For the 30th Anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, IDW is doing a special 48 page book featuring new stories by past TMNT artists including a new cover by Eastman & Laird! I was asked by editor Bobby Curnow to do a pinup for the book. I've mentioned before what a special and influential part TMNT played in me understanding storytelling, comics, and wanting to be a creator (it also was the link that started my friendship with the real life-Kenzie to my Saxon: Jesse Glenn). To the left you can see the finished piece, but below are the steps of creating it along with some though process as I worked.
The newspaper concept wasn't my first idea. I originally was going to do something with the four turtles each lugging along all their earthly possessions (in an abandoned shopping cart, milk crates, patched duffles, etc,) down a sewer tunnel as just around the corner NYC sewer workers were doing work in that branch of their home. It proved to be something I saw more as a story and had a hard time summing it up in a single image. Instead I focused on just drawing each of the turtles in a cool pose where I might be able to group them together well. As I did that the concept of a newspaper came to me and I drew a 'photo' of Shredder too. Each of these are on separate sheets of copy paper, which give me mental freedom to make a mistake and pitch something that's not working because it's not on 'good' paper or bound in a sketchbook.
I scanned the sketches and composited them in Photoshop into a layout.I asked Bobby if I could use NEW YORK TIMES for the paper, but he advised copying their masthead design could be a legal issue, so I opted to make up my own that felt like the times, but was different. I tried other newspaper names like Sentinel and Journal...but liked Herald best (There was in-fact, a New York Herald which stopped publication in 1924). The type (though much of it is blocked or goes off the edges) was all written like a newspaper article. It was about a crime wave that police had few leads for, but after a botched subway hijacking, police may have found links from "The Foot Clan" to Oroku Saki pinning him as the masked "Shredder" crime boss. The date is an approximation of when Kevin & Pete first created the TMNT (they say it was late Oct. or early Nov.)
I printed the composited layout you see above onto copy paper (it was larger than one sheet so I had to patch it back together with tape) and then taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series Bristol. I had toyed with not inking any of the newspaper elements of then the Shredder 'picture' and just use my digital type and layout to save me time inking, but I tend to find that when you try and blend type and art together that isn't dialogue or a sound effect, it always sticks out like a sore thumb. So tracing over the printout I was able to hand letter the masthead and all the article, giving it a bit of imperfection as I went to replicate printing errors on newsprint. You will also notice I added heap of dead/unconscious foot soldiers around the TMNT. My original plan was to fade the turtles out to white, but opted to give them a more solid base and help sell the story about the Foot Clan crime wave.
As I started the 'coloring' stage, I knew I wanted to do something special for this piece celebrating the origins of the TMNT. Back when I discovered the turtles, they all wore red masks, and with Eastman and Laird being heavily influenced by Frank Miller's Ronin, I thought it would be fun to carry that over to spot color accents like in Sin City. The masthead got a bit of red too for balance. For the rest of the cover, I wanted everything to be in greyscale. The newspaper text & Shredder photo I made all grey to help push it back behind the turtles. After a bit of rendering and then applying a faux-halftone screen (to pay homage to the old duo-tone pages from the original TMNT run) the final piece was done and can be seen again below:
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