The World's Finest Interviews Matthew Manning on Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures and More
Q & A Conducted by James Harvey
The World's Finest caught up with writer Matthew Manning to discuss his work on the new Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures mini-series. The series, co-published by IDW and DC Comics, features the Dark Knight from Batman: The Animated Series and the Heroes in a Half-Shell from the Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, thrust into a massive world-colliding adventure. On the eve of the six-issue mini-series' launch, Manning was able to answer a few questions about what fans can expect from the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures mini-series, along with his influences, his other works and why this is going to be a mini-series fans will not want to miss. Continue on to read more from Manning.
Preview images from Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1 can be found at the end of the Q & A.
Preview images from Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1 can be found at the end of the Q & A.
WF: First off, can you tell us how you became attached to this project? I assume there was an immediate interest given your recent and past works?
Matthew Manning: I've been a writer for the last two incarnations of the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Amazing Adventures), so I was approached by my editor Bobby Curnow to pitch for this series. I think being one of the regular writers for the former series Beware the Batman and The Batman Strikes helped my chances a bit, too. I even got my start in writing comics from the late, great Justice League Adventures series.
WF: So, the animated worlds of Batman and the Ninja Turtles collide. Why do you think this unlikely pairing works so well?
MM: The shows are pretty similar in tone. Sure Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles uses a bit more humor, but there's a shadowy aspect to it, with plenty of serious (and sometimes even horror-themed) episodes that help bridge that gap into a more Gotham City-like world.
WF: Further, this series features the Batman: The Animated Series version of the Batman and the “Nick” version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Why were these two specific iterations brought together, and why do you think it’s a perfect pairing?
MM: Both series have proven to be a hit with the fans. Batman: The Animated Series is an undisputed classic, combining some of the best elements of Batman comics and movies, while the current Turtles series does the same. If I'm honest, the Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon is my favorite incarnation of those characters. It combines a lot of the serious action from the original Turtles comics with the aspects of the original cartoon that proved to be so popular with the fans (a healthy dose of humor, different color bandanas, Bebop and Rocksteady, etc.). It looks pretty, and it's really well-written. It's a good sign when I can watch a show with my daughters and genuinely laugh along with them.
WF: So, now that we established that, what can you tell us about the story? Any hints?
MM: While I don't want to get too deep into spoiler territory, I will say that we get to see Arkham Asylum villains escaping into the New York City of the Turtles' reality. Why and how they do that, you'll have to read to find out. But needless to say, there are a lot of great opportunities to pair characters that wouldn't meet otherwise. I think fans will be excited by the sheer number of villains we get to touch upon without ever making the book seem overcrowded.
WF: Is there a sense of pressure doing a series like this, one with likely huge expectations from fans, especially upon hearing the first issue is already going back for a second print?
MM: Oh yeah, there's pressure. Not only from the readers and from myself (I'm a tough critic), but we're also looking at making sure IDW, DC, and Nickelodeon are all happy with the story. So far, though, there's been a ton of support from each company, and I'm hearing great buzz from the fans.
WF: Can readers expects nods, references and homages to the Batman: The Animated Series and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series? Will this series establish its place firmly in the continuity of both series?
MM: If there's ever a place for homage panels and dialogue lines, I think this series is it. We certainly have a couple really fun sequences planned (see the preview art from issue # 1 for an example), and there's also a few Easter eggs planted here and there for diehard fans like me.
As far as continuity goes, we're setting the story between Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures in Batman's universe. The Turtles continuity is a little bit tougher to pin down because their series is still ongoing. But I'm attempting to place the story right before the Turtles head into space in the previous season (Note: Season Three of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’).
WF: Now, bringing together these two worlds, what types of opportunities does this present? A chance to revisit the Batman: The Animated Series world? Expand the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe?
MM: I'm not really expanding the universes outside of established continuity. This series is already packed as it is! But expect to see a lot of old favorites from Batman: The Animated Series and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, both working together and butting heads. The real possibilities comes from the unexpected team-ups.
WF: You have a long history with the DC Comics animated title. Was it difficult to slip back into those shoes? Is there a certain headspace you need to get into?
MM: Never for Batman. He's the easiest character for me to write when it comes to DC. I've been in his head since I was a little kid playing around our farm in a homemade felt cape. When I was officially offered the job, I watched a few episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, and I was good to go.
WF: To swing this over to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for a second, you worked on Animated titles. Can you walk us through your approach to that series and highlight some of your favorite works? How much Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtlesbackstory will readers need to know for the crossover?
MM: I've loved working on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' titles for IDW. I've had the chance to write a lot of fun stories, including two that shined the spotlight on the Turtles' unofficial mascot, Ice Cream Kitty. I've also been allowed to play with format a bit. We did a story that shifts from each Turtles' point of view, an idea I wanted to revisit ever since I did an issue of Beware the Batman solely from Alfred's perspective, in the style of a First Person Shooter video game. I also wrote a Splinter-focused tale that I'm proud of, and a few others that played with perception a bit. There's a full list of the issues I worked on in the comic section of my website if anyone is interested in checking them out.
As far as backstory goes, you won't need to know much about the Turtles other than what pretty much everyone already knows. Anytime we see an old villain from either show, we introduce them, making the comic accessible to all levels of fans, from casual to lifelong.
WF: Outside of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtlesyou’ve been keeping busy with an impressive array of special titles from DK, including the recently released DC Comics Encyclopedia – Expanded and Updated Edition. Can you walk us through your work on those and perhaps highlight a couple of your favorite and/or most recent works?
MM: I've been fortunate to keep busy these last few years. Since my career started around 2002 or so, I've written over 50 books for a variety of publishers. For DK, I recently wrote the Batman Character Encyclopedia. I followed that as a co-writer for the larger and more exhaustive DC Comics Encyclopedia. I'm now working on an update to a Spider-Man guide I wrote for them a few years ago. At other companies, my Deadpool history book Deadpool: Drawing the Merc With a Mouth is out from Insight Editions. And probably my favorite book that I've done, The Batman Files, was just re-released by Andrews/McMeel in a smaller version of its original hardcover format. It's a faux journal from Bruce Wayne's perspective, telling Batman's life story from the death of his parents to right before the New 52.
WF: It’s safe to say, given your work on the assorted books from DK, and your comic work, that you’re quite invested in the Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lore. Care to share a few of your favorite stories from both properties, and perhaps let us in on what may have influenced your work here on the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures crossover?
MM: While my inspiration for this series is mostly rooted in the episodes of each respective show, I have plenty of favorite comics from each property. For Turtles, it's hard to beat the original Eastman/Laird issues. I have a warm spot in my heart for the original micro series in particular. For Batman, it's a bit tougher to nail down. I'm a big fan of Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, but beyond that and other favorites like Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Batman: The Long Halloween, I really love the original Batman and the Outsiders run. These days when I need to recharge my batteries, I grab a bronze age Batman comic from one of my unread long boxes and relax. I've been delving into issues of The Batman Family lately, and having a lot of fun with those.
WF: Lastly, as we wrap this up, can you drop maybe two more hints or reasons – one for Batman: The Animated Series, one for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – on why we need to rush out and pick this epic crossover event as soon as it hits shelves?
MM: I don't want to hint too much, but expect an unexpected love triangle between characters from different dimensions (and perhaps different species). There's also a main villain working behind the scenes that you might not expect...
Overall, everyone has really turned in top notch work for this one. There's stellar art from all involved, from penciler Jon Sommariva to inker Sean Parsons to colorist Leonardo Ito to letterer Shawn Lee. Everyone at IDW, Nick, and DC has been very supportive and allowed us to add a few twists and turns to the story that you might not expect, and we get to add plenty of humor to Batman's world, while adding some crazy new threats to the Turtles'. Today I just gave the finished proof for issue # 2 a read, and there was a smile on my face the entire time. If that's the reaction you're looking for when you read a comic, then I hope you pick ours up!
The World's Finest would like to thank Matthew Manning for his participation in this Q & A. To find out more about Manning's work, check out Matthew K. Manning's website.
Click on the above images for a closer look at 'Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures' #1!