The following questions for Gary Carlson, writer of all 23 issues of Volume 3 of Image Comics' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 3), were gathered from TMNT fans of the NTML mailing list, the TMNT-L message board, and Mikey's TMNT message board.
Alies Meerman : Looking back on Volume 3, are there any things you would have liked to do different?
Gary : Not really. I wish we could have gotten the book out faster and more often. Frank fell behind in penciling and we never caught up. Editor Erik Larsen wanted the same basic creative team for the entire run, which I thought was great, but that meant no fill in issues. Getting to issue #25 would have been nice.
Nacho Nacho : [according to Peter Laird] Volume 3 is not part of Mirage Continuity, how do you feel about that?
Gary : That's up to them. TMNT are their characters and they can and should be able to do whatever they want with them. I appreciated the opportunity and enjoyed writing those stories. Mirage pretty much let me do whatever I wanted to and didn't tie my hands in any way, which I appreciated. If they prefer to go in a different direction, or totally ignore what we did, that's up to them. The movies and TV series are outside the "real" continuity, so we're in good company.
I knew at the time there was criticism of our work from people who had worked on earlier TMNT series. That was fine with us. I don't think any of us had been TMNT readers before starting our run. After researching everything that had gone before, we still weren't big fans of all of it. The Eastman/Laird material was great, especially the "Return to New York" stuff. That's sort of what we were aiming at.
Nacho Nacho : If you have the chance to write more stories for the Vol. 3, what would be the main plots?
Gary : I'd certainly tie up a few loose ends, like Leo's hand and explore/explain Donny's armor. Back then there would've been a gang war with the mob and the Foot, Mike's book would've been a bestseller, and there would've been a search for Leatherhead. There was also Cheng stealing Splinter's life force and Lady Shredder too.
Leonardo15 : Did you enjoy writing Volume 3 of the Image TMNT?
Gary : Yes, it was great. I consider Erik Larsen and Frank Fosco to be good friends and being able to work with them on a daily basis was wonderful. Erik has been great to me personally over the years and offering me the opportunity to write the TMNT was one of the best.
Donatello Sanford : Who is/was your favorite Turtle?
Gary : If I had one going in, it was probably Mike from the first animated series. The party dude! Writing them, I don't think I had any favorites and tried to find interesting things to do with each of them. Erik wanted to treat the boys as if they really were teenagers and Mike got most of the teen angst. I always thought that there was sexual tension in Raphael's fighting with Pimiko.
HorseTechie : What kind of projects are you working on now?
Gary : I've been writing and editing Big Bang Comics for about 15 years now and still do one or two specials a year. I'm working on a fairly wild one called PROTOPLASMAN at the moment. He's a pliable guy somewhat like Plastic Man. I'm also working on a novel.
Andrew : How would you describe your former working relationship with Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird?
Gary : I thought it was good. I'd write a short plot description and fax it to Mirage and to Erik Larsen. Peter would say yes or no or offer some alternatives. There were never any major or even minor disagreements that I can recall. Basically they let us do the book that we wanted to do.
Andrew : Did Kevin Eastman/Peter Laird contribute to the creative process of Volume 3 to any degree?
Gary : Early on they gave us some dos and don'ts. No female turtles, no human/turtle sex. Otherwise, Peter read the plots and offered suggestions. Sometimes he asked where something was going and I'd explain exactly what I had in mind. They initially suggested that we kill off Splinter in issue #1 to start off with a bang and force the boys to grow up. Maybe we goofed up by not doing that.
Andrew : In retrospect, do you think any of the factors that led to the cancellation of the Image series could have been avoided?
Gary : I think we would have had a better shot if the book had actually come out every two months. I'm sure we lost readers due to the gaps between books. I always felt it was kind of a low point in general for the TMNT popularity when we started our series. People were tired of them. Not the real fans, but the public in general. That's what people told us when we started the Image series.
Most non-comics people were only familiar with the TV series and the movies and the fad was over. They weren't even retro cool yet. We intentionally set out to do something totally different from the cuddly TV & movie turtles. We wanted to do a grim and gritty violent series, to get back to the basics of the initial Eastman/Laird material, real Frank Millerish stuff, and that's what we did. These were not going to be cartoony turtles. They were meant for someone who had grown up on and away from the TV show. Unfortunately, we were screwed right from the start. Everywhere we went to push the first issue, stores had someone in a fluffy turtle costume and people were bringing in their four and five year olds. I kept telling parents that the book wasn't really appropriate for such young kids and pointed them toward the Archie series.
We knew the book was in danger of being canceled by issue #16 or so. Toward the end, we all took pay cuts to keep it going. there was talk of someone else taking over the publishing after #23, but it didn't happen.
Andrew : Some fans believe you maybe went too far in injuring the Turtles. What would you say to these people?
Gary : Sorry about that, but it was done for a reason, not just to be mean. These guys were fighting with swords and sais all the time. You're just going to accumulate wounds if you do that.
Because it was going to be a black & white book (again, back to Eastman/Laird basics) Erik Larsen requested some way to differentiate between the turtles because they all looked the same in black & white, or even all wearing their original red masks. So Raph's face got scarred up. He looked cool in Casey's hockey mask. Donny's shell got busted up and he was fused with the organic armor and grew bigger and bigger over time.
Leo losing his hand was the start of getting rid of Don's armor. Leo's hand was going to regenerate itself some way, and we would've discovered that Don's armor was keeping him from healing and had to be exorcised.
Andrew : Though Mirage has decided to recently kill off Klunk the cat in the new "Tales of the TMNT" book, many of his fans remain. What made you decide to bring him back in Volume 3?
Gary : I just tried to use as many elements as I could from the earlier books to keep up the sense of continuity. Plus, it was a nice humanizing touch.
Andrew : If Mirage came to you to work on/write a new TMNT project, would you participate?
Gary : Sure. Why not. It was great fun the first time around. And you TMNT fans are great!
You can still back order most of the issues
out of this solid volume of the TMNT's adventures
(as of this writing, the only issue unavailable is #1 which you can probably find online or on eBay)
off the official TMNT site, www.ninjaturtles.com, at this location.
Check out Gary Carlson's Big Bang Comics on the official site here.