There’s a Multiverse-shattering “Crisis” coming to the world of Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
A “Crisis in a Half Shell.”
Created by writer James Tynion IV and artist Freddie Williams II, the six-issue Batman/Teenage Mutant Turtles III kicks off May 1, promising to conclude the trilogy being released by DC and IDW.
As part of the “Crisis,” the story features characters from the TMNT and Batman universes merged together into whole new identities - creating amalgams like Splinter/Alfred, Harley/Karai, and a creepy Joker/Shredder character known as the Smiling Man.
Even the Turtles themselves have been merged with the personalities (and costumes) of Batman’s various Robins: Leonardo merged with Nightwing, Rafael with Red Hood, Donatello with Red Robin, and Michelangelo with Robin/Damian Wayne.
At the center of the story is the TMNT villain Krang, only in this story, he’s been merged with DC’s world-devouring villain, the Anti-Monitor — the cosmic entity who caused DC’s first “Crisis.”
Batman/Teenage Mutant Turtles III #1 comes just before Free Comic Book Day, and it comes just as Warner Bros. Animation just announced an animated adaptation of the first volume, Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Turtles, scheduled for release on DVD later this spring.
Newsarama talked to Tynion and Williams to find out more about the series, how the idea for the “Crisis” first took shape, and how Williams put together the cool new designs for the merged characters.
Newsarama: James and Freddie, let’s start with the concept of this volume, which is the “Crisis on a Halfshell.” Where did this begin, and what did everyone around you think about the idea?
James Tynion III: Well, it’s funny. I was thinking about this the other day, where this all began, and it was actually awhile ago. The year we did the first crossover, the San Diego Comic Con right after it, Freddie and I were there and our editor Jim Chadwick was there. And we grabbed a meal. And at that point, we were starting to talk about the second crossover.
But as a part of that conversation, and I think I had brought this idea up to Freddie before that conversation, but I just had this one image of…originally I was thinking this was how we were going to end the second volume, but the image was just stuck in my head of the Anti-Monitor with Krang in his belly.
Everything was going to lead to this moment.
Nrama: So if you knew that long ago, were there seeds?
Tynion: Well, we see in the first Batman/Turtles crossover that the person who started all of this happening — the first time the Batman and the Turtles met — was Krang.
He basically sent the Turtles and the Foot Clan and Shredder — all of them into the DC Universe.
To this day, we still haven’t explored why he did that and what he was up to in that moment.
In this story arc, we’re going to finally answer that question.
So that’s the way that all three of these arcs come together.
But to answer your question about how it first came about, this was the big crazy idea that I was hoping we could get to at the end.
I also wanted to do the kind of amalgamized worlds where, basically, Krang would take the two earths and smoosh them together into one, big, crazy world.
But Jim Chadwick was the one who suggested, hey, what if we actually start in the combined earth?
That really cracked this whole story open for me.
Ever since then, it’s been the sheer fun of talking to Freddie and designing this insane, combined Batman/Turtles universe and all of the crazy surprises that came from that.
Nrama: As you said, the first issue of the third series jumps right into this amalgamated world, and it features these characters for which you recently released their designs. Can we talk about how you came up with some of these designs, Freddie? Any favorites?
Freddie Williams II: From perception, James basically handed me a dossier that had everything already mapped out.
He knew just which turtle would be matched up with the perfect Robin.
And everything was spot-on. He even had a short bio describing what scenes unify them, and personality traits and that sort of thing.
So a lot of it, from my perspective, a lot of this just seemed to spring forth from the genius mind of James, fully formed.
I’m sure there was a lateral progression, like building upon ideas he had over time, but in my memory … we see each other at conventions, and we would do a panel and he would tell me four or five more cool ideas he’d stacked up since the previous convention.
And I would visualize things even at that time, and I remember the progression that happened during that planning stage.
So I eventually got the text document that had everything written out. From there, it just automatically gave me a couple of ideas in my brain and then I spent, I don’t know, a little over a week designing. I just made a checklist of every character that I needed to design. And there was some back-and-forth.
The ones that I thought would be the hardest ended up being the easiest. And then vice-versa — the ones that I thought would be easy were hard. Of course. That’s just how it is.
So, like, Batman, I got it on the first try. But then the Laughing Man, once I thought I had kind of cracked the direction I should go in, I had to go through, like, five iterations, because I had all these other ideas that were going off in different directions.
My favorite is probably Leonardo merged with Nightwing. Leo’s my favorite Turtle. And then, I’ve always loved Dick Grayson. And I think they probably merge the best. They have the most wholesome leadership-pleasant personality. That’s who I’d want to hang out with, so that’s probably my favorite.
Tynion: Honestly, my favorite, purely simple design in all this is just the Smile Clan as this sort of terrifying ninja clan with these huge smiles as a part of their costume. I just find them so creepy.
I kind of want to be able to keep them. You know, when the Joker finally becomes the Joker again, I wish he could keep the Smile Clan as his, like, smiling ninja behind him. But I think that will probably be just a product of this crossover.
Nrama: Can you explain, then, as we pick up the story in the first issue, how these worlds are merged together?
Tynion: Basically, we start in the midst of this crazy, new status quo. And to these characters, this world has always been the way things are. In this world, Batman has always operated with the Ninja Turtles. He sees Splinter as his father character. He sees the Turtles as his brothers.
And they are operating in what we’re calling New Gotham City, which is a merger of New York and Gotham City.
In this world, we have Casey Jones as a member of the police department.
We have the Laughing Man, this Joker figure, as the leader of what would have been the Foot Clan, which is now the Smile Clan. And all these iconic Batman villains are his lieutenants in that, and there are echoes of the Turtles world in all of that.
But we definitely wanted to throw the readers right into the deep end.
Our characters here do not realize that their world has basically been broken, or their worlds, rather, have been broken.
And then a very suprising figure pops up at the end of the issue to basically say, hey, the Multiverse is broken. It’s Krang’s fault. And we have to put things right.
And that’s what sets this entire story in motion.
Williams: The overarching story is that Krang has been tampering with the universes. James did such a great job coming up with a great story to explain it all. In the second issue, Krang says that the reason he’s been defeated multiple times is because, in the prime timelines — the previous, original universes — he didn’t exist. So basically, everything leads like an origin point from those, which means he could never be victorious. He had to change that, and it meant changing those universes.
It’s really interesting, because it’s not just, you know, “I’ll take over a different universe.” He’s trying to hop back to the Alpha one and then take over from there. It’s really mind-bending.
Tynion: Thank you! I mean, I had this idea that maybe we would see Krang merged with the Anti-Monitor at the end of the original crossover. In the original outline of the second crossover, Krang actually played a bit of a role in that. And it was one of those things where, in talking, Krang needed to have a very good and clear motivation because he’s such a massive character.
Krang is not just coming down to team up with Joker or Bane and try to beat up the Turtles. He needs, like, a really massive plot.
I knew we were building toward that plot, but it was the right decision to pull back from that there in the second volume so we could really dig into it here in the third one.
Krang is one of the best villains in the whole Turtles mythology. Him and Shredder will always be my top 2 Turtle villains.
Getting to see him really unleashed has been great. His motivation has always been to come in and basically take over the Turtles universe and make it his own.
Now, he’s realized the reason he can’t do that. And he’s found a way to build his own universe, a universe that he is built into the very fabric of, that he will rule forever.
That’s big, cosmic supervillain stuff. And I love that.
Nrama: Well Freddie hit upon something earlier — that you really thought about who would make sense as a merged character. But some of this is just crazy fun — like the Smile Clan. I assume that sometimes, you were just, like, OK, that’s way too much fun not to do as a mash-up.
Tynion: Yeah, I think part of the reason that we started pushing toward, like, what are these cool mash-ups goes all the way back to the first crossover where we basically took all the inmates of Arkham Asylum and we gave them the mutagen that transformed them into these, like, animal monsters, much more like the villains out of the Turtles comics.
Just the, like, super-injection of fun at the end of that crossover definitely was something I wanted to replicate moving forward.
And then the second volume, we had Donnie venomed up like Bane. And we also had Bane’s version of the Foot Clan.
So we’ve always wanted to do little things that kind of smashed these worlds together — do something that can only happen in a Batman/Turtles comic.
Now we have an entire series that literally could only happen with these worlds smashed together. And them being smashed together is deeply ingrained in part of the story.