Devil Dealers, Ninja Turtles And How It's All Christopher Nolan's Fault

Ross May writes,

I like the expression "shameless plug." Is there such a thing as a shameful plug? I suppose that's impossible if you're self-promoting.

Shameless plug:

I wrote a new graphic novel called Devil Dealers that is available now on Comixology and trade paperback. The art is by Brett Wood, and we worked with other talented people like inker Vic Moya and colorist Kirsty Swan. If you're one of those cool readers always in search of some new, indie comic, you'll dig Devil Dealers. It has people fighting the Devil through a series of challenges, like high stakes poker, a race, music contests, etc. If that sounds strange, it's sort of meant to be, but it all makes sense if you know it follows in the tradition of folk tales where people challenge Satan.

The book also has a gorgeous pinup by Michael Dooney. Who's Michael Dooney? Well, he drew this.


You're probably familiar with Dooney's artwork without realizing it. Have you ever seen the box art to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game for NES? Or TMNT III: The Manhattan Project? He did those, along with lots of other familiar Ninja Turtles images over the years.

I got to write for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books, ending in 2009 when Peter Laird sold the property to Viacom (Paramount and Nickelodeon). Being a kid who grew up during the original turtles-craze, it was a big deal for me. My editor Steve Murphy (writer for Archie's TMNT Adventures under the pen name Dean Clarrain) actually told me I was the first writer for Ninja Turtles to have grown up on the old comics and cartoon! I owe a lot to Steve Murphy and Peter Laird, and have gone on to do tons of fun things like kids' comics, magazines, and even DVD productions like The Real Ghostbusters, another childhood favourite of mine.


Art by Chris Allan. Copyright Viacom.

But I was saying the Ninja Turtles transferred hands to Viacom. Just before this happened, I got to hear some of the news about what producers wanted out of a new movie. Some of these elements have undoubtedly changed, while some of it I can still recognize through teasers and official statements. Want me to share what I learned around five years ago when this multi-million dollar ball got rolling?

  • The producers were really excited by the success of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight films, and wanted to emulate that. This meant a new dark trilogy, with the Shredder only being hinted at for the end of the first story, much like the Joker card at the ending of Batman Begins. Obviously it looks now like Shredder will be a big part in the upcoming movie, but of course the expectation is to create a new series of movies.
  • Producers hated the turtles' origin. The word "unrealistic" was thrown around, which I found pretty funny considering what the Ninja Turtles are. At the time, they were talking about how the turtles had to be genetically engineered soldiers, like Captain America. Since then reports have gone back and forth suggesting the turtles are either engineered creatures or aliens. Either way, I'm noticing this through-line where the movie producers reject the origin as shown in the original comics and movies.
  • You remember how in the 1990 movie a little rat puppet mimicked his human master's martial arts moves, and this was the explanation for why Splinter and the turtles later knew how to fight? It was pure fantasy, that dreaded "unrealistic" word again, but so is the entire concept of Ninja Turtles. Movie producers felt the need to explain this better, and decided that Hamato Yoshi is looking for a new martial art when he notices his pet fighting in its cage. This inspires Yoshi to create a new combat style based on Splinter, a Rat Style of fighting that Splinter will later teach the turtles. This doesn't really change much of anything, except you can see again how it's born out of a need to explain things in the turtles' origin that don't really need to be explained. It's trying to bring believability to an idea called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Plus, I'm pretty sure rats defend themselves just by biting things.

Whatever the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film is like, I'll be approaching it knowing that its producers, including Michael Bay, felt the need to explain elements that probably don't need to be explained. It seems like a flawed foundation to me, but who knows, it could yield something surprising. For my part, I'm happy I got to work on the characters with some of the original creators who made it the biggest independent comic book of all time. I doubt our graphic novel Devil Dealers will be THAT popular, but Brett Wood and I are certainly following in a grand tradition.

Ross May is a Canadian writer who has written for comic books including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and DVDs like The Real Ghostbusters and a Superman cartoon set. He can be found on twitter @rossmaywriter, and his new graphic novel Devil Dealers can be found at

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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