A lot has transpired since last year’s SDCC Kevin Eastman panel. In the time since then, the current TMNT series from IDW reached the milestone 100th issue and Eastman praised writer Tom Waltz (also on the virtual panel with artist Ben Bishop) for taking the writing reins for these 100 issues. With Sophie Campbell currently writing the ongoing series, Waltz can finally step back and appreciate the gravity of the accomplishment of writing a hundred consecutive issues of a monthly comic. Above all else, Waltz emphasized that every comic is a team effort involving many people.

Kevin Eastman panel
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #55 variant by Ben Bishop

Bishop’s first foray into the TMNT universe (mainstream comic work for that matter) was a variant cover for TMNT #55. He’s certainly come a long way since the Raphael Macro-Series “Target R” issue, a personal favorite that came about from a discussion with Eastman a few years ago at Eastman’s home during SDCC. Despite the challenges in crafting a non-linear story with the issue, all the creators agreed that it came out beautifully.

The temporal nature of the book led Eastman to discuss the much anticipated The Last Ronin project, announced last December, that sees Eastman reuniting with his TMNT co-creator Peter Laird for the first time in decades. The genesis of the project began when, a few years ago, Eastman uncovered a story that was set in 2017, that he and Laird wrote back in 1987 towards the tail-end of their partnership on the original Mirage comic before the TMNT licensing explosion. After re-examining it with Waltz, Eastman realized The Last Ronin could take place in its own self-contained separate TMNT universe and continuity that by design leaned towards the sensibilities of the original Mirage comics.

Although Eastman did contact Laird to return and be more involved in the story, Laird said he was retired. Nevertheless, Laird gave Eastman and IDW his blessing to go forth with the idea. It seems that Laird’s involvement may be more minimal than previously assumed. However, the panelists did say Laird laid the foundation for the story. Given the nature of the story, it’s not surprising that Eastman likened The Last Ronin to The Dark Knight Returns.

Since Last Ronin was conceived in the ’80s as a story set in the future, Waltz admitted that it meant updating aspects that ironically have already come true. Waltz joked that Laird was practically Nostradamus because many of the things he plotted in the original Last Ronin story in ’87 have come true.

Unfortunately, artist Andy Kuhn, who was originally slated to draw The Last Ronin, has had to bow out due to scheduling issues and personal reasons. On a better note, Eastman was happy to announce that Bishop is now involved with the project drawing specific sequences for issues #2, #3, and #4. He also revealed that it’s a bi-monthly 5-issue miniseries with each issue clocking in at 40 pages. Look for the first issue to be released in September.

The delays and wait for The Last Ronin may be an annoyance for fans, but Waltz stressed that everyone involved wants to ensure that the project has enough staying power for decades. Waltz also teased big things for the 2020 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual he wrote, which hits shelves this Wednesday and is set within the time skip between issues #100 and #101.

At this point, Tom Waltz left the virtual panel and David Avallone, writer and Eastman’s collaborator on the semi-autibiographical comic Drawing Blood, joined. For those wondering about the status of Drawing Blood Book 2, Avallone revealed that the delays have been due to spending most of their time and energy into developing it as a television show. Avallone did jokingly tease that Book 2 has 30% more sex than Book 1.

Kevin Eastman panelThe remainder of the Kevin Eastman panel was a lively conversation on the real life places and events in Los Angeles that inspired Drawing Blood, and letting fans know to keep an eye out on social media for Drawing Blood updates. You can watch the Kevin Eastman panel in its entirety here.

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