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SDCC ’20: Talking the 5th Ninja Turtle and more in IDW’s Draw a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle panel

Turtle Power!

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Journalist/Writer Caleb Goellner moderated IDW’s “Draw a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” panel, a free-form discussion with TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles writer and artist Sophie Campbell, and Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles artist Chad Thomas while the artists work on TMNT related pieces.

Eastman referred to the current IDW TMNT series as the “definitive Turtle run,” for its ability to blend the various iterations together while simultaneously adding to the mythology.

Moving to perhaps the biggest development for the TMNT franchise in recent years, the introduction of a new female Ninja Turtle Jennika, Goellner inquired about the genesis of the character. As Eastman conceded ever since Venus de Milo, Turtles fandom have not taken kindly to the prospect of a new female Ninja Turtle. Debuting as a Foot assassin in TMNT #51, Jennika was not intended to stick around but proved to have unexpected popularity with fans. Discussions with co-writer Tom Waltz planted the seeds for Jennika’s mutation and when Sophie Campbell drew the first Jennika Turtle designs, Eastman said that she nailed it.

Campbell definitely felt the pressure when asked by Waltz to provide designs for Jennika’s Ninja Turtle form for pitch meetings. Likewise editor Bobby Curnow and Nickelodeon had reservations initially due to the aforementioned stigma of Venus de Milo. Ultimately the execution paid off since Jennika has been so well received by fans.

Goellner observed that compared to other fandoms, TMNT fans are more friendlier than others, or at least more welcome to change. That perfectly segued into the most drastic reinvention of the TMNT franchise with Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Artist Chad Thomas is the artist on the current Rise of the TMNT tie-in IDW book and is no stranger to the all-ages TMNT comics having drawn the previous TMNT cartoon tie-in series for IDW. Thomas attested that the high-energy kinetic action of the animated series can be challenging to translate to a static comic book page.

Eastman has the privilege of being involved in both the 2012 TMNT series as well as Rise in various capacities. Big Trouble in Little China was a particular influence for Rise of the TMNT producers Andy Suriano and Ant Ward, a film which also inspired Eastman with the original TMNT series. As Eastman has mentioned previously, Casey Jones is based on Big Trouble protagonist Jack Burton.

The current storyline of the IDW TMNT series by Campbell upends the traditional status quo with the Turtles abandoning the sewers and living above ground in a closed-off section of Manhattan known as Mutant Town. For Campbell, it seemed like a natural direction for the team that allows her to develop a larger mutant culture. It’s less the Turtles joining society than creating their own society according to Campbell.

Campbell teased a new activist coming up now that Old Hob, leader of Mutanimals, has been deemed unfit to run Mutant Town. In discussing the different viewpoints between human and animal mutants, Campbell believed that Jennika is the perfect character who bridges the two groups. Eastman divulged that the bomb that mutated New York was originally planned to transform the majority of the city as opposed to a small section.

The panel then took a break to reveal the progress of their art pieces. Eastman drew Casey and Raph, Campbell naturally drew Jennika, and Thomas drew Donatello as depicted in Rise.

While it may have been virtual, this panel was the first time Thomas got to meet Eastman. He then thanked Eastman for being a formative part of his childhood and the chance to work on an all-ages TMNT comic is a dream project for him. Incidentally, Eastman related that he had a similar experience when he met Jack Kirby and hearing fans thank him always means the world to him.

And with that the “Draw a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” panel came to a close.

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Jennika by Sophie Campbell
Casey Jones and Raphael by Kevin Eastman

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