Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comics (Mirage)
In the years since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were created, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello have become a classically comical part of Americana.
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the creators of the Turtles, published their first black and white TMNT comic book with just $1,200 in 1984. With tons of work and a plethora of good fortunes, they've seen the Turtles go from an underground hit to a world-wide phenomenon. It's been a wild and crazy ride, to say the least!
After a long day of work way back in 1983, Kevin and Peter were relaxing at Laird's house watching television and sketching. "We got real punchy!" Peter explains, and they started drawing cartoons to amuse themselves. At the time Peter was doing editorial illustration and advertising art with some success while Kevin was working as a short-order cook and drawing comics in his spare time. As the evening evolved, Kevin eventually drew a bipedal turtle with Nunchukus strapped to its arms and called it a "Ninja Turtle". Peter, aware of a nifty idea when he saw one, asked "Why not a teenage mutant ninja turtle?" and thus the legend was born.
"We had all the Japanese fighting methods, but we didn't want to make up Japanese names because we thought they'd seem too strange to American readers." explains Kevin. "So we decided to go in the opposite direction and used distinctly European names. We both had studied art history, so we picked Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo and Michelangelo."
With the story written, Kevin and Peter began doing the artwork. Since the creative duo had similar styles, they were able to switch tasks back and forth. Some pages were penciled by Kevin and inked by Peter, some pages were penciled by Peter and inked by Kevin. Once the complete comic book was finished, they set out to find a publisher for it. Much to their dismay, the guys had no luck finding someone willing to print the title.
"We expected to sell them all as single copies through CBG." Peter remembers. "Instead, we got calls from distributors and learned about the wonderful world of discounts."
The first issue of the TMNT went to the printer on April 1, 1984... no foolin'! The printer finished the job in time for Peter and Kevin to debut the title at a comic book convention in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on May 5. Oddly enough, the printer hadn't printed the Turtle comic in the usual comic book format. TMNT #1 was an over-sized book.
"We'd gone to a printer (who knew nothing about printing comics) with a locally produced TV schedule giveaway." Kevin commented. "We told him, 'This is what we want: a colored stock cover and black and white newspaper inside.' We never thought to specify size, so he printed the issue in the same dimensions as the TV schedule giveaway we used as a sample!"
"When we created the Turtles, we wanted to spoof the world of super hero characters and poke good natured fun at the heroic but not-so-funny characters that dominated the business." said Peter. "The Turtles are fun heroes with an attitude. Basically, they act and think like average teenagers."
It's a formula that has worked well!
As the popularity of the comic grew, attention outside of the comics industry flourished. As stated above, the first issue of the TMNT had an original printing of only 3,000 copies, but by the time Turtles' licensing agent Mark Freedman came aboard, the comic was selling over 125,000 copies (making it perhaps the most successful self-published B&W comic in the USA.) Mark caught wind of the Turtles thanks to Palladium's TMNT RPG book and was excited by the look and attitude of the characters. Believing that he could expand upon the Turtles' success, Mark contacted Peter and Kevin.
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