BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III

Some collaborations are ideal. They combine components which meld perfectly without much effort. And then there are some crossovers that are better than you can possibly imagine. Enter BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III.

This new series by James Tynion IV and Freddie E. Williams II wraps up the Batman and TMNT collaboration trilogy while also highlighting some milestone anniversaries for both characters — their 80th and 35th, respectively. The series is co-published by DC Comics and IDW.

ComicsVerse got an advance look at BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III #1, and quite frankly, it’s a joy to read. It’s true to both properties, bringing the darkness and grit of Batman as well as the humor of the Turtles. Tynion and Williams did not merely thrust them together but developed them into new versions of themselves which coexist effortlessly.

Take a peek at BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III #1 alongside our interview with Tynion and Williams below. You can pick up the full issue at your local comic book shop!

The Composition of BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III

ComicsVerse: What’s your personal history with the Turtles, and with Batman? Did you grow up a fan of them? Does it sometimes feel like you’re playing with the toys from your childhood toy-box when you’re working on this series?

James Tynion IV: The honest truth is I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t care about both Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was raised on the cartoons. I had a LITERAL toy chest at the end of my bed growing up filled with action figures from both franchises. As I grew up, I think I moved a bit closer to the Gotham mythology, but it was the Bat-Family that always spoke the most to me, and made me want to write comic books. And in the 8 years I’ve been writing comics, the majority of my work has been rooted in Gotham, with the entire Batman family…

But when I got asked to do the first Batman/TMNT crossover, I was able to pull all of my deeply entrenched TMNT fanboy love out of the dusty corners of my childhood and discover them all again anew. I rewatched all my favorite iterations and started nailing down what I loved about each and every character and what I wanted to bring to the crossover.

And then I picked up the toys and started smashing them together, and three volumes later, I haven’t stopped!

Freddie E. Williams II: My first memories of Batman are from seeing him on SCOOBY-DOO, when I was really young — Or maybe that was just the first time I saw a crossover with Batman, because I used to watch the SUPERFRIENDS cartoon all the time, but they are such early memories, the SCOOBY-DOO crossover really stood out to me though.

With the Turtles I kind of remember an older cousin of mine telling me about them, at least I remember him having to slowly repeat the title word for word to me because I’d never heard anything like that before, but it has such a wonderful rhythm to it! Flash forward, maybe a month or so later, I was at a Walden Books with my older sister, and saw the TMNT color reprints (where all the turtles have the red masks), it was “Book IV” so I spent my allowance on it!

BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III
BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III #1 page 1. Courtesy of DC Entertainment and IDW.

CV: How do you mash these universes together, in looks, personalities, etc.? It feels like the lore blends so seamlessly in BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III, but I also feel like that’s not an easy accomplishment.

JT IV: I get this question a lot, but honestly, I never had much difficulty with it.

I think because we’ve all grown up with a “serious” Batman that we take for granted how over the top and silly the concept is when you just look at all the details… Yes, there are very serious crime stories with deep pathos told with Batman, but he’s still a billionaire in a costume punching science fiction monsters and clowns while driving around in a car made to look like a cool bat. In the same way, I think people see the TMNT as a bit more of a lighthearted franchise, but there are just as many gripping, deeply emotional TMNT stories going all the way back to the original black and white Mirage comics.

Both of these mythologies are, at the end of the day, about Family. With Batman, it’s about the family he lost as a child, and the one he’s rebuilding with Alfred and the Robins. With the Turtles, it’s more actively about the dramas of being in a strange family together. When you think about it in those pure emotional terms, ignoring giant walking talking turtles or people wearing kevlar Bat-Costumes, it’s honestly very easy to bring these two worlds together.

And that’s how we did it for the last two crossovers, but the REALLY exciting thing this time around is that we’re going a step further than just bringing these two franchises into a room together. We are splicing together a combined universe, where the Batman and Turtle origins have been merged on a single world, by one of the Turtle’s deadliest threats – KRANG! Coming up with this whole crazy new universe we’re starting the third volume with? Now that was tough! But I’m so thrilled with the results and can’t wait for people to see it.

FEW II: When I was about 12, within a year of each other came out the Tim Burton Batman film then the live action Ninja Turtles film, which are similar in their visuals, and I think the combo of them being so close together essentially melded them in my mind as being sort of in the same universe, at least they felt like they could be.

BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III
BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III #1 pages 2-3. Courtesy of DC Entertainment and IDW.

CV: Tell me a bit about the process when working with two publishing companies? Is it really any different?

JT IV: It might take a week or so longer to get an approval, just because there are more people who need to rubber-stamp the project, but honestly, it’s been a dream, going all the way back to the first Batman/TMNT crossover a few years ago. We’ve been very lucky to work with some very smart people who have the best interests of both franchises at heart. My favorite example has always been a scene in the first crossover where Michelangelo knocks over Alfred Pennyworth with a skateboard, and some pizza goes flying in the air. My original script went for the gag, where Mikey was more worried about the pizza than Alfred, but the notes we got back said that Mikey might love pizza, but he would ALWAYS care more that he knocked somebody over. That’s literally the biggest change I can think of in literally 18 issues over three miniseries.

Honestly, when we started pitching [BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III], there was one huge element of the series that I wanted to pitch that I was so sure we were going to get shot down. I thought it was going to be a whole big fight between DC, IDW, and Nickelodeon… But when they heard it, they were immediately excited and on board. That’s the benefit of working with a bunch of people who genuinely care about these characters and want good stories told with them.

FEW II: They’re all great to work with, and by now we all have a fluid report in working together. It CAN take little longer for a full round of approvals, but we seem to be on the same page (so to speak), so things are smooth!

Writing BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III

CV: If we haven’t picked up either of the first two crossovers, why should we pick this one up? And if we have, what new do you have in store for us!

JT IV: Honestly, BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III is one of the most lunatic ideas I’ve ever put down on paper. Like I said, I was convinced that nobody would agree to do it. That I’d tell it to Freddie, and he’d say it was too far, or that we’d pitch it and get shot down. In the first Batman/TMNT, we brought the Turtles, Shredder, and the Foot Clan to Gotham City… In the second volume, we brought Batman, Robin, and Bane into the Turtles’ New York City… But in this third one, we smash the universes together in a story we’re calling CRISIS IN A HALF-SHELL. And the bad guy is KRANG, who has taken over the ANTI-MONITOR’s body and is living in his belly.

We start issue one in a world that shouldn’t exist, and see a stranger come INTO that world and throw it into chaos when he tells the Turtles and Batman that they are not meant to exist in the same universe! That they are under the control of two of their greatest villains. The rest of the story shows them trying to set things right. To make the characters from the Batman Mythology remember who they are, and the same for the characters in the Turtles Mythology… And along the way, things are going to get VERY dangerous for them.

BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III
BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III #1 page 4. Courtesy of DC Entertainment and IDW.

CV: What’s the process like when you’re deciding which characters to put together? How do you decide it’s the right fit?

JT IV: When we were building the Combined Turtles/Bat Universe we got to blend a lot of characters, but honestly, it was really a matter of just following my gut… Bringing Nightwing and Leonardo together made sense. Same with Red Hood and Raphael, and Red Robin and Donatello… Damian and Michelangelo were a bit more of a personality stretch, but my excuse is that Mikey is more representing the mantle of Robin in GENERAL rather than Damian as a specific personality. Really we didn’t want to stretch the worlds beyond credulity… honestly, we wanted to make sure that these were the mashups that a young kid might make if you told them to smash the worlds together and combine them. We want to surprise everyone with a jolt of childlike joy, but we want to play INTO that childhood joy every minute of the issue.

CV: Whose personality came naturally to you, and was there a character that was a little harder to work with than you may have expected?

JT IV: There is one character who, in ALL of the crossovers, is simultaneously the easiest to write AND the hardest. There are moments where I really get into Michelangelo’s mind and I’m ready with a thousand jokes in my pocket… And there are other moments where I need a joke and I can’t find one for the life of me. Mikey is just chill on a level the other Turtles aren’t, and he genuinely sees the best in everyone and everything around him. Sometimes when you’re deep into the darker parts of other characters, he’s a tough one to switch gears back to… But I’m proud of all the attempts I’ve made!

BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III
BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III #1 page 5. Courtesy of DC Entertainment and IDW.

The Art of BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III

CV: Batman and the Turtles have such an iconic look, how do you go about putting your own spin on them while also keeping them true to the original?

FEW II: Oh yes, and each of these characters have been drawn so many times, by so many artists that it can be quite challenging to make them look unique – the truth is that I did my homework ahead of time – and looked at a LOT of different iterations for all of these characters – took note of what I felt was the most ICONIC looks to them, then worked out style guides for myself – what costume elements work best with the type of body proportions I like to draw etc. (Writer’s note: You can see the style guides for Volume 1 and Volume 2 on Williams’s site! They’re truly awesome.)

Williams’s Michaelangelo development study sketch from Volume 1 of Batman/TMNT. Courtesy of Freddie E. Williams II.

I feel that this process is invaluable, and its something I rarely used to have time for on the previous 9 years of projects I’ve drawn for DC – rather, that I never made the time for. It’s something I now do for each project I draw- to figure out what works ahead time as opposed to “just figuring it out on the boards” as you are drawing the series. You do get to know the characters better over time, which is why there are differences between the volume 1 and volume 2 style guides, but it’s important so I feel like I have a strategy going into the series.

Additionally, my Ninja Turtles are HEAVILY influenced by the original Eastman/Laird versions, I love the look of them!

CV: I’m a huge Harley Quinn fan, and I loved seeing her with the hyenas again. I feel like I don’t see that enough, and I love their look in BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III. Can you tell me a little bit about the character design for Harley and the babies?

FEW II: My first version of Harley was more influenced by the Queen of Hearts from Alice and Wonderland – then with some great feedback from IDW and James, I went the more Ninja / Karai (Shredder’s Daughter) approach, which felt more organic for this combined world.

Hyenas are just fun to draw, and one of them has a bow in its hair 🙂

BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III
BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III #1 page 6. Courtesy of DC Entertainment and IDW.

CV: Can you tell me a bit about working with Kevin Eastman, Jeremy Colwell, and Tom Napolitano? I love hearing about the collaboration process of art teams.

FEW II: With Tom, in working on my rough layouts, I TRY to allow for lettering placement and spacing – I place these eclipses and caption boxes, so I know not to overcrowd the page. Then in the process of working on the finished art, sometimes I accidentally drift elements/ compositions and kind of forget to mind the lettering placement, and Tom ALWAYS finds an ingenious way to work out lettering placements, even in the toughest of predicaments I put in him. I’m always relieved when working with Tom, any time I get a PDF lettering proof, and see how he fixes all the problems I threw at him!

Jeremy puts more work into colors than anyone else I’ve ever worked with and the end results are fantastic! Coloring over Ink Wash is a unique challenge – it’s easy to go too dark, or to neglect highlights and flatten out the art (making the end results look muddy), But not with Jeremy, who is uniquely skilled in his color usage, balancing and execution. We work very well together, having a lot of back and forth on the direction and feel of the work, especially early on – he’s super awesome and meticulous- his final colors transform my ink wash into something that resembles an Oil Painting. It’s fantastic!

Kevin Eastman is one of my all-time heroes! And he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet! Smart and without ego, so it’s easy to have a lot of back and forth with him. Also, his disarming charm took much of the intimidation factor out of working with him early on. We had collaborated on a couple of covers for IDW and a TMNT/Ghostbusters cover which were a BLAST to work on with Kevin – but then we did a collaborative issue of the KAMANDI CHALLENGE. And this was one of the biggest pleasures of my recent career – where Kevin and I worked in his home studio for a week together (a stint of 5 days straight, then later 2 days) where my dream came as true as it can in the modern era, of working with Kevin Eastman at Mirage Studios- ever since I got that TMNT Book IV from Walden books, and read the bio in the back, that mentioned Mirage Studios, I wanted to work there with them!

Working on KAMANDI made that come true, and NOW working with Kevin on some cool Batman/TMNT interior stuff is a continuation of, and made that dream come even truer!

Working on Batman/TMNT is an amazing thing! I’m super lucky to be drawing it, and to be working with such wonderful and talented people! I can’t wait for you all to read the series and geek out about it as much as I am! 🙂

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