Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mirage staffer Dan Berger on my Future TMNT timeline

Not long ago, I wrote an article in which I attempted to piece together the mysterious future era of the Mirage TMNT universe. Since a good many of those stories were written by the ever-talented Mirage-staffer Dan Berger, and I wanted to make my timeline as accurate as possible, I went straight to the horse's mouth and asked Dan if I got my facts straight.

Dan Berger, one of the friendliest and most approachable guys in comics, did more than just give me a "yes" or a "no" or a few pointers, but went through my timeline detail by detail offering all sorts of insights.

Normally, I'm not big on posting correspondance, but his reply offered a lot of behind the scenes info on the various issues, including concepts that were dropped from the scripts and various Mirage story guide mandates. I got his permission to share his reply, so here it is!

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I don't normally bug you guys with the stuff I write, but I kind of felt compelled to ask if I "got it right" or not?

Since we went with the multiple universes theory - everything is basically right because every outcome is possible in some divergent thread universe. :)

I was hoping you could tell me if I got the order of events correct?

I'll give it a shot - but I do need to point out that for the past eight months my brain has been focused on what I'm going to do next rather than the Mirage TMNTverse - so I've forgotten a lot of the minutia (and my memory is lousy to begin with).

And I should note that Peter Laird had ultimate say in everything TMNT while I was the managing editor, and while he did approve the stories for Tales, in the end, he could have (and still may) rewrite the Mirage universe future... so with that in mind...

1) I don’t think it would be too offensive of me to assume that a concrete concept of what that future was like was never actually specified but “made up as they went”.

That's definitely true - there was never a grand a plan, at least not one that Kevin or Peter ever outlined for the rest of the creators (they may have had one in their heads, though).

That aspect of the TMNT was wonderful for the creators because the freedom that Kevin and Peter gave them was a rare thing in the comics industry - but that creative freedom did lead to plot holes (like my own timeline goof with TMNT #45).

2) Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #45 (April, 2008), “Rocks” - During the six months in 2001 when the Utroms were establishing themselves on Earth

Trying to set specific dates is tricky. When Peter began Vol. 4, I'm pretty sure he viewed it as taking place in the "near future" rather than on our calendar year of 2001 (hence the existence of a moon base in #1) - but how far into the future was never cemented. He said a few times that the Turtles were in the mid-30s for Vol. 4, so I think that leaves a few years of play for the timeline.

3) The god tells Mike that for every lie man tells, the rocks of their planet crack. Very soon, their world will crumble from the weight of their lies and he must escape its destruction.

Wow - I'm glad you connected those dots! :)Actually - I'm glad you've connected so many dots because many of them were intentional and it's very gratifying when someone finds the "Easter eggs." :)

4) Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #69 (April, 2010), “Dark Shadows” (back story) - The Utroms came to Earth in 2001, according to TMNT (Vol. 4), with this back story taking place only “several years” after that. We see Shadow watching the Utroms leave the planet with the evacuees and she is still a teenager close to how she appeared in TMNT (Vol. 4), indicating that by “several years”, they meant “not many”.

True - although it is tough placing the 2001 date as the absolute starting point as noted above.

5) Plastron Café #1 (December, 1992), “Old Times” - Notes: The glimpse of Japan we receive paints it as a beautiful, unspoiled landscape, contradicting the flooded end of the world scenario in the “Dark Shadows” back story.

I took it to take place on a mountain top - as was Raph in #69 - my assumption was that the mountains of Japan are high enough to avoid flooding.

6) Plastron Café #1 (December, 1992), “Old Times” - Also, Don still has his eyesight (that's about to become important in a second).

I didn't have any definite plan regarding what Shad did to Don. I decided to leave it ambiguous on purpose for the reason that some people like horror novels better than horror films (the viewer's mind can create horrors far more real and personal for him/herself - so what I might have come up with may not have been as tragic as something the reader could come up with on their own). So what Shadow actually did to Don was something that could have been explored later. As you point out, we did see Don in the future with full vision (in the Plastron Cafe story) - but Don could have had a "bionic" eye implanted by that time (for those who favor the blinding theme) - although why he'd be blind in the Tales collected would remain a mystery (particularly if he had the option for bionic eyes at some point in the past). Since I had no specific plan for what Shadow did to Donny when I wrote Tales #69 - anything is possible.

That said, the blinding thing is tricky for me because I do like the idea of it for symbolic reasons - but at the same time, if everyone was going around blinding everyone else, the act becomes stale as a story element and therefore creates a dangerous game of inviting tedium into the mythos, which is another reason why I thought it best to leave it up in the air. It would also buy me some extra time to mull things over and see what other writers would be doing in the meantime (as it turns out - there wouldn't be any meantime, but I didn't know that when I wrote #69).

7) Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #69 (April, 2010), “Dark Shadows” (main story) - We learn that Casey has passed away

Not necessarily... perhaps just "absent from her life now."

I know - too vague. ;)

But again - some things I like leaving up to the reader because, frankly, I'm a romantic softy. I spend a lot of time thinking about what the reader will get outta my stories (or what I hope they'll get at the least). So if readers want to think Casey and April are still alive and well during the events of #69 because it makes them feel better, they can - but if they want to think they're both dead to add even more personal gravitas to the armageddon scenario, they can. It's up to the reader to decide how full/empty the glass is - that's a very important element for me in what I do - and it lends itself for future reading since our views and perspectives can change over time - thus potentially giving the work all new meaning at different stages in people's lives (should they ever choose to revisit the material).

8) Michaelangelo (microseries) #1 (2nd printing) (December, 1990), “A Christmas Carol” - Notes: The future-Raph seen here seems to have "gone feral", snarling and barking like a wild animal and getting distracted just as easily. Seeing as how he doesn't look as elderly as in his later appearance, "Choices", I like to think of this as happening right after his eye-gouging in "Dark Shadows". Hey, you'd be pissed, too.

I have no problem with that explanation. :)

However - it could also be Raph another decade or two into the future, where things have gotten even worse for him (should you choose to have a half empty glass ;)

9) Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #41 (December, 2007), “Swan Song” (main story) - Don is wearing goggles, which would be a weird thing for a blind guy to wear, but it’s only one panel and his eyes are closed, so there’s no saying that he isn’t blind (the goggles could also be a device he built to compensate for his blindness).

Good point. :)

10) I suppose one could just argue that only parts of the planet were ruined by global warming

That's my take. The floods arrive due to massive tectonic shifts that cause the Earth's axis to rotate. So IMO it's feasible that some areas that were underwater before the flood will rise up out of the sea and create new land masses while existing lands flood or are violently changed via earthquakes and volcanic activity.

11) Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #55 (February, 2009), “A Day in the Life” (epilogue) - The April robot is a bit strange

It was originally going to be an alien girlfriend - but Peter suggested changing it to the April robot - which I loved, particularly since it tied directly into the little robot Donny was working on in the beginning of the story, thus allowing me to come full circle on the malfunctioning robot bit. And it adds an ominous tone to what happened to April in the future (not to mention Raph's psyche - why would he even want an April bot???).

12) April was dead (or faded into the Kirby world, since she is actually a magic doodle).

Peter hasn't ever talked about it with me - but I've often wondered about that very outcome.

I proposed a story featuring that world, but Peter didn't want anyone else mucking with the Kirby story line since it was so close to his heart.

13) Kind of a morbid gift, Don.

And how! That's what makes the concept so great! The psychology behind it is fascinating. :)

14) Raph’s words about Mikey indicate he’s either lost or dead, a mystery that is never resolved, as future-Mikey is never physically seen again after this point.

That I left completely up in the air because at the time I wrote #55, I had no idea what Peter's plans for Mikey were - he was still in space with the Triceratons at the time (which is why I put in the starry sky ending - in case Peter decided to leave him out there).

15) Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #40 (November, 2007), “Silent Night” - It is the year 2060. After finding a baby in the sewers of Tokyo...

Yeah, Tokyo not being flooded is problematic for #69 - this is where you can utilize the multiple universe theory to explain away the discrepancies, as unsatisfying as that may be. Or, to go the Marvel Comics No-Prize route, it's also possible that Tokyo was rebuilt by this time (although that would beg for the city to be called "New Tokyo" like they do in all the post apocalyptic movies - although that in and of itself is reason why not to do that :) .

16) Cha Ocho was previously seen in charge of the remains of the Foot Clan, though its possible the Clan had split up at some point.

That's my theory - I love the idea of splinter cells within the Foot as it creates intrigue and seems logical since the organization is full of sneaky ninja bastards.

17) Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #38 (September, 2007), “Triptyche” (framing device) - At best guess, I’d say this story takes place between the main story seen in “Swan Song”, after Leonardo vanquishes Complete Carnage and swears off killing, and his appearance in “Loops, Part I” where he lives in the Mt. Fuji temple. I suppose he just decided to live in a futuristic apartment between those stories.

Anything is possible with this one - I didn't write it, so I don't know - I took it as Leo living on one of those ocean-housing structures (since the Earth appears to be flooded).

18) Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #41 (December, 2007), “Swan Song” (framing device) - Notes: The implication at the end is that Leo is laying down to pass away peacefully in his sleep

I didn't write it, so I can't say for sure what the intentions were - but during my tenor as managing editor, Peter didn't want anyone but himself writing death stories - I don't know if this order existed when Murphy was the managing editor, and the "next life" line does imply he's on his way out - but my orders were "no death stories" for the Turtles... FWIW.

19) Tales of the TMNT Original Vol. 1 Treasury Edition (2007), frontispieces and epilogue - Notes: The implication I got from the end of this story is that Don won’t be waking up again, much like the end for Leo in “Swan Song”.

Again - I dunno since it was written before I got my standing orders from Peter.

20) Apocrypha: There are other stories that take place in the future of the Mirage Turtles, but they either don’t directly relate to the timeline of the Turtles themselves or are so contradictory that they must take place in an alternate future.

As unsatisfying as that may be for the reader, alternate timelines are pretty much unavoidable at times regarding the mostly "editorless" TMNT comics.

21) The story “Road Hogs”, published in the Palladium Books “After the Bomb” supplement, features Raph in a post-Apocalyptic future mentoring a new generation of mutant turtles

I reckon this is the sort of thing that was done for a licensee to tie into their product more than to tie into the Mirage continuity.

22) Conclusion: Well, it’s all very depressing, isn’t it?

So the glass is half empty after all? ;)

Hope that's of some help. :)

Cheers!
Dan

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And let me offer many thanks to Dan for taking the time to provide such great commentary! I know *I* found it fascinating! Good luck with all your future endeavors!

1 comment:

Adam Winters said...

Dan seems like such a great guy and he is definitely my favorite Mirage TMNT artist all things considered. I remember the first time I sent him an email telling him how much I liked TMNT #45 and was so surprised he actually wrote me back with thanks. I've still got that email saved out of pride, even though it isn't anything out of the ordinary for him. :-)