Ah! The Sweet Shell of Success!

** Me KE – “this article is so full of inaccuracies its not even funny – well it kinda is so i hope you enjoy”!

The Paper
March 7 – April 3, 1985

by Kirby Miller The Yellow Kid

OK, fans. You all know the usual run of comic book fantasia, right? No, not Donald Duck or Charlie Brown or Archie Andrews. I’m talking about The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, Silver Surfer, Shazam, Batman. You know, the whole pantheon of superachievers.

They’ve been around quite awhile, haven’t they, evil battling, time traveling, mindscaping? Why, they even team up these days to form Justice Leagues and other assorted comic consortia, and they do mini-series, guest shots in each others’ mags, television shows and
breakfast cereals.

Well, every time you run around, these guys are spinning off another intergalactic distant cousin – a new mutation for the gallery. With small publishers and satirists getting into the act, we’ve got OmegaMen, New Teen Titans, DNAgents, Normalmen, Ranxerox, Ambush Bug, Captain Canuck, Groo the Wanderer, Muppet Babies, Flaming Carrot, Wonderbunny – the list goes on. The list is growing. There’s even a number generated entirely on a MacIntosh computer. Comicons draw more conventioneers every year. Collectors are going berserk. Shops are popping up all over (like the one called, “My Mother Threw Mine Away.” Love that name.) And meanwhile, two guys in Sharon, Connecticut, have started this business with
turtles.

That’s right, turtles. ‘Course, these aren’t your ordinary, hare-beating, slow-and-steady-wins-the-race tortoises. Officially, they are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They wear masks, wield sais and nunchakus, and “strike hard and fade away into the night.” Once box turtles of little distinction, they have been transformed by freak exposure to chemical goo and the teachings of a martial arts master rat (that’s right, rat), into human-size defenders of truth and justice. They put honor first, and terrapin terror into the hearts of the lawless. Now you see them, now you don’t.

The authors of this shell game are Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, known collectively as Mirage Studios, and they couldn’t be happier about it. Kevin is a former art student and longtime fanzine follower with a protean flair for color illustration. Peter has a degree in printmaking from UMass in Northampton, a history of clever cartooning for magazines and newspapers, and an entrepreneurial itch. Both of them have been caught up with comics as far back as they can remember.

While still in high school, Kevin began sending drawings to magazines like Comixwave and Goodies. “No money, though, ” he says wistfully. “Just contributor copies of the magazine.” With paying illustration jobs few and far between. he ended up working a lot of restaurant jobs to keep bread in the basket while he sketched and painted and dreamed of the big time.

Peter worked in a comic book store for a couple of years after UMASS, freelancing to keep one foot in the mainstream and wondering if he’d ever have an opportunity to make a living at his kind of art. “I ran my own comic shop in Northampton for three years – in a former shoe shine shop, a 4′ x 15’ hole in the wall. Interesting and better than working for someone else, but just keeping the inventory straight didn’t leave much time or energy for creativity.”

Then they met, Kevin was staying in Northampton while his girlfriend finished her senior year. One day on the bus he found a battered copy of “Scat,” a local comix pub, lying on the floor. Some of the illustrations reminded him of his own work. He got the artist’s address and phone number from the publisher and arranged a meeting. When Peter Laird answered the door, behind him was a wall poster by Frank Kirby, one-time Marvel Comics maven and one of Kevin’s “heroes.” One of Peter’s, too, as it turned out.

“When I saw that poster,” says Kevin, “I knew.” Karma. Kismet.
Kindred spirits. For years they had been fascinated by the minutiae of the comix biz, with scarcely a soul to share their enthusiasm, as artists, for actually creating their own. So they talked and enthused. When they moved – Kevin to Maine, Peter to New Hampshire with his wife Janine – they kept in touch and got together every so often for creative jam sessions. And in April,1983, they formed Mirage
Studios.

“We were looking at a color blow-up Kevin had done of one of my robot drawings,” says Peter, “and thinking how well we worked together, and we just decided: ‘Why not?”‘ After a few false starts and a pile of publishers’ pink slips, and still collaborating by mail and commute, they stumbled on Turtles.

“We should do a story on Ninja Turtles,” said Kevin.

“Better yet, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” said Peter.

“Ha! Let’s do it!” said Kevin.

“What a guy,” said Peter.

(Me: KE** – not exactly what we said to the reporter but anyways – LOL)

This time. they decided, they weren’t going to roll their pearls past the swine of the publishing houses. With Kevin’s tax refund and a loan from his uncle, they swallowed hard and printed 3,000 copies of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 in black ink on newsprint. With customary daring, they added a second color to the cover, on glossy paper.

“I was worried about printing so many,” says Kevin. “I mean, what if we only sold 300? To our relatives? But we sold out in a month, and the second run of 6,000 went in another month.”

“We took out a full-page ad in CBG (Comic Buyers Guide – ed) and sold direct to dealers and distributors – no returns,” says Peter. “It was amazing. We just looked at each other and laughed. And got busy on another number.”

15,000 copies of TMNT #2 sold out in nothing flat. The second release of 30,000 is almost gone. A planned third edition of TMNT #1 is 80% spoken for. TMNT #3 is ready for press and 6 more issues are all mapped out. The turtles – named Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael, by their rodent mentor, Splinter – are undergoing character development, preparing for their solo debuts in future issues. And Fugitoid, a pre-turtle robot adventure that the “name” publishers may be sorry they tuned down, will be staging a comeback. Mirage Studios is on a roll.

Peter moved to Sharon last fall so his wife could take a teaching position. Kevin moved down last month. The two of them share the concept work, writing, drawing. inking, lettering, packing, mailing and whatever, working out of a tiny room in Peter’s log cabin home. It looks like they’ll be needing help soon, though. and more room.

The first printing of TMNT #1 is going for $50.00 on the rare comics market. Ninja Turtle iron-ons and metal miniatures are already on the market. T-shirts and a Dungeons-and-Dragons-style board game are in the works. And sales are reaching the level where four-color printing becomes feasible.

Peter and Kevin are enjoying the ride. They aren’t sure how long it will last, but it looks promising and the fan mail is encouraging. They’re getting a charge out of doing what they love and getting paid for it. Right now they don’t have time to consider what else Mirage Studios might do. Everything is coming up turtles. Haii!

“It’s a lot of fun working with Peter, ” says Kevin. “We get to the point, sometimes, where we finish each other’s sentences. I mean. it.s what – ”

” – we’ve always wanted to do,” says Peter with a smile. “Say, would you like to see my Ninja Turtle Advent Calendar?”

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