We’re all familiar with the multi-dimensional media darlings called the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But, what if Eastman and Laird had created TMNT today?
These four cold-blooded reptiles are so famous, people know them by their initials: TMNT. But in 1984, when Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they didn’t even know how to spell Michelangelo’s name. The team of radiated, anthropomorphic, pizza-loving, adolescent heroes-in-a-half-shell exudes American success story. However, TMNT’s beginnings were humble. Laird and Eastman self-published the first 3,000 copies of their landmark premiere issue. The verdant hues of Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo, and Michaelangelo (original spelling) debuted in Black and White.
More on the Real Origin of TMNT by Eastman and Laird
Many blogs and articles have discussed the origin of creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman along with their protégés. I want to get the Ultimate Visual History sometime, but meanwhile, I could refer you to a couple GoCollect articles from 2019: Eastman and Laird’s Original TMNT: A Tribute and The Six Printings of TMNT #1. Another good source of information is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 1984 | Rare Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comics. Exploring the sewers for the origins of merchandising’s favorite turtles is sure to entertain you. Let’s take a look at the first drawing of TMNT.
Most Important Turtle Sketch in World History
We begin with a piece of art historically worthy of the turtle’s namesakes. Behold the inaugural rendition of Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Donatello. The groundbreaking sketch sold in 2012 for $71,700. It may be worth three times that today? Here’s a quote taken from the description of THE FIRST art.
“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!” –Kevin Eastman
What If Laird and Eastman Created TMNT Today?
We all love a good “What If” comic. Back in the day, DC called them ‘imaginary stories”. I now propose a different “Elseworlds” tale. Suppose Eastman and Laird were young men in 2021 and created TMNT today? How would things have been different? What strategies would Eastman and Laird pursue to distribute and market their doodles? Would the serendipity of their parodies pay off now as it did then? Could TMNT become multimedia giants today? And more importantly, could the comic book hiding in your brain, laptop, or desk be the 2021 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
Clearly, times have changed. Modern self-publishers seek crowdfunding through Indiegogo and Kickstarter, among others. Amazon has tools to publish comics and graphic novels, in print and electronic forms. Self-printing is even relatively cheap and accessible for people who want to print up some comics and take them to a convention. (If they can find one!)
The barrier to entry for new comic creators is extremely low in modern times. And that’s NOT even mentioning the computer illustration software capable of replacing pencils, inks, watercolors, and paper. Hundreds and thousands of creators are hoping their ideas will translate into comic gold. To illustrate, Kickstarter currently has 83 active comic projects, and hundreds each year. So, what would have happened if TMNT had been created by Eastman and Laird this year? Could we have even found them among the clutter?
Speculating on the Next TMNT
We need to take this conversation in a different direction. Every speculator would love to get in on the ground floor of the next big thing. Unfortunately, most ground floors are dilapidated structures about to cave in. So let’s talk about the strategy to find the next Laird and Eastman TMNT, created by today’s innovators. Goal: Pay a few bucks for something that will be worth a mint later. Challenge: The success rate must infinitesimal. Here are the ground rules:
- We’re focused here on unknown independents. Although, even well-known artists and writers roll out a lot of new series that fail, and a few that succeed.
- Where should we look? Creators may unveil their product at cons, local bookstores, Amazon, Crowdfunding Platforms, and even NFT sites.
- How do you separate the winners from the losers?
I want to start by talking about number 3. I created a character and story (but not really art), that I thought was pretty good. It didn’t move my kids. Unfortunately, most creators regard their work as higher than most unbiased readers. So, if you find a new work that truly interests you based on BOTH the story and the art, jump on it! If you HONESTLY like it, a lot of other people probably will also. If the story and art cry out mediocre, its chances of being the next TMNT are slight.
The taste test doesn’t always work. A lot of comics/characters/companies succeed in spite of my personal preferences. But, if I focus on something I like, then it’s probably a win, regardless.
Crypto Comics and the New NFT Medium
I mentioned the outlets for new stuff and included NFT sites. I registered with CryptoComics.com to learn more about NFT comics. They are currently in Beta testing mode. At present, comic book creators (and me) have uploaded content to their site to beta-test buying and selling comic book NFTs. It’s an interesting experiment and I hope it will be successful for both the website and the comic creators. I encourage you to check out CryptoComics and review (for free) many comics with varying degrees of artistic and storytelling skills. But perhaps, one of them could stand out.
Final Word on What If Laird and Eastman Created
First, do you think Laird and Eastman would have succeeded with TMNT today? If so, a little, a lot, or absolutely huge as happened 30+ years ago. I WANT TO HEAR YOUR SPECULATIONS!
Next, would you consider buying new independent comics to speculate? If so, which ones: crypto, crowdfunded, Amazon self-published, convention comics? As a corollary, would you only consider physically printed comics, or would digital interest you in the form of a re-sellable NFT?
One final thought on TMNT. If Laird and Eastman created TMNT as digital comics, thus eliminating the scarcity factor, would they still have generated excitement in the industry? I suspect part of the fanfare was organic (the story and art itself), and part was manufactured by the get-rich-quick element of a few fans owning copies of the first printing.