The third volume of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, published in the mid-'90s, has a weird history. Now considered non-canonical by the Mirage Comics run of classic Turtles books, the dark series came to an untimely end when it was cancelled before a conclusion could be written. Now, decades later, that conclusion is finally coming.
Image: IDW. TMNT: Urban Legends #1 cover art by Frank Fosco.
We can exclusively reveal that IDW has plans to re-release the entire 23-issue run, dubbed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Urban Legends, reprinted in colours by Adam Guzowski for the very first time. But that isn't all: The series will conclude with three brand new issues by the volume's original Image Comics creative team of writer Gary Carlson and artist Frank Fosco, finally giving the series its intended conclusion years after it was first cut short.
TMNT: Urban Legends #1 B Cover by Frank Fosco
Volume three was infamous for introducing some pretty grim plotlines for the Turtles, leaving the team radically changed by the time it came to its early end. To find out more about Urban Legends' surprise return, we spoke to Carlson and Fosco - check out the full interview below.
What made now the perfect time to return to this series?
Gary Carlson: IDW wanted to do it. The fans seem interested in it. Our run has always been the "black sheep" - unofficial stories of the TMNT. At the time we were doing a back to basics/not the TV cartoons version of the guys and the fanbase then didn't buy into it.
A few years ago Andrew Modeen put together unofficial issues 24 and 25 to conclude the run. He checked with us and used our basic ideas and notes. It was fun to read it and helped get fans interested in our issues, which have gotten fairly hard to find. Our new issues will be quite different from those though.
Frank Fosco: Being able to do it while we're still alive. Haha!
What's it been like, returning to work you first concluded so long ago?
Carlson: It's always fun working on the TMNT with Frank. IDW started talking about us tying up the run a year or two back. I had to dig out my old notes and reread the issues to write up the plot summaries. We did a short story for the Ultimate Visual History hardcover in 2014 and had a blast.
Fosco: Well —it's nice that we'll be able to give an official ending to the series.
What do you think you've learned, as comics creators, since the early end of this book that you want to bring to these three new issues?
Fosco: Bringing it around full circle and wrap up loose ends.
Carlson: Just to enjoy the experience. Back in the '90s, sales were dropping and we knew that we'd be cancelled at some point. We just didn't know when, but expected it any time. I tried not to plot too far ahead. Now we know that we have three issues - plenty of room to tie up the loose ends.
TMNT: Urban Legends #1 cover art by Frank Fosco.
Is the conclusion you're crafting now the one you've always had in mind for the series, or has it changed over the course of the last 22 years?
Carlson: Nope. We're staying true to our original vision. As I said, we knew back then that the end was near and we were aiming to finish out the run leaving the TMNT more or less as they had been when we started our run. We didn't quite get there. Now we will.
Fosco: We were coming up with these stories as we went. No telling what kind of conclusion we would have come up with if we did it back then. We never really got far enough to give it all that much thought. We had some ideas what Donatello may have been about and would have tried to resolve his story line.
Looking back, what are you most proud of from your run on TMNT?
Fosco: Hard to say. I thought Gary and I gave it a fun ride throughout the series. There were some cool twist and turns and the highlight for me was what we did with Raphael - the fans really didn't see that coming.
Carlson: I always liked what we did. Our run was during a dip in TMNT popularity and most people were familiar with the TV cartoons then. When Mirage cancelled their books, they contacted Erik Larsen about continuing the series because they liked what he had done with the guys guest-starring in his Savage Dragon book. He hired us to do the new book. I patterned our run on the "Return To New York" storyline.
When I told other comics folks that I was writing a new TMNT series, the answer I usually got was "I'm sorry to hear that." I would send copies of our issues to my friends and heard very little back. A year or two after we were cancelled, a friend called me up - very excited and said he had finally forced himself to read the issues and absolutely LOVED them. He compared them to classic Marvel plotting and storytelling and apologised for dissing them without reading them. That's what I'm proudest of.
The first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Urban Legends is set to hit shelves May 16.