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Interview: TMNT's Creative Team Discusses the Changes in the Status Quo

The writer and artist behind the latest issue of TMNT talk about the shocking development and give us a few teasers about what's next. And yes, there's SPOILERS!

*Hey there. The latest issue of TMNT had a ginormous spoiler. So, if you don't want the surprise ruined for you, now is the time to leave. Goodbye.*

If you've read TMNT #44, it probably dropped your jaw and filled with you sadness. Well, right when we read it, we couldn't help but send a bunch of questions to the people at IDW. How could we not after a chapter like that? Is Donnie truly dead? How long have they had this idea? What are Shredder's physical limitations? Thankfully, writer Tom Waltz and artist Cory Smith took some time to answer our questions!

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COMIC VINE: Well, that was totally unexpected. First and foremost, I'm left wondering one thing: is Donatello dead or is he technically in critical condition right now? The issue certainly implies he's dead, but part of me is left wondering if he's on death's door.

TOM WALTZ: Patience, Grasshopper. Good things (and answers) come to those who wait… for the TMNT #45 and the TMNT Free Comic Book Day offering, that is.

CV: I'd hate to be Bebop and Rocksteady right now. I assume they're going to play a pretty significant role in what's to come?

TW: Yep, we still have big plans for Bebop and Rocksteady and, suffice it to say, they’ve got more than a few folks who have a bone to pick with them.

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CV:That last page was incredibly powerful and, of course, Cory's handling of the facial expressions really sold it. What was the collaboration like for building that big moment?

CORY SMITH: Thanks! That page certainly wasn't an easy one to work on, but it was also really exciting to bring this important, pivotal moment to life. I've been a lifelong TMNT fan, and especially of this comic series, so being able to emote through the characters wasn't too much of a stretch. I was feeling it all right there with them.

TW: The easiest way to answer that is by showing what the script called for (see below). It’s the best way to demonstrate how Cory and [Ronda] Pattison took my sometimes clumsy words and turned them into what I truly believe will be an iconic comic book panel for years and years to come:

PAGE TWENTY-TWO (one panel)

Panel 1: Big, dramatic, tragic splash page. Full shot of the scene. All present stand in a circle around Donnie and Splinter. (I LIKE JOAN’S IDEA -- A BIRD’S EYE VIEW LOOKING DOWN). Angel stands next to Metalhead -- MH’s head is lowered and Angel continues to cry. Alopex is next to Raph. She has a comforting hand on his shoulder and he looks ready to explode with rage, his fists clenched. Mikey is next to Leo, his head buried in his big brother’s shoulder. Leo looks down in numb shock. Behind them, we see Harold’s face on the monitor, silently watching the scene from his remote location with tears falling from his eyes. And in the foreground, in front of them all, Splinter is on the ground, cradling Donnie’s head in his arms. Donnie’s broken body is bleeding out (not too graphic but not too nice, either). Tears are streaming from Splinter’s rat eyes. IS DONNIE REALLY DEAD?!!!

1. SPLINTER: …my poor, brave son.

2. CAPTION (TEXT): To be continued.


CV: Tom and Cory, what's your favorite panel (or page) from this storyline and why?

TW: There are so many -- Cory (and Ronda) just bring it 110% with every panel, but I’d have to say the one that stands out for me the most is the final panel on page 22 of TMNT #43. We haven’t seen Donnie the entire issue and then Shredder gives the order to kill him and suddenly we’re in Harold’s lab with Donnie for the ultimate “Oh, crap! What’s gonna happen?!” moment. And then we get that splash page on page 22 of TMNT #44 with its horrible, horrible answer to the question. Powerful stuff -- my hat’s off to Cory and Ronda for making it pay off so amazingly well.

CS: I think my favorite page is from issue #44, page 4. Donatello's last stand. The panel where Donnie whacks Bebop with his bo staff is one of the most satisfying things I've ever gotten to draw, probably because I knew what was coming up. To me, this was the moment where Don accepts his role in all of this and realizes there's no turning back. And he's not going down without a fight! It's a truly heroic moment for him. And this page is also the payoff to a long-running gag involving Harold's mispronunciation of a certain word...

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CV: How long have you had this planned for Donatello? Who originally came up with the idea and why do you believe this was right direction for the story?

TW: Bobby Curnow came up with the idea a while back (we always plot well in advance of every arc) and then we (we being Bobby, Kevin Eastman, Nickelodeon and I) worked together to hone it down into the set of specific circumstances everyone has now witnessed in TMNT #44. One thing I love so much about this book is that it truly is a team effort, and it’s all the better for it. When something like what happened to Donnie can move us collectively as the creative team, we’re confident it’ll do the same for our many loyal readers.

CV: Tom, what was the biggest challenge behind juggling so many different character arcs and plot threads? May you tease which characters will take more of the spotlight in the upcoming issues?

TW: It’s tough giving all the characters face time and it takes A LOT of coordination, most of which is handled by Bobby (how he still has hair on his head when I don’t is just not fair!). The good thing is, Bobby and I sit next to each other at the IDW offices and spend many an hour discussing plot points, through lines, continuity concerns, and, of course, future happenings. We’ve gotten it down to a bit of a science now, though I’d be lying if I said there aren’t times when we get a little panicky -- like, how are we going to fit all of this into 22 pages?!! But we find a way and so far, so good. As for future characters, we’ve got some neat things planned for Mikey soon, and I want to bring back some supporting characters we haven’t seen since the TMNT solo one-shots way back when. And a bunch of new characters will enter the fray, too -- some IDW originals, and some from TMNT lore!

CV: Cory, this was a huge story. There were so many settings and even more characters involved. What was it like handling such a crowded and enormous arc? Who'd you enjoy illustrating the most?

CS: Well, I can check "Event Comic" off my bucket list now, for sure. When I was offered this story, I couldn't believe that I was gonna get to play with pretty much every toy in the sandbox. I got into the TMNT (and comics) as a kid through the Archie series, so getting to do a big Mutanimals action set piece was pretty exciting. Mondo Gecko was always one of my favorites, so I have to thank Tom for giving me some cool Mondo scenes to play with in #43. Karai is my girl, and will forever be, so drawing her is always fun. Donnie became my favorite turtle to draw over the course of the arc. Baxter Stockman was another surprise favorite. I got to give Bludgeon some more page time. They're pretty unpopular right now, but Bebop and Rocksteady are way up on the list too. And Krang. Loooooooved drawing Krang. Anything goes with him, expression-wise, from the absurd to the terrifying. It's so much fun to play with a character like that. And the Neutrinos!

CV: It seems like now that Krang's plot has been stopped, things can once again focus on the Turtles and Mutanimals' struggle against Shredder and now Baxter Stockman. But is it safe to assume we'll soon see the return of Kitsune, Rat King, and maaaaaybe even even Chi-You?

TW: The Pantheon’s chess game for control of the world goes on… yes, indeed. That’s all I’ll say for now.

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CV: So, Shredder and Baxter Stockman. Part of me can't help but wonder if you guys will eventually give us a modern, awesome version of the Super Shredder. If you do, do you promise not to have him just collapse a dock on himself? Pretty please?

TW: Ah, yes, Shredder and Baxter together. Can I just say now I’m having a BLAST writing those two? Because I am… I really am. What an unorthodox duo… as our awesome readers will soon learn.

CV: Honestly, I'm left feeling a little confused about Shredder's physical limitations. I remember him being able to withstand a barrage of rockets in his first round with General Krang, so it was a little surprising to see him drop like that in the second one. I mean, I know he can't remain this virtually unbeatable badass, but may you please talk a bit about his physical abilities?

TW: Shredder is powerful (above and beyond normal human levels), cunning, agile, fast, deadly in the martial arts, etc., but he got caught in an ambush against a very motivated (and enhanced --- did you see that wicked battle armor Cory designed) Krang. Suffice it to say, he was at a disadvantage from the start. He may have been able to come back, though, had it not been for the poisonous terraforming that was unleashed by General Krang. As for withstanding the missile barrage in issue #37, he actually found some cover during that attack -- you just couldn’t see it through all the smoke.

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CV: Last I heard the book has plans up to 50 and its future beyond that is uncertain. Is there any update on this?

TW: Kevin, Bobby and I just had a brainstorming a few days ago about our plans leading up to issue #100, so, no, 50 is not the end. But, it is a double-sized special issue that serves as the grand finale for a long-running storyline. But never fear… issue #51 will follow on time the next month.

CV: Seeing as the Ghostbusters are now back in the spotlight and their crossover with the Ninja Turtles was so much fun, is a follow-up limited series being discussed over at IDW?

TW: There are no plans at this moment for a follow-up, but we were all pleasantly surprised and happy with the response to the first cross-over mini with the Ghostbusters, so you never know.

CV: Turtles in Time teased Leatherhead and, as expected, it got many of us pretty excited. Any comment on whether we'll get any follow-up on that or if it was there just as a nice way of telling us the character does indeed exist?

TW: Nice? We’re never nice. Big teases, yes, but nice? Never.

CV: If you had to promote TMNT #45 in 5 words or less, what would you say?

TW: Vengeance!

CV: Thanks, guys!

TMNT #45 goes on sale April 15.