Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman and writer Tom Waltz on 75 issues of TMNT

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Oct 26, 2017

With Rebirths and Legacies flying around, there are a lot big numbers adorning comic book issues these days, but there will never be anything more impressive than a series that just keeps on going without any tricks, just quality. That's what makes the 75th issue of a title like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so notable. Not only is it the longest-running comic book series in the franchise's 33-year history, it's also widely regarded as one of its best, and has spawned numerous spinoffs and carved out a flourishing universe at publisher IDW.

The 75th issue released this week, and SYFY already spoke with series writer Tom Waltz about the universe-shaking issue, so if you haven't read that interview, do so now, because now Waltz is back to talk a bit about the run as a whole, and he's brought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman with him. They talked about how the series initially came together, what's been different about this volume compared to previous ones, and even a bit about Eastman's hope to direct an animated movie.

Read on for the interview, along with a few of Eastman's shell-ishly good covers from the run, and be sure to pick up a copy of TMNT #75, in stores now.

Kevin, you created a gorgeous cover for the 75th issue. Can you talk a bit about your process for the illustration? How do you approach the cover for a landmark issue like this?

Kevin Eastman: Thank you, you're very kind. Honestly, when I was working on that cover I completely forgot it was for the 75th issue! I was so into the storyline and wanted something that properly represented what I felt reading Tom's final script… So many great cover ideas and options, but it was the insane battle everyone had just been through, a story where all the different aliens and mutant characters joined forces to defeat a galaxy-destroying evil enemy — it was that "last stand" feel I focused on, the aftermath of the battle. I wanted to do a Band of Brothers tribute to all the warriors that fought side-by-side to save the day.

For pretty much all the covers for the series — past, present, and future — that's always my first thought: a concept that supports the story, while not giving too much away. That's the fun stuff. Man, I love doing them.

This series is now by far the longest-running volume of TMNT since its inception. What do you think has kept this series going so long when previous series couldn't?

Tom Waltz: A consistent creative team helps a lot — Kevin, Bobby, and I have had a fairly specific storytelling plan from early on and have been given the wonderful opportunity by IDW, Nickelodeon, and our many awesome fans and retailers to see it through up to this point. And having the advantage of standing on the shoulders of giants — the many successful iterations of TMNT that have come before us — and being able to "cherry pick" from so many cool characters and concepts to incorporate into our new version has been key to the longevity as well. There's a kind of comfort in the familiar that keeps longtime TMNT fans coming back — but giving the familiar a few new twists and turns helps to keep it interesting for everyone, including the creators.

Tom, a favorite geek litmus test is to ask which Turtle is your favorite, but have any of yours changed as you've worked on them, and as the series has progressed?

TW: I say this often, but I can't really claim a favorite turtle because I love them all so much. There's a little bit of all of them in me and vice versa. But I do find myself very much in tune with Master Splinter as I grow older. He's a dad. I'm a dad. We love our kids. We worry about our kids. I totally get him in a way I wouldn't have once upon a time. Matter of fact, Kevin always tells me I'm the TMNT's step-daddy now, which always makes me smile.

Kevin, the Turtles have been part of your life for over thirty years, what keeps your passion for your creation alive after all these years?

KE: Tom Waltz! He is the man! Peter and I might be the biological parents of all things TMNT — but Tom is easily the coolest and most awesome step-dad! Back in early 2011, seventy-five kick-ass issues ago, [IDW Special Projects Director] Scott Dubnier called and invited me down to IDW to get my thoughts on what they had in mind for a new TMNT comics series. They had just picked up the license, and one of their staff writers, Tom Waltz, had a take that Nickelodeon really liked. Man, I was so impressed what he had in mind — I feel like I stuck my foot in the door like an old-time salesman, and wanted to join in — and now they can't get rid of me! [Laughs]

In all sincerity — and to properly share the love — Tom's vision was and is totally infectious. Add in series editor Bobby Curnow — who is a creative powerhouse, as much as he won't admit it — and Nickelodeon's creative commitment to telling really great stories and it was all there — a really solid foundation to tell them in. Then we have the artists that have brought these stories to life. All of them — are exceptional, beyond exceptional — I love them for their massive passion and skill — but loath them as they all draw better Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than I do!

Of course I don't hate them — they are totally inspiring to me! — there really are so many talented creative people that have brought their A-game to the IDW TMNT Universe, such great ideas, such heart — that is where all my passion comes for this series. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to be considered part of the team.

And Tom, after working on the series for so long, what keeps the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creatively interesting to you?

TW: For me, it's the family aspect, the heart and core of the TMNT franchise. And not just the fraternity of the characters, but the bond between the creators and fans to those same characters… and to each other. Somebody told me recently that it's a great time to be a TMNT fan. I walked away and thought to myself, "Yes… it is. Just as it's always been."

What aspect of this run are you most proud of so far?

TW: The consistency. I feel that the tone and feel of our books has stayed true to our original vision way back in issue #1, even as the plots and ensemble cast has grown and evolved. We've stayed patient and disciplined — never pandering and never shoehorning in events or characters until we felt the time was right and they served the story in a positive and logical fashion. As I said earlier, we've been very meticulous from day one. Yet, it's never boring — we work hard to find ways to surprise our readers, and ourselves, with each new story arc. I'm not too shy to say it's a damn good comic book series and possibly the best-kept secret on comic book store shelves these days. But those who do know about our book know it's a team effort in all aspects — creators, readers, retailers — and we all come together month after month to make this a very special comic book run on so many levels. But there's always room for more on this crazy TMNT train!

Is there anything you'd like to see the Turtles do (in any medium) that they haven't done yet?

KE: Honestly, I'd love to direct — even co-direct — a TMNT animated feature film based on a Tom Waltz script! Tom and I have talked about it a few times, one of those comments that pops out with a little chuckle afterwards, but quickly turns to "Yeah, that actually would be really, really awesome…"

I think fans would go nuts! I know I would! Can you imagine an edgy action packed movie, all set in the IDW TMNT Universe, based on a script by a writer that really knows the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles like Tom? That would be epic. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #75 is on sale now from IDW Publishing. All art by Kevin Eastman from ​TMNT #75, #50, #25, and #​1.