I haven't actually counted, but I think I have done more signings at Steve Lavigne's "Shellback Artworks" comic and art supplies emporium than any other comic book store. This Saturday, May 2, along with Steve, I will be doing another one at Shellback, located at 1509 Post Road in Wells, Maine, for the annual "Free Comic Book Day" event. I believe there will be physical printed copies of issue #31 of TMNT Volume 4 for sale at Shellback (I've been told they exist, even though I have yet to actually see one!).
Should be fun! -- PL
[The photo above -- one of my favorites -- is from June of 2012, just before Steve opened Shellback Artworks... which means the store has been open almost three years. Way to go, Steve! Congratulations!]
Niklas Nowak, a TMNT fan from Germany, recently contacted me to let me know that he had translated his lengthy and interesting essay about TMNT, originally written in his native German, and posted it on his blog at this URL:
What, you are asking, does this have to do with TMNT? Read on...
In May of 2012, after a roughly forty-year hiatus, I returned to an art form with which I'd had a brief but passionate encounter as an undergraduate: pottery.
I only took one semester of "Ceramics 1" at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst back in 1974, but I loved it -- especially working on the wheel, throwing bowls and mugs and goblets.
So why did I wait forty years before taking it up again? Long story.
Two and a half years ago I began taking private lessons and then classes with local "practical potter" TIffany Hilton, who proved to be a wonderful teacher. I have continued to study with her and in fact will be taking another of her classes soon.
Last year, when I was finishing up a class with her, TIffany surprised me by asking if I would be interested in making some bowls for an upcoming charity event called "Empty Bowls" being put on by the Amherst Survival Center on March 9, 2015. The way it works (as I understand it) is that local potters make and donate ceramic bowls, and local restaurants donate food, and for the price of an admission ticket (proceeds going to the charity), patrons can choose one of the bowls and get it filled with food, taking the bowl home with them after the meal is over.
It sounded like a cool thing, and I was flattered that my teacher thought enough of my skills that she asked me to do this. So I wedged up a bunch of clay in her studio, and in a couple of hours had thrown a dozen bowls of varying shapes and sizes...
… then, a week or so later I trimmed their feet (and signed my name to the bottom of each bowl, complete with my traditional small TMNT head sketch)…
… and sometime after that, once TIffany had done the first (bisque) firing...
... I dipped them in one glaze, adding a few brushstrokes and spatters with a second glaze.
A few days ago, TIffany told me that she'd done the final firing, and I could come and view my bowls before they went off to their final fate.
I was happy to see that they'd come out just about as I had hoped they would. I'd used two of Tiffany's glazes, "cream" and "olive green", which, when combined, create a beautiful bluish-green color. Here's a group shot of the twelve finished bowls, ready to go:
I don't know if there are any tickets left for the event -- I actually had an oddly difficult time finding information about it online -- but here's a link to the Amherst Survival Center Facebook page which might help if you are interested:
I have no idea who will end up with the bowls I made, but it tickles me to think that maybe, just maybe, someone who is a TMNT fan might get a pleasant surprise when they turn their bowl over and see something like this:
This snippet is from an August 28, 1987 letter to Mom and Pop:
"Now we're back[from the 1987 San Diego Comic-Con -- PL] and back into the day-to-day grind. Right now, I'm working on completing the art for TMNT $12, which I am doing all by myself. I don't know if I told you about this, but Kevin and I have decided upon a new way of doing the turtle books. After three and a half years of intense collaborative effort, where each bit of story we would work on together and have to agree to, we need a change. So now, we will be alternating books -- I'll do #12, Kevin will do #13, and so on. It's kind of exciting, but at the same time scary, because we've each depended on the other for so long. I'm about a third of the way done with #12 right now, but I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to finish it in time for the scheduled September 30 ship date.
Another (hopefully) minor problem is with the animation company, Murakami/Wolf, which is doing the turtles cartoon. We just got the last set of storyboards last Monday, for episode five, in which the disembodied brain character, Krang, gets a robot body built for him by the Shredder. The problem is that the design of the robot body as shown in the storyboards was absolutely dorky -- it resembled a sick Pillsbury dough-boy. When we called Karl at Playmates about it, he said that it shouldn't be a problem -- that the actual animated robot body would look different, as it is common practice for the storyboard artists to do quick roughs for the purposes of the storyboards. Fine and good… until Karl called us again last Friday and told us that Murakami/Wolf said that they were too far into the production of the fifth episode to change the look of the character. This we found hard to believe, and it was pretty strange because the procedure through the last four sets of storyboards is that we would get concept sketches of any new characters along with the boards, and be able to change whatever needed changing. So we told Karl that we wouldn't approve it, and we called Mark Freedman, and he called Karl, and etc. etc…. the upshot being that I think today (Monday) we'l be talking with Karl again to see what we can do about solving the problem."
[I still remember where Kevin and I were when we had the discussion which resulted in our doing separate issues -- we were sitting in Pulaski Park in Northampton, near the Academy of Music, on a sunny, warm day.
It was unnerving doing a whole issue of the TMNT comic (except for the lettering) by myself, but ultimately it was fun, and liberating, in a way. Still, all things considered, I think I would have preferred that Kevin and I had kept working in our traditional collaborative style. I never did another full issue of a TMNT comic by myself. I have great respect for people who can do issue after issue of a comic book series -- it's a lot of hard work.
But we were under a lot of pressure, mostly related to the rapid expansion of Turtle business, and that way of working together just wasn't feasible anymore. We never really had that level of collaboration again, and I missed it. I still do. But I treasure the memories of working with Kevin on those early TMNT books -- it was a unique experience.
Contrary to what I said in the first paragraph above, Kevin did not do issue #13 after my issue #12 -- issue #13 ended up being a Mike Dooney book. I can't recall why, exactly, that shift occurred, but I suspect it must have had something to do with the press of business and personal life disrupting Kevin's ability to make the deadline for publication of that issue.
The "minor problem" with the animation studio doing the new Turtle cartoon was, in retrospect, a harbinger of problems to come. As anyone familiar with that first TMNT animated series is aware, the stupid design for Krang's robot body never got changed. If we had been more on top of things, and been more willing to risk doing stuff that might have delayed -- or even canceled -- the animated series, it might have turned out differently. But this was all new to us, and we really wanted this stuff to happen, and we let a lot of things slide, this included. We were also focused on the comic books Mirage was doing at the time, and didn't have a lot of energy to devote to the animated series... and, truth be told, as could be intuited by the fact that Kevin and I had decided to stop collaborating on the comics, we were not as in synch as we could have been, and did not present the united front which might have made dealing with other business people significantly easier.
As my brother Bruce might say, "It is what it is." What happened, happened. I can't go back and change it now, as much as I wish I could.
I'm a bit sad to say that this is the last "Snippet" I will be posting, unless some other old correspondence with bits of Turtle history shows up. I doubt that will happen, but you never know. Thanks for reading these, and I hope you enjoyed them! -- PL]
"Greetings from the East! Yesterday I picked up the new issue of Usagi Yojimbo, but i didn't read it 'til today. I gotta tell you, Stan -- I was impressed! You already know I like your stuff a lot, but this book was great! You're really developing the character of Usagi in a fascinating manner… the gradual exposure of his history is tantalizing to say the least. And I love his tense friendship with the rhino ronin.
Reading this book today got me so worked up that I had to do something… so I sat down at the drawing table and roughed out this eight-page story featuring Usagi and Leonardo. It's based around an incident lifted form the Robin Hood legend -- how Robin met (and befriended) Friar Tuck. I'm sending you copies of the roughs (and believe me, they are rough!); I hope you can follow the story. I'd really like to get your OK to finish this, maybe as a backup for your book or one of ours. Please let me know what you think… any suggestions would be appreciated.
I can't remember the last time that a book inspired me to such immediate (drawing) action… thanks muchly for Usagi Yojimbo!"
[TMNT fans may recall the short comic book story which came out of the idea of mine mentioned here -- "The Crossing", which I believe appeared in "Usagi Yojimbo" #10. I wrote and drew that one by myself, on Duo-Shade board. Steve Lavigne lettered it.
I remember having a lot of fun with that piece. There is a post on my blog about it here: