It’s no secret I’m a big fan of both J.K. Woodward’s and Dave Rapoza’s artwork. The reason is simple, really- they both kick ass. Each has a unique style you won’t see anywhere else, and each is a hardcore Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan.
With IDW’s recent announcement of their new TMNT series, I couldn’t help but wonder what a book with these guys drawing the Turtles would be like. Well, I didn’t have to wonder very long because the answer is obvious and is explained in two words- f#@$ing awesome! The artwork by Dan Duncan in the upcoming Turtles book is solid stuff, as it nicely blends Eastman and Laird’s original TMNT look with a more modern zing. I’m really looking forward to it. However, it’s tough to deny that it looks like more of the same, and something we’ve seen before. It’s also safe. Very safe.
Especially after taking a look at Dave and J.K.’s TMNT work. Check out some of their pieces and try making a convincing argument that a book featuring their Turtles work wouldn’t fly off the shelves. It’s damn near impossible.
J.K.’s work just screams 1984 original TMNT in a true comic book style. His pieces capture the look and feel that Eastman and Laird originally wowed audiences with when the Turtles first hit the market. It’s moody, and the black and white only adds to the feel of the scene. Even his colored piece resonates this emotion, as it reminds me of the 1990 film, which is probably the most accurate non-comic book representation of the characters. Most importantly though, and this is often overlooked, J.K. truly captures the vibes of New York City. Environment is everything in a great comic book, and when used correctly, shapes the personality of the characters as much as their actions. Think Ed Brubaker’s Criminal, and you’ll get my gist. New York plays just as big of a role as any other supporting character in the Turtles, but is usually ignored. Not here. New York is a rough and nasty place, and it’s the environment that molded the original Turtles into being such badasses, and J.K. recognizes that in his work. Could you imagine a full, 22 page comic book with pages like these? I’m drooling already.
Did you just crap your shell in awe of these portraits? I know I did the first time I saw them. So much so that I purchased a bunch- Splinter, Casey Jones, Slash, and Wingnut and Screwloose (the bat and mosquito…if you don’t know who they are, tsk, tsk). Sadly, I missed out on Shredder and April. Rest assured, I’ll be purchasing all 4 TMNT as well. If there was an artist who undeniably captures the realism of the TMNT, it’s Dave Rapoza. Just look at the detail and texture of these pieces. It’s amazing! If the Turtles existed in real life, this is what they’d look like. What Dave also hits grand slams on is his knowledge of the supporting cast. He smokes all of their likenesses and I wish he would do portraits of every single character who ever existed in the TMNT franchise (especially Ninjara!). Could you imagine Dave banging out page after page of a comic book looking like this? Here’s the true selling point- it only takes him 3-6 hours to complete each of these pieces, so I think a 22 pager with this type of quality is inside the realm of possibility for him. I would love to read his stories in an oversized hardcover. That would be seriously awesome.
These two dudes create art that’s pretty rad, right? I mean, can they freakin’ draw the hell out of the Turtles, or what? While their styles may be dramatically different, both understand where the Turtles come from; that they weren’t originally pizza loving doofuses who dropped acid on a regular basis, and that shows in their work. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original cartoon, but since its inception the face of the Turtles has changed forever, but these fellas remember the roots of the franchise and do it justice. There’s also nothing wrong with giving a more adult, layered take on the TMNT.
I truly believe Dave and J.K., when paired with a solid writer, would wow audiences with a Turtles book. Would you pay $3.99 for a comic with their work and feel like you got your money’s worth solely on the art alone? I think so. Again, I don’t mean to disregard Dan Duncan’s work on the upcoming series. It looks good, and it looks like the Turtles. I just feel J.K. and Dave break down the walls of conventionalism and provide a radical, yet true to the traditional, take on our favorite shelled mutants.
I can only hope that one day the TMNT community will be graced with these guys paying tribute to some of the most iconic characters in comics. Make it happen IDW and Nickelodeon. We’re waiting.