It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird introduced the world to the timeless sewer-dwelling, pizza-munching quartet of crime-fighters known as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the pages of their Mirage Studio comic books. We were lucky enough to chat with the amazing Kevin Eastman who is always juggling numerous projects, on the occasion of the release of the new 25th anniversary special editions of the series on DVD.
Animag Online: So, it’s been a quarter century since you and Peter Laird came up with the Turtles. Can you believe that they’re still going so strong in 2009 with the animated shows, toys, the new anniversary DVD and yet another movie in the works?
Kevin Eastman: You know I am always asked why I think they’re so successful, and it’s something that I never tire of answering. You know, I started reading comic-books as a kid. I always wonder what I would do if I hadn’t got into the comic-book business. Jack Kirby was always my hero. He was f*****g awesome, man. He’d never hesitate to talk with the fans or give them autographs. The guy was enjoying it as much as the fans did. I thought, man, if I’m ever lucky enough to be in his place, I would do the same thing, because the fans have given me such an incredible life.
You know, I just had a meeting at FOX Television’I was pitching them a new animated show called Bizz and Buzz and we ended up talking about the Turtles ‘ I can’t tell you how flattering it is to have these conversations with people. Peter and I loved the original characters: For us, they were the characters you might find in any school yard. You have Leonardo who is the leader type, Raphael, who is the biggest competition for the leader, who is also hot-headed and passionate. Then you have Michelangelo who is the comedian and cracking jokes all the time, and Donatello who is the pacificist and is also the techno geek. They are all brothers in a family’and Splinter is the father figure and the boys treat him with the respect that an authority figure demands. They’re misfits and they’re a family at the same time. We wanted them to be teenagers first, but when the chips are downs, they also had to act as heroes. We want our heroes to do the Indiana Jones thing, do the right thing, help the old lady cross the street. I just think that it’s unbelievable that it’s been 25 years.
Can you tell us a little bit about the upcoming new Heavy Metal movie that you’re involved with?
It’s quite an amazing project. James Cameron is now officially on board and David Fincher, Zack Snyder, Gore Verbinski and Mark Osborne are also directing. It’s an anthology movie, just like the first Heavy Metal collection and we are planning to have it ready by 2011. Tim Miller at Blur Studios (Rock Fish, Gopher Broke) is creating the CG animation … We’ve been developing if for the last nine months. We had about 30 short story ideas to begin with, out of which we are keeping seven or, possibly, eight. We developed storyboards, final scripts and some of the concept designs. And now we’re jumping into production. I was hoping to direct one of the segments that I had also written, but now Zack Snyder has expressed interest in directing it. I think working on any of the seven stories would be a blast.
When you look back at all the different versions of the Turtles in different formats and styles, can you actually pick favorites?
On the one hand, both Peter and I love the original version of the Turtles. It came from the heart, and it was our first comic-book creation. We drew the comic-books that we wanted to read. With each new chapter, TV show and movie, we approached a different universe. The first live-action movie version in 1990: It was directed by Steve Barron who is a wonderful visionary. It was a perfect adaptation of the property..and we had Jim Henson’s Creature Shop working on the film, who created special technology for the movie. I’m very curious about the new re-invention of the characters although I’m not specifically involved with that upcoming project.
You know I’ll always remember seeing the rubber-suited Turtles in Wilmington, North Carolina, and they’re building the set, and the whole city backdrop comes alive. The streets are lit up like it’s Soho and the characters just come to life in front of your eyes.
I also loved the CG-animated movie, I think Imagi did a fantastic job. I am very impressed with the new Lionsgate DVD release of the seventh season too. The packaging is fantastic [each box is devoted to one of the Turtles and include collectible figures]. I remember we were trying to push the show in new directions by the seventh season’we took them to Europe, etc. It’s great fun.
You’ve seen the comic-book business and the animation go through a lot of changes in the past 25 years. What’s your take on the fast-changing media pop culture world we live in?
It’s kind of sad that we aren’t able to do a lot of the things that we were able to do back then. When we started to self-pulbish 25 years ago, there were 23 different distributors that would take the titles to 5000 comic book stores. The market has changed so drastically. Diamond Comics does a terrible job of distributing the indies, and the independent publisher is being shut out. Fortunately, we have the Internet so many people can launch their comics online for free’ Hopefully, there will be a way to make money on the web. The people who are doing it right now are doing it because of their love of comics and the art form.
What are your personal pop culture favorites at the moment?
You know it’s a variety of stuff. I do a lot of my TV watching on DVD and Blu-ray because I can’t stand commercials. I went through the whole Battlestar Galactica and The Shield series on DVD. I love the extras, the commentaries and the behind-the-scenes documentaries’loved the ones on 300 and Blade Runner, for example. I find that stuff fascinating to watch and informative too. I am all over Richard Corben’s work, as well as 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. One of my favorite things to do is go to Meltdown Comics [on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles] and just flip through stuff. I love to find things that you normally wouldn’t pick up and don’t follow any specific formulas. Those are the things that appeal to me stylistically!
The new four-set collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season 7 (Lionsgate Home Ent.) is currently out online and in DVD stores. Warner Home Video will release the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collection on DVD and Blu-ray on August 4.