TMNT Last Ronin Ben Bishop Interview–Lost Years and Turtle Toys

Image for article titled TMNT: The Last Ronin's Ben Bishop talks about designing turtles for the lost years

picture: IDW

Today sees the start of TMNT: The Last Ronin – The Lost Yearsa new anthology series that looks back at the past and future of the IDWs beloved apocalyptic Ninja Turtles offshoot. But it’s not just a return for those in distress Iterations of the Turtlesbut for Last Ronin Artist Ben Bishop – and the sequel to a dream come true.

Bishop returns to the illustration The Lost Years alongside SL Gallant in a five-issue miniseries that is expanding The Last Ronin‘s universe with stories set both before and after the main narrative of the original series – a dark future where Michelangelo, the last surviving brother of the Hamato clan, fights the authoritarian descendants of the Foot and seeks revenge for their fallen family .

The Last Ronin‘s Gangbusters popularity – even among IDW’s already very popular constantly TMNT Comic book series, now well over a hundred issues in number, has seen the series explode beyond its comic book roots in TMNT fan shop, allowing Bishop to return to his world not only on the pages of comics, but also on the packaging art of characters for a franchise that he has collected throughout his life. To learn more about it The Lost Years and Bishop’s return to The Last Ronin— including designing a new generation of Ninja Turtles — io9 recently had an email chat with the artist. Check out our full interview below!

James Whitbrook, io9: How did you feel seeing the reaction below you TMNT fans to The Last Ronin? Did you ever expect to return to this version of the turtles?

Ben Bishop: Incredible. Touched. Confirmed. As if I finally made it. I had been trying to get to the inside of these things TMNT Comics for… well, 11 years – but actually since 2012 actively working on the IDW books. So, now finally at the table and getting my chance to literally shape the future of TMNT (who are largely responsible for shaping me and my work – not to mention what Kevin [Eastman] and Peter [Laird] shown was possible with self-publishing and creator-owned comics). It was quite an out of body experience to say the least. A great moment for me and my artwork. Working on these pages, with these characters, the seriousness of what I actually draw and the overwhelming positive response to it… It’s a feeling I’ll be chasing for the rest of my life. That’s how I want to feel when I make comics, and that’s how I want readers to feel when they read them. It was very special. The kid inside was very proud of me.

April and Casey-Marie check out a new quartet of turtle siblings in the final pages of The Last Ronin.

April and Casey-Marie check out a new quartet of turtle siblings in the final pages of The Last Ronin.
picture: IDW

io9: Tell me how you got into it lost years following the original The Last Ronin Series. What made you come back?

Bishop: I mean, when Kevin Eastman asked you to design NEW TURTLES, there really wasn’t a question. I got to work right away. The design of the characters and locations was very important to all of us The Last Roninbut I think Kevin and I have a special fondness for the opportunity to just think of something or design something completely new. The Last Ronin was a dream project in that sense, because not only was I able to draw these monumentally large and well-known characters, but I was also able to bring my own aesthetic, ideas and sensibility to them. Kevin came with many, many ideas and sketches, and being the true co-creator, he let me go from there. And I have to say that part of the “great feeling” I described above is no doubt due in part to Kevin’s trust in me. We work great together (as people can see in our other book, draw bloodwith writer David Avallone).

io9: In a certain way you deal with the already established aesthetics The Last Ronin here, even if we see it from different times and perspectives. How did you want to take and develop the work you did on the original series here in this new series?

Bishop: So, lost years is both a prequel and a sequel to The Last Ronin. (People should have collected that I guess so hopefully I’m not spoiling anything here!) So specifically in regards to my post this time, I’m dealing with the post-ronin Frame sequences featuring the new Turtles, Casey Marie and April, while SL Gallant covers the extensive flashbacks to an earlier time The Last Ronin. Each issue also jumps forward in time. So I take that established Last Ronin world and these characters and creatively ensuring that they grow and visually evolve through the artwork in each issue.

For example, maybe things get better as time goes by, technology advances, clothing gets smarter and more streamlined… or maybe things are going the other way and things are getting more and more post-apocalyptic and sinister. Meanwhile, these new turtles are growing. I put a lot of time and care into incorporating these storytelling elements into the artwork. Hopefully it will make a big difference in further immersing the reader in the book. I think it will.

Image for article titled TMNT: The Last Ronin's Ben Bishop talks about designing turtles for the lost years

picture: IDW

io9: Not only are we reunited with Michelangelo this time, but we also get stories with April, Casey Marie and the new turtles at different points in their lives. What was it like not just going back there The Last Ronin Designs for them, but also need to design new turtles of different ages?

Bishop: A dream come true, but a lot of work! Kevin and Tom [Waltz] first told me I was going to design a new turtle foursome when we were in Florida for our big CGC signing (already in another dimension of “Is this real life?” to be there and thousands of to sign Last Ronin books alongside the Escorza brothers and Luis Antonio Delgado). I probably didn’t really grasp the reality until I got home and got to work. I came out with 12 different new turtle designs ranging from babies to teenagers. These circulated for about a week while everyone chose their four favorites. That was an incredibly exciting time; Nickelodeon loved the designs and ultimately we all settled on the four you will meet in lost years #1. The same goes for Casey Marie and April – there will be separate new designs for each issue. I feel really close to these characters now.

I know I said it was a lot of work, but making these new designs is my favorite part. Also, as I worked on these designs, I couldn’t help but fantasize about a willing future TMNT Characters launched by NECA…

io9: What can you tell us about some of the stories we’ll be in? lost years? Was there a specific problem that you found difficult to imagine or one that you were really excited about?

Bishop: Definitely issue #1. There was a lot to establish from the start and once it’s out there isn’t much opportunity to go back and change anything. So of course it was very important for me to get the new turtle designs right and I think the end product is very cool. There’s also the new Sewer Cave (wait ’til you see it!) and all of the elements within it, arranged in a way that makes it feel truly inhabited and real. When this project eventually adapts to make a cartoon or a movie or something, they’ll have a whole blueprint and set pieces designed and ready to go.

A young Ben Bishop meets Raphael.

A young Ben Bishop meets Raphael.
photo: Courtesy of Ben Bishop

io9: Not necessarily lost years-related, but as a toy fan I had to ask: as you mentioned, we’ve started getting action figures of the designs from The Last Ronin from NECA and Playmates now. What was it like for you as an artist to not only see your work on the packaging, but to see these designs that you were a part of come to life in physical form?

Bishop: Wishful thinking, I’m really trying to manifest something lost years toys haha Here, too, a dream comes true. Insane. It would be one thing to have toys based simply on the comic, but it’s another to have them based on some of your designs. And something else to actually draw the art of packaging!

I had everything TMNT when I was a kid, like so many other kids, but the toys were probably my biggest inspiration for “my” turtle designs (alongside the live-action Henson suits and cartoons), and a big part of that was the packaging design. If someone had given this little 11 year old kid who is drawing turtles on the living room floor a canal play set and a bunch of them TMNT Toys and Comics and told him, “One day you’re going to work with the guys who made this and help them tell not just the end of their story, but the beginning of a new one… Oh, and there’ll be toys ‘ I nearly shot Kool-Aid out of my nose and all over the carpet. I’m inside now! And I feel like it’s my chance to inspire the next generation of fans.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin – The Lost Years #1 hits shelves today, January 25th.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Wonder, war of starsand star trek What’s next for the releases DC Universe in Film and TVand everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who. TMNT Last Ronin Ben Bishop Interview–Lost Years and Turtle Toys

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