Eighty years after Batman made his debut and 35 years after the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, DC Entertainment and IDW Publishing will bring the two properties together for a third and -- for now -- final comic book miniseries beginning tomorrow. The big difference between this one and the two that preceded it? We'll get crazy mash-ups of characters and concepts that will play with the idea that both DC and TMNT have used multiverses over the years. Rather than a Bat-villain and a Turtle villain teaming up this time, we get blended takes on both sorts of heroes and villains, with a Batman who lives in the sewer and a particularly challenging take on the Clown Prince of Crime.
All of this comes with the recent announcement that Warner Bros. Animation, Warner Home Entertainment, DC Entertainment and Nickelodeon announced Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, an all-new animated movie arriving on 4K, Blu-ray and Digital later this spring, based on the first volume of Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Writer James Tynion IV and artist Freddie Williams II joined ComicBook.com Senior Staff Writer Russell Burlingame III to discuss Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, the first issue of which will release tomorrow.
I guess the easy question to start with is, what makes this one different? What makes this a story that kind of you needed to tell that isn't just an extension of the previous one?
James Tynion IV: Oh, boy. There are a lot of answers to that question, thankfully. I mean, that was the kind of question that we wanted to ask ourselves going into this volume. We wanted to make sure that this was going to be something unique among the trilogy, but also feel like a massive culmination of everything that's come before. This is something that I think readers and fans of both Turtles and Batman will be able to come in and enjoy even if they haven't read volume one and volume two.It also is going to answer some lingering questions from those first two volumes. But it definitely doesn't start out with answers, because we start this volume in a very, very different world than we've ever seen before in either a Batman or a Turtles comic. It's a world where the mythologies of Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been merged together into something strange and unique. Batman is living in the sewers under New Gotham City with the Turtles as his brothers and his Bat-family. And we see Splinter as his butler, manning the Batcave, and they're fighting The Laughing Man, who rules The Smile Clan, the most deadly ninja force in the city. And we wanted to really start off like wowing the readers with like, "What the hell is going on in this comic book?" In the most fanboy, excited way. And I hope that's what we've delivered.
Now, for you Freddie, obviously you had to design all of these kind of merged reinventions. How much fun was that -- and was there one that was particularly challenging?
Freddie Williams II: Yes. It was really fun. I had the advantage of James knowing sort of [what he wanted]. He e-mailed me a dossier of all of the characters and how they would be merged -- who would be in what role, and sort of the directions to go in. Because it was so vividly explained, it made my job a lot easier. So, it wasn't just like, "Oh, go do some stuff," without a lot of foundational work that was already laid down by James. After reading that, I basically made a checklist of all the characters, and went through and started taking a stab at stuff that I thought that I would be probably the most challenging.
I thought for sure, there was gonna be a lot of back and forth over this Batman design. Like, "I'm trying to take such an iconic character, who has had probably hundreds of designs, and I'm trying to make a brand new design in this different direction." And that one got accepted right away. I was surprised. So, my first version accepted.
The one that was the most challenging was probably Laughing Man. I had this direction that I was going in, that I was convinced would just knock everyone's socks off, and then -- no joke, I did four versions of The Laughing Man, and towards the end I was like, "I'm not sure what I'm doing." Because you don't want to go too far in the Shredder direction, you don't want to go too far in the Joker direction. So, that one was probably the most challenging. A lot more than I'm used to design work wise.
Usually in my daily life, I don't do a lot of design work except for one or two at a time. Because if you're introducing a new character in a series or something, you just focus on that character. But this was ten, I think? It was something like that. Ten characters all at once, and it felt like I was really exercising muscles that I hadn't. It was like, I'm used to doing little sprints of character design, and this was a marathon of like, "Uh oh. What have I gotten into here?" But it ended up working out, with a lot of valuable feedback from Jim Chadwick and from James and Liz Erickson; Jim Chadwick and Liz are the editors for the series.
Tynion: Well, you did a incredible job on them. And I am sorry for making you run the marathon, but I'm really happy with where we ended up. We keep talking about the designs of the characters, but one my favorite pieces of design in the entire issue is the combined Turtle/Batcave. All of the little details. I know you mentioned with my designs that I had very specific things, but with the Turtle/Batcave, that's all you in the biggest, coolest way. I love all of the details you put into that place.
Williams: Thank you. Your help over the description of the script [helped set] the direction to go into, so it presented itself. It was fun trying to imagine, like Batman has like a big penny, but since this is more in sort of like a more ninja-oriented world, I went with a large Japanese yen instead of a penny. And instead of the T-rex it's a triceratops, because of the Triceratons that are in the Turtle universe. So, I figured if they had this long combined history, that instead of it being a T-rex that Batman and the Turtles have encountered before, it be like a Triceraton automated triceratops thing. That was really fun. And the face of some of the computer screens were shell influenced. That stuff was fun to work on.
As you said, it feels kind of intentionally very different from the first two, whereas the second one felt like just a continuation of the original concept, this third one is very much an evolution of the concept. How important was that to you guys to break people's expectations in a book where breaking expectations is not really necessarily mandatory, because it's gonna sell itself?
Tynion: Well, I think that was the question. In the first volume, I think that a lot of what got people in the seats were just the fact like, "Oh my God, they're putting Batman and Turtles together." The pure magic of that is what brought people in, and a bit of the question about how do these two very different worlds fit together, and how could this possibly make sense. That was something that brought people into the comic shop, had them pick up the volume, and then we were able to deliver a story that was able to deliver on these kind of moments where like the pieces were all there for those moments. Where the first time you see Jim Gordon lighting the bat signal, but then like there are a couple of Turtles up there on the roof. It's taking big, iconic Batman moments and putting Turtles in it or taking big Turtle moments and putting Batman in it. There's an energy you get from that.
And then, in the second volume, we had a bit of that energy again, in terms of in that we were passing into the sort of things that we didn't get to do in the first volume, whether it was some characters we wanted to play with -- we had the idea of venomizing Donatello and making him this big buff turtle, and Bane basically venomizing a lot of the big bag guys in there Turtles world. There was a lot of fun in that, but it was us kind of playing with the same math as the first one. And people really enjoyed the second one. But because we had already told people what to expect in that first one, I don't know that in that second volume -- which I'm very, very proud of -- there wasn't a new magic of discovery, in terms of "oh I didn't think that these pieces would fit together so good." It's just like, oh this is showing you once again that these pieces fit together. So, with this one we definitely wanted to do something more. Something that did surprise people, because I do think the first volume surprised people. Honestly, one of my favorite things when we put together the pitch and sent it to IDW and Nickelodeon for approval, was the first reaction where it was just like, "we were not expecting this, and we are super excited by it now." That was incredibly thrilling, and that meant I knew that we had the right math right from that first bit of feedback.
It's funny to me because both the Turtles and the DC universe have had plenty of kind of other versions. When this kind of occurred to you like, "Oh, we could do it this way," was the second thing right after like, "How did we not do it that way the first time?"
Tynion: No. Honestly, if we had come out the gates with this, I think people would feel a little cheated out of not getting the kind of standard moments of the Batman and the Turtles that we know and love at their core, iconic states. Like, getting to meet and interact for the first time. Throwing right in the gate with something this crazy I think would've been maybe a step too far. But as the big conclusion, I think this is the exact right moment to do it.
You said conclusion and you guys have said trilogy previously. Was the idea always to do a trilogy, or at this point is it just that you want to go out on a high note?
Williams: I think I want to do any other 150 volumes if possible. Just keep layering them on top of each other in a non-stop fashion. [Laughs] I think, for me at least, it's the hope beyond hope. As we were halfway through the first series -- because I'm working so far ahead on these, that I'm starting to close out the series by the time the first issue even comes out -- I don't even know how people are gonna respond to it. So you're just engaged with the work and you're excited to be a part of it, and then wow, people are really digging it. That's incredible. And then, by the time I'm done with it, starting to close it out, I'm thinking, "I'd really love to do this again. If could get another shot at just doing this, to live in this world again with these characters, that would be amazing." And then, when the second volume came around I was like "oh fantastic, we get to visit them gain," and then the same thing happens halfway through I'm like "I sure hope we get to do this again." So, I'm kind of in that mode again. It makes sense to me on a rhythmic level that the third volume would be the end of the trilogy and the story. I mean, this is a big story. James has really, in a way that I didn't see coming, punched me with how cool and big this story is. So, it would make sense if this ends up being the last one, but I'm already thinking, "boy I sure hope we get to do another one of these because it's just so much fun." It feels so organic. Not just the Turtles, and not just Batman, but their world, their villains, their themes, overlap so organically. All of those decisions are made much higher above my head of course, I would love to keep doing more of them. Count me in if anyone from the corporate offices are listening to do this -- please count me in for volumes four and five up to 150.
Tynion: The first one was designed like we didn't know if there would be a follow up. But in the second one, I think there was an understanding that we were going to do a kind of three-act thing. There's always the potential to have conversations in the future, between DC and all of the other players. But I did want to approach this volume in terms of, at the end of this story, we've tied up all of the loose ends, and certainly, we can come back in and throw in a whole bunch more loose ends and do a whole bunch of more fun stuff with these universes. But right now, I think this is the big epic conclusion of what we've been doing over the last few years.
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