This week on Creannotators, I talk with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles writer and artist Sophie Campbell! We talk all things “Turtles Reborn,” how long Sophie’s planning to stay in the Turtle-verse, the debut of Tokka and Rahzar in the IDW Ninja Turtles comics, and creator-owned works like Shadoweyes!
On Comic Book Herald’s ‘Creannotators’ I’ll be interviewing some of my favorite creators in comics about specific runs, graphic novels or series, looking for their insights on the inspirations behind the work and ideas or hidden material readers may have missed. Creannotators is an audio annotative guide to enjoying the intricacies and thinking in the art. Thanks for listening, and enjoy the comics!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Is:
Writer: Sophie Campbell
Artists: Sophie Campbell, Ronda Pattison, Jodi Nishijima
Story: Kevin Eastman
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: IDW Comics
Selected portions of our conversation follow, and have been edited for clarity.
CBH: First question I have for you is I was reading up on some interviews you had done in the past. And one was in the comics journal circa like 2016, you mentioned that you were offered ongoing artwork as the artists with the turtles, but that you felt like you were maybe too much of a fan. Like you’d be too invested. And I’m curious now that you’re doing it: What changed?
Sophie Campbell: Before the northhampton Ark, back then, you know, Tom waltz was still, you know, doing his thing, but they offered me like a full run doing the art. I can’t remember what like, if it was just one story arc or what. But, yeah, I said no, because the Leonardo micro issue, which was the first one I did in like, 2011, it was just like, it was a real ordeal for me.
Yeah, I think everybody was kind of just like, you know, walking on eggshells a little bit. And, you know, every fan has, like, their own idea of like, what the characters are going to be and what they’re going to look like. I like the turtles with tails, like in Mirage; Everybody has their own idea. And, you know, being a fan, you know, I went into it, like, Okay, I’m just gonna draw the turtles, like how I do in my fan art all the time, or whatever, without kind of any regard for what [others were doing] and that kind of stuff.
That was no good. I drew them kind of shortened stumpy. And, you know, they’re, like, the turtles are a little too short. You know, could you make them a little bigger? This really minor stuff that like, nowadays would be like, no problem, like, sure. Taller turtles. You got it? But like, at the time, you know, it was like, my first full turtles issue that I’d ever done. So I was just like, Okay, this is it, it has to be the best. That’s the like, you know, like, this is what I’ve been waiting for since I was a child, you know?
Mentally I was just like, losing sleep over it and stuff like that. Like, it’s too much. You know, I was too invested. And when they offered me like a bigger job, I was just like, I can’t imagine doing like, you know, say 12 issues of like, you know, like take that Leonardo experience and multiply it by 12. I don’t know if I can handle that emotionally, it’s a little too much. So I said no. And, um, you know, they managed to get me back for northampton, which was great.
Things loosened up, everybody kind of loosened up. And, you know, there were a lot less notes that I would get back, you know, approval process was like, you know, in the old days, it was just like this hair pulling process or whatever. But nowadays, it’s like, you know, no problem, approval process, no big deal. And I think that was a lot of it, where, you know, they let me spread my wings more. And also, you know, I’m, like, 10 years older, I’m, like, more jaded, I guess, in the industry. And, you know, I like to think I’m more flexible now. You know, if my editor is like, you know, this one thing isn’t quite working. I’ll be like, sure, fine. Let’s change it. No big deal. Yeah. My editor Bobby, his best piece of advice was don’t sweat the small stuff. And at the time, I was just like, That’s insane. The small stuff is important. But like nowadays, I’m like, yeah, you know, don’t sweat the small stuff. Sure.
I changed as a person and a creator. And, you know, it’s just yeah, it just felt it felt right. To do it. And, yeah, um, I actually had said, no, when Bobby offered me to take over writing at first. I was like, wow, that sounds like a lot of stress. I was working on another book at the time. I was like, Yeah, I kind of want to finish this, this other book. And then, you know, I slept on it, you know, for like, a day or so. And I was like, Yeah, I should really do that. That sounds great. And then, you know, luckily the position was still available. Because it was pretty early on. And, you know, it’s been great.
CBH: And here we are. It’s been a fantastic run. So for those who are less familiar, we have post turtles #100 here. Basically, your run begins with this turtles reborn era. So we have mutant town setup where we have, like, humans who have recently been turned into mutants, like the turtles, right, whereas the turtles were kind of always turtles, these are humans who had human lives, and now have to react to life as like a giant porcupine, or, like, you know, the way we see in this universe. There’s a metaphor of one state of being to like transitioning to something else that’s evident here. And I think it runs through some of your works, too, like Shadoweyes. She turns into, like, kind of an alien superhero sort of thing. What are you most interested in about, like the setup of mutant town in this era of turtles in what it allows you to do? In story and in this kind of societal commentary that you’ve integrated into your works, you know, through the years?
Sophie Campbell: I’ve always been really interested in, like, people being transformed against their will, you know, whether it’s like a werewolf thing, or like the fly, you know, it’s like one of my favorites. There’s something fun about people being just transformed against their will into something else like whether it’s, you know, fully transformed into like a monster or transformed into like another person or maybe their arm is like a monster arm or something. And then, you know, they have to figure out, like, what to do, and how do they adjust and, you know, whether they, you know, take drastic steps to change back or something.
I didn’t want to turn it into like a body horror thing with like, the mutagen bomb. I didn’t want it to be like, you know, people like running around in the streets with these, like, animal instincts that they have now and stuff like that. Because it’s, you know, it’s never really been like that in turtles. But at the same time, you know, there’s like, the kind of, like, you know, societal implications where, like, obviously, if, like, all of a sudden, you’re like, you know, a mutant cow, or something, you can’t just go back to your job.
Originally, I wanted all of Manhattan to be mutated. Why don’t we just expand it to, you know, the entire city or whatever, and have it all walled off, like Escape from New York? Would have been really cool. But, you know, we were like maybe that’s a little too big. So so we just had it, you know, this kind of specific borough or whatever, of Manhattan, which was fine.
So there’s this area, there’s just mutants now, like, oh, the turtles they can walk around, they don’t have to, like, hide in the sewers anymore. Yeah. What does that mean? Like, what would they do? Like, what would they get to do? You know, stuff that they’ve never done before? And I thought that was really interesting.
CBH: So the plan right now is this is an ongoing, you’re on it until you decide otherwise. Which is for…
Sophie Campbell: The foreseeable future. I won’t be drawing as much because I have to, like, you know, I like I have to go off and have to finish my shadow eyes book. And I have some other stuff I have to do, that I can’t talk about, but, you know, I’ll still be writing it. I’m still going to draw #123 even though it’s not a final issue anymore. Um, so yeah, that’s gonna be good. I’m excited about it.
Check out the audio podcast for the full interview!
Music for Best Comics Ever by Anthony Weis. Check out more music at anthonyweis.com.
To learn how you can support Best Comics Ever and receive more exclusive content from Comic Book Herald, check out the Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/comicbookherald
For the Comic Book Herald reading club through every year of Marvel Comics, check out mymarvelousyear.com