Monday, May 12, 2014

"City at War" notes

While poking around in my old studio some weeks back I came across several pages of notes about the "City at War" story which Kevin and I worked on together way back when. My recollection of these ten pages of typed notes (with some brief hand-written notations and deletions) is that they are something I did after discussions with Kevin about the storyline for "City at War", the twelve-issue arc we produced in TMNT Volume 1 from issue #50 to issue #62. I believe this was part of our process to create a basic, consistent rough outline to which we could refer as we went forward with actually creating the comics.

It's clear to me from some of the typewritten phrases that this document was MY take on what Kevin and I had discussed, and the my hand-written notes reflect the changes suggested by further consultation with Kevin after he had a chance to read these pages.

  It's quite possible that this outline -- once it was finished, and I had incorporated any hand-written changes -- was what we then gave to Jim Lawson so he could start breaking down the issues he would pencil, which I believe were all of them in this particular arc.

It's interesting that the notes for issues 57, 59, 60 and 61 all consist of only a few lines. It makes me wonder if there is a later version of this document in which we laid out the elements of each of those issues in more detail.

  I am re-typing these pages of notes so as to make them easier to read.

  In transcribing these notes, I am leaving in all misspellings and awkward grammatical choices I made back then, which I might otherwise change now, to preserve as much as possible the original nature of the work. I may make some additional comments on some of the concepts introduced in these pages. -- PL






Notes on "City At War" story
issues 51 through 62


  The turtles have returned again to New York, and have found some (possibly) temporary digs… someplace funky and hidden, perhaps an abandoned warehouse, condemned construction site, old and unused water tower, etc.. The settle in, but are unsettled… their purpose in unclear. They have come back with a vague idea of doing something about the Foot-inspired wave of violence in the city, but also because their farm home in Massachusetts was breaking up, with Casey and April splitting in different directions, and Splinter withdrawing form them.

  The turtles had thought that once the Shredder was gone -- once that cycle of vengeance had been laid to rest -- that the Foot problem would go away, would be resolved. But it's increasingly clear to them that while the threat to them personally has more or less vanished, the factions of the Foot, in warring among themselves, have put a lot of innocent people at risk. (They hear or read the news reports of the massacre of the Foot soldiers under the bridge, the explosion in the sex shop [which we know was the grunt foot attempting to do away with some of the Foot accountants who were holed up in that building], and some other bits and pieces.) To some extent, the turtles feel guilty about it, as it was their actions in killing the Shredder that precipitated this fracturing of the Foot.

  Their confusion about what to do leads them eventually to go out "on patrol" (actually t probably comes about because Leo gets sick of the constant bickering and figures that at least if they all go out and prowl around, the physical activity will take their minds off the issue for a while). The conflict stems mostly from the moral and practical dilemna -- if they go out and find the Foot, what will they (the turtles) do? Kill the Foot? Not too likely… while the turtles have killed before, it has always been in the heat of battle, and always in self-defense (with two exceptions: both deaths of the Shredder). They can't be cold-blooded assassins/vigilantes. Turn them in to the police? For what -- being Foot guys?

  Casey in heading west in the Chevy, driving all night, eyeballs on his cheekbones, so to speak. He has a flashback to the moment when he put moves on April (between #49 and #50) and she rejected him (albeit with some reluctance), and then left. He's so tired he almost passes out while driving and barely avoids killing himself by driving in to an oncoming car.

  Grabbing java and some grub at a truckstop, (and giving his eyes a rest), Casey meets Gabrielle, a waitress, and they chat/flirt. Leaving the diner, Casey is set upon by a couple of redneck thugs who beat the crap out of him and steal his car.

(Hand-written notes)

Put Nate back in 51-62

Show him progressing through his recovery as in Kevin's notes

turtles investigate sex shop 

  Gabrielle come to his aid, taking him home with her and dressing his wounds.

  April arrives by plane in Los Angeles, and is met by her sister June (!), who shows her around L.A., tourist stuff while they get reacquainted and share sisterly stuff. April starts to tell June about Casey, but hesitates before going too far into it -- is she really ready to share the story of the turtles and Splinter? It is, after all, part and parcel of  how she met and ended up living in the same house with Casey.

  The two sister's arrive back at June's house, where we see that June, while a nice person, is also a total slob. (What does she do for a living? Kev -- also just realized while scripting the first few pages of #49, that we had worked out April's sister as married with a kid… maybe separated or divorced.)



  Casey wakes up in Gabrielle's house/trailer/apartment (?), and momentarily freaks out. She calms him down, then leaves for work with an offer to Casey that if he wants to he can stay at her place and rest up before moving on. Left alone with his bruised body and confused mind, Casey almost leaves… but doesn't. He wonders about reporting the stolen car to the police, but decides against it…. almost as if he is symbolically letting go of part of his past life.

Later on she comes home from work, tired and not expecting to find Casey still there, and somewhat depressed about that prospect )she's starting to really like the guy)… and finds that he's cleaned the place, done the dishes, made dinner, etc.. They eat, talk about past, their lives…  Casey gets more and more bummed out. Gabrielle comforts him, they get closer together, one thing leads to another… they kiss.


(Hand-written notes)

in the woods (in front of cave) making tea -- gets frustrated, smashes tea stuff, looks at broken pieces (maybe one page)

  In L.A., April is reading New York Times… big story about a three killers with swords who attacked an office of a dozen accountants and killed them all before vanishing -- story wonders if there is a connection between this and the mass murder of Foot soldier under the bridge.  (we know that there is -- it was Foot Grunts who found out where this group of Foot accountants were operating from and went there to eliminate them.) April throws paper down… it's too much of a connection to the life she's left… brings back bad memories of the time the Foot attacked her apartment.
April's sister June says it's time for April to get a new wardrobe -- "modern clothes" -- if she wants to find a decent job in L.A., so they go shopping.

  There is a guy riding a city bus, ordinary looking guy with a briefcase open on his lap in the back of the bus. As we get closer to this guy, we see what he is doing -- the briefcase contains a laptop computer with a modem hooked to a cellular phone, and guy (who is a Foot Accountant) has used this apparatus to tap into the computerized records of the Foot Scientists, and is in the process of altering records at the electric power company to show that a particular account is many months overdue, and should be immediately shut off (the account being of course the one of the several lab locations of the Foot Scientists). It's just one of the ways that the Accountant Foot are making life hell for the other factions of the divided Foot. (Why is he on a bus? Well, one of the reasons that the other factions of the Foot have not been able to easily eliminate the Foot Accountants -- who are not as skilled in martial arts -- is that the accountants can hide out and work their mischief from anyplace that has a phone plug… so the have spread out through the city, and are only very slowly being found and eliminated by the other factions.)

Meanwhile we see the turtles as they accidentally stumble upon and foil a mugging in an alleyway. Raph, disgusted, starts grousing "What's this shit? This is small time… and it's not even connected with the Foot! When are we gonna do something real?!" Even as he's saying that, we see behind him in the background the city bus slowing to a stop to pick up passengers. Suddenly, a Foot cyborg bursts out of a van behind the bus and heads for the bus, immediately tearing off the wheels on the right side of the bus, causing it to ground to a halt, listing to the right, passengers screaming.

Hand-written note (re: cyborg): 

remote-piloted "power loaded" type robot!

  The turtles see this an freak out! The cyborg starts ripping into the rear end of the bus, going after the Foot accountant, who is also freaking out. Just as the turtles start to go after the cyborg, a dozen Foot grunts pour out of another alleyway and leap into the fray. It's a wild melee, with everybody fighting everybody. The cyborg is put down, with difficulty, and most of the Foot Grunts and the accountant are killed. The battle appears to be winding down…

  … when two more cyborgs appears, the cops arrive, and tons of Foot Grunts (note: these guys use guns in addition to the classic ninja weapons) start pouring out from everywhere! One of the turtles yells something like "It can't get much worse than this!" and we see behind and off the the side, a Shredder Elite leaping into the fray. Fade out/ cliffhanger ending!

  (Bit of background: The Foot Scientists, no slouches in computer engineering themselves, have devised a method of counteracting the incursions of the Foot Accountants by secretly inserting small programs in the computer of the business that supply them with service -- banks, electric, fuel companies, etc. -- which lie dormant until the Foot Accountant try to alter the Foot Scientists' account records. Then the program activates and attempts to trace the phone signal backwards to its source. USing triangulation/tracing equipment, they can pinpoint the location of the person trying to mess with the files, and send out a cyborg -- in this case transported in a van to avoid unecessary detection and detainment/delay -- to take him/her out. Perhaps they also tip off the FOot Grunts -- maybe there is a tacit agreement that even thought the Grunts and the Scientists are enemies and want to get rid of each other, they would both like to rid themselves of the annoyance of the Accountants -- and in this way, at least, they will work together. This would be a convenient way of explaining the apparent coincidence of the Foot Grunts showing up at the bus scene.)

Also in this issue there is a short flash to a meeting in Japan, some kind of strange business meeting, shadowy figures talking about the breakdown of the NY corporate arm, and how the time is almost ripe for movement. Someone says that units are already there and others are almost finished prepping the required software (!). This is also when we first hear the name of Karai, the woman who will eventually become the head of the Japanese Foot in NYC.



  Open with view form inside of messy apartment/house, with April's sister's voice coming from outside. She's going on about how April's new look -- "You look great!" April's voice -- "I look ridiculous!" Keys jingle… door opens, and we get a look at the "new" April O'Neil: (full shot) funky tight clothes, new hair style, real L.A. look. There's some kind of interaction here, maybe more comments about the clothes, maybe April sarcastically suggesting that her sister's time would be better spent cleaning up her place than helping April buy clothes.

Hand-written notes:


Somewhere in this issue, Splinter goes out hiking in woods, comes across the abandoned factory as seen in Tales #4 (one page, probably)

Also add panel(s) of Nate

  Elsewhere (somewhere in the midwest … Missouri?) Casey Jones wakes up gasping, perhaps with April's name on his lips… a dream of her? It's early morning, and looking beside him, the bed is empty. Where's Gabrielle? Just then he hears her puking in the bathroom.

She comes out of the bathroom, eyes reddened from crying and face flushed from puking. They talk. She breaks down and tells him she's pregnant, four months along. She didn't tell him earlier because she thought it might make him leave. Although this new development is kind of freaking Casey out, he comforts her and tells her he is going to stay with her.

  Back in New York, chaos reigns on the street where the turtles have suddenly found themselves in a desperate fight for their lives and lives of hundreds of innocents literally caught in the crossfire. The cops have arrived in force, SWAT teams blazing away, Foot Grunts firing from rooftop, blowing up police cruisers… Grunts and turtles and police i hand to hand combat… Foot cyborgs wreaking havoc as turtles and Grunts try to stop them… one Shredder Elite moving like phantom among the combatants, with an aim to killing as many of the Grunts and cyborgs as he can, with a special interest in the turtles -- he is also trying to keep them alive, especially Leo, because part of the twisted rationale of the Shredder's elite now is that they will never regain their honor until one of them has bested Leo in fair combat (after all, they were supposed to keep Leo from reaching the Shredder in issue 21 [?].

The fighting escalates. Police helicopters show up, maybe one is shot out of the sky. National guard troops care called out. Buildings are ablaze. Bodies litter the streets. Unexpectedly, Leo calls a retreat. The turtles reach a safe place… they're totally stunned… in shock. They have had their first rude awakening -- this thing is far bigger than they thought, bigger by far than they can even begin to attempt to handle. And they have failed to protect the innocent… in fact, by getting involved, they may have prolonged the battle and indirectly caused innocent deaths.

This is a real low point for the boys.

It might be a good idea to close this issue by cutting to Japan, at the mysterious corporate meeting. They are watching live satellite news feeds from New York of the carnage. "It's time."



  Casey goes out to get a job, applies for a bag-boy position at supermarket, gets the job, has a real butthead for a boss, takes a lot  of abuse before losing his temper and decking the guy. Halfway back to Gabrielle's house, he realizes that he's got to swallow his pride and go apologize and ask for his job back… do a little groveling, ass-kissing. Of course he hates the idea of doing this, but realizes that if he's going to help Gabrielle (and her baby) out, he's got to accept the downside of responsibility.

So he goes back, begs for his job, the boss listens to it, makes Casey go through the whole groveling routine -- then laughs at him and tells him there's no way he's going to get the job back.

So Casey decks him again.

When he gets home, he tells Gabrielle the story, and she's sympathetic. He promises to look for other jobs and to keep his temper in check.

Speaking of jobs, April has found one in La Mirada (!) working as a software engineer for Ramtek Incorporated, a computer company. One he first day there she gets hit on for a date six times… not exactly what she's used to.
(Maybe do something with April and her sister's family celebrating an L.A. Christmas… no snow, neon xmas trees, etc.. Some melancholy on April's part as she thinks of the fun Christmas times with the turtles.)

  It's five days 'til Christmas… but the turtles aren't feeling very merry. Hiding out in their dismal digs, cold, depressed, still feeling the effects of shock from the hug street battle three weeks ago, and listening to further news reports of Foot activity and violence. There's a report on the tube about a panic at the New York stock exchange, with a computer virus destroying thousands of records before it was stopped, wreaking havoc on a whole mess of investors and businesses.

  Cut to Japan. A sleek corporate jet is taking off; on board is Karai with her support staff. (Some of these are the suits with laptops that appear in a later issue.) Karai is sitting at a desk/seat. The surface of the desk is a large flat panel TV/monitor, and currently on screen are several window type displays, each showing a slow motion video image, somewhat blurry and distorted -- tracking noise and such. She speaks some commands:
"Freeze/capture/Frame/Enlarge/Enhance/Unsharp Mask", etc.. We see the images resolves into fairly clear shots of the turtles in action, and we understand from the setting that therese were some amateur video taken at the scene of the bus battle. Karai studies these images, and mutters under her breath "So… they are back. Excellent…"

Crossed-out paragraph:

Splinter scene: Out in the woods, SPlinter is practicing some meditation techniques which are meant to allow him to move in and out of his animal nature at will. This is tested when a coyote pursues a fawn pst Splinter, and Splinter leaps on the coyote, chewing the hell out of its neck and killing it. Slowly lifting his bloody muzzle from the corpse of the coyote, Splinter says "Interesting…"

Hand-written notes:

2 or 3 pages

Splinter explores the ruins, falls in the hole (where Rat King fell), breaks leg! splints it up, realizes he can't get out

Nate panel somewhere

  [This is an interesting bit -- Splinter killing the coyote -- which I had completely forgotten until I re-read these notes. I think it would have made for a cool scene, but I think the direction in which we ultimately decided to go was better. -- PL]

Casey and Gabrielle at home… she's starting to show. He gives her an early Christmas gift -- some sexy outfit. She cries, he says it's for after the baby comes… things are getting serious here.

  Cut to some kind of bioengineering plant in NYC in some nondescript factory building. (We know it's on o the sort of hidden facilities of the Foot Scientists). Inside it's not lit too well… we see portable generators running, cables connected to vital equipment and portable lights. Foot Scientist is bitching to another: "Can't we get more lights in here? Damn those bean counter (Foot Accountants)! How they managed to get the power company to cut off our juice, I don't know…!"
Just then most of the lights go off. "What the hell--?!" In the semi-darkness, we see a lithe form leaping around, creating havoc, slashing left and right with a sword of some other ninja weapon, hurling shuriken. Scientists are dropping like flies, sparks flying everywhere as machines are sliced into and pushed over, volatile fluids spilling and starting fires. Chaos!

Cut to exterior of building as parts of it explode in fiery conflagration… pull back to reveal figure of ninja who started it all… it's one of the Shredder's Elite.

  The turtles are listening to the late news, a report about an unlicensed biotech facility which exploded that night, with many dead. There are also stories about fighting in Serbia and Yugoslavia, etc. The guys are huddled around a portable gas stove. It's very depressing. Mike says "Merry Chr…" and breaks down.



(Hand-written notes)

Start book with splash of airport - showing jet, people getting off onto helicopter - next two-page spread is helicopter over New York, followed by one page reveal of Karai disembarking from copter on rooftop

Casey and Gabrielle are getting real close, really falling in love. They do romantic stuff… Casey goes to birthing classes with her.

Then Casey blows her mind… he ask her to marry him.

  April goes on a date, but it ends badly -- guy's really aggressive, pushy. April's starting to hate L.A. -- traffic, smog, freaks, etc.. -- wondering if she should stay.

(Hand-written notes)

Splinter is getting hungry… realizes that he can't get out until his leg heals, but he may starve by then. Starts semi-hallucinating, voice of Rat King says "You need water" - finish up with last couple of pages -- it starts raining -- last page is full-page reveal of Rat King as it starts pouring

Back in NYC, Leo is trying to get the guys out of their slump. It scares him that even Mike is bummed out. He manages to get them all out for exercise and practice, leaping around on the snowcapped roofs of the city. Soon they get tired, start complaining, Raph especially, who decides to split back to the den.

On the way back, Raph is ambushed by one of the Shredder Elite. It's an intense fight, and one in which Raph soon realizes he is literally fighting for his life. Of course, this only makes him fight harder -- he starts to get the spark back. The berserker rage fills him, and the upshot of this long hard fight is that the Elite is mortally wounded. At this moment the rest of the guys arrive on the scene. They all listen as the dying Elite tells them about the Elite's plan for Leo.

Then he kills himself.



  Casey and Gabrielle go to a justice of the peace and get married. (The idea behind this is it seems to me not only a natural progression of their relationship, and also solve the problem of legal custody of the child when Gabe dies. It also will not create any problems when Casey and April get back together, as he will be a widower and free to marry her.)

(Hand-written notes)

April has horrible day at work, hit on, shit on, has fight with sister - end book with April getting phone cal -- her father's dead/

Nate scene?

Splinter talking to Rat King, trying to deal with hunger -- catches a rat, can't bring himself to eat it

Turtles in water tower/attacked by Foot grunts, who are now under Karai's control/cut out the bottom of the water twoer/three turtles get away, one is captured/Karai shoots arrow at fleeing turles, has not on it saying "Call me"/ sets up meeting in #57



(crossed-out line)

April's father dies.

  April moves back to New York.

(Hand-written notes)

Splinter continue discussion with Rat King

Karai meets with turtles alone, and lays out plan for turtles


"Kinder, gentler trigger-finger"

  [I have no idea what that last line is all about. -- PL]



  This is a critical issue. It's in this issue that the turtles come to grips with the deal they have to make to get their lives back on track, to have some hope of a "normal" existence into the future. This is also a crux point in the maturing of the turtles, where they are forced to realize that life is not necessarily black and white… that there are shades of grey.
In this issue the turtles agree to help the Japanese Foot, by getting rid of the remainder of the Shredder's Elite. It's also clear to the turtles by now that the only way to eliminate the threat of the fanatical Shredder's Elite… is to kill them.

  Gabrielle has the baby, but tragically dies in childbirth. Casey is wracked with grief. The doctors tell him he should go home and get some sleep. He wanders, in a grieving daze, to the truckstop diner… memories of Gabrielle.

By incredible coincidence at that moment, looking out the window, Casey's teary eye spy -- his '57 Chevy… and the two dungballs who stole it from him and beat him up!

Rage and grief boil up and Casey is out in the parking lot, cleaning their clocks. He really thrashes them… and gets his car back.

Shortly thereafter, Casey and baby are in the Chevy -- disposable diapers, formula, and all -- and headed east… to Northampton.



  Set up for big fight in issue #60 with Shredder Elite.



  Big fight with Shredder Elite.



  Conclusion of fight with Shredder Elite.

  Reunion of Casey and April.



  Casey and April, back together again, and this time in love, return to the farm in Northampton. (The baby is with Casey's mom.) This time it's to pack up what they've left there, to shut the farm up, (or maybe arrange to rent it out?) and go back to the city to start their lives together. There's plenty of opportunity for poignant reflection by both of them, reflections on their experiences there at the farm with the turtles and Splinter and the good and bad times they had.

It's a hot summer day, and after packing for several hours on their third day there, Caey and April decide to take a break and go for a dip in the pond near the farm. Casey relaxes on shore while April swims. Suddenly she gasp, struggles, yells for help… and is pulled under. Horrorstruck, Casey is about to leap in to try to save her from whatever is in the pond, when the surface erupts. A sputtering, then laughing April explodes out of the water, propelled upwards by three pairs of strong turtles arms. It's Leo, Mike and Raph!

It's a big reunion scene. Stories are swapped, tales told… then April notices someone's missing. "Where's Don?" There's a moment of silence, then Leo says "He's with Splinter." The euphoric mood slowly evaporates.

Later on there's a scene with everyone in the woods, near Splinter's -- and now Don's -- hidden den. We learn that Don has decided to stay with Splinter, who will not be returning to New York with everyone else. He will stay and continue his evolution as a ninja master, and Don will be learning from him and helping him out, acting as a protector.

It's sad… but the bonds are strong, stronger now than before. It's not a permanent separation, and they will all surely be together again. It's a bittersweet moment. Splinter hangs back, silent and aloof for the most part, stiffly acknowleging the farewell sentiments o the boys and Casey, then slipping away while the others talk.

After all of the goodbyes are said, April tells Casey that she wants a few minutes alone. It's dusk, the trees silhouettes. April speaks int he gathering darkness. "I don't know it you're there, Splinter… if you can her me. If you can… I want you to know… my father died two months ago. My Dad -- he raised me, taught me a lot about life, how to be a good person. I loved him. I still do. He's gone now, but… the last few years, I've felt that I've had two fathers. And… and I've loved them both." April sniffles, wipes away a couple of tears. "Goodbye, Splinter."

April starts to walk toward the waiting Chevy. "April". The voice comes out of the deepening shadows. One shadow detaches itself from the rest, and moves towards April. It's Splinter. He moves close to April. There is a moment, then Splinter holds out his arms. April falls to her knees and they share a fierce hug, Splinter gently patting April's head with his gnarled rat fingers. "Daughter," Spinter whispers.

Fade out.



  1. Thank you.Great to see these originals, but the transcribed version was much easier to read.

  2. This is great. Thanks for sharing. One of my favorite issues from City at War was #54 with the introduction of Karai. I think that's a key issue that should be in any Turtle fans collection. Karai has become such an interesting character since then and has potential for more.

  3. hey peter
    just wanted to note. the last scene with april gave me the tears when i read it the first time. i think that's kinda epic for a comic :)

  4. This is great. I made my grandparents take me to the comic book store every time a new issue came out. City at War was so amazing. What Casey had to go through, Everyone had so much to deal with. Reading this material as an adult now I have such a greater appreciation for the story overall. Thanks

  5. Hey Pete,
    Really Cool! Thanks for sharing. Have you seen the IDW TMNT Treasury Edition of issue #50? It is one of my personal favorite TMNT comics from Mirage. I just loved the way the issue had an emotional build without the use of dialog. I thought that it was very clever and well executed. When I saw the IDW release of TMNT #50 on Midtown Comics website I grabbed a copy. The description on Midtown Comics read "A deluxe treasury-sized version of a classic! Presenting the landmark silent 50th issue of Eastman & Laird's TMNT." I had no idea what "deluxe treasury-sized" meant, other than it would be bigger than a typical modern comic, so with my curiosity piqued I grabbed a copy despite already having the original Mirage comic. I'm glad I did too. I received it in the mail yesterday. It is huge! The book measures about 13" x 9 3/4". It shows the original layouts by Kevin (that look like they where done with a ballpoint pen), notes, and a couple other cool bits. The "City at War" story line is one of my favorites. I think it is a fantastic job by IDW putting together a treasury addition of the comic that started the story. It is great to see IDW put out material that shows respect to the original Mirage comics. I thought the hard cover Ultimate Collection volumes and this TMNT Treasury Addition #50 are very well done. I think it is wonderful to get a behind the scenes look at one of my favorite TMNT story arcs via #50 Treasury Addition and your blog posting. These notes are fascinating. It is so cool to see the process. Out of curiosity, what is that doodle mid page on the first page?
    Thanks again for sharing, have a good one!

  6. That is Outstanding , thanks for sharing...