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Interview: TMNT's Creative Team Discusses City Fall

We chat with Tom Waltz, Bobby Curnow and Mateus Santolouco about how the latest story was developed, the book's future, and a whole lot more.

City Fall just wrapped up and the storyline has left a major impact on both the heroes in a half shell and the Foot. Leonardo becoming Shredder's second in command has been a great ride and, before the final chapter of City Fall dropped, IDW gave us the opportunity to chat with the book's creative team. They share their favorite moments from the event, reveal how the story was created, discuss what the future holds for the series and much, much more.

Yes, this interview contains some spoilers (but not for #28, the final issue of City Fall)!

COMIC VINE: We all know what brought about City Fall in the Ninja Turtles' fictional world, but what is the event's origin story over at IDW? How long has this been planned and, seeing as there's a lot of talent behind the project, what has the collaboration process been like?

BOBBY CURNOW: I think I had the idea originally, in the second half of the first year of TMNT, that it would be an interesting twist for Leo to be revealed to be Shredder’s son, whom Hamato Yoshi took under his win long ago. We decided against that for a variety of reasons, but that seeded the idea of “how can Shredder most hurt Splinter?” And the answer we came to evolved into Dark Leo—Shredder taking one of Splinter’s son for his own.

The collaboration process between everyone is pretty seamless. Tom and I sit across from each other at the IDW office, and constantly bat around ideas. Kevin Eastman regularly talks to us, as well as joins us for brainstorming sessions, and brings in fantastic new wrinkles and ideas. We’re in debt to Mateus as well, who created the idea for Kitsune, who was obviously crucial to City Fall as well. If I had to give credit to one person for the success of City Fall, it would be Mateus. He rocked every single page, and brought everything to a whole new level.

CV: This story has brought about the return of Bebop and Rocksteady as well as a great new look for Leonardo. Can you shed some light on what it was like to bring the dated duo into the modern era and how you went about creating Leo's new costume?

TOM WALTZ: Writer Brian Lynch threw down the gauntlet for bringing Bebop and Rocksteady into our canon when he gave them a fun cameo appearance (in their human form) in the Raphael Micro-Series issue. To be honest, Kevin, Bobby and I hadn’t discussed including the characters at that point (at least not in a serious fashion), but fandom’s excited reaction to Brian’s Easter Egg was too much to ignore, so we started mulling how we’d go about getting the two knuckleheads into our ongoing series without it feeling too forced. Like with all new characters we bring in, we try not to rush things – we’re secretive and patient (like ninjas!) waiting for the proper moment to strike. That moment finally came when we started plotting the City Fall event and we knew we had room – and reason – to add Bopster and Rocker into the mix. That said, our idea was made manifest in AWESOME fashion by Dustin Weaver and Ben Bates in their Bebop and Rocksteady Villains one-shot, which is easily one of my favorite stories of the IDW TMNT run so far. I laugh out loud (and cringe) every time I read it… so funny and wickedly violent!

As for Leo’s new costume, I can take no credit for that other than I wanted Leo in Slash’s black bandanna. Everything else is Mateus’ masterwork, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic about the design… and everything else Mateus and the other artists involved created for City Fall.

MATEUS SANTOLOUCO: When Bobby approached me to talk about the next project following the Secret History mini the first thing I’ve said to him before I even know what was all about was “Dark Leo, please!”. He had mentioned this idea previously when I was elaborating the Foot mini outlines and since then I couldn’t stop thinking how cool a Foot Leo could be and therefore his costume was pretty much done in my head way before I actually jump into design it. But this was just the start of my thrill with City Fall because soon after I’ve read the outline and found out Bebop and Rocksteady would be introduced in the arc and I would have the chance to redesign them. I mean, I’ve reached the apex of my excitement for being part of this in that moment.

CV: There's obviously a lot heading our way in the final issue, but let's reflect for a second: what has been your favorite moment from City Fall so far? It's Mikey as a pizza deliver guy, isn't it?

MS: I can’t decide! Introducing Dark Leo was great and I waited the whole arc to have the chance to draw B&R in action. But yeah, Pizza Delivery Mikey was one of the faves, no doubt.

BC: There’s a lot of highlights—Casey getting stabbed was a real gut punch (har har), all the artists involved in the #23 brainwash, and the big throw down at the end… For me though, it’s a relatively small moment, when Mike and Don talk to Raph in #25. Those kind of family dynamics are the heart of the series, and that bit, with our call back to Raph’s absence in the first arc, worked well I think.

CV: One of the impressive things about City Fall is how much focus has been given to each character -- even the supporting cast has so much depth. Needless to say, there's a lot weighing on this finale, so was it challenging trying to give each hero and villain a proper amount of attention in the finale while also keeping it full of action?

TW: It’s always tough in any story with a large ensemble cast to give everyone equal and needed face time, no doubt about it. Bobby (and the good folks at Nickelodeon we work with) consistently do a great job of reading my initial scripts and looking for places where I can add needed balance to all the chess pieces we are constantly moving around in our series. There was definitely a lot of concerted back-and-forth for each issue regarding characterization and action pieces before anything was fully approved to be drawn by Mateus (as is the case with every other issue of TMNT as well). Basically, when we find the right balance as creators/editors, we also, as a result, create proper equilibrium in our story, and I find the entire collaborative process exhilarating (even during the times I’m pulling my hair out and screaming at my word processor in frustration – Bobby deals with my emotional breakdowns on a weekly basis, just ask him. Ha!).

CV: And speaking of action, is it safe to say we'll get to see Splinter take some swings at Shredder? And if so, is it safe to assume it'll be awesome? The poor guy's definitely earned it.

TW: Splinter and Shredder are heading for a violent collision, no doubt about it. But we’ve got surprises there, too, so stand by!

CV: For those who have yet to check out City Fall and are considering one day picking up the collection, how would you promote the story to them in 5 words or less?

TW: Modern Day Old School Grit! Or… Action, Drama, Ninjas, Villains, Mutants!

CV: With Mateus on interiors and Kevin providing variant covers, this has been a fantastic looking book month after month. For Mateus and Kevin, what's it like bringing TMNT to life for a whole new era? For everyone: what's your favorite panel from the event and why? If it's from the upcoming issue, feel free to tease us!

MS: I often feel like I’m doing this for myself. For my current adult persona and my inner teenage. I’m always thinking of what we both want and always wanted to see in the heroes in half shell universe. Also, as an old fan, I can’t actually describe how awesome is to see my designs for the TMNT drawn by one of it’s creators. There is no way to put that in words, other than "Thank you Kevin!"

There are a few panels I’m really proud of. But I think #25 cover, with Dark Leo in it, is probably my favorite image of the event.

BC: Oof, so many. The full page splash on page 2, of #22, of Shredder and Kitsune looking out over the city is so gorgeous and sets the tone perfectly. The call back to that shot at the end of #28 is great too.

But then there’s Dark Leo’s debut in #24, the Bebop and Rocksteady mutation, Casey hitting Hun with his bat… too much!

CV: Ultimately, what would you say your goal was with City Fall? Because, on behalf of the fans, I can say this will definitely go down as one of the must read TMNT stories.

BC: We wanted to bring the Turtles to their lowest point yet in the story, and test the strength of their family. We also wanted to mirror this with the rise of Shredder, and get some insight into what sort of family the Foot Clan is. Beyond that, we wanted to bring together and touch on all of the characters in New York that we’ve seen so far, in one giant, crazy story.

CV: The beginning of City Fall dove into the fact the Turtles need to improve their martial arts training. Have they progressed much since then? Just wondering because they'll definitely need to up their game if they hope to take on Bebop and Rocksteady -- those two were beasts in their micro-issue.

TW: Kevin is a huge proponent of the idea that the Turtles should be constantly honing and evolving their martial skills (and Kevin has a huge amount of knowledge in the areas of self-defense/martial arts), which, ironically, constantly pushes me to do more research and evolving of my own when it comes to writing about the many different styles/forms the TMNT are incorporating into their fighting skillset (yes, we must now refer to him as Sensei Eastman). To answer the question specifically, I do believe our heroes have progressed in their abilities… but so, too, have their enemies, so it’ll be a never-ending process of learning and improving for the boys if they want to have any chance to succeed in both the short-term and the long run. And, yeah, Bebop and Rocksteady bring a whole new chaotic and destructive element to the mix. I mean, how the heck do you defend yourself against a giant mutant rhino when he charges at you full-speed? I’m not sure if even Sensei Eastman has an answer for that one! Heh.

CV: Can we expect some cheerworthy Slash moments in the finale?

BC: I’m pleased that we got to give Slash one big moment in a very crowded finale, yes!

CV: It would be redundant right now because there's another dim-witted duo soaking in the spotlight, but is there any chance we'll see the return of TMNT II's Tokka and Rahzar? You've made Bebop/Rocksteady shockingly formidable, so I can only imagine what you all would do with those two. If not, care to tease us about the potential return of other familiar faces?

TW: I don’t know about Tokka and Rahzar (to be honest, I kind of see our Slash as a mash-up of the old-school Slash and Tokka) but we will definitely be bringing other familiar faces into our series. I won’t say much more other than one of them has already been sniffing around during City Fall (for those with eyes to see…).

CV: Can you talk a bit about what Northampton has in store for the team? And, without spoiling anything, will it still chime in on the characters who are still in the Big Apple?

BC: Northampton will be a complete departure, and we won’t be checking in on anything going on in the city. The reader will be as isolated from NYC as the Turtles are. However the events of City Fall will be very present in the minds of all the Turtles. And in some ways, danger is much closer than the Turtles know.

CV: City Fall has done such a good job fleshing out all of the characters, but has working with this large cast changed who your #1 TMNT character is? Does your favorite still remain or has someone else grown on you while working on this adventure?

TW: It’s funny – I really don’t have a favorite character… I truly love ‘em all, on both sides, good guy (or gal) or bad. That said, I will say I had a lot of fun writing Angel and Karai during this event… and Mikey had some fun moments, too (I love when he smashes the pizza into the gangbanger’s face in issue #27). But, the character who really stands out for me as far as growth is concerned has to be Old Hob. He’s come a long way from being that beat-up alley cat at the beginning of our TMNT run and he’s just getting started.

MS: I’m with Tom here. It’s hard to pick one if not impossible. But recently I've been enjoying Mikey more and more.

BC: Old Hob really came into his own this story arc, as Tom said. Hun might be the surprise MVP for me though. He and Casey’s inevitable collision was very satisfying for me to see.

CV: If you could only use one word to describe the final chapter, what would it be?

TW: BOMBASTIC! (And my second choice would be SHOCKING!)

CV: Can we expect more Micro-Series issues down the road?

TW: Bobby can answer that more specifically, but I’ve no doubts we’ll see more Micro-Series and Mini-Series down the line. So many cool stories to tell and so many talented creators we’d love to have join us in the sandbox!

BC: Not in the near future. However, we’re just finishing locking down our plans for 2014, and there’s some great mini-series on the way. (yes, plural!)

CV: Word is you all have plans up to issue 50, but seeing as reaction from fans has been nothing but positive, is there a chance the ongoing series could go beyond that?

BC: Absolutely. We’re talking more and more about what will happen post-#50 (should we be luckily enough to get there). I don't know what I’m more excited for: the lead up to #50, or what comes after!

CV: Is there anything else you'd all like to add about working on City Fall and the franchise's reboot in general?

BC: I just read the entire City Fall story, with all of the micro-series. I’m proud of it. But more than that, I was struck by just how lucky we’ve been with all of the creators who have contributed to the main series and micro-series. They’ve all been great to work with and brought their A-game. I never would have expected a little family of creators to arise from a story ABOUT a family.

To get mushy for a moment, the most important members of our family are the fans though. Their support has made this the most satisfying book I’ve worked on, and I think the other creators would agree.

CV: Thanks!

TMNT Vol. 6, the first part of City Fall, is currently on sale and the second part is expected to go on sale in February.

20 Comments
Posted by AllStarSuperman

Ah. Must refuse to read spoilers!

Edited by danhimself

loved this interview but one thing caught my eye....what role exactly does Nick play in the development of the series? this is the first that I had heard about them being involved at all...I was under the impression that Nick simply had the animated rights to the TMNT and nothing else

Posted by Wyldsong

I really, really hope this series continues beyond an issue 50. It is consistently good, and has yet to disappoint.

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Posted by greenlucario

Going to go back through now and see if I can find that character they mentioned "sniffing around" during the story. Really hope to see Leatherhead in the near future especially patterned after the 2K3 version.

Edited by ReverendHunt

@danhimself: They don't simply have animation rights, they own the entire franchise. They have some loose guidelines that the IDW team has to follow but they seem to be able to be left unto their own devices for the most part.

Posted by k4tzm4n

@wyldsong said:

I really, really hope this series continues beyond an issue 50. It is consistently good, and has yet to disappoint.

Yeah, I was so relieved to say they have potential plans for beyond 50. Up until that answer, I was under the impression it would all end there.

Staff
Edited by Wolverine08

Cool update. Excited for more turtle power!

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Posted by Wyldsong

@k4tzm4n: Well, let's keep our fingers crossed then.

And, since you are a turtle fan, don't know if you know anything about the Elf of the Shelf stuff, but my kids woke up this morning to find their elf doing this:

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Posted by Wyldsong

@wolverine08: I can't believe you pulled out the ninja rap...now I will be humming that all night...d@mmit...

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Posted by k4tzm4n
Staff
Posted by Wyldsong

@k4tzm4n: Hey, he mouthed off to the elf...

=O

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Posted by k4tzm4n

@wyldsong: Haha. But really, creative set-up. Hope your kids appreciated it.

Staff
Posted by Wyldsong

@k4tzm4n: Oh, they loved it. Got woken up at 6 in the morning to hear all about it...

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Posted by RoTheKid

This is sweet!! Thanks so much for this, Gregg! :D

Posted by mark15

This and Batman are the only books I buy the single and the trade for, nothing but the best from the TMNT ongoing