The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will enter a new era in 2020 with the end of "City of War" - and leading the way will be writer/artist Sophie Campbell.
Campbell has worked on IDW's TMNT since the line began, and designed the fifth turtle Jennika. But now as she takes over the flagship TMNT title, the writer/artist will follow the five into a post-"City of War" era that involves mutated animals, street gangs, and a smaller cast.
With Campbell's run set to begin with November 18's TMNT #101, Newsarama spoke with the writer/artist about her plans going forward - and where her TMNT fandom began.
Newsarama: Sophie, this is a long time coming - Can you lay out how deep and far back your fandom for the TMNT goes?
Sophie Campbell: I got into TMNT around 1988-1989 when I was eight or nine years old, I remember the first Turtles thing I ever got was the Playmates Donatello figure. I wasn’t super into the Fred Wolf cartoon, I didn’t watch a lot of TV as a kid, but I liked the toys and the look of the characters.
But what really got me into it was a friend down the street had some of the Mirage comics and Palladium’s TMNT & Other Strangeness tabletop RPG book, I fell in love with that stuff and even painted the masks on my Turtle toys all red like in the comics, haha. That was my first real TMNT love and probably what set me on the road to doing comics, so it’s really amazing and crazy that now I’m doing professional official TMNT work, like it’s come full circle.
Nrama: And you've drawn several TMNT stories, in the main book, one-shots, limited series, etc. But now you're writing and drawing the main book starting with #101. How'd this project come together for you?
Campbell: Series editor Bobby Curnow approached me about it earlier this year, and I actually said no at first! I think I even said no twice. I had another project I was working on that I didn’t want to set aside, and also writing & drawing TMNT full-time for a year seemed like too much, it seemed really stressful and overwhelming. But after it came up in conversation again, I kept thinking about it and eventually decided that it was something I should do. So I reached out to Bobby again and asked if the position was still available, and luckily it was so here I am!
Nrama: Is this something you feel you would have been ready for 5 or 10 years ago, or is now the perfect time? If so, why?
Campbell: I feel like doing it 10 years ago would be better because I was a lot faster back then. [Laughs]
I’ve slowed down a lot as time goes on, it takes me longer to do a page and so forth, so I’m worried about keeping up with the monthly schedule. But in terms of writing and ideas I think now is always best regardless, and I’m sure 5 or 10 years from now I’ll look back on this and think “I definitely wasn’t ready for that back then!” So who knows. From a story/writing perspective now is a great time, though, there are so many places I can take the characters and storylines that I wouldn’t have been able to do 10 or even 5 years ago, so in that sense now is the perfect time.
Nrama: Ahead of you taking over the book, you designed the first canon female Ninja Turtle, Jennika. Is she a heavy part of your plans for the book?
Campbell: Yes! She’s going to be a big part. Tom Waltz did great work with Jenny since her appearance way back in issue #51 and post-mutation in "City at War," but I feel like I’m getting to do a lot of the groundwork for her as a mutant. She’s the same person but we’ve never seen her as a mutant and how that might change her, and if she’s going to be on the team then I have to figure out what that dynamic is and how she fits in with the other Turtles.
Nrama: So what are your plans starting out for TMNT? Who are the up against first?
Campbell: I can’t give too much away, unfortunately, especially since a lot of what I have planned follows up big spoilers in issue #100 which hasn’t come out yet, but my first order of business is how the Turtles and friends deal with the fallout of "City at War."
At least for the first story arc I’m trying to strip things down and focus on a smaller number of characters, as well as giving the Turtles a much-needed breather. In issue #98, Hob set off a mutagen bomb that turned a bunch of people into mutant animals, and following that up is also a big thing in my first arc. As for who the Turtles will be up against, there are a few new minor villains but the main adversary will be Hob and his goons.
Nrama: As a hardcore Casey Jones fan, any chance we'll see him in this?
Campbell: He’ll show up but I don’t have any big plans for him at the moment. With how Manhattan shakes out after "City at War," there are some things that will make it difficult for some of the other characters to be present, but I can’t say any more about that yet!
I do want to touch on Jenny and Casey, though, since they dated for a bit and kinda sorta broke up after she got mutated, and I'm interested to think about how each of them feels about that.
Nrama: Writing and drawing a monthly book is a big task - how are you making it work?
Campbell: Oh god I don’t know. [Laughs]
I haven’t even finished the first issue yet as of writing this interview, so I’d have a better answer a couple months from now. I’ve done monthly series before but none that I’ve also been the main writer for, so this is definitely a new, kinda scary experience, especially with the relatively short amount of lead time. I really hope I can summon up the energy, speed, and gusto I used to have when I was younger!
Nrama: Is anyone working with you in terms of inking, coloring, lettering?
Campbell: Colorist Ronda Pattison and letterer Shawn Lee will both be along for the ride with me, they’ve been TMNT mainstays and aren’t going anywhere!
Nrama: So then, Sophie, what are your big goals with this run?
Campbell: Probably to create a good status quo for Jennika and develop her into a core, indispensable part of the team, and to bring in some of the characters I’ve always wanted to introduce, like Mona Lisa, and some ideas I’ve been bugging Bobby about for years. I guess most importantly, though, is just to simply pull it off and have a good time with it and not stress out too much. It doesn’t have to be the best TMNT run of all time or anything, I just want to do a good job and bring something personal to the characters that I can be happy with and proud of.