Some TMNT stuff really isn't for little kids.
Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an American comic book published on and off by Mirage Studios since May 1984. Originally conceived by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird as a one-off parody, the comic's popularity has gone on to inspire a major pop culture franchise, including television series, six feature films, numerous video games and a wide range of toys and merchandise.
The concept originated from an evening of casual brainstorming. Kevin Eastman drew a picture of a turtle with nunchaku strapped to his arms. Peter Laird thought a slow turtle as a ninja was very funny. Eventually, they created a team of four turtles, each specializing in a different weapon.
Using a tax refund and a loan from Eastman's uncle, they formed Mirage Studios and published a single-issue comic book that would parody Daredevil, Ronin and X-Men/The New Mutants. The traffic accident and truck carrying radioactive waste that caused the turtles mutation was an allusion to Daredevil's origin. The name "Splinter" is a parody of Daredevil's master, "Stick". The Foot serve as a parody of a ninja clan in Daredevil called "The Hand".
In this series, all the turtles' bandanas are colored red, and the turtles could usually only be distinguished by their weapons, their names of address, and sometimes by their personalities; differently-colored bandanas did not first appear until the 1987 TV series, becoming the norm in most other incarnations that would follow. Most other incarnations of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to follow the Mirage version would be lighter in tone and target younger audiences.
Over the years, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would cross over with other successful independent comic books, including Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark, Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon, Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot, and Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo.
In 2009 Peter Laird sold the Turtles to Viacom, the parent company of Nickelodeon. At WonderCon 2011, it was announced that IDW Publishing had secured the rights to publish a new series and reprint the older comics.
Origin of the concept
The concept originated from a comical drawing sketched out by Kevin Eastman during a casual evening of brainstorming with his friend Peter Laird. The drawing of a short, squat turtle wearing a mask with nunchakus strapped to its arms was incredibly funny to the young artists, as it played upon the inherent contradiction of a slow, cold-blooded reptile with the speed and agility of the Japanese martial arts. At Laird's suggestion, they created a team of four such turtles, each specializing in a different weapon. Eastman and Laird often cite the work of Frank Miller and Jack Kirby as their major artistic influences.
Using money from a tax refund together with a loan from Eastman's uncle, they formed Mirage Studios and self-published a single-issue comic book that would parody four popular comics of the early 1980s: Marvel Comics' The New Mutants, which featured teenage mutants, Cerebus the Aardvark, Ronin, and Daredevil, which featured ninja clans dueling for control of the New York City underworld.
In fact, many comics fans will recognize in the Turtles' origin several direct allusions to Daredevil: the traffic accident, involving a blind man and a truck carrying radioactive ooze, is a reference to Daredevil's own origin story (indeed in the version told in the first issue Splinter sees the canister strike a young boy's face, though in this world it does not split until it reaches the turtles).. The name "Splinter" is also parody on Daredevil's mentor, a man known as "Stick". The Foot, a clan of evil ninja who became the Turtles' arch-enemies, likens to The Hand, who were themselves a mysterious and deadly ninja clan in the pages of Daredevil.
After conceiving the Turtles' mentor as a rat who had come from Japan and was a ninja master, Eastman and Laird thought of giving the turtles Japanese names, but as Laird explained, "we couldn't think of authentic-sounding Japanese names". Instead they went with Renaissance artists, and picked the four they were most familiar with, with the help of Laird's copy of Janson's History of Art.
Volume 1: 1984 - 1993
The first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was advertised in issues #1 and #2 of Eastman and Laird's comic book, Gobbledygook, as well as in the Comic Buyers' Guide. The book premiered in May of 1984 at a comic book convention in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The comic book was in an oversized magazine format with black-and-white art. It was printed on cheap newsprint and only 3,275 copies were produced. It was extremely popular and soon it sold for 50 times its original price.
The success also led to a black and white comics boom in the mid-1980s, wherein other small publishers put out animal-based parody books hoping to make a quick profit. Among them, the Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters, the Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung-Fu Kangaroos, and the Karate Kreatures were obvious parodies of TMNT. Most of them were sold to comic shops in large numbers, but failed to catch on with readers. This speculation led to financial problems with both comic shops and distributors, contributing to a sales collapse in 1986–87.
The "Return to New York" story arc concluded in the spring of 1989 and by this time the Ninja Turtles phenomenon was well established in other media. Eastman and Laird then found themselves administrating an international merchandising juggernaut, overseeing a wide array of licensing deals. This prevented the two creators from participating in the day-to-day work of writing and illustrating a monthly comic book. For this reason, many guest artists were invited to showcase their unique talents in the TMNT universe. The breadth of diversity found in the various short stories had the adverse effect of somewhat disrupting continuity and gave the series a disjointed, anthology-like feel (for more info, see the article Guest Era). Some of these artists, including Michael Dooney, Eric Talbot, A.C. Farley, Ryan Brown, Steve Lavigne, Steve Murphy, and Jim Lawson, continued to work with Mirage Studios for years to come.
Issue #45 kicked off a major turning point, as Mirage made a concerted effort to return the series to continuity. A 13-part story arc entitled "City at War" began with issue #50, which was the first issue to be completely written and illustrated by both Eastman and Laird since issue #11. Both "City at War," and Volume 1 concluded with the publication of issue #62 in August 1993.
Volume 2: 1993 - 1995
Mirage Studios launched Volume 2 with much fanfare in October 1993, as a fully colored series, that maintained the continuity established in Volume 1. Written and illustrated by Jim Lawson, the series lasted only 13 issues and ceased publication in October 1995. The ended production was due to waning popularity and lagging sales as well as a flood at Mirage Studios.
Volume 3: 1996 - 1999
In June 1996, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 3 was published under the Image Comics label, thanks to Erik Larsen. A total of 23 monthly issues were written by Gary Carlson and illustrated by Frank Fosco. The comics returned to their black-and-white format, albeit without toning, but had a faster pace, more intense action, and surprising plot twists. Many of the Turtles were injured and/or mutilated, this caused Donatello to become a cyborg, Raphael to wear an eye-patch due to loss of his left eye, Leonardo to place his katana in place of his severed hand, and Splinter becoming a huge were-bat mutant. In a startling plot twist, Raphael even took on the identity of The Shredder and assumed leadership of the Foot. With Volume 3, the Turtles were incorporated into the Image shrared universe, which provided opportunities for a few crossovers and guest appearances by characters from the The Savage Dragon series. The series ceased production in 1999 and is no longer considered part of the "official" TMNT "canon" due, in part, to a lack of desire by co-creator Peter Laird to follow-up material with which he was not directly involved nor fully approved. Raphael's depiction as the Shredder however, is referenced in an episode of the third season of the 2003 animated series, "The Darkness Within", where Raphael is exposed to his fear of giving into anger and becoming the very thing he hates.
Volume 4: 2001 - 2008
Peter Laird and Jim Lawson brought the Turtles back to their roots with Volume 4. First published in December 2001, the series is published bi-monthly and contains carefully-woven story threads as well as social commentary. The authors took this opportunity to correct the spelling of Michelangelo's name; Eastman and Laird had been originally misspelled "Michaelangelo", a spelling that was used in all subsequent TMNT media up to that point.
The plot centers around Utroms, amongst other alien species, who have landed on Earth and are living out a one year probation period, in which at the end if they are asked to leave, they claim they will peacefully. This leads to the TMNT being able to live normal lives for the first time under the guise of aliens.
After issue 28 was published in June 2006, the series went on a two year hiatus as Peter Laird worked on the new TMNT movie. However, Tales of TMNT remained unaffected. Volume 4 returned from hiatus in April 2008, right where issue 28 left off. The first issue numbered #29. However, distribution was extraordinarily different. Due to lacking sales before the hiatus, the new issues were created primarily for the internet. They now can be downloaded legally in the United States.
Currently all Volume 4 issues from #1-current can be read for free, but can no longer be downloaded. Previously they could not be read online but were downloadable for free, in the US only. After WOWIO, the company hosting the comics, went global this was removed due to rights restrictions issues and being impracticable to have local sponsor sales in every country.
The first issue relates the origin of the Turtles. As the story goes, the four Turtles were exposed to the mutagen when after a traffic accident with their young owner as a bystander. The mutagen mutated them into a more human form and more developed intellect. Splinter, a rat once owned by Ninjutsu master Hamato Yoshi, was also exposed. Splinter was fantastically smart and learned Ninjutsu by mimicking his master. Hamato Yoshi moved from Japan to New York in order to escape the bitter love triangle between him and Oroku Nagi, another member of his ninja clan. However, Yoshi was found and killed by Nagi's younger brother Oroku Saki. Saki was the leader of the New York branch of the Foot Clan and had taken the identity The Shredder. Yoshi's death had left Splinter homeless.
Splinter happens to see the Turtles after the accident and adopts them. Within days, both Splinter and the Turtles grow to human size and develop speech. Splinter trained them in Ninjutsu, so they could avenge the murder of Hamato Yoshi. Splinter choose their names from a book about Renaissance artists: Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael. The Turtles challenge Shredder and the Foot Clan on a roof top and defeat them. Shredder falls off the roof, holding a thermite grenade that blows up.
Looking further at their origin, the Turtles discover that the mutagen is a by-product of research done by a group of aliens called the Utrom. During their research, the Turtles accidentally teleport themselves across the galaxy. They meet professor Honeycutt, a brilliant scientist whose mind is trapped in the body of a robot. They must save the professor from the Triceraton Republic, a race of aliens who would use his transmat to conquer the universe.
Shredder, returned from the dead, seeks his revenge on the Turtles. In an ambush on Christmas Eve, the Turtles, Splinter, April O'Neil, and Casey Jones are forced to retreat to Casey's grandmother's farmhouse in Northampton, Massachusetts. Leonardo is badly hurt in the battle.
Return to New York
A year later, the Turtles return to defeat the Shredder. In a dramatic conflict, Shredder reveals to Leonardo how he was brought back to life. After the first conflict, the Foot recovered his remains. Using a combination of mysticism and science, his body was revived as a colony of worms. Leonardo decapitates the Shredder and they cremate his body to prevent his return!
City at War
New York is the site of the battle between the factions of the leaderless Foot Clan battle each other for dominance. In response to the chaos, the Japanese Foot Clan sends Karai to be the new leader. Karai enlists the help of the Turtles to restore order. In exchange for the help, the Foot Clan must never bother the Turtles again. Meanwhile, Splinter duels the Rat King, April reconnects with her sister Robyn, and Casey falls in love with a woman named Gabrielle.
The Turtles decide to go their separate ways. They have lost their purpose without the threat of the Foot Clan. Meanwhile, Baxter Stockman constructs a robotic body while imprisoned at DARPA. He places his brain in it and starts his mission to get revenge on April. Raphael encounters Stockman and they battle. Raphael is thrown from the roof and captured by DARPA.
The three other Turtles reunite and defeat Stockman. Having defeated him, they turn their attention to their lost brother. With the help of Casey and Nobody, they infiltrate DARPA and find several alien species, including Triceraton, being experimented on. The Turtles battle DARPA. A freed Triceraton threatens a planetary invasion from his colony. The Turtles escape with the help of another test subject.
The Turtles' birthday party is interrupted by cyborg assassins, Pimiko, and her 'ninja babies'. Donatello and Raphael are both badly injured during the fight. Both Donatello and Splinter are kidnapped. The remaining Turtles relocate to a graveyard while Donatello and Splinter are taken to upstate New York by helicopter. Donatello wakes on the way and a fight ensues. Donatello and a cyborg fall from the helicopter, still fighting. Donatello kills the assassin with its own gun, but breaks his shell and is paralyzed. Donatello fuses with the cyborg. Being cyborg, Donatello gains many new abilities, but loses his shell.
Raphael and Michelangelo are ambushed by Pimiko and her ninja babies at the graveyard while Leonardo is in a trance. They fend them off and trace their employer, Lord Komodo. Meanwhile, Splinter awakes and finds himself a captive of Lord Komodo. He interacts with Mako. Meanwhile, Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo find the spot where Donatello fell. Seeing only his shell, they believe him dead. They set off on a rescue/revenge mission. The three Turtles accidentally fight Mako and find that Donatello is alive, though he is a cyborg. Reunited, they break into Lord Komodo's lair. Lord Komodo turns himself into a Komodo Dragon and Splinter into a giant bat. Pimiko escapes. The Turtles try to track Splinter.
Picking up fifteen years after the conclusion of Volume 2 (and omitting the events of Volume 3), the Turtles, now in their early thirties, are living together in their sewer lair beneath New York City. April O'Neil and Casey Jones have been married for some time and remain in contact with the Turtles from their nearby apartment. Splinter continues to live at the Northampton farmhouse, where he has become a "grandfather" of sorts to Casey's teenage daughter, Shadow. The Utroms return to Earth in a very public arrival, subsequently establishing a peaceful base in Upper New York Bay. Since the arrival, aliens and other bizarre life-forms, like the Turtles have become more accepted within society. No longer forced to live in hiding, the Turtles now roam freely among the world of humans, albeit under the guise of aliens.
During the early days of the franchise, each of the four Turtles received their own one-shot (or "micro-series"), plus a one-shot featuring the Fugitoid. There was also a one-shot anthology, Turtle Soup, released in 1987, which lead to a four-part series of the same name in 1991-92. The Turtles had a four-issue mini-series co-starring Flaming Carrot (the Turtles previously guest-starred in issues #25-27 of the Carrot's own Dark Horse-published series), and the Fugitoid teamed up with Mirage regular Michael Dooney's creator-owned character Gizmo for a two-issue limited series. Kevin Eastman and Rick Veitch created a story starring Casey Jones which was initially serialized in the four issue anthology series Plastron Cafe, and later colorized and released with a previously-unseen conclusion in the two-part Casey Jones mini-series. Eastman then collaborated with Simon Bisley on a mini-series that was supposed to released by Mirage under the title Casey Jones & Raphael, but after one issue, it was released by Image under the title Bodycount as four-part mini-series which began with an expanded version of the sole Mirage-published issue.
- Listed chronologically
- Peter Laird - Vol. 1 #1-12, 15, 19-21, 48-62; Vol. 4 #1-current
- Kevin Eastman - Vol. 1 #1-11, 14, 17-21, 32, 48-62; Bodycount #1-4
- Dave Sim - Vol. 1 #8
- Michael Dooney - Vol. 1 #9, 13, 27, 46-47
- Ryan Brown - Vol. 1 #9; Leonardo #1
- Jim Lawson - Vol. 1 #9, 15, 19-21, 28, 48-49, 51-62; Vol. 2 #1-13; Vol. 4 #1-current
- Steve Bissette - Leonardo #1
- Eric Talbot - Vol. 1 #14, 17, 20, 32; Vol. 2 #4-11; Vol. 4 #5-current
- Mark Martin - Vol. 1 #16, 22-23
- Mark Bode - Vol. 1 #18, 32
- Rick Veitch - Vol. 1 #24-26, 30
- Stephen Murphy - Vol. 1 #28
- A.C. Farley - Vol. 1 #29, 43
- Michael Zulli - Vol. 1 #31, 35-36
- Jan Strnad - Vol. 1 #33
- Richard Corben - Vol. 1 #33
- Rich Hedden - Vol. 1 #34, 38-40
- Tom McWeeney - Vol. 1 #34, 38-40
- Rick McCollum - Vol. 1 #37, 42
- Bill Anderson - Vol. 1 #37, 42
- Matt Howarth - Vol. 1 #41
- Paul Jenkins - Vol. 1 #43
- Rick Arthur - Vol. 1 #44
- Dan Berger - Vol. 1 #45
- Keith Aiken - Vol. 1 #46-49, 51-52, 54-57, 59-60, 62
- Matt Banning - Vol. 1 #53
- Jason Minor - Vol. 1 #58, 61; Vol. 2 #1-3
- Gary Carlson - Vol. 3 #1-23
- Frank Fosco - Vol. 3 #1-23
- Simon Bisley - Bodycount #1-4
There are few trade paperback collections of the series, and there do not appear to be any forthcoming collections in the future. As part of the 25th anniversary celebrations, a new trade paperback Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Collected Book Volume 1 was released in July 2009.
- TMNT Collected Book Volume One (Limited Edition Hard Cover), collecting Vol. 1 #1-11, plus Raphael #1, Michaelangelo #1, Donatello #1, and Leonardo #1 (1,000 copies only all signed by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird) (First Printing: 1988)
- TMNT Collected Book Volume One, collecting Vol. 1 #1-11, plus Raphael #1, Michelangelo #1, Donatello #1, and Leonardo #1 (trade paperback) (First Printing: 1988)
- TMNT Collected Book Volume One, collecting Vol. 1 #1-11, plus Raphael #1, Michelangelo #1, Donatello #1, and Leonardo #1 (Second Printing: March, 540 pages)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Collected Book Volume 1 (July 2009, 608 pages) (ISBN 0-9819497-0-3) -collecting Vol. 1 #1-11, plus Raphael #1, Michelangelo #1, Donatello #1, Leonardo #1, and Fugitoid #1, plus bonus material
- TMNT Collected Book Volume Two, collecting Vol. 1 #12-14 (May, 1990)
- TMNT Collected Book Volume Three, collecting Vol. 1 #15, 17-18 (June, 1990)
- TMNT Collected Book Volume Four, collecting Vol. 1 #19-21 (October, 1990)
- TMNT Collected Book Volume Five, collecting Vol. 1 #16, 22-23 (November, 1990)
- TMNT Collected Book Volume Six, collecting Vol. 1 #24-26 (July, 1991)
- TMNT Collected Book Volume Seven, collecting Vol. 1 #27-29 (November, 1991)
- TMNT: Soul's Winter, collecting Vol. 1 #31, 35-36 (February, 2007)
- Shell Shock, collecting short stories by various authors and artists (December, 1989)
- Challenges, by Michael Dooney (1991)
- TMNT - The Collected Movie Books, Collects the movie comics: TMNT Movie Prequel #1 - Raphael, TMNT Movie Prequel #2 - Michelangelo, TMNT Movie Prequel #3 - Donatello, TMNT Movie Prequel #4 - April, TMNT Movie Prequel #5 - Leonardo, TMNT Movie Adaptation (June 2007) (ISBN 0-9787029-6-4)
- TMNT Future Tense, collecting "Mighty Mutanimals" #7 and "TMNT Adventures" #42-44 and #62-66 (July 2009)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Book I (ISBN 0-915419-09-2) collecting Vol. 1 #1-3
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Book II (ISBN 0-915419-22-X) collecting Vol. 1 #4-6
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Book III (ISBN 0-915419-28-9) collecting Vol. 1 #7-9
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Book IV (ISBN 0-915419-43-2) collecting Leonardo #1 & Vol. 1#10-11
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TPB (ISBN 1-887279-56-3) -collecting Vol. 3 #1-5
- Bodycount TPB (ISBN 1-887279-36-9) -collecting Bodycount #1-4 miniseries by Kevin Eastman & Simon Bisley
- Bodycount TPB (2008 rerelease, ISBN 978-193241399-1) -collecting Bodycount #1-4 miniseries by Kevin Eastman & Simon Bisley -This reprint edition is in magazine sized dimension not comics sized.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary: A Quarter Century Celebration (ISBN 193535115X) -selected reprints with some stories colored.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Volume 1, collecting Vol. 1 issues #1–7, and Raphael #1 (Hardcover, Black & White, 312 Pages, 9" x 12", $49.99) (ISBN 978-1-61377-007-8)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection Volume 2 - collects Mirage Studios' Vol. 1 issues #8-11, along with the Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Donatello "micro-series" one-shots
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection Volume 3 - collects Mirage Studios' Vol. 1 issues #12, 14, 15, 17, and 19–21
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection Volume 4 - collects Mirage Studios' Vol. 1 issues #48-55 (Hardcover, Black & White, 248 Pages, 9" x 12", $49.99) (ISBN 978-1-61377-496-0)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection Volume 5 - collects Mirage Studios' Vol. 1 issues #56-62 (Hardcover, Black & White, 208 Pages, 9" x 12", $49.99) (ISBN 978-1-61377-553-0)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 1 - collects Mirage Studios' Vol. 1 issues #13, 16, and 18
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 2 - collects Mirage Studios' Vol. 1 issues, along with a collection of stories from the Shell Shock TP, including "Bottoming Out," "Junkman," "O Deed," "A Splinter in the Eye of God?", and "Meanwhile... 1,000,000 B.C."
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 3 - collects Mirage Studios' Vol. 1 issues #27-29
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 4, collecting Mirage Studios' Vol. 1 issues #32, 33, & 37 along with “The Ring” (from Turtle Soup vol. 2 Book One)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 5, collecting Mirage Studios' Vol. 1 issues #34 + #38-40 (Paperback, Color, 132 Pages, 9" x 12", $19.99) (ISBN 978-1-61377-639-1)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 6, collecting Mirage Studios' Vol. 1 issues #41-43
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Works, Volume 1, collecting Vol. 1 issues #1–7, and Raphael #1 (Hardcover, Color, 308 Pages, 9" x 12", $49.99) (ISBN 978-1-61377-625-4)