Interview: Manning & Sommariva Talk BATMAN/TMNT ADVENTURES

At some point, we’ve all thought of amazing mash-ups we’d love to see. When two of those properties come together, it’s almost too much for the mind to fathom. Readers have recently seen Batman and the Turtles in the same series, but the animated universes…together? The excitement is absolutely palpable, and we’ve got the scoop from Matthew Manning and Jon Sommariva about what’s coming at readers in Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures.

Aaron Long: In the first Batman/TMNT series from DC, the Turtles went to Batman’s world. In this series, are things reversed? Can you discuss what challenges Batman and the Turtles will be facing in the first arc?

Matthew Manning: While the bulk of our story deals with many of the Arkham Asylum rogues finding their way to the Turtles’ dimension, we also get to see the Turtles in Gotham City before the series is through. I really enjoyed the first Batman/TMNT mini, so we’re doing our best not to step on any toes and head in a different direction with this one. Expect some interesting team-ups between Turtles and Batman villains, a few twists and turns in the plot, and even the seeds of an unexpected, cross-dimensional romance.

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AL: Both franchises have rich and large casts of characters. Who can readers expect to see in this series?

MM: Pretty much everybody! There are so many amazing villains we want to tackle, we’re trying to fit in as many as we can logically into our story. As far as heroes, our series is set firmly in the later part of the original B:TAS series, before it was redesigned to head over to the WB network. So that means this is the Dick Grayson version of Robin, a rather inexperienced Batgirl, and Batman with the iconic yellow oval. They’re all fighting alongside the newest incarnation of the animated Turtles, April, and even Splinter.

AL: How many hours of each show have you watched to channel the style of both series?

MM: Ha! Too many! I grew up with Batman: The Animated Series and used to run home from school each day to tape the show. This was back in the days of VCRs and terrible Fox Kids Club commercial segments. So it’s fair to say that I’ve seen ever episode of the show multiple times. Turtles was also a childhood favorite of mine, so years ago, when this new cartoon debuted on Nickelodeon, I decided to check it out. I was really impressed with the quality of the show in both the writing and animation departments, and have caught every episode since. I love it, and so do my daughters.

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Jon Sommariva: Like Matt, I was a kid when B:TAS was out and I loved it, so I was already very familiar with the look and feel. I’ve spent a few hours watching an episode or two here and there as needed, and then many, many hours trawling the internet for various reference files. Mad Love was one particular episode that I revisited and got my wife to watch with me. I’ve watched that classic Batman intro a bunch of times too. I had the theme music playing in my head constantly for about the first 2 weeks as I was getting into the swing of things. It still pops in there every time I am drawing scenes in Gotham or Batman himself and I’d be lying if I said that I don’t start humming it out loud. Same thing for the turtles, except it is mostly the 80s cartoon song that pops into my head. I’ve watched a lot of episodes from the Nick series, and its such a great show. One of these days I’m gonna take some time off and just watch the whole lot of them!

AL: Both of these franchises have iconic animated histories. What aspects of these universes have you been most excited to explore?

MM: I’ve been fortunate enough to work in both these universes before, in the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Amazing Adventures and in the early days of my career in the pages of Justice League Adventures. The real thrill in this series for me is to find common ground between the two worlds, and mix and match for the sake of the story. It’s so much fun to see Michelangelo annoy Batman’s enemies with his particular brand of humor, or see Batman struggle against mutant creatures way more powerful than what he’s used to handling in Gotham. Plus, what could be more entertaining than putting the Shredder and the Joker in the same room together? Let’s just say that it doesn’t go well…

JS: Going into the project, I was most excited to get a chance to draw all the iconic characters. Both franchises have such a rich cast of heroes and villains, so it’s a dream project for any artist. Then, as I started really getting into the details of some of the iconic locations, such as the Turtles Lair, Arkham Asylum, the Batcave, NY city rooftops or Gotham itself, I realized that these were just as much characters that I was excited to draw as Batman, Leonardo or Harley. So now, I’m just loving exploring these worlds and whatever Matt decides to throw my way.

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AL: Jon, an you discuss what goes into merging two animated esthetics into a unified comic book style?

JS: Honestly, it’s not something that I stressed too much over. I felt that if I really started to over-think it I just wouldn’t be having fun, so my approach was to just draw the characters that I know and love in a style that I feel very comfortable with. I studied a lot of Bruce Timm as an obvious reference point – I think you’d be foolish not to when dealing with this version of Batman, but really I am mostly drawing the way I draw and my style is what is unifying these worlds from the visual side of things. Fortunately, that style lends itself very well to both franchises (I hope! eep!). I’m pretty obsessed with detail, so I make sure I do my homework, and I feel that is the key to bringing what we know and recognize from each property into one seamless and beautifully blended world. It’s not hard though… I feel like I’m just blending strawberries and cream here. They belong together!

AL: Any final words about Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures?

MM: It’s been great hearing from readers that this team-up is a dream come true for them. Take that and magnify it by a thousand, and you’ll get my feelings on writing the series. I think Jon and I have stumbled onto something very special with this one, and I hope fans agree.

JS: Yeah, I completely agree with Matt here. Definitely a dream cross-over. I was going to say that my inner 12 year old was hyper-actively unable to contain his excitement for this project, but the truth is this old 30 something ginger bearded man is just as hyped! I hope that fans feel the fun and excitement that we are feeling on every page of the book.

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