Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Saturday Morning Adventures Team Discuss Turtle-Verse Style Crossover

Erik Burnham and Sarah Myer tell us how they made TMNT: Saturday Morning Adventures' multiverse crossover work.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are getting in on the multiverse craze with a "Turtle-Verse' style crossover in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Saturday Morning Adventures. The twelfth issue of IDW Publishing's all-ages series concluded with an exciting final page, which saw the series' Turtle protagonists, based on the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, drawn by the omnipotent Mister Ogg into a contest with a dream team of Turtles from various iterations of the TMNT series, including Leonardo from Kevin Eastman and Peter Larid's original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, Donatello from the 2003 cartoon series, Michelangelo from the CG-animated 2012 television series, Raphael from Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Jennika from IDW's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles timeline.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans are likely eager to find out how the story turns out in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Saturday Morning Adventures #13, which goes on sale on May 22nd. ComicBook had the chance to ask some questions of writer Erik Burnham and artist Sarah Myer. Here's what they told us about the epic Turtles crossover (minor spoilers may follow):

(Photo: IDW Publishing)

First, how did you choose which Turtles from each reality to use?

Erik Burnham: The whittling down started by asking if every iteration was on the table. All of the versions that appeared on TV were open to use, which meant we didn't need to make any pitches for the movie versions (the live-action designs from the 1990s or Michael Bay-produced films, the 2007 CG movie, or the recent Mutant Mayhem) because the TV series gave us three very different worlds to play with right there. I didn't know if Nickelodeon would have been open to allowing any of the movie versions, but since we already had three very distinct designs (and I wanted to include Mirage representation, bringing us to 4) it wasn't something we had to stress over. The alternates were covered! Raph from Rise of the TMNT was chosen first because he had the most distinct size and design. 2012 Mikey was chosen because... I liked 2012 Mikey. Mirage's Leonardo and 2k3 Donatello just felt like the right choices... and we also included one of IDW's contributions to the lore, Jennika. She is a mutant ninja turtle, she's been around for a while, and she's a curveball. Something our guys would not have expected. Yes, some fans noted that that makes it 5:4 and wondered if we would call that imbalance out (we--or rather, Raph--sure did)! It felt like the right mix. I was almost tempted to ask for a bit with the Red Sky designs, but we got a LOT going on in this issue as is, no sense going meta with different designs of the exact same characters.

It was interesting that you turned what many would consider one of the sillier aspects of the '87 Turtles – that they never really use their weapons as weapons – into an almost philosophical difference between them and their more aggressive counterparts. Can you talk a bit about how you came upon that theme?

EB: The '87 TMNT show seemed to have had stricter rules with Standards and Practices over the weapons--that's speculation on my part, but considering Michelangelo's nunchucks went away midway through season 4, I think I might be onto something. And though we don't fully shy away from our Turtles using their weapons, they surely aren't going to be using them to the extent or in the same way that the Mirage or IDW versions do. Any character from those universes or one with a window to the Multiverse (from all-powerful characters like Ogg to interdimensional time travelers like Renet to those that can tap into the collective unconscious like Creepy Eddie) would have that perspective, so it makes sense to bring it up. I like the challenge of finding ways to take down the bad guys without just violence, and it's a thing that fits this version of the Turtles well and is fun to contrast with everything else. Looking for a way to make it feel character-based as much as anything is a thing Team SMA has been looking to do from go.

(Photo: IDW Publishing)

I loved the little metatextual, Easter egg-like nods, be it the use of different TMNT logos or Raphael joking about Leo's dialog. Were there any ideas for references that didn't make it in, or ones that did make it in that you think fans may not notice?

Sarah Myer: I had an absolute blast drawing from the script- there are a lot of great easter eggs mentioned for my reference whenever I open a TMNT SMA script and I look forward to it always, but for this particular arc and issue it was especially fun. The fourth wall breaking that the '87 show is known for gets taken to a new level in this issue with Michelangelo literally getting thrown through the panels after being punched by Rise Raph due to being duped by 2012 Mikey; that's a sentence I never thought I'd be able to say in context for an actual thing that I had the privilege to draw as opposed to a fever dream, but here we are. There are a few visual nods to famous Mirage TMNT shots with Raphael and Mirage Leo, too. I got such a kick out of drawing our cameos which Erik mentioned; I decided to give us banners which implies we are the ONLY ones rooting for the Turtles in a sea of Ogg fans with a little Ninja Rap nod. 

EB: One of the things I love about working with Nickelodeon on this particular project is how much fun we get to have--the different logos were one thing, in particular, we giggled over. But make no mistake, everything we sneak in for readers isn't really snuck in--it's approved the same as everything else... In fact, some of my favorite suggestions for visual gags, easter eggs, and meta punchlines, both in this story and in this series have come from Nickelodeon! We're all working to live up to the spirit of this corner of the franchise and include everything we can from the wider Turtles universe that makes sense, so a TON of ideas get thrown around by all parties through the process, which means anything that didn't make the cut was usually replaced by something better, leaving me to forget whatever the original, non-used gag was! I will say, I was happy Sarah got us into the Ogglympics crowd. Tickets must've been insane.

(Photo: Sarah Myer)

Sarah, tell me a bit about drawing the various Turtles. Was there a particular challenge to ensuring they look like they came from their respective realities, with all their different styles?

MYER: As a fan of TMNT since the '87 show and through the different iterations afterward, it was such a bucket list item checked off and a dream come true to draw these different versions in the same issue. I'm gonna put in a little shameless plug for a piece of fan art I did a few years ago in which I drew different versions of Donatello. Back when I drew that, I had no idea I was technically getting in some early practice for this issue. But it's one thing to draw the different iterations for a personal piece and another entirely to draw them for a specific comic story which understandably needs to be approved by IDW and Nickelodeon, and that challenge was incredibly fun for me. I guess one of the challenges was figuring out exactly how tall in relation to making each of the iterations; the proportions of, say, the Mirage Turtles, look pretty close to how the '87 versions were adapted height-wise, but there's a lot more muscle definition and slightly more sinewy limbs to the Mirage look, for example, that might make them appear taller if I wasn't careful about the size relationship when drawing the scenes with Raphael and Mirage Leo. The 2003 turtles are short compared to April and Casey in their show, in about the same height gap as the '87 turtles are to their April. But Turtles Forever (2009), for example, made the '87 turtles appear much shorter than 2003. But a roughly 5'0" 1987 Donatello looks less bulky and muscular than a probably-about-5'0" 2003 Donatello, ignoring that the '03 Turtles did grow taller in the later seasons. And even after determining which size relationship to go with, then there are those practical comic storytelling decisions such as panel layout to fit some of these actions in, plus room for speech balloons, etc. And I loved the chance to place lots of spot blacks and drop shadows as well as screentones in any shot of Mirage Leo.

Outside of work, just in general, I love analyzing different animators' and artists' styles in my favorite cartoons and animation characters (Ask me at a con about Fred Moore's Mickey Mouse vs Andreas Deja or the Australian unit for episodes of Darkwing Duck for example, and I might never stop talking) so it felt like I got the incredible opportunity to really explore that further in drawing these different iterations. I personally found maybe... Rise? to be the most challenging to draw but it's really cool to analyze the curve strokes and strong lines present in those designs! I found myself drawing way more from the elbow and shoulder whenever I had to draw Rise Raph to get those big, sweeping line arcs for his poses. As an aside, there's a whole world of "How bulky are each iteration's shells? Are there carapace bridges in the x or y version?" that I could ramble about, and happily so, but maybe another time. And it's important to keep in mind that this particular meeting of the different turtles is in a different dimension from the '87 turtles' NYC. It's not like Jennika suddenly pops up within their NYC. So when you think about THAT possibility, that would have been a different curveball. This story was solely the other iterations appearing as they appear, rather than those different turtles being translated INTO the 1987 universe. For example, it wasn't like the 2012 "Manhattan Project" episode situation where there was a translation of 2012 characters into the 1987 Fred Wolf cartoon style (or one of them, anyway!). If there were any changes needed to the art, with these characters and this franchise, I did and still do get star-struck. I don't just get to change a line or two on any character, it's THESE characters. Any challenge in this job is an absolute privilege, and I would not have it any other way.

(Photo: IDW Publishing)

Having delivered one Turtle-verse style story, what are the chances we see a follow-up down the line? Or are such crossovers, as Ogg says, too much paperwork?

EB: They can be a trick, but I'd love to be involved in a crossover with more of the Turtles, without any of the shenanigans used in this story, because I love writing that kind of interaction. It'd be great to see the dynamics of a lotta Leos or mixing and matching the teams. I honestly don't know when or if such an opportunity will arise, but I'm up for it if asked! 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Saturday Morning Adventures #13 goes on sale May 22nd.

(Photo: IDW Publishing)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Saturday Morning Adventures #13
  • (W) Erik Burnham (A/CA) Sarah Myer
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have beaten Mr. Ogg's first game, but he's too genre-savvy to give up that easily! With two more challenges to go, there's still enough time for him to make a comeback. The good guys may always win, but the scheming trickster from Dimension Z has found a catch: what if the Heroes in a Half-Shell aren't the only good guys in the room? The games continue in part two of "The Ogglympics!"
  • In Shops: May 22, 2024
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