ARTIST SPOTLIGHT : Kevin Eastman
Kevin Eastman grew up in a small town in Maine and discovered comics at a young age on a spinner rack in his local drugstore. Kevin’s biggest influence as a kid was Jack Kirby, and his parents were both artistic. In the summer of 1983, Kevin was renting a room from Peter Laird and his wife, drawing comics in what would later become Mirage Studios. One night out of an annoyance to Peter, Kevin thought “If Bruce Lee was an animal, what would be the stupidest animal? Slow moving turtle, fast moving martial artist.” A few sketches later and the Turtles were born.
Kevin and Peter decided to go the indy route after months of being turned down by the big publishing companies. “We were lucky that there was this wonderful movement of self-publishers, Dave Simms was doing a book called Cerebus, Wendy and Richard Pini doing Elfquest,” said Kevin. The first issue dropped in May of 1984 with 3000 copies after being “crowd funded” by Eastman’s relatives.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was always designed to be a parody, with a little New Mutants, Daredevil, and Jack Kirby mixed in. “I loved more grounded super heroes, Batman, Daredevil, (and) Captain America. Daredevil for me was one of my all-time favorites,” said Kevin. “I still remember Daredevil 158 when they brought in this new penciler named Frank Miller. (I thought) this guy’s pretty good!” The origin of the Turtles followed the Daredevil origin very closely, but focused on what happened to the radioactive canister after it fell into the sewer. “Marvel probably could’ve sued our butts off,” Kevin exclaimed.
In one of his most asked about stories, Kevin went on to tell the origin of the Turtles’ arch nemesis, Shredder. “Pete’s wife is an amazing cook, she’d cook us dinner and we’d do dishes. And on this particular night Pete was washing and I was drying, and there was one of those metal cheese graters. I slipped my hand inside to dry the inside, and I was holding the handle of the cheese grater (and said) can you imagine a bad guy with one of these?”
In the early 2000’s, both Kevin and Peter sold their rights to the Turtles to Viacom. The Turtles gained resurgence when Nickelodeon obtained the rights to the cartoon. IDW acquired the rights to the comic book, and asked Kevin if he would consult on the writing with Tom Waltz. It was a fresh idea after nearly 25 years, and they had planned on a 12 issue run. At issue 73, the IDW run became the longest running TMNT series, surpassing the Archie series. “Tom Waltz deserves 100% of the credit for what’s become the IDW universe,” said Kevin, as he also credited the tremendous response from the fans as a reason why this run became so popular.
As TMNT marches towards its historic 100th issue, Kevin said that this is “kinda my tribute to the last run of Mirage comics that Pete and I did called City of War. Starting in issue 89, 90 (it) will run through issue 100 which will be double sized. (This is the) closest thing that I think we’ll ever get to the original Mirage series. Nothing will ever replace that, but the fact that tonally, attitude, edge, it was really written for the original fan base.” And all I can say to that is thank you.
Kevin Eastman appeared at Denver Comic Con on June 16th -17th 2018.