With the aftermath of the events of the “City of War” arc in the main Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, IDW Publishing is unleashing the newest addition to the Turtles team with her own limited series. Scheduled to launch march 26, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Jennika takes a look at Jenn’s past and the ghosts that still haunt her.
Written and illustrated by Brahm Revel (Oni’s Guerillas, Marvel Knights: X-Men), the three-part series will put a spotlight on Jennika, and her struggles as both a new mutant and new protector of her borough and the hardest choice yet: would she give this life up to be human again?
evel chatted up Newsarama about Jennika and the sort of challenges he has in store for the fifth turtle.
Newsarama: So Brahm, Jennika has her own limited series here now, in your own words, how would you describe her as a character?
Brahm Revel: When Jennika first appeared in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles she was a bit of a blank slate. We knew that she was an accomplished assassin (first for Shredder, and then for Splinter). And we knew that she was serious, studious, and eager to excel as a ninja. But that was about it.
For a long time, her personality remained hidden behind her facade of professionalism. But I always felt that just beyond her stoic exterior there lay hidden depths and a rich personality connected to her life before becoming a ninja.
In 2017, I had the chance to write and draw a back-up story in TMNT Universe, which hinted at that past. Despite being an assassin, Jennika had always seemed like a "good person,” yet someone who could be led astray by the wrong crowd (the Shredder for instance).
So I imagined her as a young runaway in the punk rock community, desperate to find a surrogate family to replace the one she was forced to flee. Someone who was constantly trying to find her own moral compass, while also trying to support the needs of her adopted community, even when those two drives are in direct opposition. This is the character that I’m expanding upon in the upcoming mini-series.
Nrama: We see her as this protector of the mutated city, but she's confronted by ghosts of her past, what can you tell us about her before her mutation?
Revel: Before her mutation, Jenny was probably in the best situation of her life. She had finally found a family (in the turtles), who cared for her and supported her. They were possibly her first “good influences” in a life filled with shady characters. She had just begun a relationship with “good guy” (Casey Jones), and despite the constant turmoil that comes with residing in the TMNT Universe, she seemed happy and ready to dismantle the wall that she had built up over the years.
So naturally, since she was at the most stable point in her life, she was mutated into a turtle. And now, as a result of this monumental life change, I think she is vulnerable to regressing back into some of her former bad habits. Especially when she runs into those “ghosts” from her past.
That being said, any regression will also serve to dismantle the walls she has built up, so either way, I think we are going to see Jennika’s personality shine through a little more.
Nrama: When designing parts of the mutant city, what was the most fun for you?
Revel: I went to college in New York City and lived in and around the East Village for about 15 years, which is generally where the Mutant Zone is located. So it’s been fun to revisit my time there and draw inspiration from the details of daily life to help create this world. I wanted to create a neighborhood that feels like the real NYC, but also one that isn’t tied to reality. I’m not trying to use landmarks to define the settings, but rather the grit, the grime, and the architectural details inherent to Downtown NYC. In many ways it’s like illustrating a dream.
I’ve never been known for my background work, but I’m trying my best to make the Mutant Zone one of the main characters by adding as much texture and detail that I can. Even in panel that I might otherwise leave blank.
I’m also using every chance I get to populate these backgrounds with the newly-mutated. There are always people on the streets of NYC and showing daily life in the backgrounds allows me to subtly allude to all the changes that the community has had to deal with. How life has been disrupted, but also how it has remained the same. New Yorkers are no strangers to struggling, but they are also resilient. Playing with these juxtapositions has probably been the most fun.
Nrama: Let's talk about your color palette here because it's somewhat limited but still so effective. Jennika stands out in every scene she's in, too.
Revel: That’s nice to hear!
I’m trying to strike a balance between being graphic, while also making the colors feel evocative of a real place. I feel like coloring in comics these days can get overly complicated. And I can see exactly how it happens. With the ability to endlessly zoom in the computer, it’s easy to find yourself continually adding detail and rendering that is unnecessary when you finally zoom out. I have been just as guilty of doing this myself. Maybe even at times in these books. But I think that it’s important that comics are able to be read simply and directly. You should be able to get the gist of each panel with just a glance. And color should be used to strengthen that, not diminish it.
Also, I feel like there tends to be an over-reliance on rendering reality in the colors it exists rather than using the emotional power of color to drive a scene. These are comics after all. We should be trying to create worlds much more interesting than simply reality.
Nrama: The focus of the story is that there might be a reverse mutation process discovered, but are you going to throw any mutant baddies our way as well?
Revel: Well, we’re in a whole new world populated almost entirely with mutants, so there will definitely be some mutant baddies. Some new, and perhaps, some old. But you’ll have to pay the price of admission to find out who!
Nrama: This is just a three-part series, but any chance of this growing into an ongoing later this year?
Revel: There hasn’t been any direct conversations with me about an ongoing series. But I suspect if this mini-series does well the editors would consider it. If the readers demand it, they usually get what they want! I could see a lot of potential in a Jennika book which investigates slice of life stories on the streets of the Mutant Zone. Sorta like that old show, The Naked City. “There are 8 million stories in the Naked City, this is just one.”