Andrew : A pleasure to interview another TMNT fan turned writer, Will. How did you get your start in the writing field pre-"Tales of the TMNT"?
Will : A pleasure to be interviewed by a fellow TMNT fan, my good man! I've pretty much been "toiling in relative obscurity" at the whole writing thing for most of my life. I did the requisite amount of angst-filled poetry through my teens, killing certainly acres of trees with my endless navel-gazing. From there, I decided I wanted to write novels. So I did one of those, and it was pretty awful. Then I went to New York University to study for a summer, and learned a ton about the craft of storytelling. From there I went home, worked at a bookstore for a few years, wrote for a number of things for some super small-press publications, before finally getting what I think of as my first "big break," writing for a newsstand music and culture magazine published out of Chicago called Punk Planet. It was my work there, in fact, that I think helped land me the Turtle gig. Because the Editor of Tales (the all-incredible Murphy) knows someone rather well who used to write for it... so maybe that was my "in."
Besides Punk Planet, I've also written for the magazine Maximumrocknroll, the newspapers Kalamazoo Gazette, Real Detroit, and Metro Times. I had a short story published in the book Action Poetry, a character based on me in Zoe Trope's memoir Please Don't Kill the Freshman, and a character named after me in Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk's NYT-bestseller, Diary. The writer Dito Montiel used a review "blurb" I wrote on the back cover of the second printing of his book, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, and I was thanked in the second printing of a book by the writer Shawna Kenney.
That's the highlight reel, to be sure. But you could put together everything I've done before this - every little bit of it - and all that combined wouldn't mean as much as writing for the Turtles does. It's truly been a dream come true for me.
Andrew : So far you've handled the writing chores on backup stories within Tales of the TMNT Vol. 2, #30 ("The Mother of All Anger"), #33 ("Credo"), and the upcoming #35. Like with Tristan Jones, it's just so amazing to see these longtime TMNT fans coming into places where they're able to creatively add to what has always been (and will always be) the source material -- the Mirage comics. How did you land this opportunity?
Will : Well, 2006 was not the easiest year for me personally, or for my family. For one, I was 29 years-old, which is an age where I think most people start examining their lives - and probably get seriously depressed with all that they haven't accomplished yet. I'd written a lot, sure. After my horrible NYU novel, I've written three or four more. But so far, none of them have been published. I've had a lot of other stuffed published, but I've still had to work a string of various day-jobs. I got my Bachelor's Degree at Western Michigan University in ENGLISH, for goodness sake. I mean, would you like to super-size those fries, sir? :)
So you take that, and then add to it that my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer that year. This was a king-sized wake-up call for me (and for her, obviously). When I was 11, my Dad had been killed by a drunk driver while he and I were coming home from a camping and canoeing trip. I was the only one who survived, although I was in a coma for a while, suffered a closed-head injury, and had more broken bones than I can even remember.
My Dad's long-dead, and now I might lose my Mom. I'm 29 years-old, and probably haven't accomplished even 1% of the goals I've set out for myself. All of this kind-of compounded made me realize that some things (like the "Mecca" that I long considered Mirage Studios to be) were probably a lot more... attainable then I once thought. I lost a LOT of my fear last year, and started going for more of what I've always wanted.
Like writing for the Turtles! Which I've longed to do since I was a kid. So last year, I wrote for my first script, wrote my first pitch letter, sent it all off... and now here we are. Mom's fully recovered, and I'm a Turtles writer :).
Andrew : How long have you been a fan of the TMNT?
Will : Since I was 11. Like I said before, my Dad was killed that year, and I was hospitalized for almost three months. When I finally got to go home, my whole world had changed. I started Junior High late, it seemed like everyone I knew had changed (they had, of course - we were all going through puberty), and my best friend, who was also my father, was dead. I had a lot of survivor's guilt to deal with, and school, and family, and... everything else.
The Turtles cartoon came on at 3:30 PM, Monday through Friday, and it kind of became a daily ritual for my three best friends and I. The show became an anchor we could all hold onto amidst whatever personal storms we were sailing through.
Andrew : How has the writing experience been thus far on Tales?
Will : Are you kidding me? It's been great!
Andrew : How are the Mirage gang treating you?
Will : Well, Murphy makes me come by and wash his car once a week. This sometimes proves difficult, as I live in Michigan, and he doesn't. Peter has me shine his shoes... but usually he just mails them to the house, and I send them back.
In all seriousness though, they've been so good to me. There hasn't been a day gone by that I'm not completely awestruck by what's happened.
Andrew : Care to offer the TMNT readers out there any clues or hints about the upcoming Tales of the TMNT Vol. 2, #35, your story that will be featured within? Anything we can look forward to from it? (and can you tell us when it will ship/hit comic shelves?)
Will : Well, the story is called "Secret Spirit," and it's about Leonardo. It's the back-up to "The Pantheon," a story by the dynamic-duo of Chris Allan and Dean Clarrain, a.k.a. "the Archie Guys." I didn't grow up reading the Archie books, but the stuff those two have done in the current Tales series has just blown me away. To share space with them in an issue is an absolute honor.
The book comes out this Wednesday (June 13). As far as clues or hints, I'll just say this: the story was inspired in large part by the book Driven from Within, by basketball legend Michael Jordan. It's kind of about what really drives us inside, which is not always what we tell other people... or sometimes, even ourselves.
Andrew : Want to tell us anything about future TMNT tales you may have brewing on the horizon beyond #35?
Will : Well, every one of my stories so far has dealt with parts of the Turtles lives that they maybe don't share with others. The root of Raphael's anger, Donatello's secret life as an essay writer, Leonardo's... what happens with Leonardo in #35 (no more clues for you, Andrew!).
You'll be seeing more of this for sure, with other characters, in the future. It's good times. Especially with Mikey ;).
Andrew : OK, if Peter Laird and Steve Murphy called you up on 3-way tomorrow and you were given carte blanche to write "The Ultimate TMNT Story," what would it be for you?
Will : I'd love to answer this question for you, Andrew. But I plan on one day writing my "Ultimate TMNT Story," so you'll just have to wait and see :).
Andrew : Any particularly fond memories of the TMNT for you personally over the past 23-some years of Turtles of any of their many incarnations? Any highlights?
Will : Gosh, so many. The cartoon, like I said, was so important to me growing up. The 1990 movie, going to see that with my three best friends on opening night, after having read everything I could get my hands on about it. That was really one of the first moments of my life that I was experiencing something I KNEW I was going to remember forever, even as it was happening. Just an amazing evening.
There's also just been a ton of truly great stories in the current volume of Tales. "Scars," in particular, from #6, I thought was just incredible. It really turned everything I thought about who the good guys and bad guys were right on it's ear. In that issue, I just loathed Leo, and really liked and empathized with Cha Ocho.
Andrew : What are your favorite TMNT stories or story arcs? (even beyond the Mirage comics, if you have any)
Will : My all-time favorite TMNT story also happens to be my all-time favorite comic book, and that is Volume 1, Issue 11. I probably first read it when I was 12 or 13, and I know it was in the First Books full-color reprint that collected the Leonardo one-shot, as well as issue 10 and 11.
Something about that story - maybe it was the fact it was epistle fiction (a story told through letters - I mean, what are journal entries but letters to your future self?), which was a form I fell in love with in the third-grade, reading the amazing kid's book Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary. Maybe it was the way each turtle got his own space, his own story, all in one book. I don't know what it was, but I'm sure I've read that collection at least 500 times throughout my life. It just blew me away. It still does, today.
Andrew : This may be an offbeat question, but on the last page of your "Credo" backup story (an excellent read, by the way, and reminded me a bit of Dooney's "Challenges," a personal favorite), you give a firm date for it -- "February 18, 1987" and cement (at least for Donatello) as "16-years old" at this time. Does Laird/Mirage have any sort of Book of Continuity for folks to refer to or were you allowed to do a bit of chronology extrapolation yourself? With so many self-contradictory facts and dates between the first and second halves of TMNT Vol. 1, it's hard to make heads or tails of things. What made you choose this particular time for Donnie?
Will : Dooney's "Challenges!" You hit the nail right on the head, my friend! I LOVED that little book as a kid. Still do, in fact.
My first published script, "The Mother of All Anger," was written out of the anguish I felt that I might soon lose my Mom. You'll note that Raph is alone in the farmhouse in that story... much like Leonardo was in "Challenges." There's no way I would have written the Raph story w / o reading Dooney's so many times, growing up.
But (to answer your question!), the first story I'd ever thought of was "Credo," which came from my love of Vol. 1 #11. Ever since I was a kid, I'd always wondered, "What the heck was Donatello trying to write in that issue?" Because it never was explained. I would lie awake at night for years, trying to come up with good answers for what he was working on.
Thanks to the works of a couple other far better writers (Robert Fulghum - who I kind of cribbed a line from in the story, and Richard Bach, who inspired the ending), I finally found what I'd long been looking for. The date in the story is one of the days where April doesn't make an entry in her diary in Vol. 1 #11.
I surmised that Donatello, being seriously science-minded, would not be the type to give up at a task, even if it took him try after try. Think Edison and the 10,000 experiments before he finally invented the incandescent light bulb. So, he went back to the typewriter and hammered out "Credo," on one of those "in-between days" from that incredible issue.
I had no problems with anyone at Mirage for doing this. My feeling on it was, if I didn't tell that little tale, I don't know if anyone else ever would. And I wanted to! I mean, really, really wanted. So, I did :).
Andrew : And it's fantastic that you did. Do you have any heroes or peers you look up to in the comic book field?
Will : Lots, way too many to list. I love Chuck Dixon, have since I was a kid. Gail Simone, a writer for DC who took over Dixon's Birds of Prey book and will soon be writing Wonder Woman, continues to blow me away, month after month. Ben Dunn, creator of Ninja High School, has long been a favorite.
Lately, like seemingly pretty much everybody else, I've fallen for Brian K. Vaughn's work, especially his mini-series The Escapists, which is based on characters from Michael Chabon's novel, The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay, which was also great. Vaughn's books have taught me a lot of new tricks, some of which I've used in upcoming stories for Tales.
And, obviously, I totally look up to Ross May, Jake Black, Tristan Jones, and all my other peers and elders (Murph, Peter, Jim Lawson, Dooney, Talbot) at "Team Turtle." The fact I get to "bat clean-up" for them will always overwhelm me.
Andrew : Are there any other comics you follow on the side apart from TMNT?
Will : I'm a HUGE Bat-fan, and read just a ton of the "bat books.". I also love the aforementioned Birds of Prey, The All-New Atom, Mail-Order Ninja, Scott Pilgrim (so funny), Usagi Yojimbo, Paul Sizer's graphic novel Moped Army, Powers. And that's just off the top of my head.
Andrew : I fired this off to Tristan as well, but big Gary Carlson/Volume 3 fan that I am, I'm curious -- where do you stand, if anywhere, on Volume 3?
Will : There seems to be a lot of anguish in the TMNT fandom about what is and isn't in "official" continuity. If there's one thing I truly don't understand about comics, and I guess my fellow comic readers in general is... who cares?
For me, those afternoon cartoons, and then on the phone with my friends in Junior High is part of my continuity. The scene in Volume 3 where April tells Mikey that someone wants to pay him and publish one of his poems? That's so part of my continuity. I LOVED that bit, just so much, because I've been through it... the wonderful rush of acceptance. There's nothing quite like it. So that's part of my continuity, including other various bits and pieces from Volume 3.
And sure, there were parts of Volume 3 that didn't float my boat, but so what? Not everything in the world is made for every person, and I'd be a fool (or a bigger one, as it were) to think that everything should be. I'm grateful for Vol. 3, just like I was for Volumes 2 and 4, just as I am for the current Tales series. Knowing these things are in the world makes me happy. Simple enough :).
Andrew : I'm certain you've caught the new TMNT movie by this time. Any thoughts either way on it?
Will : Great fun. I saw a midnight showing of it. I maybe wish it hadn't been so "busy," but overall an outstanding effort.
Andrew : I just came upon -- as many did here in the last couple of days -- your article on Michele Ivey/TMNT for the Detroit Metro Times (can read article here). How did you come upon this assignment, and is there other existing (or forthcoming) freelance work of yours we can take a look at out there in cyberspace?
Will : I first heard of Michele and her wonderful work... I don't really remember where. I know an old girlfriend of mine went to high school with her, so it was probably years ago. But I'm really not sure anymore.
When the Turtles movie was about to come out, I saw interviewing her as an opportunity to help get the word out about the movie (and Michele's incredible story) to a larger chunk of my local community. Kind of "activist journalism," I guess... because I was very much biased in favor of my subject. Anyone who can commit so deeply, can love anything so purely... just amazes (and humbles) me.
So, I pitched the story around, and landed it at Real Detroit, another local newspaper, where it came out about a week before the movie. Metro Times took a little longer to get back to me, but we finally got it out in print this past Wednesday, for better or worse. MT is a far larger paper, yet they "fixed" Michele's name wrong (only one L!), and definitely had their own "slant" that they wanted for the finished product.
As for more stories online in the future, I'm not all that sure. Most of my upcoming stuff will probably be in-print only, but you can always check www.willtupper.com, to see what I'm up to :).
Andrew : All right, I've been told that no proper TMNT-related interview would be complete without asking who the person's favorite Ninja Turtle is. What's yours, and why?
Will : It's such a cop-out to say "I love them all equally," isn't it? Although if I had to pick, I'd have to go with Michelangelo. He's a lot dee... oops. Almost let the cat out of the bag, there. Or I guess it would be the turtle out of his shell? Stay tuned, true believers! :)
Andrew : A pleasure again, Will, and thank you (hopefully we can do a follow-up at some point!). Anything else you want to say to those reading out there?
Will : Thank you again, Andrew. I'd love to do a follow-up, or anything else, whenever you want. I feel so grateful to you, and all the other Turtle-fan webmasters (and sites members) who are out there. You're all just the best.
If there are any other Batman fans out there, I'd certainly recommend the book Wisdom from the Batcave: How to Live a Super, Heroic Life, by the writer Cary A. Friedman. I read this book a few months oago, and it's among the best self-improvement, comic book history, inspiring, empowering things I have EVER come across. You can find out more information at www.batwisdom.com. Rabbi Friedman has become both a friend and mentor to me, and my love of the book inspired me to set-up and run the official MySpace page for it (www.myspace.com/batwisdom), and we'll be finishing a for-print interview we're doing, soon.
Be sure to grab "Tales of the TMNT," Vol. 2 #35, shipping THIS WEEK (6-13-07)!
See a preview here.
If you're not already doing so, please
support Mirage Publishing's "Tales of the TMNT" Volume 2.
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check here to find it -- support the TMNT comics! they would be happy to special order
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at this location.