“Joe Keatinge has established himself as the latest new writer I want to undermine and destroy. It’s just top class stuff.”
- Mark Millar (Kick-Ass, Civil War, Wanted, Ultimates)

"I think Joe is definitely one to watch."
- Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead, Invincible)

e-mail: joe@keatinge.com

THE TURTLES THAT NEVER WERE

My buddy Zack Soto recently posted jpegs, thoughts and notes over our aborted attempt to pitch a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles project to IDW Publishing.

I thought I’d chime in.

First, a little background.

Zack’s a guy I’ve gotten to know pretty well over the last year I’ve been in Portland. He’s also an immense cartooning talent and has an amazing mind for all things comics. The combinations of all these things has resulted in a lot of talks, debates and even arguments about comics. I’m a lucky guy to call him my friend.

The idea of us working together has come up quite a bit. We’ve talked over various ideas and projects, but when the prospect of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came up, well, yeah, we were stoked.

Like my desire to work with Zack, I’ve been interested in working with the folks at IDW Publishing as a number of friends are employed there. From a business perspective, I’ve always been really into their recent pushes, especially stuff like their Artist’s Editions. It was mentioned to me outright somewhat recently that they were equally interested in working with me, so I should start pitching.

Then it was announced they get the TMNT license.

As Zack in his post, the two of us share a huge passion for all things Turtles. We’re of the age.

So, anyway, Zack + IDW + TMNT = Something I Really Wanted To Work On.

But then it hit a snag.

After Zack had worked on some brilliant character designs, I had hashed how my outline for the series/pitch and written a script which Zack was about to draw, it was not only announced they already had plans to do a series in a similar vein as we wanted, but it was being done by Kevin Eastman.

Kevin Eastman, co-creator of Ninja Turtles.

It’s hard to compete with that.

Anyway.

With the creator of Turtles on the job, Zack and I agreed it would be a damn shame for the project to totally die, so we agreed to get our efforts out there. He posted the visuals. I’m posting my pitch ideas and script.

Here goes.

I should explain our take was to do more or less an “Ultimate” version of the original Eastman & Laird Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle run and take their original plotlines, give them a more modern approach and create connections they never had before to give it a more cohesive whole. I also wanted to take them in different directions than the original comics ever went. Furthermore, I wanted to make it the TMNT comic you remember - a kinda weird, but super bad ass deep take on ninja turtles fighting ninjas that weren’t turtles. Plus Triceratons. Kinda like how Warren Ellis did GI JOE: RESOLUTE. It was how you remember GI JOE being, even if the reality is a little, well, not so bad ass.

I thought Zack was the perfect guy to do it. He has a background in indie comics, having won both an Ignatz and a Stumptown Comic Arts Award for his efforts, yet has a passion for comics in general and these characters in specific to pull it off. 

We also wanted to bring our indie buds in for back up stories. So in addition to our main stories, you would have guys like Brandon Graham, Benjamin Marra, etc. doing shorts that would expand the overall story.

Speaking of which, here’s how I saw the overall story break down:

STORYLINE ONE: “Fifteen Year Plan” Issues #1-5

This storyline would have introduced three aspects:

1) The Turtles and Splinter, of course. The “Fifteen Year Plan” relates to how Splinter witnessed his master, Hamato Yoshi, be murdered at the hands of Oroku Saki and his “Fifteen Year Plan” to train the turtles to get revenge against him. We see all this in the first issue, “The Death of Hamato Yoshi.”

2) Shredder. Oroku Saki was a crime lord in Japan, with Hamato Yoshi as his right hand man, who wanted out. Saki murdered Yoshi’s wife and after a fight, Yoshi himself. He’s now expanding his crime family to America, which is the impetus for Splinter to end the turtle’s training.

3) TCRI. In our version, TCRI is kind of like Apple or Virgin in that they’re a huge multi-national corporation with hands in just about every type of media. They’ve revolutionized the way we live - they sell computers, tablets, mobile phones, cars, etc. Everything they do is top of the line, pushing things to a new frontier. They also have a military division, so as if Steve Jobs owned Haliburton. Their goal is to create military technologies not reliant on human soldiers, so they have two main sub-divisons: genetic and robotic. Baxter Stockman and his assistant, April O’Neil, head that division.

Fifteen Year Plan is basically the slow burn to all these ideas and they don’t even directly fight Shredder until the next storyline, but they do have their first unsuccessful confrontation with the foot. At the same time, TCRI is going to shut down Stockman’s research as he’s gone way over budget. It appears he’s unleashed the mousers (probably called something else, they idea is that they only dismantle non-human elements, tanks, weapons, buildings, etc.) in an effort to prove the proof of concept, but of course, it goes haywire. Turtles are able to shut it down and they start their friendship with O’Neil, who it turns out actually unleashed the mousers, but nobody knows. Stockman takes the fall and since Splinter appears to be dead (but his body is missing) because of something she did, O’Neil feels responsible for the turtles and takes them in.

STORYLINE TWO: “Ronin” Issues #6-10

This is primarily an arc focusing on the Turtles and the Foot, as the guys are thrown in a situation they’ve never been in. They’ve always had Splinter to rely on. They’ve always been bound to the sewers. They’re now living in an odd place with this woman they don’t really know. With their master seemingly dead, they need to finally accomplish what they were trained to do and what his only wish in life ever was: dismantle the Foot and assassinate Saki/Shredder.

So, cut to the chase, they go after Shredder and dismantling the foot and the latter goes relatively well, but once they confront Shredder they get their asses handed to them. He knows how they fight. Almost too well. They’re nearly killed and mortally wounded, but are able to escape.

At the end, we would have found out two things as readers that no one else would have known:

1) TCRI has Splinter and they’re exploiting him for research purposes. Furthermore, that their CEO/Founder is an alien - the same kind as the last run, a robot with a Krang-like dude in his stomach.

2) Shredder is actually Hamato Yoshi, Splinter’s long-thought dead master.

As we find out in issue #10, “The Return of Hamato Yoshi,” Yoshi went after Saki, killed him and took over his identity. The Shredder persona allowed him to do this in plain site, as he was always in disguise and his face never seen. That’s why he knew how the turtles fought. Furthermore, it’s a huge blow to what Splinter has made his life’s goal all this time. I think it also ups the stakes this run a lot. Yes, it’s based off of the original run, but it can go in very different directions.

STORYLINE THREE: “City At War” #11-15

This arc brings together the TCRI and Foot clan aspects. Yoshi wants their resources and their inside man reveals they have Splinter. 

While they are experimenting on Splinter, he gets to know one of their other captives, a Triceraton who is planning an escape, which he and Splinter eventually make in issue #14, as the Foot and Turtles descend on TCRI and create the titular “City At War”, a call back to an earlier arc.

It concludes with three major things:

1) New York ends up pretty fucked up after the “war” between TCRI and the Foot. It’s pretty well devastated.

2) Splinter and Shredder finally confront eachother, fight and Shredder nearly kills him, then tells Splinter to “yield.” He does, as Splinter has figured out what the reader knows (that Shredder is Yoshi) and goes with Shredder, willingly leaving the Ninja Turtles behind as…

3) …we find out the Triceraton wasn’t trying to escape. TCRI has a signal to his people. The aliens who run TCRI have had an intergalactic war going for centuries. The TCRI aleisn came to Earth and revolutionized our technology with theirs so we would be ready when the Triceratons finally came, but Earth was so remote they had time. They’re still not ready, but it doesn’t matter. The Triceratons are coming.

STORYLINE FOUR: “Earthbound” #16-20

The Foot and Shredder sit this one out. The New York operation is more or less bust, so Shredder and Splinter head back to Japan. TCRI was pretty messed up after City At War, so it’s solely up to the Turtles to fight off the Triceraton invasion.

I didn’t detail the plot of this one all that much, as it was around this time we found out Eastman was doing the relaunch. That said, I know it ends with TCRI being dismantled, Michelangelo publicly outed, Leonardo teleported to the middle of Eastern Europe, Donatello leaving with surviving TCRI aliens and Raphael becoming a recluse in sewer after being freed as a prisoner of war.

So, there you go.

That’s the story we would have told. I have loose ideas for where it might have gone after, but it’s a moot point now.

That said, I did write a five page sample script for Zack to write, so I’ll conclude with putting that here. Zack has a layout on his website, so follow along there.

My idea with this script was two A) show Zack’s skill range as an artist and how it relates to their property. Show him drawing different types of pages. and B) how I would handle the turtles, the personalities, etc. all in five pages.

Looking at it now there’s some things I would have done differently with the script portion, but given the status of the pitch, I’m letting it go out there the way it is.

So, here you go. I hope you dug all this. 

PAGE ONE

PANEL 1

Very tight close up on SPLINTER - we should only see his eyes and his hands folded in front of him.

SPLINTER

THIS IS EVERYTHING I TRAINED FOR. THE CULMINATION OF WHO YOU ARE.

PANEL 2

Very tight close up on LEONARDO, he’s running, but I think we should only see part of his torso and his hands, holding his katana.

SPLINTER CAPTION

LEADERS.

PANEL 3

Very tight close up on DONATELLO - again, also running, but we should only see part of his torso and his hands, holding his bo.

SPLINTER CAPTION

WARRIORS.

PANEL 4

Very tight close up on MICHELANGELO - again, also running, but we should only see part of his torso and his hands, holding his nunchucks.

SPLINTER CAPTION

BROTHERS.

PANEL 5

Very tight close up on RAPHAEL - again, also running, but we should only see part of his torso and his hands, holding his sais.

SPLINTER CAPTION

NINJA.

PAGE TWO

SPLASH PAGE, I picture it set about two seconds after the cover of the original TMNT #1 - with the four turtles leaping off a roof.

GIGANTIC LOGO AT TOP

EASTMAN & LAIRD’S

TEENAGE MUTANT

NINJA TURTLES

SPLINTER CAPTION

MY FIGHT IS NOW YOURS, MY SONS.

BOTTOM LEFT TEXT

WRITTEN BY JOE KEATINGE

BOTTOM RIGHT TEXT

ILLUSTRATED BY ZACK SOTO

SMALLER BOTTOM LEFT TEXT

COLORED BY TBD

SMALLER BOTTOM RIGHT TEXT

LETTERED BY TBD


PAGE THREE

PANEL 1

They’re leaping into a mess of Foot Soldiers, with each panel focusing on a different turtle. We start off with, RAPHAEL, who is jump kicking a foot soldier in the face.

RAPHAEL

REALLY?! THESE ARE THE GUYS SPLINTER WARNED US ABOUT?!

PANEL 2

MICHELANGELO has an arm wrapped around one Foot Soldier’s neck as he hits another with his nunchucks.

MICHELANGELO

NO KIDDING.

WE’VE BEEN TAKING GUYS LIKE THIS DOWN FOR YEARS!

PANEL 3

DONATELLO is plunges his bo into the stomach of a Foot Soldier coming from behind.

DONATELLO

COME ON - LESS TALKING, MORE FIGHTING!

PANEL 4

LEONARDO is standing on top of a fallen Foot Soldier, his katanas tinged with blood.

LEONARDO

DONATELLO’S RIGHT! WE CAN TAKE THEM OUT, BUT STAY FOCUSED!


PAGE FOUR

PANEL 1

Giant panel, consisting of most of the page. Shredder has appeared behind Leonardo, stabbing him through the shoulder with the blades on his right hand.

SHREDDER

NO.

SHREDDER

NO, YOU CAN’T.

PANEL 2

Much smaller panel, from over Shredder’s shoulder. Leon has fallen to his knees in front of him and we’re focused on Donatello, Raph and Michaelango, who are standing ready to fight. The remaining Foot have backed off of them.

SHREDDER

YOUR FIGHT IS OVER.


PAGE FIVE

PANEL 1

I think whatever layout we have for page one should be emulated here.

First we start off with Shredder kicking Leo in the back, sending him into Donatello.

SHREDDER

I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE.

PANEL 2 

Michelangelo leaps at Shredder.

SHREDDER

BUT I CAN TELL WHO TRAINED YOU.

PANEL 3

He backhands Michelangelo, cutting his face up and sending him flying back. Raphael is plunging himself at Shredder.

SHREDDER

I MURDERED HIM.

PANEL 4

Shredder has grabbed Raphael by the neck, has an arm pulled back to punch him in the face.

SHREDDER

I KILLED HAMATO YOSHI.

PANEL 5

All black panel, no text.