Tag Archives: Ken Branch

TMNT: Turtles in Dixie

I don’t usually talk about dead projects…most of the time my thoughts are that a project is never dead, simply delayed to be resurrected at some later date. Not long ago, though, I talked to Rich Handley, who was putting together a compendium of Planet of the Apes material, and as I had participated in playing in that world via the PoTA: Blood of the Apes mini-series I did with artists Darren Goodhart and Bruce McCorkindale, he wanted to talk to me not just about BoTA, but asked to see if I had any “unpublished” Apes stories.

I did, of course.

I hesitated to give them to him because, as I said, I don’t think a story idea is gone until…well, until it’s gone (no comments from you, Hank Kanalz!). In the back of my mind, I think I’ll simply revise it—change the apes to cats or some such, and viola! New story. I did tell him though, though, and you can check out the finished book here.

But that made me think of one project that is not likely to go anywhere at all, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story. Yep, TMNT!

Turtles in Dixie

Page of TMNT as drawn by Steven Butler. Original art is 11×17

The project happened because my artist buddy Ken Branch, who was primarily inking back…well, a few years back now, had a contact with the TMNT publishers. He pitched the idea for me to come up with a story, our pal Steven Butler to pencil it, and he’d ink it. A ready made creative team.

Well, y’all know that I like to be Southern-centric when I can, so I thought I’d bring the Turtles to the South. The story opens with boys on a paddle-boat chugging along the Mississippi River. They’re on a vacation and find themselves in Vicksburg, Mississippi where they visit the Civil War battlefield and end up fighting some alligator mutants as well as some armadillo mutants. Not a complicated story, but one with some history and some humor. For you non-Southerners, ask a Reb you know how most of us ever see armadillos.

Well, I finished up the story synopsis and Steven did a page…and then the TMNT publishers stopped taking outside creators to work on it.

So it sat…for years.

Recently, when IDW began publishing TMNT material, I contacted Steven and asked if he still had any interest. He did…I resubmitted. But no go—seems the Turtles’ origin is no longer compatible with the story…and as the editor who responded didn’t open the door to revisions…well, it’s a dead project.

For your eyeball pleasure, though, here’s a good scan of Steven’s page with the boys facing off against Armadillo!

It would have been fun.

Sigh.

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Wizard World Comic Con 2011

Those who’ve known me for more’n a decade know that I’ve been to dozens and dozens of comic book/science fiction (recently turned media) conventions. I first began going as a fan and not long after, as a “guest.” Most of the shows I’ve been to have been in God’s country down here in the Southland: Dallas Fantasy Festival, Atlanta DragonCon, MegaCon (Orlando), NOSFF (New Orleans), CoastCon (Biloxi), MobiCon (Mobile), ChimneyCon and MissCon (Jackson), MidSouthCon and ShadowCon(Memphis), Chicago ComicCon, WonderCon (Oakland), SPE (Small Press Expo), APE (Alternative Press Expo), and a couple I’m sure I’ve forgotten. Most of those named I’ve been to multiple times, CoastCon probably being my most attended show (and the FIRST to ever invite me as a guest).

I say all that to say that when I recently attended Wizard World Comic Con in New Orleans, I had a pretty good idea what I thought I’d expect. Boy was I surprised! The guys at Wizard World—my dealings in particular were with Stephen Shamus—know how to put on a top notch show. I was surprised at multiple things: how clean it was, how smoothly it ran, how mostly family-friendly it was, how professional it was. I don’t know all the politics of it all, but I do know that Wizard World has purchased or is in the process of purchasing conventions all around the nation (they bought a spot in Nashville and I hope I get to attend that show!)

One of my personal highlights for the show was getting able to visit with and see old pals (picture: left to right: Steven Butler, yours truly, Ken Branch, Dan Nakrosis, Mitch Byrd). Wizard even worked it out so that our tables were positioned immediately next to us. Talk about convenience for our fans! The neat thing was that it’d been 20 years since me, Mitch and Steven had signed copies together and never before had me, Mitch, Steven and Ken ever been in the same place at the same time. Neither here nor there, I guess, still, it was pretty cool. Ken is pushing his hot off the press graphic novel, 35 Years Will You Survive?, a story of global warming repercussions.

I also had the opportunity to visit with Christy Butler, Steven’s wife. I think Christy is a lot like BJ (my wife—for those one or two who didn’t know) in that a little bit of “conventioning” is enough. I tell the story of BJ’s first trip to the San Diego Comic Con, the granddaddy of them all and how she showed up at the Malibu booth and said she was going to look around. Fifteen minutes later she was back and saying goodbye—she’d seen enough of the convention to suit her fancy. And she went shopping in downtown.

Fifteen minutes.

Another of my joys was that my daughter Brittany got to come along with me. She also had a good time. She got to meet several actors and ask them for suggestions about becoming an actress. Most of them didn’t really help her much AND she didn’t get to get any autographs (they were selling signatures. Adam West wanted $60 for his autograph!). However, Ray Park (the guy who played Darth Maul in Star Wars) was incredibly nice to her. And it was funny, cause she—not being a big Star Wars fan—came back to the table to tell me about it and called him the “Sith dude.”

I’ll eagerly do another Wizard World Comic show…and you should check out one in your area!

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Travel Woe Is Me!

You would really think that after an adventurous trip last weekend, I’d have smooth sailing this weekend. Not so! To begin with, I didn’t really leave Oxford on time to get to the Memphis airport. I thought it took an hour…it takes about an hour twenty. So I start the trip off running late. No biggie, I’ve got last week’s experience under my belt and actually breeze through security. Looking good so far.

Flight to Cincinnati goes on schedule and I move to my connection flight and stand in line. While standing in line, I hear an announcement looking for 20 volunteers headed to Philadelphia to get another flight. Warning bells go off. When I reach the counter, the lady tells me that I don’t have a seat on the plane. It seems the 70-seater plane has turned into a 50-seater and 20 folks suddenly do not have seats. I was one of the lucky 20.

So, I’m told the next available flight out of Cincy is 3:00…I was supposed to arrive at 12:45, now the earliest possible would be around 5:30. Very frustrating. And, had it not been for what happened next, I would have been writing here to suggest you avoid this airline as much as possible. BUT, the Delta representative paged me to the counter and made my unpleasant situation a little less unpleasant. They gave me a voucher for lunch AND for a future flight. So while I missed half a day in Philadelphia, I get to fly somewhere else at a later date…and likely have a similar experience.

Friday night I met Lloyd Wagner and his wife. Lloyd is one of the Elfin Writers and is doing some cool research on the ghosts at Gettysburg. I’m sure there are a few things that I’ll need to eventually set him straight on—especially on the subject of Yankees and Abe Lincoln, but I liked hearing about some of the non-comic work that he is doing. I also met Ratna’s son, Robin, who, after being a little shy at first, really seemed to open up and have a good time.

Saturday was the big day of the Convention and I actually enjoyed walking the Con-floor with Ratna, looking at the various methods of marketing and the wide range of product. I will say, not having really read mainstream comics in almost 10 years, I was surprised to find how similar it all looked; even the superhero books not produced by Marvel and DC. It all looks alike!

While there, I had the opportunity to meet some other folks who’ve worked on Elfin projects, including Andrew Harrar, Lewis Helfand and Tony DiGerolamo. I also had the opportunity to bump into (some briefer than others), several pals from days past: Ken Branch, Dan Nakrosis, Jimmy Palmiotti, Tom Romano, Rodney Ramos and Billy Tucci. They were pretty much like you would expect them to be 10 years later…a little heavier, a few more wrinkles and either a little greyer or less hair—some both!

It’s a little spooky walking during the evening hours, especially for a Southern boy feeling very out of place in the big city. I have been amazed to see Philly so busy—people are going to and fro in all sorts of directions. Granted, I have no idea where they’re going, but they’re a whole bunch of them going somewhere. Not only that, I’d have problems driving here. The cars are all so very close to one another—I’d be hitting pedestrians right and left just trying to steer clear of all the cars that look like they’re about to side-swipe me!

Sunday, Howard Mackie joined us and we continued to discuss things like royalties, contracts and story process. We did not go in circles around Philly! But, we did get a lot accomplished and so it is exciting to move forward. Of course, I have a stack of scripts just waiting for me to read!

As I write this, I’m still in the hotel room in Philadelphia. I have no clue what my flight back will be like. I will likely end up going through North Dakota just to get home to Mississippi.

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