Not only are IDW Publishing and DC Comics reuniting Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a third miniseries starting next week, but the series is bringing James Tynion IV and Freddie William II back from the original to the characters for the new installment.
In their original miniseries the Dark Knight met the Heroes in A Half-Shell in Gotham City. This time, in Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, Batman will have to cross over to New York to help the Turtles deal with an invasion by Bane.
For Williams, the return to these characters is a dream come true, having wanted the first series so much that he pitched himself as the artist before he knew the comic book would exist. Now that Bane, Bebop, and Rocksteady get involved, Willaims says he loves being able to "get involved with and all this mass and sinew" on the page.
Newsarama talked to Williams to find out more about his approach to the characters as they battle in New York and why he wishes the story would never end.
Newsarama: Freddie, I heard you sort of pitched yourself drawing this team-up before it was even a thing. Is that true? Can you share the story and why you wanted to draw these characters together so much?
Freddie Williams II: Uncharacteristically good timing on my part. I don't normally have very good timing, but I just really lucked out. I had done some work for Bobby Curnow, who is the editor for the Ninja Turtles series at IDW. I did a couple of covers for him. And he told me that there was a possibility of an IDW/DC crossover. And he thought maybe the Ninja Turtles might team up with somebody, but he didn't say Batman or anything.
A year and a half had passed since he told me that, and I just assumed that it had fallen apart because stuff like that happens sometimes. Instead, what had happened is that they'd worked everything out, but it took them some time.
One day, I saw a tweet from my current editor at DC, Jim Chadwick, that there was going to be a crossover with Star Trek and Green Lantern, and that's IDW and DC. And when I saw that, I thought, oh, maybe other crossovers will happen.
So I emailed Jim Chawick, whom I'd done some covers for, and I said, "Hey, here's the artwork I've done for the Ninja Turtles, and he had seen my Batman and the work I did for him." And I said, "If you guys do a Ninja Turtles/Batman crossover, please keep me in mind."
And he replied that night, "Cool, I'll take a look and keep you in mind."
Then about two or three weeks later, he said something along the lines of, "We joked in the office here that you must have been psychic because we were talking about the creative team and artist right then, like that day."
So I just had really, really good timing. I had no idea it would be a real thing. I just got really lucky.
It's not uncommon for me to email editors like that, but I just happened to have good timing that day.
Nrama: I assume you're a big fan of the Turtles then?
Williams: Yeah, I think the late '80s and early '90s, whenever the cartoon got really popular, everything hit a fever pitch. But even before that, I had some of the black and white and the color reprints of the original Eastman/Laird Turtles.
And ironically, I really got into Batman around that same time as well, particularly when the Tim Burton film came out around that same time. So to me they feel very connected in my mind, even though the 2016 crossover was the first time they crossed over.
They just fit together in my mind, because this was when I was around 12, to me, they were already mixed inside my mind, you know?
Nrama: After the last miniseries ended, were you hoping to get back to these characters and portray more of their adventures? Did you feel like there was more you wanted to explore visually?
Williams: My hope was that it would never end! I mean, I hoped we would do, like, 150 issues of it. That would be my ideal scenario.
It was the first time I had worked with James, and working with him was fantastic. And he was very open to suggestions and collaboration. Jim Chadwick was fantastic, and Bobby Curnow was awesome. Joan Hilty, who works on the Nickelodeon side, and who was my editor on The Flash, I had a really good connection with her too.
With the first crossover, we worked so far ahead on it that we were more than halfway through the series when the first issue came out, and we were all very happy when it was successful. But we were having a great time even if it had been a flop or something.
I think all of us hoped we would get to do it again.
Both James and I had ideas of what would happen next, potentially. And James had emailed me some ideas that he'd had that we were able to incorporate here, although both of us had additional ideas that we would love even if there's another mini-series after this. That's our hope - not a confirm thing, but just a hope.
We've had a rush of ideas, actually. I think I've heard it described before that if you have a lot of inertia behind you, whenever you're working on a project and you kind of live it and breathe it, you don't just turn it off once it's off. There's still stuff that's simmering on the back burner.
Both James and I and all the rest of us really enjoyed working together, and I hope the readers like this series as much as they did the first one. And I hope that we get to do another 600 issues of it!
Nrama: Let's talk about the art. Your art on this series seems to incorporate the best of both worlds. Did you have to kind of invent a new Batman-meets-Turtles tone for this combined world?
Williams: No, to me it felt very organic. Like I said, they already existed in the same world in my mind. If you looked at the visual language of the Batman film and then the 1990 Ninja Turtle film, visually there's - you can see them working together.
I think the only thing I did different artistically had nothing to do with those two properties.
I had wanted to work in an ink wash style, which is diluted India inks - different shades of grey and stuff. And there's a lot of organic texture that comes with that.
I had done a couple of short stories and a few covers in that style, but the Batman/Ninja Turtles from 2015 was the first time I had done it on sequential issues.
And just for context, before that, my style was very clean and open. And so I could do a page and a half a day if I was really needing to, deadline-wise. That's pretty quick.
But then working in ink wash with all these textures and drying times and all this other stuff, one page would take me about a day and a half. And it really pushed me as I figured out my endurance - you know, trying to keep up that level of detail and stuff.
It was just a perfect project to work it out on. And that style works really well for both Ninja Turtles and for Batman.
Nrama: The first mini-series took place mostly in Gotham City. Now Batman is coming to the world of the Turtles - what kind of things are you getting to draw this time around? Anything you're enjoying in particular?
Williams: If you look at Batman the way I draw him, he's loaded with muscle and all of the turtles have a lot of width to them. There's something about drawing the mass of muscles that I really enjoy doing.
And with Bane, I get to take it to another level.
And then there's Bebop and Rocksteady, who have a pretty big part.
So the combination of all through of those, there's just all this cool texture to get involved with and all this mass and sinew to get to draw.
Nrama: And we get to see the Ninja Turtles and Batman in New York, right?
Williams: Yeah, it's a fictionalized version of New York. But it's still New York.
I was at a convention and Neal Adams was there. He and I were talking. I don't know him very well. I was in awe to be with Neal Adams. But unrelated to anything - he didn't know what I was drawing or what I was working on - but he exclaimed to me how New York doesn't have any alleyways, so I should make sure I never draw New York with alleyways.
The way he said it made such a big impact on me that I'm keeping that in mind.
With Gotham, you have whatever city you want wherever you want it, because it's not an actual city. But with New York, you need it to still feel like New York.
That's actually one of the biggest differences from the last series. I'm making sure that the character of New York City feels like New York and not just some random made-up city.
Nrama: And you're doing the cover too, right?
Williams: Yeah. Most of the covers I've done in maybe the last four or five years, I've done my own colors on them. So my wife - she's my business partner and full-time art assistant - she would work on laying in the color flats, and from there I would add rendering and final color selection.
But with Jeremy Colwell, the colorist I've been working with the last couple of years, who is fantastic, about halfway through the He-Man/Thundercats crossover I just finished, I asked him to please take over colors on my covers as well.
So that will continue on the Batman/Ninja Turtles II series.
He's doing some great experiments - not just on the covers, but also on the inside. Everything. Great experimentation on secondary lighting sources, which he's much better at than I am.
So visually, if people were to look at the first series of covers, the newer ones look a lot better because of his understanding of color, which surpasses mine.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything you want to share about your experience working on Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II?
Williams: I'm super-duper lucky to get to be drawing this kind of stuff. Drawing comic books has been the only thing I've ever wanted to do, but specifically these types of properties, I know they're the type of thing that a lot of artists would love to get to draw. So I acknowledge that I've been very lucky to get to draw this. And I think part of that is Jim Chadwick, who is my editor now and has been the last couple years. Basically, I got really lucky when I emailed him that day, and aside from that, he's just been awesome to work with. It's just been a great experience.