Shredder Suffering Is Sweet Self-Awakening
Nov 20, 2018
by Vince Brusio
Writer/artist Mateus Santolouco found an unlikely vehicle to vent his inner geekdom. It’s a story that’s coming out from IDW Publishing, and Teenage Mutant Turtles: Shredder in Hell #1 (NOV180656) will be both original storytelling and a tip of the hat to major influences in Santoluoco’s career. In this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview, the creator explains he grew up reading a variety of comic books, and he admits to working in Easter Eggs that will show his appreciation for what came before him…much to Shredder’s dismay.
Vince Brusio: To your knowledge, has anyone ever attempted to write a story similar to this before in the TMNT canon? The subject’s pretty dark, even with Bodycount as a past comparison. How much freedom did IDW give you in navigating through the gates of Hell?
Mateus Santolouco: Hard for me to tell, I think that's something for a hardcore TMNT fan to say. I mean, I have read some of the previous Turtles runs, like the very first Eastman and Laird stuff, but I'm far from being a reliable encyclopedia on the matter. As for the dark aspect of the story, despite having the word "Hell" in the title, I don't think this mini-series goes through the same road as Bodycount. Yes, we will have bits of gore and violence – after all, the plot takes place in the Underworld – but that is definitely just the background of what I'm painting here. And I had full freedom creating the story, but this still is a part of an ongoing series, so my only constraints were to be sure my concept would fit in the storyline that IDW has in motion, and also that the whole thing would be digestible for the full range of TMNT readers. Fun fact: I didn't want the mini to be entitled Shredder in Hell, mostly because this title is too literal for my taste, but that was a battle the marketing folks won.
Vince Brusio: What inspired you to tell such a story? Did old films like Carnival of Souls or something as recent as What Dreams May Come help you to form your ideas about what Hell would look like for Shredder?
Mateus Santolouco: What Dreams May Come was definitely in the back of my head while I was writing, and I'm sure one can find some similarities between both stories. But my inspirations go beyond that. Films like The Fountain, the original Flatliners, and even The Matrix are also in the mix. Not to mention my all-time favorite comic, Akira. Actually, now that I'm actually drawing these books, I come to realize that visually, this mini-series is a love letter to lots of comic books that I grew up reading: Wolverine, Akira, Lone Wolf and Cub… they’re all there.
Vince Brusio: When reading a story, seeing anyone go through the perils of Hell can’t help but stir some feelings of sympathy in a reader. It’s something that strikes a chord in our basic humanity. Did any of this occur to you when you were composing this tale? Did you ever think that this was a fine line to walk because Shredder is, by nature, an enemy of the Turtles?
Mateus Santolouco: Well, the scenario of the Underworld was sort of already established in Shredder's Villains Micro-Series published in 2013, and although I was able to add new furniture and create a couple of new amendments to the rules of the place, the basic dynamics of how this particular version of Hell works was pretty much laid out in that book.
More than just a sadistic display of how we could punish our heroes' main nemesis, I like to think of this story as a self-awakening journey for the character. Of course, we will see him facing his inner demons and all sorts of hellish challenges… but in the process, we'll unwrap and show new layers of the man behind Shredder's helmet. We’ll get a clearer understanding of what motivates him, what his role is in the world and in much larger conspiracies. It’s important to say that this is not an effort to turn him into a good guy, but ultimately to make him more human and less cartoony.
Vince Brusio: As you’re both writer and artist for this book, was there ever a tug-of-war between the two about whether to write dialogue or instead illustrate to best convey a scene?
Mateus Santolouco: On the contrary, being both writer and artist actually helps. Since you are already creating mental images of everything you'll have to draw while you're typing the words on the script, it makes things more fluid once you get to the artistic end of the production, as opposed to working on someone else's script. The same goes for the writing part.
Let’s take a battle sequence, for instance. There will be moments where every step of a fight choreography will be important to the narrative as a tool to move the story and create a good pace for the plot development / dialogue on the pages. But also, there will be times where this kind of choreography will be irrelevant for the script itself.
In the second case, you can just highlight what really matters on the scene and write, "Big fight: the action on these panels will be depicted directly on the artwork," and voilà.
Vince Brusio: What has been the most rewarding experience for you in writing about the Turtles’ most revered villain?
Mateus Santolouco: Just working with characters that I loved as I was growing up, that’s such a huge reward. Ever since I had the opportunity to create Shredder's origins in Secret History of the Foot Clan, I catch myself looking back to my teenage years now and then, and I picture myself watching TMNT movies and playing that first arcade game with my brother – things just get surreal. Even though I knew I wanted to work with comics and create stories back then, I never for a second imagined that I would be able to! And not only drawing the Turtles in my own way, but also contributing with my ideas and injecting my own DNA into IDW’s mythology. That thought blows me away every time, and I can't help but feel honored.
Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.