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Interview: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Co-Creator Kevin Eastman Talks The New Movie And Its Upcoming Sequel

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It's amazing to think that Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has now been around for 30 years. What began as a black-and-white comic book has reached into nearly every form of entertainment. The turtles have been hits in television, movies, music and even video games. And, judging by the worldwide take on the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, that's not about to change anytime soon.

With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles available on Digital HD now (and coming to Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, and DVD on December 16), T-Lounge sat down with the Turtles' legendary co-creator Kevin Eastman to talk about the new film, its upcoming sequel, and the possibility of new TMNT video games.

T-LOUNGE: It's been three decades since you and Peter Laird put the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book together on your kitchen table. Did you ever imagine you'd still be talking about the turtles 30 years later?

Kevin Eastman: Oh my goodness, no. We were positive that we wouldn't sell a single copy of the very first issue. [Laughs] We figured we could give it to our friends and family for Christmas for the next few years. It really came out of such an awesome, heartfelt place. Pete and I both grew up as fans of Jack Kirby. We both grew up as huge fans of comic books and comic book storytelling. Much to our parents' chagrin, we would proudly announce that we wanted to be comic book artists when we grew up. And our parents would be like, "Oh, no. Get a real job first." [Laughs] Put that into perspective the fact that we're here talking about it 30 years later, it's humbling and it's great. I'm living the dream, and I have so many fans to thank for giving me the best job ever.

The new film began with a bit of controversy amongst the hardcore fan base when they heard some of the details. What was it about Michael Bay and Jonathan Liebesman's angle on the project that convinced you that this was the right direction for the turtles?

Both Michael and Jonathan - especially Jonathan, who I have great respect for and think he's just an awesome guy - were great. On day two, Jonathan called me in and said, "I just want to come up with a way to bring the turtles into a today kind of story, but I want the heart and soul to be true to everything you originally created. We want to update and change some things."

Even right down to the look of the turtles in the new movie. It was based on a comic book that Michael Zulli did for us many years ago, before even the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was made. He took a more realistic tone to the turtles and their styling. So they wanted to make a great movie and an exciting movie.

I told them that, much like when we introduced the new Nickelodeon series, there were fans that were horrified that we were doing computer animation as opposed to traditional animation. And now they love it. It goes right back to when we did the first animated show. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a black-and-white comic book that had a lot more edge to it than an animation show for kids. The original fans were mortified, but have since grown to embrace it, to a certain extent. We all have our soft spots and our hardcore fan line that we draw with our heroes that we grew up with.

Is it tough for you, as a creator, to try to please both the hardcore fan and the new fan while moving the creation in a newer direction?

It is. What comes to mind immediately is when I was growing up and reading comic books - Captain America, The Avengers, Daredevil, Batman, etc. There always seemed to be new creative teams. That's the nature of the industry. I still remember Daredevil #158 when they introduced a new penciler named Frank Miller. Each person had their own version of the characters and their own vision. Some were incredibly inspiring - like Frank Miller's The Dark Knight - and some were less inspiring, but you still liked them. You still loved the character. You might not have liked how they did the characters exactly, but you still loved that they embraced most of the heart and soul of those characters.

When we were working on and engineering what was going to be this movie, much like when we did the new IDW series and the new Nickelodeon series, there were variations in all of them. We just hoped that fans would stick with us and see that the guys are still the guys, but this is the way we want to spin the story.

I think having you behind the project is a big thing for fans, as well, because they know that this your baby and your going to take care of it.

For Michael Bay and Jonathan Liebesman, that was word one from day one. They said, "We know this is your baby and we just want to make sure that you're involved and you have some say in it, and can help us make a great film." That was really inspiring because they certainly didn't need to. I don't own an interest in the turtles anymore, but they came to me and said they wanted to make a great film. That was inspiring to me.

News for the sequel is starting to hit the web. You have David Green on board to direct, and there's been some talk about getting Bebop, Rock-Steady, Casey Jones, and maybe Krang in the film. Any other surprises fans can look forward to?

That's what has been so cool about all this. Even the new animated series and the new comic series, in each of those versions we created a new universe and a new foundation based on 30 years of turtle history. We could pull ideas that we liked, change them a little, tweak them a little, redirect them a little bit, and within that foundation there's plenty of room to introduce new characters and new things that can be equally cool.

Casey Jones is a critical character. He's the second human character ever introduced to the turtles, so we definitely want to see him back. I would love to see Krang. He's just an awesome bad guy that offers endless story possibilities. Of course, any new mutants (Bebop, Rock-Steady, or anybody else) offer some great material to mine. We hope to come up with some surprises and some things that I hope fans will get a big kick out of. A little something new with a little something old.

Was the absence of some of those characters in this first film just a result of having to do the basic world building and not wanting to bring in too many characters? 

That was definitely there. We didn't want to something like in some of the later Batman movies where they brought in too many characters at once. Even some of the new Spider-Man movies, they were trying to cover too much territory with too many classic characters and too many new characters. I felt like it took away from the story a little bit, so with this one we wanted to keep it sweet and simple.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has spawned some very memorable games through the years. The original arcade game and the NES game come to mind right away. A lot of those classic games are getting the retro next-generation treatment lately. Any chance we could see something like that for some of the classic TMNT games?

Oh, man. I hope so. That would be awesome. Some of the stuff that they were able to do with those games is fantastic. The four-player arcade game was the best game ever. I still have fans coming up to me talking about the original Nintendo game. They say, "You made it too hard! It took us forever to get through all the levels!" [Laughs] I'm so impressed with the technology and the creativity that goes into the games. I think that, much like with all these new versions of turtles, that they put that same kind of energy and enthusiasm into a new turtles game. Keep it on the cutting edge. That, to me, would be awesome.

So you're interested, but you haven't heard anything just yet? 

I'm being coy because I've heard lots of stuff, but I don't want to give away too much because somebody from Paramount will come down and beat me up or something. [Laughs]

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is available on Digital HD now. It arrives on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & DVD on December 16.

(All photos: Paramount Home Entertainment)

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