Talking Turtles with Kevin Eastman!
I was able to talk with Kevin Eastman, co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, at Garden State Comic Fest. We talked about how he got his start, what he’s doing now and even what’s coming up for him and the Turtles. You can watch the video or read the interview below it. Thanks again to Kevin Eastman for letting me interview you!
Carl: I’m here at Garden State Comic Fest with Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’d like to ask you a few questions for my readers.
Kevin Eastman: Absolutely!
Carl: Did you want to become a comic book creator when you were a kid?
Kevin Eastman: Yeah, you know I grew up as huge fan of an artist named Jack Kirby. He was my favorite because he was not only a writer, an artist, but he co-created with Stan Lee a lot of the Marvel Universe, like Spider-Man, Hulk – like Steve Ditko did Spider-Man – he worked on so many popular characters. I always had a dream that, he was such a complete artist, he wasn’t just a writer, he wasn’t just an artist, he did both, so I always felt that when I grew up in a small town in Maine, that anything I could imagine and anything I could draw, I could tell any kind of story that I wanted to. So that was my dream. I remember telling my parents when I was very young that I wanted to be Jack Kirby when I grew up and I think they were scared that I’d never move out of the basement.
Carl: What comic books did you read when you were a kid?
Kevin Eastman: My favorite was a book by Jack Kirby called Kamandi – The Last Boy on Earth. It was kind of like a spin-off of Planet of the Apes, I don’t know if you remember that movie, where the humans were sort of slave-like and the apes ruled the planet, but Jack Kirby’s world it was apes and tigers and lions and all the animals were the people in control of the planet earth and there was this young boy named Kamandi who grew up in an underground bunker. When he came up above, he was the last boy on earth. I felt when I was growing up in Maine sometimes that I was the last boy on earth.
That was one of my favorites, but I also liked Daredevil and Batman. I guess more grounded superheroes not so many… Superman I liked, but he was so powerful. Daredevil was more like a down-to-earth superhero and Batman as well. So those were my three favorites.
Carl: What comics do you read now?
Kevin Eastman: Man, a lot of the same! I love reading Batman quite a lot, I like Mark Waid who’s a writer on Daredevil right now, but sometimes when I go in the comic store I like to look at new up-and-coming artists, like independent comic books. So sometimes I’ll buy a couple of my favorites, you know like Daredevil or Batman, like Frank Miller and Andy Kubert are working on a new Batman series – I really love that – but then I’ll try a few other things I haven’t heard of before, just to see if – I just like looking at new artists. It reminds me of when I was struggling when I was growing up
Carl: What comic was your most fun to work on?
Kevin Eastman: Well, hands down it has to be Turtles, because when I co-created the Turtles with Peter Laird, when we were doing it we had this idea – well we were very lucky that we weren’t working for a company, we didn’t have a boss, we didn’t have anything. The only bosses and the people in control are us, so in the early days, because we didn’t think we would sell many comic books to anybody, so we decided that we would just write the kind of comic books that we like to read. So we wrote all those early issues of the Turtles just for us. So that was the most fun, because we were just figuring it out as we went along. We put all the things that we loved about the comics that we read growing up into this one idea and wrote something that we wanted to read. It was very special. I think that was my favorite. And here I am, my goodness!, 32 years later and still working on Turtle comic books. And it is simply the best time ever! I just really love the creativity.
Carl: These are the oldest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics I have. If you could go back in time to that moment, what advice would you give yourself?
Kevin Eastman: Oh my goodness! Well, you know what was really fun. I like that you picked two of my favorites, for many reasons. This series, this is Michaelangelo, what we did around this time is we dedicated one issue to each of the Turtles, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello. I like this Michaelangelo one because I’m a big fan of Christmas. You see here I went way too Christmassy, there’s holly and all that kind of stuff. But this was an adventure where in Christmas, Michelangelo could wear a hat and a scarf and a big stuffed jacket and could walk around the city like other people could and not be noticed as a turtle. He finds this little stray cat and he names it Clunk, and they go into a toy store. They have this really nice adventure where they stop some toy thieves that steal these toys that Peter and I created called Little Orphan Aliens. They stop these people who were like the Cabbage Patch dolls at that time. And they stopped the thieves and donated the toys to an orphanage dressed up as elves. It was a really fun sort of silly Christmas story, and I love Christmas.
Shell Shock was fun because this was a lot of short stories by different artists from the studio. I did some with Peter Laird, I did some with Ryan Brown, Jim Lawson. But the short stories were especially fun, because you could tell – in this book [Michaelangelo] there’s a 30-page story, but in this there were 6-pages, 4-page stories, 8-page stories, so you could tell a very short adventure – something silly, an idea you didn’t have to write this big long story for. You could do a cute story, kind of an action story and tell it very quickly and have fun with it, then move on to the next one. These are great books, great collections. I haven’t seen these in a long time.
Carl: The Ninja Turtles started off being more of a grown up comic, but then became more of a kids’ comic. Why do you think it changed?
Kevin Eastman: Well it’s very interesting in that, as a comic book as I mentioned earlier when we started it, we just wrote it for ourselves and I at that time I was 22-23 years old when we started. It was written as an older person’s comic again because we were writing it for ourselves and writing the kinds of things that we like in comic books. But when we had the opportunity to turn it into a kids’ idea, we knew that, very specifically, we were writing for an audience that was probably 6, 7, 8 years old maybe even a little younger. So we softened up some of the ideas, even did things like most notable in all the early comic books, all the Turtles had red bandannas, but when we did them as a kids’ cartoons, that’s when we added the idea of the different color bandannas so you could tell them apart easier as a toy or an animated comic. So it was really fun in the idea that we had the best of both worlds for Turtles. We could still do the original black and white stories, we could still tell an edgier kind of story, but then we have the animated kids’ side which was for a younger audience, so it was fun to have both sides and have a nice balance going.
Carl: What’s next for you and the Ninja Turtles?
Kevin Eastman: Well that’s what’s really fun. We just finished issue 62. I’ve been working on the new Turtles series with a wonderful writer, a guy named Tom Waltz. It’s funny to work with someone who grew up as a fan of Turtles. When I work with him, he’s got so much energy. He knows more about the Turtles than I know sometimes! So when we work together, we have this really great energy and chemistry. Right now, our mission is to take the current IDW series we’re working on all the way to issue 100. That will be about another 3 years. After that, I’ll see what I’m going to do. Mostly Turtles right now and I’m having the best time of my life!
Carl: Thank you for answering my questions. It was very nice to meet you.
Kevin Eastman: Absolute pleasure meeting you! Enjoy the rest of the show!