“April and Casey are hardcore”: Interview with Mariko Tamaki and Irene Koh
IDW Comics Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is killin it, delighting old school fans and newcomers alike. Seriously, if you’re a fan of the turtles, or have always been interested but never knew where to start with TMNT comics, it’s an incredible turtles ‘verse to dig into. Mariko Tamaki, writer, and Irene Koh, artist, are expanding on that universe with their Casey & April mini series, following an unmasked Casey Jones and fan-favourite redhead April O’Neil, and WWAC had a chance to chat with them about it.
Thanks so much for chatting with us, you two. How’s this to start — how would you describe Casey and April five sentences or less?
Mariko: April and Casey are hard core. They are warriors. They have seen more than the average person has seen, battled more than the average person, or couple. They’ve seen fire and they’ve seen rain (James Taylor), is basically what I’m saying. I think the thing that bonds them are these shared, terrifying, adrenaline-infused, experiences, which have possibly acted to drown out their differences.
All of the IDW TMNT micro and miniseries have done a fantastic job of tying into the main plotline of the ongoing title, which has just been barreling on with epic storyline after action packed epic storyline. Are readers in for a change of pace with this miniseries?
Mariko: There is definitely a change of location and, relatedly, to some degree, pacing happening here. They are on the road, in the desert. It’s not the city, there’s no traffic. There is also some barreling, mind you.
Irene: There’s a little less ninjutsu and a little more smoldering, but the tension is still there. Romantic tension! My favorite kind.
Mariko, your body of work is known for being poignant and introspective. Did you enjoy incorporating some of those sensibilities into a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book? Or were you more interested in trying your hand at a high paced, action oriented story with Casey and April?
It was totally fun writing April and Casey and plugging into this storyline. I definitely had to kick up the pace a bit from what I would normally write (like, clearly it can’t just be April and Casey eating snow cones and talking about TV for four issues). That said, part of the job for me in writing these issues was to find those interpersonal moments that I love to dig into. I watched a lot of action movies and TV for inspiration. (I’d tell you what movies but I don’t want to tip my hand).
Irene, you have a background in illustration, visual development, and comics. Do you feel like this mini was an opportunity for you to push yourself as a visual storyteller?
Mariko does this beautiful thing with her writing where two characters will exchange some pithy dialogue or a certain look, and then leaves the moments in between for me to fill, whether it’s the way Casey grumps about or the dubiousness on April’s face, or the tenderness implied between them. It’s my favorite thing to do in visual narrative, and Mariko’s given me a lot of breathing room to have fun with the character acting. It’s been a great learning experience for me.
It’s so rare that we see April or Casey on their own, away from the fray and the turtles. Why are they striking out from the turtles now?
Mariko: Hey man, April and Casey are very capable, useful, team members. They have the skills! They’re being fully utilized.
Irene: April’s always been so competent, I’ve been waiting for her to have her own adventure, and to see Casey dealing with quieter issues that can’t be solved with hockey stick beating is pretty compelling.
More often than not, TMNT has presented April as the brains and Casey as the braun. Are we going to see these two out of their comfort zones at all in this mini? Shaking it up — taking on any new roles?
Mariko: The comfort zone for April and Casey has been the chaos of their day to day lives. In chaos, being a brain or a braun is essential for survival. The shake up here is more a matter of “what ELSE am I” or, more specifically, what are we when we’re not surrounded by a mob of bloodthirsty enemies waiting to destroy us? Not that there isn’t always a mob of some sort on the horizon. Am I right?
What was the most challenging aspect of working on Casey and April? What did you enjoy the most?
Mariko: The 20 page/issue format was definitely a new thing to figure out. I have a lot of drawings of twenty squares lying around my house, with notes and little stick figures in them. At the same time, the page “limit” is something I really enjoy. It’s a nice contrast to longer projects (I just finished a YA prose novel). It’s hard to explain, but I like the feel of a set amount of space sometimes.
Irene: Not to dispel too much of the romance of comic making, but just pumping out the work to meet deadline while still trying to handle the nuance with some amount of deftness… It’s been a challenge, but that’s the reality of comics, I suppose! It’s been incredibly enjoyable to work with Mariko, and just to be working on such a classic franchise from a fresh perspective.
If I’m not mistaken, you two are the first all-female creative team on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book. That’s pretty rad. Do you feel like you’ve brought a new perspective to a property that has been largely worked on and consumed by men?
Mariko: Are we? That’s so cool! I think it’s overall (in film, in TV, in theater, writing, and comics) an amazing time to be a female creator/writer/artist. And I think every medium is enriched by a diversity of artists. So, yeah, Turtles too. High five, Irene!
Irene: That’s kind of crazy that in all this time, we’re the only all-female team on Turtles. Whew. That’s all kinds of awesome. High five! and some pizza to celebrate!
Casey & April #1 is available at your local comic book shop (and anywhere else you can buy comics), right now!