Back in 2020, IDW published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin, a 5-issue miniseries based on an old story outline conceived by TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. In the vein of Dark Knight Returns, Last Ronin is set in an alternate dystopian future and finds Michelangelo, the team’s usual party dude, as the last remaining turtle on a quest to avenge his family. The miniseries was a smash hit spawning not just action figures but even a video game adaptation. So it didn’t come as a surprise that IDW announced a sequel miniseries, The Last Ronin II: Re-Evolution, focusing on the new generation of Ninja Turtles teased at the end. 

During New York Comic Con, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Last Ronin II co-writer Tom Waltz to discuss how and the entire creative team involved with Re-Evolution plan to top the first Last Ronin miniseries.  

Taimur Dar: The Last Ronin: Lost Day Special one-shot a few months ago introduced some new characters like the current leader of the Purple Dragons, Jigsaw, as well as others like Tinker Smith and detectives Frank Corbin and Richard Miller. Can we assume they’ll be playing a part in the upcoming The Last Ronin IIRe-Evolution miniseries?

Tom Waltz: Yes. We invented those characters for Lost Day with the intent that they will make a reappearance in Re-Evolution. Initially [with] Jigsaw, we were playing with the idea of him being Hun but as we started writing the story, we realized this was a new character. Ben [Bishop] came in with some cool designs like the artificial arm and he had this military look. I had this whole other story for this guy. As his persona changed, it directly affected some of the storytelling that we’re going to do later. That’s how it’s always happened from the beginning. One thing will lead to another that we weren’t expecting. My favorite of those characters is Tinker Smith II. We definitely have plans for her in the story. Corbin and Miller is a funny thing because they’re characters who have appeared in other iterations of the Turtles. Both characters have appeared in the IDW ongoing series. They’re just this running gag of these two bad cops. If you look at the names, it’s an homage to these two creators that we’ve really liked. That being said you will be seeing them again in Re-Evolution.  

Dar: I can’t resist asking the inspiration for having Tinker Smith’s favorite movie be Tommy Boy?

Waltz: The big reason I wanted to do it is because I love Tommy Boy and in the story she says how she has these really good memories of watching it with her dad. It’s a movie that I would watch with my kids and you can just watch it over and over again. It’s comfort food. You’re always going to laugh. I also wanted to show how even though she has issues blaming April for her father’s death, she’s still a good person at heart. It gave me an opportunity to have “Fat guy in a little coat,” which is a cue for Uno to pick on Odyn. But Tinker comes to his defense and says, “He’s not fat. He’s a big cuddly tank.” It put Uno in his place and it was a nice moment for Odyn. Ben Bishop nailed it when he drew it. The biggest question at the time was if we could have that scene because we didn’t know if we could do it legally. But it turned out it was okay. I thought it was a scene only I would get but you’re one among many who’s said they love that Tommy Boy moment. So I’m glad we put it in there.  

Dar: As you mentioned with the IDW ongoing series, it’s pretty impressive how much you’ve been able to mine from the entire TMNT franchise. For instance, Darius Dun and the Street Phantoms from the Fast Forward cartoon I never expected to see again. For Re-Evolution, are there any familiar characters and concepts from other media that will appear in the Last Ronin II miniseries?  

Waltz: We talk about that often but I don’t think we’ve settled on anybody specifically. The biggest thing for us is if we do that it’s to service the story. Like I said, when we thought we were bringing Hun in that was a nice callback to the other versions. But we realized Hun didn’t really serve this story because this is a different character who can play a whole different role [but] still working with the Purple Dragons. During the run of the IDW comics we’ve always called it, “cherry picking.”  Like you said, there’s just such a plethora of characters to choose from that you never run out.

It’s funny you brought up Darius Dun. For me, I was the one who wanted to bring in Darius and was disappointed with what happened. Right when I felt that he was getting interesting, we killed him. And it bothered me because I was just starting to get into the groove writing him. He was starting to feel like our Kingpin character. We had a lucky opportunity when they decided to do the second Turtles/Ghostbusters crossover. They needed ghosts so this was our chance to redeem ourselves a little with Darius Dun and bring him back. Erik Burnham and I sat down and brought him into the story. A big part of that was just because I was disappointed that he had such a quick exit from the series.  

Dar: From the covers, we know that the new generation of turtles wield all the signature weapons of the original turtles. What led to that decision as opposed to giving them different and distinct weapons?

Waltz: That was very deliberate. In Master Splinter’s journal and what Mikey was talking a lot about in the original Last Ronin is this idea of being a well-rounded warrior. You can’t rely on just the one weapon or style. In The Lost Years miniseries that was something Master Yip was also telling Michelangelo when he was training with him. You can’t master your weapons unless you master your hands first. We felt when Mikey came back to New York, he would be training Casey [Marie Jones] in all these different forms and weapons. It seemed to make sense that that would be how she would train her students to be. They should be able to wield all these weapons. We hinted that each turtle favors a weapon. We see Yi favors the bo staff like Donatello. Odyn has the nunchucks. Uno has katana. And obviously Moja has the sai. We wanted to show that Mikey’s training mattered to Casey and she took it to heart so that her students could use all those weapons too but also pay homage to her master. It opens up storytelling opportunities that we might not have had otherwise if they had a specific set of weapons.   

Dar: By now the meaning of the names of the new turtles has been revealed. In this internet age, it wasn’t too hard to figure out all the names mean “one” in a different language but there’s an actual deeper significance. What was the inspiration for that?

Waltz: The names were something we took very seriously and took a long time. There were a lot of different ideas that everybody threw out. We way we circled to the one concept was, I was talking about my time in the Marine Corps and boot camp. I told Kevin, “When you’re in boot camp, you don’t really have a name. They call you recruit. You don’t even have a rank and you have to earn your rank. If you want to be Private Waltz, you had to pass boot camp. The whole point of boot camp is to break everybody down and turn you into a cohesive unit and then discover your individuality coming out of that. But you’ve got to learn how to work together as one. Kevin heard that and thought it as interesting. He said, “They would be one team and #1 in Casey’s heart because she was their mother figure too.”

The next day Kevin said, “I had some ideas based on that recruit thing you were talking about. What if their names meant one? But it was based on the different languages that Mikey experienced on his journey from Japan back to New York City?” Yi was Chinese and Odyn was Russian because he had to fight in the Ukraine at one point. We had Uno as Spanish and Moja as Swahili because we had an African connection at one point. I looked at the names and aesthetically it appealed it me. Trust me, we tried all kinds of things like different artist names. I even said, “What if Casey like rock ‘n’ roll and they were named Jagger after Mick Jagger?” In the end, this is what worked and afterwards there was no going back.

Dar: Since IDW acquired the Turtles license more than a decade ago, I’ve loved not only how much has been added to the proverbial toybox and mythos but seeing these new characters and concepts translated into other media. Alopex, for instance, appeared in an episode of the 2012 TMNT cartoon. We’ve already seen various action figures based on The Last Ronin. There’s no doubt in my mind that these new turtles will make the jump outside of comics whether in action figures or animation. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings on all this.   

Waltz: I would love to see that. I’m not going to doubt anything anymore. Getting Last Ronin done was a huge job for us and a huge accomplishment. We thought if that was all we did, we were happy. We told the story we wanted to tell. When it took off like it did, all of a sudden, we started seeing statues. It was happening so fast. I think it even surprised Paramount and Nickelodeon because they were selling out. We had the toy companies asking us to send more toy designs. Even obscure Foot ninja called the synja. They wanted everything. That made me realize there’s a market for this. People want these things. We absolutely hope that carries over. The Last Ronin video game has been announced from AAA Games. It’s very loyal to the story we told. I would not be shocked if there’s some sort of Ronin movie or TV series. They’ve got to be considering it.

Last Ronin IIAs far as the four new turtles, it’s going to really depend on how people respond to the book. Our main priority is making sure this is a worthy follow-up to Ronin and we’ve been very careful and cautious about this story we’re telling so it doesn’t just feel like the four turtles with different names. We want them to be unique and appeal to a new generation and the older fans. This just a natural transition to new turtles because they can’t live forever. Somebody has step into their shoes. We’re hoping if people feel like these are the rightful heirs to the original four then I think everything takes care of itself as far as action figures and toys. Anything is possible.  

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin IIRe-Evolution #1 is out February 28, 2024

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