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Interview: Celebrating TMNT's 30th Anniversary

A few creative minds currently working with the heroes in a half shell say why they love the franchise!

Three decades ago, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird gave the planet a wonderful gift: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Since then, the franchise has become absolutely massive. From multiple animated shows to video games to live-action movies, the radical dudes have been transformed into a household name. And guess what? This is a great time to be a fan! The IDW comic is excellent, the animated series on Nick is hugely entertaining, and there's even a new movie coming out this summer. To celebrate the Ninja Turtles' 30th anniversary, we reached out to Tom Waltz (writer of IDW's TMNT), Evan Daugherty (writer of the upcoming TMNT movie), and Mateus Santolouco (artist of IDW's TMNT). We asked them a whole lot of hard-hitting questions -- you know, stuff like "who's your favorite villain?" But seriously, we're taking a moment to praise the franchise, so they're mostly lighthearted questions!

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COMIC VINE: What is it about the franchise that gives it so much life and allows it to stand apart from the competition?

TOM WALTZ: Honestly, I think it’s the family aspect that continues to be the rock solid foundation of the property. The TMNT bicker and tussle and disagree but never, ever let you forget they are a family first – absolutely dedicated to each other and always ready to do whatever it takes to defend their undying bond… even if that means dying to do it. You can put the turtles in Feudal Japan or New York City or outer space and it’s all just part of the story’s setting… it’s decoration. What truly matters is their genuine love and compassion for on another, and that’s a concept we all wish for in real life and, if we’re lucky, can completely relate to.

EVAN DAUGHERTY: I think the TMNT franchise has withstood the test of time because behind all of the absurdity of four mutant turtles doing martial arts, it has real heart and real characters. At its core, TMNT has always been about family, whether it's the brotherly relationship between the turtles, the father-son relationship between the turtles and Splinter, or the strange sort of family relationship that April forges with all of them. I think that's what separates TMNT from the pack.

CV: Has your "favorite turtle" changed over the decades?

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TW: I don’t know if I’ve ever really had a favorite turtle. I’m fond of all of them for different reasons and I enjoy writing them all. Heck, I love writing ALL the characters – there’s not one in the pantheon that fails to make me grin whenever I have the fortunate opportunity to put words in their mouths… it’s such a rich and diverse cast and I never take for granted how lucky I am to spend time with them.

ED: Without a doubt. When I was a kid, my favorite was either Leonardo or Michelangelo, depending on my mood. But as I grew up, I realized that Raphael was really the most interesting, tortured turtle of the bunch. So, Raph's definitely my new favorite.

MATEUS SANTOLOUCO: Yeah, honestly the only one who was never on my top list is Raphael. Still dig you bro, but you're just too stubborn.

CV: Why is now such a great time to be a TMNT fan?

TW: C’mon! It’s ALWAYS a good time to be a TMNT fan!

ED: I grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, which was a great time to be a TMNT fan. But now may be even better: there's a successful and critically acclaimed animated series on Nickelodeon, as well as a big, fun, summer film coming out in August. Not to mention all the other transmedia content that people can consume. It's a great time to be a Turtle fan!

MS: Some of the best TMNT' material is coming out right now. If you're not a fan you are missing a treat!

CV: What are you doing to celebrate its 30th anniversary?

TW: Everything I can to meet my deadlines!

ED: Good question. Maybe I'll bust out my old Subterranean Sewer Hockey playset and play a few rounds. (Click here to watch the commercial)

MS: I celebrated it with my birthday, that is just one day earlier. :) Obviously with pizza and a few beers (I was drinking scotch actually).

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CV: Where do you think the franchise will be in 30 more years? Do you think The Next Mutation will be a cult classic and Venus De Milo becomes the most popular hero?

MS: I sure hope not!!

TW: You ask me, at the speed technology and science continues to advance, we may actually have REAL teenage mutant ninja turtles roaming the streets and fighting crime in the next 30 years, let alone in comics. And isn’t The Next Mutation already a cult classic? What’s wrong with a girl turtle, anyway? I've been lucky to have awesome women, young and old, in my life and am always ecstatic when we are able to bring strong and entertaining female characters into our stories. Girls rule!

ED: I wouldn't even want to guess. But something tells me if it's lasted 30 years, it will easily last another 30. The franchise seems to live beyond a particular time and place. It has managed to capture the imaginations of subsequent generations, and I think it will continue to do so!

CV: Who's your favorite TMNT villain and why?

TW: There you go… trying to make me pick favorites again! Shredder, of course, is the classic villain, and Krang is bad-ass… but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Baxter Stockman is my absolute favorite to write. I love his smug, conniving personality – his mad genius. Karai is also one of my favorites. Such a cool character – tough, smart, mysterious… you just never know what she’ll do next.

ED: It's hard to beat Shredder and Krang, but I'm going to delve deeper into the TMNT rogue's gallery and pick… the Rat King. The idea of a human living in the sewers who can telepathically communicate with and control an army of subterranean rats is really terrifying and really awesome.

MS: I was always very fond of Bebop and Rocksteady. But I think that Shredder is the best arch-nemesis for them.

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CV: Do you have a favorite TMNT video game?

TW: Well, I just finished writing a script for one that’s yet to be announced, so I’m a bit partial to that one. For now, however, I’m sworn to secrecy, so to quote Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

ED: I'm going retro, and I'm going with a tie… between the original TMNT arcade side scroller that I wasted hundreds of quarters on in various pizzerias and shopping mall arcades throughout the early '90s… and the original TMNT game for NES.

MS: The first arcade game. Best TMNT video game of all times and probably one of my favorite games until this day!

CV: What about a favorite comic book issue or TV episode?

TW: My favorite comic is probably the Mirage Leonardo micro-series issue. Such an epic, emotional battle sequence… Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird are masters at showing so much while saying so little. No words necessary – the beautiful images say it all, panel after glorious panel. As for a TV episode, the 4Kids homage to the aforementioned Mirage Leonardo story is also my favorite (I think it was called “Shredder Strikes Back”). Matter of fact, I loved everything about that 4Kids series… not to mention the 2007 CGI movie. Both are underrated in TMNT lore as far as I’m concerned.

ED: The original animated series is often maligned, sometimes rightly so, but it was my first introduction to the TMNT franchise, so I've got to go with the first five episodes of the first season, which is technically a movie/miniseries, in particular, the last episode SHREDDER & SPLINTERED.

I've also got to give a semi-ironic shout-out to a Season 4 episode called "Shredder's Mom."

MS: The first TMNT comic is awesome and I remember to be thrilled by the Eastman and Bisley's "Bodycount" book! On TV I liked Turtles Forever, mostly the end of it with the Turtles prime and all, that was great! But I do love the new show. I think is the best TV Turtles yet!

CV: Favorite TMNT catch phrase?

TW: Actually, I dig all the catch phrases, but there is a line from the 1990 movie that is never far from my mind when I’m writing TMNT. It’s from Splinter and I think it best sums up what makes TMNT so endearing to so many folks for so long:

“I am proud of you, my sons. Tonight you have learned the final and greatest truth of the Ninja: that ultimate mastering comes not from the body, but from the mind. Together, there is nothing your four minds cannot accomplish. Help each other, draw upon one another, and always remember the power that binds you. The same is what brought me here tonight, that which I gladly return with my final words: I love you all, my sons.”

ED: This is an easy one. "A little too Raph…" Spoken by Michelangelo in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: SECRET OF THE OOZE.

MS: COWABUNGA! I really miss that.

CV: If you could master one of the signature weapons in TMNT, which would you pick?

TW: Dude! Leo’s katana, what else? Just like girls, swords rule!

ED: I've got to go with the nunchaku… or nunchucks as we used to call them when we were kids.

MS: Definitely the Katanas. Although I do enjoy the nunchuks and the bo.

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CV: What's your fondest TMNT memory?

TW: That’s easy. Sharing the experience with my family, especially my kids. Nothing else even comes close. Well, working alongside editor-extraordinaire Bobby Curnow and the amazing Kevin Eastman is pretty freakin’ cool, too. Such awesome dudes!

ED: Getting out of school early on Fridays in 1990, 1991 and 1993 to go see the three original TMNT films.

MS: Playing the arcade game with my younger brother. I would always play with Donnie and he with Raph and we used to finish that game with a single coin sometimes!

CV: Why do you love being a TMNT fan?

TW: Because, just like girls and swords, TMNT fans rule!

ED: There are so many reasons. But I think the biggest is that being a TMNT fan really allows me to feel like a kid again.

MS: What there's not to love about?

CV: And the most important question of them all: favorite kind of pizza?

TW: Any kind from the best pizza joint in the whole wide world… Hometown Pizza in Clinton, Michigan!

ED: As long as it's got some combination of marshmallow, peanut butter, tuna fish and jelly beans, I'm good.

MS: Pepperoni n' cheese!

CV: Thanks!

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TMNT #34 goes on sale May 28; the next episode of Nick's TMNT airs this Sunday at 11am; and the TMNT movie opens August 8.