You may not have marked it down on your calendar, but something notable is happening tomorrow: Comics publisher IDW will release Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles No. 73. That number sounds unremarkable, but for TMNT fans, it has great significance. The Turtles have been kicking and punching around in various mediums since they debuted in a small-press comic book in 1984, and during that time, they’ve starred in an array of additional comics put out by various publishing houses. However, no TMNT comics series has gotten past 72 issues before getting canceled.(That’s how long Archie Comics’ run with the characters went.) That means IDW — the comics industry’s leading publisher of licensed comics about popular-cultural franchises — will have the longest-running Turtles comic in history. And we have an exclusive look at it.
This longevity is a point of pride not just for IDW, but for the creators involved — one of whom is Kevin Eastman, the co-creator of the Turtles with Peter Laird. He works alongside co-writers Tom Waltz and Bobby Curnow and a changing cast of artists; in this particular issue, the art duties are carried out by Cory Smith and Ronda Pattison. “Keeping firmly in perspective, Peter and I never thought we would ever go beyond the first issue,” Eastman tells Vulture. “We figured if we sold half of the original press run, we’d at least be able to pay back some of the money we borrowed to print it.”
But, of course, the Heroes in a Half Shell ended up thriving, and their IDW incarnation has been one of their biggest successes. The series was a total reboot, which began in 2011 and launched what has come to be known among Turtles diehards as the “IDW-verse.” It has reintroduced classic characters, from April O’Neil and Casey Jones to Rocksteady and Bebop — and, most significantly for No. 73, the pink-tentacled alien villain known as Krang. The issue kicks off a new storyline called “The Trial of Krang,” which features, well, Krang being put on trial.
Waltz thinks the IDW series’s longevity is largely due to its emotional immediacy. “Quite simply, TMNT at its core is a story about a family’s day-to-day struggles,” he says. “Four brothers and their father, working together to find happiness in this crazy and sometimes cruel world. In some shape or form, we can all relate to that struggle. I mean, very few of us know how to use a sword or fight with nunchakus or leap across tall buildings, but nearly all of us know what it’s like to argue with a sibling or worry about a parent’s well-being, and so on.”
Curnow — who also edits the series — adds that the success also has to do with standing on the shoulders of giants. “I think we have a huge advantage in that we can take the best elements of the past iterations and mix and match them with our own story elements,” he says. “I think we’ve dug a little deeper into the historical/legendary aspects of the title, which could give it a bit of story depth that continues to bear fruit.”
As for Eastman, he’s just happy that he’s been able to stick with the green guys as long as he has. “The fact that two generations can enjoy TMNT is humbling at the very least,” he says. “I could not be more blessed. And to answer, ‘What about the next generation?’ That will be up to them to decide — but for now, I’d just like to thank the current one(s) for giving me the best job on the planet: creating/writing/drawing comics.”
Below, you can check out a few pages from No. 73 and bask in what longevity has wrought.