from before this was even a thing, but it's so right on, in terms of the energy and the character.
Freddie's a guy who loves Batman and he's a guy who loves the Turtles and it comes through on every single page. And he's just, like, a machine. I am loving every second of watching his process come together because it's a very deliberate process with lots of stages. He's very precise in a way I've ever seen. It's always fascinating when you work with someone who has a different, unique process, because you learn something at every step of the way. So I'm learning a lot from Freddie.
I can't wait for people to see it. He's bringing the fanboy dream to life even better than I could have imagined it.