Eastman was born on May 30, 1962 in Springvale, Maine. By 1983, he was "working in a restaurant and seeking underground publishers for his comix stories," having been collaborating with Peter Laird for a short while on various comics projects. The following year, in May 1984, Eastman and Peter Laird self-published (for $1,200) the first black & white issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The forty-page oversized comic had an initial print run of 3000 copies, and was largely funded by a $1000 loan from Eastman's uncle Quentin, and published by the duos Mirage Studios, a name chosen because "there wasn’t an actual studio, only kitchen tables and couches with lap boards."
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Laird's newspaper experience led to the two creating "a four-page press kit, that, according to Flaming Carrot-creator Bob Burden's own Mystery Men press-kit included "a story outline and artwork that they sent to 180 TV and radio stations," as well as both the Associated Press and United Press International. This led to widespread press coverage of both the TMNT property and Mirage Studios itself, creating "a demand for the interestingly-titled comic that caught everyone by surprise. With the solicitation of their second issue, Eastman and Laird's Turtles comic began a meteoric rise to success, bringing in advance orders of 15,000 copies - five times the initial print run of the first issue. This, Eastman has been quoted as saying:
- "basically ended up with us clearing a profit of two thousand dollars apiece. Which allowed us to write and draw stories full time: it was enough to pay the rent, pay the bills, and buy enough macaroni and cheese and pencils to live on.
The Turtles phenomenon saw the duo invited to their first comics convention at the tenth annual Atlanta Fantasy Fair in 1984, where they mingled with the likes of Larry Niven, Forrest J Ackerman and Fred Hembeck (among others).
With their (November 1985) fifth issue, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figlehorn to the actual "normal" American comics-format and size, and the previous four issues were also reprinted in this size and format with new color covers. Also in 1985, Solson Publishing released a "How to draw" volume entitled How to draw Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Solson would also produce six issues of a TMNT "Authorized Training Manual" as well as a "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Teach Karate" volume in 1987.)
Mirage's Turtles comic led to a widening media presence for the eponymous heroes: Eastman and Laird began to widely merchandise their property, including with Dark Horse Miniatures (who produced a set of 15 mm lead figurines for "role-playing gamers and collectors"), Palladium Books, who produced a role-playing game featuring the Turtles and with First Comics who, between 1986 and 1988, reprinted in four volumes the first eleven issues as color trade paperback collections.
Palladium's RPG brought the Turtles to the attention of licensing agent Mark Freedman, and the Turtles phenomenon took off, with the various characters soon appearing on "T-shirts, Halloween masks, coffee mugs, and all kinds of other paraphernalia. In December, 1987, a five-part televised cartoon mini-series based on the Turtles debuted. The half-hour episodes were produced by Osamu Yoshioka, and the animation was directed by Yoshikatsu Kasai from scripts David Wise and Patti Howeth. The success of the mini-series was swift, leading to a full (and ultimately a 9-year, 10-season, 194-episode run) series, with the mini-series forming the first season. Bob Burden writes:
- "within days of it airing it was apparent that the TMNT would prove every bit as popular for the television audience as it had been for the comic readers. From there, Surge Licensing formed an unstoppable creative marketing powerhouse that set a new standard of excellence in the licensing and merchandising industries."
In January 1988, Eastman and Laird visited Playmates Toys Inc, who wished to market action figures based on the comic book - and now animated cartoon - series, further cementing the Turtles' place in history, and making Eastman and Laird extremely wealthy, since:
- "crucially... they were wise enough from the outset to properly copyright and trademark their creation, and were never tempted to give over control to anyone but themselves."
Multiple other Turtles comics, toys, books, games and other merchandising spin-offs have subsequently appeared, overseen, if not fully created, by Eastman and Laird. Paramount amongst these are three live action films - in 1990, 1991 and 1993 - a further two TV series' (Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (1997) and a new self-titled 2003 series), and an animated feature film: TMNT (2007).
Eastman & Laird: separate ways
Eastman and Laird, as with many creative partnerships did not always see eye-to-eye, and their creative partnership became difficult. Speaking in 2002, Laird noted that the two "didn't really have anything to do with each other for the last nine years. He had moved to California and I stayed in Massachusetts.
On June 1, 2000 Peter Laird and the Mirage Group purchased all of Kevin's ownership in the TMNT property and the corporations, except for a small continuing income participation. Laird believes that the reasoning was simply that Eastman "was just tired of it. He wanted to move on and has other things to spend more time on.
On March 1, 2008 Peter Laird and the Mirage Group completed the buyout of Kevin's entire right, title, interest and income participation in the TMNT property and the four Mirage corporations involved in the ownership, management and protection of the TMNT. This event finalizes the transaction begun on June 1, 2000.
Eastman and TMNT co-creator Peter Laird voiced together in Turtles Forever, where they said their first TMNT comic would sell well.
Back to the Sewers
On May 19, 2011, IDW Publishing announced that Kevin Eastman would be co-writing their new comic series. In the fourth quarter of 2013, artist/director, founder of Art Asylum, and Kevin's friend and peer Digger T. Mesch announced 35 Days of Kevin Eastman, a documentary focusing on Kevin's story specifically.