As a longtime fan, it’s been a mixed bag seeing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the news lately. Yes, I’d personally love to see a new TMNT movie, but actually, Michael Bay, I’d like it to be about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That aside, this is a little bit of news about the original TMNT — no, the original TMNT. The picture above is quite possibly the very first sketch of the characters by Kevin Eastman, one of their creators, who drew it to make fellow creator Peter Laird laugh. Drawn in 1983, it is now up for auction. After the jump, more information about that auction, plus an anecdote from Eastman. Cowabunga!
Let’s first acknowledge that it looks like these turtles were never meant to pursue martial arts. They certainly have more, um, clunky features, like real turtles, who are lovely creatures, but not exactly the most graceful or agile animals. But as I mentioned, these were not necessarily going to become an action-packed franchise. Here is the real origin story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as told by Eastman:
“Late in November 1983, Peter Laird and I were sharing a studio (our living room) in Dover, New Hampshire. One work night, in an effort to make Peter laugh, I drew a sketch of this character I called a ‘Ninja Turtle’ and threw it onto Peter’s desk. He did laugh, and did a version of his own — to which I needed to take it one step further, and did a pencil sketch of four different Turtles, each holding a different weapon — and gave it to Peter, who wanted to ink it in — and when he did, he added ‘Teenage Mutant’ to the ‘Ninja Turtle’ part of the logo, and we both fell off our chairs! “The next day, we both looked at the drawing, and decided that we really needed to come up with a story about how these characters came to be — and began to hammer out the story details. Deciding to make it an homage/parody to some of our heroes and inspirations (and dedicating it to them) we worked through the winter of 1983-84 and, after finding a local New England printer, we borrowed money from my Uncle Quentin and we printed the first 3,000 copies — premiering the book at a local Portsmouth comic convention May 5th, 1984.
“From that day forward, and for the next 30 years, the TMNTs became a worldwide phenomenon (cartoons, toys, and movies) that even to this day we still try to completely understand — and it all started with this drawing. …”
They went on to become a comic at Mirage Studios, then a hit cartoon, followed by a series of live-action and animated movies. And then Michael Bay took a crap on all of it and added space explosions!
The sketch is currently being auctioned off at Heritage Auctions, where the minimum bid is currently $6,000. From the looks of it, bidding ends May 10. It’s a humble little beginning for a franchise that took the ’80s and ’90s by storm, and a great piece of pop culture history. At least for the girl who played with TMNT action figures in her doll house.
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