In a family with brothers and sisters, you know that the eldest is usually given the most responsibilities and the most challenges. As it turns out, that’s the same whether you’re human or turtle.As the eldest of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Leonardo’s position informed his life and made him into the most disciplined and level-headed amongst the team. And in a one-shot comic book coming out next month from IDW he’s going to need all of that, as he faces off against the Foot Clan for the first time.
Next month IDW will release this fourth installment in its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Micro-series one-shots, showing the untold story of the first battle between the TMNT and its adversaries, the Foot Clan. Writer of the previous Micro-series issues Brian Lynch returns, and he’s joined by a long-time fan of the Turtles who’s been angling to draw them for years: Ross Campbell. Newsarama spoke with both Lynch and Campbell about this series as well as the strength of the IDW TMNT comics so far.
Newsarama: Brian, what can you tell us about the story in this Leonardo standalone story?
Brian Lynch: The other solo issues have been about the Turtles going out and meeting new people, learning about a world that is very new to them. Maybe even having a little fun. Leo's solo issue is not at all like that. He's on a mission. He's not out to make friends; he's working against a ticking clock to save a life. And fighting. I would say that there's more fighting in these 22 pages than the other solo issues combined. So, yeah, not a fun time for Leonardo. Hopefully lots of fun for the reader, not much fun for Leo.Nrama: In the solicits it says this issue will show the first-ever battle between the Turtles and the Foot Clan. What's it like to plan out such a pivotal moment in the mythos?
Lynch: I couldn't believe my luck. When we discussed the events, I kept waiting for my editors Bobby Curnow or Tom Waltz, or Nickelodeon to say "wait, maybe we should save this for the regular series.” It's the moment when Luke Skywalker meets his first Storm Trooper. Except Leo's cooler than Luke Skywalker. The whole issue has a weight to it that the others don't, it's an epic story.
Nrama: Since this issue focuses on Leonardo, how would you describe him in relation to the others?
Lynch: Splinter is the father, but Leonardo is the big brother of the Ninja Turtles. He feels responsible for his family's well being. He's a thoughtful, noble guy who just wants to protect those that are close to him. And now, someone has threatened his family. Leonardo is going to handle it. With swords.
Nrama: Ross, as a bit of a TMNT expert yourself, how would you describe Leo here?Ross Campbell: It varies depending on the version of the character, but in my mind Leonardo is sort of the straight man to the others (although in the Mirage comics I'd say Michelangelo is the straight man). Most people think of him as the leader of the Turtles and stop at that, but I prefer his role in the Eastman & Laird comics (there was one later Mirage issue where he was referred to as leader but it was written by another writer so whatever, heh!) and the first couple live-action movies where he isn't explicitly the leader and he doesn't necessarily do any "leading," other than a sarcastic joke made by Raph in the first movie, but instead is more like an equal who happens to be the most straight-laced, focused, most likely to attempt to take charge even if the others don't listen to him, and most likely to seem bossy. I feel like the leader label needlessly distances him from the other Turtles and makes them feel more militaristic than I like, and it doesn't seem to make total sense because to me Leo wouldn't claim the title himself and Splinter wouldn't be one to appoint him as leader, either. Anyway, Leo's relationship to Mike and Don has usually been kind of vague, but his relationship to Raphael has always been the big one and it's one of my favorite things about TMNT, Leo and Raph clashing but still having a strong brotherly bond. I like when Leo seems more pensive and indecisive when compared to the others, like he is in City At War and the 1990 live-action movie, and I find that aspect is there in the IDW Leonardo, too.
As far as the IDW series goes, though, I think Leo is shaping up the way I like him, where he's more like his 1990 movie counterpart with the doubt and moodiness and different facets other than being "the leader Turtle." And unlike most of the other versions of TMNT, in the IDW series Leo and Don have more of a defined relationship which is really cool, while Leo and Raph haven't clashed in the traditional way. I like seeing the characters play off each other in new ways, and I dig the dynamic of Leo and Don being at odds with each other.
Nrama: Brian, having you write these one-shots is you coming full circle, since the first Turtles comics you read was the original Donatello one-shot from Mirage back in the 80s. What's it like to come on and do these solo stories?Lynch: It's a thrill. A dream come true. I was lucky enough to write Angel and Spike for years, characters that I adored for years. But the TMNT? I was fanatical about them since the moment I read the Donatello one shot. Loved the world, loved the characters. Sought out the TMNT And Other Strangeness role playing game back in the day. Painted the pewter figures. Saw all the movies opening weekend.
TMNT is this amazing world, and it was created by two friends who were just trying to entertain each other late one night. It's inspiring. The fact that I can contribute in even a little way? What an honor.
Nrama: I have a feeling you’re of the same mindset, Ross. You've talked pretty openly in the past about your ambition to draw the Turtles, but the closest you've come is doing some covers and pin-ups. What's it like to finally be able to draw a TMNT comic?
Campbell: It's awesome! I've had a couple close brushes with TMNT before this; before Viacom acquired the property, I had a story for Tales Of The TMNT that I hoped was going to happen but the series ceased publishing, and then after that I was going to be the artist for a TMNT monthly series a year or two ago for another publisher before IDW got the license, but that fell through so fast I never even did any artwork for it. After that I thought my opportunities were over so I'm so excited and grateful for IDW approaching me.
Lynch: I am so lucky to have him drawing this. Ross has been a wonderful partner in this. He has drawn some amazing, amazing action, but his subtle character moments are just as wonderful. There's actually a pretty heartbreaking moment in the issue, and when I first saw the pages where it happens, it hit me really hard. He's a master. If my script was terrible, which hopefully it isn't, at the very least we'd have 22 pages of beautiful, classic TMNT art to enjoy.Nrama: Last question’s for you, Ross. As a fan going back decades, what do you think of what IDW's done with the turtles so far?
Campbell: I think it's great, and I'm totally not saying that just because I'm doing work for IDW, no sucking-up or shilling here, I swear! I haven't been this excited about a monthly book in a long time. I don't like everything TMNT unquestionably, when I love something I get super particular but I'm also open-minded about different interpretations and I'm cool with separating different versions of something, so at first I was cautious about the IDW series and also a little bitter since I'd lost the TMNT monthly gig, but also ready to give it a fair shot.
I liked the first issue but wasn't quite sold until things got going in issues 2-4 and the tone became clearer, but it was #5 that really hit me and blew me away. I love where Tom Waltz is going with the story and how he's spinning things in new ways, and all the micro-series have been great too, I dig Brian's scripts for those and the Leonardo one is the best one yet (but maybe I'm a little biased!). I think the IDW series is a really cool, harmonious melding of various aspects of TMNT with new ideas thrown in, similar to the first movie how it cherry-picks different things from the Mirage TMNT and old cartoon while adding new elements, and I like that it's not a rehash with the same origin and set-up and everything. I like the tone of the new book a lot, I like the new backstory, I like the new characters like Old Hob and Alopex, I loved that Tom showed the Turtles dumpster-diving for food and then having a human friend who secretly hooks them up with food. I feel like I'm being overly-earnest here but I really am psyched about it and getting to be a part of this new incarnation.