Tito W. James: You’re best known for Godzilla In Hell and your work on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. How are you able to inject new life into these old licensed properties.
Dave Wachter: When you’re working on a licensed property you have to think about adding your own flavor to it. What little changes and alterations you can do to make it your own within the framework of the property.
TWJ: What’s your unique take on Godzilla?
DW: With Godzilla, or any monsters, I love drawing them because I love drawing things with such mass and putting a lot of detail in the ink work. I love things with a lot of texture that I can still make very expressive. And I think Godzilla gave me all of that.
It was such a thrill to be able to work on that comic. It’s the kind of book where I could put everything into it. Every single line that I wanted to put in, I can throw in. I could do all the things I like. I could put in lots of fire, smoke, and rubble. Devastated buildings and energy blasts; all the fun stuff.
DW: Compared to something like the cartoon it’s a little grittier; more real world and character based. I think it still maintains a lot of the fun and energy but it also has a really large scope. There’s a wide range of characters in an extended storyline. People’s lives change and evolve throughout the story as opposed to having little 30 minute episodes. It’s a continuing story that’s leading up to issue 100, right now. Seeds have been planted from the very beginning.
What’s great about this iteration of the Turtles is that it brings a little bit of each of the previous iterations of the Ninja Turtles. So you’ll see stuff from the Mirage days, the 80s cartoon, the 90s, and the more current stuff. It’s all laced in there to make one large narrative.
TWJ: Do you have a favorite Ninja Turtles character to draw?
DW: Splinter is sort of my go to guy. I love drawing Master Splinter. I just love the look of him; design of the character. I love that you can have him standing around and seeming very serine and aged. The next second he can be doing a backflip and kicking somebody’s butt.
TWJ: Do you have any characters in the Turtles universe that you relate to as a person?
DW: You know, I always related to Raphael.
TWJ: A lot of people do!
DW: Yeah! He wears his heart on his sleeve. You know where he’s at at any given time. I think he’s the guys that’s pushing up against his world the most. Theres a world where he sees things that he doesn’t agree with and I think it hits him the hardest.
TWJ: To me it almost seemed like Raph knew he was in a cartoon and that’s why he would question Leo and Master Splinter.
DW: Yeah, Raph’s a good counterpoint to Leonardo and his leadership role. Leo might say “we need to do this because it’s the right thing to do.” Raph is the one who might ask “is this the right thing to do? Are we thinking of ourselves as well?”
TWJ: You’ve taken some characters from underground comics and Japanese horror films that some might consider B-list or low-brow– and yet you’ve illustrated them in a very detailed fine art way. Do you have any closing thoughts on high vs low brow and artistic validity?
DW: You know I don’t think too much about low art or high art. There was a time where I had aspirations of high art. But then I realized I just wanted to do what makes me feel good. What I like about comics is that it’s storytelling. Ultimately storytelling is about the human condition and you can find lots of that in the Ninja Turtles.
I’d like to thank Dave Wachter for taking the time to do this extensive interview. Look for his work in TMNT from IDW.