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The cover of Batman/TMNT III #1, DC Comics, IDW Publishing (2019). Freddie E. Williams II/DC Comics/IDW Publishing

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Third Batman/TMNT crossover smashes Batman’s origin story into the Turtles’ in a beautiful mess

Splinter/Alfred has to be seen to be believed

Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Batman/TMNT, DC Comics and IDW Publishing’s animated-film-inspiring 2015 collaboration, dropped the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and some of their biggest enemies into Gotham City to team up with Batman. Its sequel saw Bane take over the Turtles’ New York, and Batman and Robin reunite with the young mutants to set things to right.

Batman/TMNT III, from the same creative team of James Tynion IV and artist Freddie E. Williams II, splits the difference: It takes place in a smashed up combo of the Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles worlds, including a Joker/Shredder hybrid. And the end result, out this week, has to be seen to be believed.

And yet, according to Batman/TMNT writer James Tynion IV, there was still one idea so bonkers that it’s been rejected from his every Batman/TMNT pitch.

[Ed. note: This piece will contain spoilers for Batman: TMNT III #1.]

Raphael and Batman in Batman/TMNT, DC Comics, IDW Publishing (2016).
A scene from the first Batman/TMNT.
James Tynion IV, Freddie E. Williams II/DC Comics/IDW Publishing

In the world of Batman/TMNT III, Bebop and Rocksteady are merged with Killer Croc and Clayface, Casey Jones is a Gotham police officer, and a Joker/Shredder hybrid known as “the Laughing Man” rules the city at the head of the Smile Clan.

Also, after Bruce Wayne’s parents died, he apparently wandered into the Gotham City sewers and was raised by Splinter instead of Alfred.

Bruce Wayne/Batman and Splinter in Batman/TMNT III #1, DC Comics, IDW Publishing (2019).
Also Splinter wears a suit!!
James Tynion IV, Freddie E. Williams II/DC Comics/IDW Publishing

No one in the cast is aware that anything has ever been different — except for Bruce himself, who is troubled by recurring dreams about fighting crime with a “young human with black hair.”

Which is weird, because the only partners he’s ever known are his four younger brothers, Leonardo, Donatello, Rafael, and Michelangelo — who dress like Robins.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, merged with Robin, in Batman/TMNT III #1, DC Comics IDW Publishing (2019).
The Robin/Turtles, seen here in a merged Batcave full of TMNT memorabilia.
James Tynion IV, Freddie E. Williams II/DC Comics/IDW Publishing

At the close of Batman/TMNT III #1, we get a great big hint at the reason everything’s gone all Amalgam. There’s another DC Comics/Ninja Turtles hybrid pulling all the strings: A twisted combination of the Anti-Monitor, the villain of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Krang. Also, Anti-Krang (Krangti-Monitor?) has imprisoned incarnations of the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from their original, black-and-white comic series, hinting at a whole Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles multiverse for the story to draw from.

The name of this gift of a story arc? Crisis In a Half Shell.

All of those revelations, crammed into merely the first issue of six, left us with one burning question for Tynion. If the Turtles and Shredder have merged with the Robins and Alfred — why hasn’t Batman merged with anything? Did he ever consider making Bruce into a bat/human hybrid for Batman/TMNT III? The answer surprised us.

“I’ve been trying to transform Batman into a mutant going ALL THE WAY back to the first Batman/TMNT crossover,” in which many Arkham Asylum villains become animal hybrids, he told Polygon via email. “The big beat that I was fighting for has always been him transforming into a giant Turtle, and then still wearing the Bat-Costume. We would call him Bat-Turtle. I have pitched this for EACH of the three crossovers, but never got the final thumbs up [...] It’s okay, though. The Bat-Turtle lives on in my heart!”

As for a Batman/bat mutant option, Tynion said there were some “key images that came to mind” for Batman/TMNT III that precluded that possibility — but he did pitch a Batman/Turtle mutant again, without approval. Tynion allowed that this may have been because there was honestly no good reason for Batman to turn into a Bat-Turtle, and we strenuously disagree.

DC. IDW. Let Batman be Bat-Turtle.