” For the new NINJA TURTLES movie I suggested Jonathan Liebesman take a look at Jet Li’s FIST OF LEGEND”
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Co-Creator Kevin Eastman talks with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.com about the origins of the Ninja Turtles, the 30th Anniversary, Bruce Lee and the upcoming Paramount Ninja Turtles movie.
TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles.com: It’s been 30 years since you and Peter Laird created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…Can you believe it?
EASTMAN: You know…Every time I adjust my Depends (laughing)…I think about it. I was 21 or 22 years old when the first issue of the Turtles came out. My wife and I are doing a lot of shows this year to celebrate the 30th anniversary and I say this to the fans… It’s amazing to me that 30 years later I still get to do this. I blame the fans for the fact that I’m still able to draw the Turtles. It’s fun to blame the fans for my success, but they’re why I’m still able to do this all these years later.
It’s funny… All of us Turtles fans know so much about your work but a lot of us don’t really know that much about you the creator of the Turtles…. In preparation for speaking with you today I read some really warm and a candid interviews that you’ve given over the years…You seem to hold nothing back when you do an interview…Has there ever been things that you’ve said in previous interviews about your personal life that you wish that you’d hadn’t said in retrospect?
EASTMAN: Firstly, thanks for checking out all of those old interviews…I can’t be anyone different from who I am. I know that sounds sort of cliché, but I feel so grateful for having had the opportunities that I’ve had in my life. I always say that I stand on the shoulders of giants. I was influenced by guys like Jack Kirby, Frank Miller, Wally Wood and Richard Corbin. When I told my parents that I wanted to draw comic books for a living you could see that look in my parents eyes and you know they were saying, “Oh My God! He’s going to live in our basement the rest of his life” I mean, I draw comic books for a living. It’s a dream come true.
When Pete [Laird] and I put out that first Turtles comic book in 1984, we never thought we were going to do a second issue. Then we had comic distributors and stores calling us asking where the second issue was. So Pete and I decided to do a second issue. When we got the initial orders in for the second issue back in January of 1985 it was for 15,000 issues. Peter did some quick math and said, “You know if we do 6 books a year at this level of publishing we’ll each make about 2,000 dollars pre tax.” It was then that we realized that we could actually make a living drawing comic books. So, for me, the success I’ve had is due to the fans of the Turtles but to those that have inspired me and that’s why I don’t mind sharing everything in interviews. I just like to put it all out there.
One thing that’s interesting about you is how even though you created the Turtles you weren’t interested in super hero comics as a kid. What was it about the super hero comics of your youth that turned you off?
EASTMAN: Well, I wasn’t turned off by all them. I read a lot of weird stuff when I was growing up. Some of my favorite comics were Sgt. Rock, Weird War and The Losers. The superhero stuff that I did like was Ironman and Daredevil. I feel like I gravitated more toward superheroes that were more realistic… (Laughing) If you can call a blind superhero realistic…
Those guys just didn’t have the powers that Superman had. I just wasn’t interested in superheroes that were so over-the-top. I was a huge fan of Bob Brown and Gene Colan and what they did for Daredevil. I can still remember Daredevil #158 when they introduced a new penciler…laughing I was blown away what Frank Miller did with Daredevil. I was always more interested in the art and the artist.
When I was a kid my sister took me to this small theater in Maine to see PLANET OF THE APES (1968). I was really blown away by that, so when Jack Kirby did Kamandi, which was PLANET OF THE APES on steroids…That was really it for me. I would trace Kirby’s panels from Kamandi over and over. All of my own early comics were Jack Kirby ripoffs (laughing)…
What kind of advice would you give to someone young who’s interested in drawing comics for a living? Should they go to art school, or should they just jump in and start getting their hands dirty by just drawing everything?
EASTMAN: I was always envious of guys that we off to study at art school, but we didn’t have that around were I grew up. I had a high school art teacher, and she was the first one, who I sort of muttered under my breath about wanting to draw comics to, she said something that I haven’t ever forgotten. She said, “Well, it seems to me that if you want to draw comics for a living then you would need to be able to draw everything around you.” So she started giving me sketch pad assignments, and she was right.
When I go out to a show and start talking with Turtles fans or aspiring artists they’ll bring me some of their work and the stuff I see is amazing. They’ll bring me these massive pieces that they’ve done of Captain America all sketched out and you can see that they have a wonderful understanding of anatomy and there is often a little bit of style injected into their work too. But, in order to draw comics you have to start drawing pages and you have to know how to tell a story. You need to draw pages and you need to draw everyday and you need to draw everything around you.
The history of The Turtles and how they were created has been pretty heavily documented so I won’t ask you to rehash any of that today, but I am curious to see if you’ve ever considered the element in fate in it all? Surely, there was a reason why your mind decided to sketch Peter a Turtle in the instant that you did it without having to think about it really. Have you ever considered why you did that in that exact minute?
EASTMAN: Well, I think there was a couple things behind it all. The first, I think was Dave Sims and Cerebus. I was a huge fan of underground comics. I discovered so many comic artists through the pages of Heavy Metal magazine and in turn that lead me to stores that carried underground comics. Dave Sims drew this funny little Aardvark. He got all kinds of press because his work was really clever and good. He parodied comics like Conan. I said to Peter one day, “We should do something like Dave Sims is doing. We should do something that is a parody and we’ll take all of our favorite bits and roll them all into one title.” I said, “No one is going to buy it, but we should do it anyway.” We were both huge fans of Bruce Lee and we started talking, “If Bruce Lee was an animal what is the dumbest animal that he could be? What makes no sense to anyone on the planet?” That was the start of it. If you take what was going on at the time in comics, and then when you add in all of our own influences, the Turtles is what came out of that.
What is your favorite Bruce Lee movie?
EASTMAN: FISTS OF FURY (1971). I love ENTER THE DRAGON (1973). I love David Carradine’s KUNG-FU (1972-75) television series. I also love animated martial arts. I’m a huge fan of Jet Li’s FIST OF LEGEND (1994). In fact, when I was approached by Jonathan Liebesman for the new NINJA TURTLES (2014) movie we talked about how he wanted to bring that big martial arts energy to it. I suggested that he take a look at FIST OF LEGEND because it doesn’t get any better. It’s a perfect martial arts movie and a tribute to one of my heroes Bruce Lee.
PART 2 of our interview with Kevin Eastman covers Casey Jones, why Kevin thinks Turtles fans are unhappy with the new movie Turtles designs and Kevin’s new Heavy Metal movie.