Kevin Eastman Panel: TMNT, The Last Ronin, & Drawing Blood #SDCC

Continuing Comic-Con@Home 2020 Kevin Eastman, along with Tom Waltz, and Ben Bishop held the Kevin Eastman panel dedicated to past tidbits and a look at work coming in 2020. Starting with some reflection by Kevin Eastman on where everyone is at now, and leading into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100, which came out December 2019.  Eastman then handed over talking to Tom Waltz, who has the distinction of writing on the first 100 issues of the longest-running TMNT comic, the current series from IDW, which is still going and up to #106.

Kevin Eastman Panel Annoucement
Kevin Eastman Panel Announcement


Speaking of the road to #100, the biggest concern Tom Waltz had was introducing the first female Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle into comics Jennika, who now has been a part of the series as a turtle for ten issues and has her own mini-series. Now that Waltz isn't the primary writer, he can look back with great fondness for the story they told and be amazed they made it to 100 issues. Eastman also is shocked by the number of issues but believes the Waltz-verse or IDW-verse is now the definitive TMNT universe.

Ben Bishop then added to the retrospective, starting with his first work on the book, a cover for issue #55. Bishop attributes his contributions to TMNT being due to Eastman and spending time with him at Eastman's house on the last night of SDCC a few years ago.  The two began discussing what would be Bishop's ideal TMNT story, which Bishop started "rambling on about like one night out with Casey [Jones] and Raph, and most of it's like inner monologue, different colored narration boxes … and they're just beating up for doing it for reasons and in different ways with different things on their minds." So the story became TMNT Macro-Series #4.

From Top Left to Bottom: Tom Waltz, Ben Bishop, & Kevin Eastman
From Top Left to Bottom: Tom Waltz, Ben Bishop, & Kevin Eastman

Waltz is quick to point out that while the Macro-Series let them do some great Turtle stories, the book over time was full of A LOT of characters, and while they were important to the overall story, the Turtles themselves were not always as "front and center in their own book." So, the Macro-Series for the individual Turtles was important to do, and while Waltz reached out to other creators to do books in the Macro-Series he knew the Raphael book was one that Eastman and Bishop had ideas for. Eastman then shifted to talking about the TMNT 2012 Annual which he and Waltz did, where Eastman "had this huge grid of what I wanted to do, this sort of Guy Ritchie sort of heist, and I think I was like what the hell am I supposed to do with this, but Tom helped me figure it out and make a sensible story out of it."

TMNT The Last Ronin #1 Main Cover
TMNT The Last Ronin #1 Main Cover

Working with Waltz and talking about it led Eastman to talk on their next collaboration, TMNT The Last Ronin, something that sprung out of Eastman's huge collection of … stuff. Many know that Eastman boarders "on hoarding.  I save everything, especially you know artwork, little scripts, and scribbles, and things and I came across a number of years ago a story that Peter Laird and I wrote and [in ] 1987 was set to 30 years in the future which is 2017, and I just loved it. [It] had certain elements in the story that what Peter and I were thinking is that it was sort of the tail end of us intimately working together on the ongoing comic. So there was this idea that we had, Peter and I, … and I showed it to Tom at some point when I been noodling around and making some notes on it and because we've been talking about so many other things that we wanted to do together.  [So] late 2018, 2019 we started bantering it about it pretty regularly we sort of started [feeling it leaned] definitely towards the Mirage Universe in every way, shape, and form, based on Peter Laird's involvement. I went back to Peter, and we had a number of conversations about him becoming involved in the story, which he gave us his blessing, and said, 'I'm kind of retired, but you go forth young men.' So from that, Tom and I really dug deep in and dug into an idea that started on this thread … [of it set] 30 years in the future [and] we didn't have to pay respects to any particular Turtle Universe.  WE sort of, what do we call it? Kind of our Dark Knight [TMNT story]."

With the regular book in the hands of Sophie Campbell, who Eastman believes even after the IDW book being ten years is making the book new and "fresh," Eastman and Waltz are now free to work on the Last Ronin. As Tom Waltz adds, one of "the funniest things, it's a future story, but a future story that was plotted in the 80's so what about the future stuff we have now it's not so new [or] futuristic. Working on [the Last Ronin and Turtles] again … proves it still has stores to tell.  That this property, this brand, this there's whatever you want to call this, this is just lightning in a bottle [that] continues to strike."

Talking about the Last Ronin, Eastman and Waltz had one big announcement, the fact that artist Andy Kuhn had to step away from drawing the comic for personal reasons, so Ben Bishop has now stepped into that spot. The book, however, will likely not meet it's August planned launch but is looking more likely to begin in September, though if any of issues has already been drawn by Kuhn is not mentioned, though it seems likely #1 has been, and the book plans to keep its bi-monthly schedule of five issues, each 40 pages in length.  Eastman promises that Nickelodeon is aware the book will be dark, and the "edgiest Turtle story that has been done in a while, [has] some repercussions and it tells a really good story of love and family and resolution and redemption."  However, it is a series that is in its own universe, neither fully in the IDW or Mirage cannon, and is something designed to be "evergreen," something that be read right away or years from now and still seem relevant to the Turtles.

Going back to the monthly IDW book, Waltz and Eastman talked about how, when they left the book, they ended it with a big event, that when #101 started Campbell had jumped to six months after that event in #100.  So now with the TMNT 2020 Annual Waltz is going back in telling a story set in that aftermath, about a month after #100. In particular, they are focusing on characters Campbell hasn't shown yet in the current monthly such as Shredder, the Rat King, Karai, Karai's mutants, Angel, and a special Leatherhead/Krang combo. Adam Gorham is the artist for it, and Waltz really enjoyed returning though it "felt weird because that was the first time where I felt like kind of a guest writer in the world 'you' built."

From Top Left to Bottom: Kevin Eastman, Ben Bishop, & David Avallone
From Top Left to Bottom: Kevin Eastman, Ben Bishop, & David Avallone


With that, Tom Waltz left and David Avallone, writer of Drawing Blood, Eastman's semi-auto-biographical comic book based loosely on himself, which Ben Bishop, Troy Little, and Eastman had done artwork for. Avallone recalled that he was reminded that July 9th, 2020, was the fifth anniversary for Drawing Blood as he and Eastman had discussed the book on that day in 2015, and Avallone had come up with the title.  After that, the two had tried developing it as a TV show, but then reworked the first script into a three-issue comic book that served as volume 1 of Drawing Blood that was created and funded through Kickstarter. The book then had another successful campaign for Volume 2 on Kickstarter, but now the three creators are putting their energy back into trying to make Drawing Blood a TV show again.

After discussing Drawing Blood, Kevin Eastman wrapped the panel up by reminding fans to check the Drawing Blood Facebook page for updates and to thank everyone for all their support.

The full panel can be viewed here:

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About Ian Melton

Japanese Teacher, Comic Book, Manga, & Anime collector, LCBS worker, father of 2, fan of far too many things for far too long...
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