EXCLUSIVE: Turtles, Movies & More - CBM Chats With TMNT Co-Creator Kevin Eastman!

CBM President Nate Best recently had the opportunity to speak with Kevin Eastman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Co-Creator, about the new TURTLE POWER documentary, the new film, inspiration behind the Turtles, villains and more! Check it out!

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Kevin Eastman - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Co-Creator

The Turtles are out in force this month, thanks to the new movie, the new visual history of the Turtles book that hit last month and the TURTLE POWER: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turltes which hit earlier this week on DVD and Digital HD. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman about the new documentary, what he thought of the film that hit theaters earlier this month, inspiration behind the turtles and other characters in the TMNT universe and even had time to squeeze in a fan question from Parker Lopp.

Kevin Eastman: Hi Nate, how are you?

Nate Best (CBM): I’m great Kevin, how are you?

Kevin Eastman: I’m here in San Diego; I just got back from New York from one of the screenings and was just wondering what part of the world you’re in.

Nate Best (CBM): We’re in Utah!

Kevin Eastman: Oh awesome.  Hi Utah!

Nate Best (CBM): It’s so great to have you Kevin!  I just finished watching Turtle Power and you mentioned in the documentary that Raphael was loosely based upon your personality and Donatello was Peter Laird and even Casey Jones was inspired by Kurt Russell and Big Trouble and Little China.  I was wondering who some of the other characters in the Turtle Universe were inspired by that maybe the documentary didn’t touch on?

Kevin Eastman: Well you know what’s cool about the writer side of the whole thing is, you were so inspired by different friends and family and Michelangelo was the first turtle that was ever drawn.  When I drew the first turtle of Michelangelo, the personality of him developed on a good friend of mine named Steve Lavigne.  Steve Lavigne was somebody I went to high school with.  He was kind of like our own personal Robin Williams of high school.  He was always onto something, a joke, a step too far, or just far enough, or whatever.  It’s a cross section for each of the turtles, a cross section different, heroic, funny, or personal…  Sweet personalities as you meet over the years.  So even though I would say Raphael was more like me, it was just because I can be very passionate about the kind of work I do and I would always check with Pete, because Pete was so technical about different things, whether it be that he was the first guy that got the commodore 64, the computer and the Casio calculator watch.  He is just such a solid, methodical and thoughtful person that he just seemed to fit the personality of Donatello, so I always thought about Pete whenever I was writing Donatello.  And then even though Pete and I created Casey Jones before we saw Big Trouble and Little China, I kind of based them on a cross section of comic book vigilantes.  When we saw Big Trouble and Little China, every time I wrote of Casey Jones story, or Donatello, I always think “How would Jeff Burton from Big Trouble respond to it.”  So yeah it really is a wonderful mix of a lot of different personalities, movie stars, some families, so you know a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  That’s why we as writers absorb all of that stuff.

Nate Best (CBM): Was there real-world inspiration behind some of the villains that were in the comics with Krang, Shredder and everybody else?

Kevin Eastman: That’s the coolest part about having a great villain is you really have an awesome, scary, powerful villain that’s bad enough to make heroes look more heroic when they defeat them.  So if you began talking about everybody from Lex Luthor, to the Joker… I guess to any stereotypical villain out there.  You really want to try and come up with something as original as you can, but at the same time, a character that is powerful and inspirational… somebody that does not have a good bone in his or her body that we want our heroes to stand up against and do the right thing.  Again, a cross section of lots of different, awesome, villains.  You know I am 52 years old, so I’ve grown up on everything from black and white versions of Star Trek all the way through to every movie and comic book that you can think of.  So I have a lot of material to pull from.

Nate Best (CBM): As far as the Turtle Power the documentary goes, while putting it together, was there anything that you or Peter Laird said was off limits? Were there some things that didn't make it into the documentary that you would have liked to have been included?

Kevin Eastman: Well you know, I think both Peter and I, I speak mostly for myself, I guess I kind of feel comfortable speaking for both of us, that we felt with any good documentary really is an open door policy where… and I did that, from my archives from every single drawing, or every video, or archive, or anything I had in my possession, or history of the Turtles, Randal and Isaac and Mark have really had complete.  They got to look at anything they wanted to, they could take anything they wanted to.  I didn’t feel that there was anything that we had done that would have any concern.  I’m guessing Peter was the same, but I felt that what makes a good documentary is that you need to have everything.  It can’t be something that either Peter or I direct, or anybody that directs it.  It has to be all based on what the documentary film-maker wanted to make and the vision that they wanted to tell and the story they wanted to tell.  So we left it wide open.  I didn’t put anything off limits.  So personally, I’m guessing Peter didn’t either.

Nate Best (CBM): That’s great to hear.   With all of the different drawings and everything, there is a lot to see in the documentary.  Being a turtle fan, it was pretty amazing to see some of the inspiration behind the turtles in that first issue.  It was a lot of fun to watch.

Nate Best (CBM): I have a fan question for you. This comes from Parker Lopp, a younger turtle fan.  He’s not as old as you or I.  Are the Turtles ever going to age or will they forever be teenagers?  What are your thoughts behind that and did you and Peter ever explore it?

Kevin Eastman: You know, that’s such a great question. It really is.  I grew up reading Spider-Man when he was in high school.  I will mention my age, I’m 52 again.  So he’s always been a young man that relates to that audience.  We get the Turtles in that context.  They are teenagers, they are discovering life, sort of finding their way in the world and that’s an age that you can tell a lot of stories that can be relatable to ourselves when we are going through that period in life or the fans that might be reading it, but it’s so hard.  Peter and I actually did write a story where the Turtles were 50 years older and where they ended up.  We never completed it, but it’s a tough subject.   You want to keep that heart and sole of what everybody saw in the original Turtles.  Again, Spider-Man and some of the other characters that don’t ever seem to age and keep that sort of vibe going.  I personally would like to see them age at some point.  That might be something that we can explore in the IDW comics and Nickelodeon series.  I would like to see them age at some point, but for now they’ll be forever teenagers.

Nate Best (CBM): You mentioned the IDW comic book… In the last few years you’ve been more involved in the Ninja Turtles versus 10 years ago, what have you been doing with them and what are your plans with them?

Kevin Eastman: Well what’s so cool is that the Turtles have never I guess been not part of my life, no matter what I was doing.  Whether I was publishing heavy metal, or I was doing other types of things, the Turtles were Peter and my first real comic book.  Our first real adventure into a medium that we loved since we were kids.  We had dreams when we were younger of being Jack Kirby.  We wanted to write, draw and tell our own comic stories and to be able to fulfill that was like winning the lottery.  At least to us, it was a dream come true.  With the IDW series, what was so cool is that we took all the cool things that happened with the Turtles over the last 30 years.  We picked our favorite things;  Tom Waltz, who’s the head writer, picked things out of the black and white series, some of the video games, sort of rolled into a new foundation to tell stories with.  So I started on the IDW series last August, actually it’s 3 years ago this month and I’ve been working on stories, story plots, covers, layouts, doing a couple single rock novels within the Turtles new universe as far as the comic books go.  Nickelodeon has been such a great partner and letting us tell, I guess slightly edgier stories, than you might see in the animated series.  So we’ve been having fun sort of tapping that vein, if you will.  With the animated series what I’ve found that is so fantastic, I met Ciro Nieli and Rich Magallanes from Nickelodeon and what they wanted to do with the new animated series was to sort of hit the reset button.  Start them, the first episode of the new animated series, with coming up out of the sewer for the first time and going up above ground for the first time, meeting April and discovering pizza.  The direction that they wanted to take it was a little more kid friendly than say the edgier comic book series and what’s so cool about the new Michael Bay, Jonathan Liebesman movie, Paramount movie, is that they did the same thing, almost, that what we did in the original Turtles first movie. They mixed up a nice blend of the original comic book series with a funnier more kid friendly animated series and try to come up with a hype that works for both kids and adults.  I got my foot in the door with all of those new Turtle universes, which has been so much fun.  Who would’ve thunk that 30 years after a silly little drawing done in a tiny little studio in Dover New Hampshire would still be carrying on the way that it is.  It’s pretty fantastic.

Nate Best (CBM): Kevin, you mentioned that you just got back from a screening of the new film.  What did you think of it?

Kevin Eastman: Well I’ve been so lucky…  When Jonathan Liebesman came on as director, he called me almost day 82 of his helming the picture and he wanted to have me involved and try to represent all things Turtles.  He said he wanted to make the best Turtle movie that relates to the old and new fans.  So I worked with the writers, fantastic writers, Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, on early versions of the script.  I did character designs.  So I sort of have been lit for the last 3 ½ almost 4 years, and I adored them film. I think the film was representative of most like what Nickelodeon did with the new animated series; it sets a foundation a platform that they can tell all of the stories from a new Turtle universe and embraces the old Turtle universe.  I was thrilled.  I’ve seen the film several times.  It was great to see it in a fan-based audience.  Those are the types of stories where I really want to see how they respond to it, and I loved it.  They seemed to respond really well.  The fans are the ones that give me the greatest job in the universe.  They loved the film and I sincerely look forward to making another one for them, so I’m pretty psyched.

Nate Best (CBM): Kevin I really appreciate your time and I can’t wait to see what’s coming down the pipe with the Turtles here in the near future.

Kevin Eastman: Awesome Nate.  Great talking to you, thanks so much for your time as well.

I want to thank Paramount and Kevin for taking the time to speak with me over the phone.  If you're a Turtle fan and haven't seen the new documentary TURTLE POWER: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turltes, I highly recommend it.


REVIEW: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES – Did Liebesman Destroy My Childhood?

Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles documentary is a deep history of one of the most successful franchises as told by the creators of the iconic characters.

In the spring of 1984, a strange new comic book sat beside cash registers in select shops, too big to fit in the racks, and too weird to ignore. Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles presented a completely original breed of super hero. It was too bizarre, too crazy. It broke all the rules and should never have worked. Until it sold out. Again and again and again. For 30 years. Now, peek under the shell and see how this so-called "happy accident" defied every naysayer to become one of the most popular and beloved franchises in the world.

Now available on DVD and Digital HD!
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