Death In The Family: An Interview With Tom Waltz

Following the events of this weeks Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles issue 44’s shocking ending I got a chance to talk to series co writer Tom Waltz about the events that unfolded in this issue as well as what is down the pipe in the near future leading up to the series 50th issue. 

Spoilers for issue 44 ahead, you have been warned

We The Nerdy: So far I think the overall reaction I’ve seen from people who’ve either read the issue or have heard the news is “this won’t last” or “how could they do this to Donatello and not this character?” How would you respond to these fans?

Tom Waltz:  First and foremost, I’d thank them for reading our comic and being so passionate about the characters and their stories.  Second, I’d say the one thing we’ve tried to do with TMNT at IDW from the very start is to keep the core of our stories grounded and as realistic as possible in such a fantastical world.  This storyline was no exception.  The TMNT are in a war, fought on multiple fronts against multiple enemies, so to think that they could come out of all that unscathed is more unbelievable than a weapon that can terraform the entire planet at the push of a button.  Donnie, sadly, is a casualty of war… one of the good guys who has sacrificed his very existence to protect others.  He’s a true hero and that won’t be forgotten by his family or his friends… as we will show in upcoming issues as well as our Free Comic Book Day offering.

WTN: How has the reaction been from fans since the news broke?

Tom Waltz:  Honestly… off the charts!  We knew we’d get some reaction from some of our longtime and more vocal fans, but to have so many folks tweeting and posting their horror and sadness and, in some cases, blind hatred for what we’ve done to Donnie has really blown my mind.  But, again, that only goes to show that TMNT fans are many and they are mighty and they are passionate about the Heroes in a Half-Shell and it gives me all kinds of warm fuzzies to know our little comic book was able to strike such a powerful chord.  And I really think our best stories — and even bigger surprises — are yet to come, so hopefully this will bring in more readers and fans into the IDW TMNT fold.  The more the merrier!

WTN: This was a fairly monumental issue, not just for the passing of Donatello, but also with the conclusion of the battle of Burnow Island. Usually things like this in your “traditional” comic book would normally happen in a big numbered issue, and with issue 50 only 6 issues away was this just the natural progression of the story to have it all come to a head this issue?

Tom Waltz:  Well, as big and surprising as this moment was, it’s really part of the build up to issue #50, which we feel will really knock the socks off readers, old and new alike.  We’ve been planning this story for four years now and it’s exciting to see it paying off at last.  And, just to be clear, issue #50 is the grand finale of a long-running story-line and NOT the end of our series — we’ll be back the very next month with issue #51 and we’ll keep on doing this as long as our awesome fans keep supporting our work.



WTN: How far back did you know /plan that Donatello was going to be one who ends up being the one who dies? Was there ever any consideration for another character?

Tom Waltz:  We’ve been working this particular plot line since way back in the “Northampton” arc, more than a year ago.  Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow and I play the long game, so we know well in advance what’s to come.  Stories and situations naturally evolve and adjust over time, but our big beats tend to stay fairly rock solid once we all agree on them and this was no exception.

 WTN: Who was the one to pitch the idea of Donatello’s death? How did Kevin or others in the office take it once the issue was finalized and ready to print?

Tom Waltz:  This idea started with Bobby Curnow, who presented it to Kevin and I in broad strokes way back when and over time we worked together to mold it into our running story line.  Kevin and everyone involved was ecstatic when we finally saw it come to fruition in printed form… and everyone was just as surprised as I have been about the widespread response its gotten.

WTN: I know dead usually means dead in this series but we have seen the turtles, along with Shredder, reincarnated before. Is there any chance we see that with Donatello? Or using Renet to go back in time to stop it?

Tom Waltz:  No spoilers!  I’m just gonna say that issue #45 and our Free Comic Book Day comic are must-reads for anyone who wants to know what happens next.  Issue #45 is one I’m particularly proud of and can’t wait for fans to get a hold of it.

 WTN: I’ve loved how the portrayal of Beebop and Rocksteady has been in this series, staying  in tune with the originals from the 90’s animated series, but also being these nearly impossible to beat creatures that have proven to be a huge hurdle for the turtles. Was it hard to decide that these two, and not say Shredder himself or Krang, be the one who gets first blood on the turtles?

Tom Waltz:  You know, I can’t honestly remember how we came to that decision.  I’m sure it was part of our molding process once we decided Donnie was going to meet such a tragic fate.  I know that Kevin, Bobby and I all agreed that it made more sense for Bebop and Rocksteady to stay behind because as dangerous as they are, they’ve also proven to be a bit clumsy and loud in their methods, something Shredder would not have wanted for what was supposed to be a sneak attack on Burnow Island.

WTN: Can you give any insight how Shredder will react to this news? I am sure he will be at least somewhat pleased that although he didn’t defeat Krang, he was able to kill one of Splinter’s children.

 Tom Waltz:  All I’m going to say is to keep an eye on Shredder and Baxter Stockman.  The business partnership from Hell!




 WTN: We’ve seen in the past before Splinter/ Hamato Yoshi became a husband and a father he had a hard time controlling his anger, with the death of Donatello will we be seeing that side return in lieu of vengeance against Shredder?

Tom Waltz:  Yes and no.  Splinter was already losing control to his anger leading up to the events of Attack on Technodrome.  He’s trying to regain his control and discipline… and working hard to reestablish honor above all things within himself and within his family.

WTN: Can you give the fans/readers of the series something about issue 45? Would it be fair to assume this will be the memorial issue for Donatello? Will that issue lead into events presumably leading up to issue 50? 

Tom Waltz:  It’s a special issue, I’ll say that much.  One that I’m not ashamed to say is touching and surprising at the same time.  And before I sign of, I want to send out a huge thanks to all our fans.  You guys are the best!  Thanks for sticking with us this far… we’ve got so much more TMNT fun to have together!