IDW Publishing’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ongoing series has been firing on all cylinders and is a must read for any Turtles fan. Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman are doing a great job of drawing from every Turtles universe to develop a rich, new timeline. One of the tools that IDW has used rather nicely is the Micro-Series (guest one-shots). Instead of telling a unique story that has nothing to do with the ongoing, they have used their guest one-shots to build on, and expand, the current Turtles universe. I recently had the opportunity to ask Erik Burnham (Twitter @erikburnham), who wrote the Splinter Micro-Series issue, some questions about his experience.
@xovercomics: Thank you for taking the time away from writing IDW’s Ghostbusters ongoing to answer a few questions. I guess my first question should be, were you a Turtles fan growing up?
@ErikBurnham: From the first point I saw them, yeah — which, like so many others, came about the time the cartoon and all those toys hit.
@xovercomics: To give our readers an idea of what kind of TMNT fan you are, please list your following favorites. I will give you mine.
Favorite Turtle: Donatello
Favorite non-Turtle character: Casey Jones
Favorite comic book series: Mirage (Return to New York, City at War, Gang Wars in particular) but IDW is catching up quickly
Favorite animated series: 4Kids 2K3 TV series (first 2 seasons in particular)
Favorite movie: First live action movie (Turtles Forever was pretty amazing for different reasons)
Favorite Turtle: It started out as Michelangelo for the entirely arbitrary reason that his mask wasn’t red (when we were little my brother, by default, got all the “red character” stuff, so to keep things simple I never formed any connection. Couldn’t have the toys, after all! Besides, I liked them ‘chucks.) In later years it kinda forged towards Donatello (irony of that is my aforementioned little brother grew up into a tech wizard.)
Favorite non-Turtle character: Splinter.
Favorite comic book series: The initial adaptation of the cartoon that Archie did is my sentimental favorite. Comics were hard for me to find growing up so, while I was aware of Mirage (I even got the occasional issue in comic grab boxes my dad would sometimes get me) it may as well not have existed at the time since I couldn’t get it. (The first issue I read, since you mention it, was a chapter of Return to New York.)
Favorite animated series: The early Wolf stuff. I haven’t seen enough of 4Kids to make the call. I’m looking forward to the Nick show, having seen some clips at SDCC. It looks fun.
Favorite movie: And again, the initial 1990 live action movie. Because c’mon, no one thought it would work anywhere near as well as it did!
@xovercomics: Have you been following the IDW TMNT ongoing series?
@ErikBurnham: Sure have! My Ghostbusters editor, Tom Waltz, is writing so I’ll pick his brain about it from time to time out of pure curiosity. It’s fun to see the ideas he goes with when he has so many to choose from.
@xovercomics: How much creative freedom do you have when you guest on a comic, TMNT in particular? Were you given bullet-points or a more detailed “script” to follow?
@ErikBurnham: There was just one minor restriction on Splinter, because of where he was at and where he needed to be in the main book. Beyond that, there were no hard and fast rules or demands from Tom or editor Bobby Curnow. My job was to tell a story that would support what’s going on in the ongoing, and I’m happy so many of the little bits I threw in were used in other stories!
@xovercomics: Where do you draw your inspiration from when you write a comic?
@ErikBurnham: Inspiration comes from input. Living, listening, seeing – movies/TV, music, friends, family, books, magazines, the news… it drives the train of thought when it’s time to think about something. Put as much as you can in, see where a train of thought will take you. I once had an idea for a story that came from a book I read about gladiators. (And the idea had nothing to do with Rome, gladiators, or fighting in general… it just started my brain on a path.) That was the long answer — the short one is probably “coffee.”
@ErikBurnham: Guest writing is fun! It’s fun to play in different sandboxes. As to toning down the comedy — or, more accurately, the pop culture infusion — it was kind of nice to show folks that I can.
@xovercomics: You probably cannot go into much detail, but are there any plan for you to guest on the TMNT again after your work on Secret History of the Foot Clan in December?
@ErikBurnham: As of now, the only TMNT related project I have on my plate is pitching in with Mateus Santolouco’s Secret History of the Foot Clan. That may change tomorrow if Bobby emails and says “what would you think about…” but for right now, nothing else is set.
@xovercomics: Without getting too spoilery, are there any hints you can give us as about the Foot Clan mini-series?
@ErikBurnham: Mateus came up with a GREAT story. There are some really great images and ideas in this book, and I’m really happy to be a part of it. I don’t want to spoil anything… it’s safe to say that this is what the title promises: an epic Foot Clan story… you’ll see more in (I think) December. I just wrote and deleted about three things that would be safe to put before deciding that — they may not be spoilery spoilers, but they’re still more fun to discover in the reading.
@xovercomics: Before we end the interview, I do not think we could talk TMNT without getting your opinion on the following.
Michael Bay’s original comment: “When you see this movie, kids will believe one day that these turtles do exist. These turtles are from an alien race, and they’re going to be tough, edgy, funny, and completely lovable.”
I was not worried at first because the ooze is of Utrom origin; maybe he misspoke. I was completely fine with his comment; then this happened.
Possible movie synopsis: “After their planet’s destruction, four turtle-like alien warriors and their master come to Earth, where they join forces with reporter April O’Neil to prevent the extradimensional conqueror Krang from enslaving the human race.”
And recently at Comic-Con, Kevin Eastman reassured us a little bit with this comments.
Kevin Eastman’s comments at Comic-Con: “From what I’ve seen, it’s easily the best ‘Turtle’ movie yet. We’re talking ‘Raid: Redemption’-style fight scenes; we’re talking about epic ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ sort of effects. A lot of people are worried we pushed the release date from December to May, but the 30th anniversary of the ‘Turtles’ is in May, so it worked out perfectly. Every person that’s grown up inspired by that material wants to put their stamp on it a little bit. It just keeps getting better and better, and to have that opportunity is pretty awesome. I know that Michael [Bay] and his group really like that and that Paramount was supportive of that, so I think that it’s great. I grew up reading ‘Captain America’ and ‘The Avengers’ and all that stuff, and over the course of the comic book history, since ‘Avengers’ has been around, how many times has it been reinvented, reformatted, restructured, replatformed?”
Where do you stand on the new Ninja Turtles movie? Have you read the “leaked” script?
@ErikBurnham: I had the opportunity, and I’ve read some Facebook-posted clips, but I haven’t read the script itself. All in all, I just can’t get too worked up over [the script], though, and I’ll tell you why: until the lights dim in the theater and you see what you see, it’s all just speculation, and nothing they’ve done or said is locked in stone. Right now, there is no [new] Turtles movie: there’s a script, there’s talking points… but no movie. Not yet. The filmmaking process will change things as well, editing and new ideas that come up during shooting and reshoots and… see what I mean? Until I have something more concrete to look at this isn’t going to be any more upsetting to me than someone with a wild story idea on a message board or at a con. (Also I have high blood pressure, so I can’t just give in to speculative fury anymore.)
@xovercomics: I want to thank you again for taking the time to answer these questions. Anything you want to plug?
@ErikBurnham: Hey, thank you! Some fun questions… and now I’ll be getting back to work on Secret History of the Foot Clan! Oh, those zany ninjas.
Stay tuned for my review of IDW’s Micro-Series Vol 2 TPB collecting the 4 Micro-Series issues, Splinter, Casey Jones, April O’Neil, and Fugitoid. The TPB will be released in November 2012. Be sure to follow @erikburnham on Twitter for all things Ghostbuster, TMNT, and of course, zany ninja related.