Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A review of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History" by Andrew Farago [UPDATED WITH CORRECTION 07-08-14]


  Andrew Farago's new book, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History" was released last week, so I bicycled to our local Barnes and Noble and bought a copy. After reading the whole thing over the past week, I would like to commend him on crafting a book which TMNT fans should definitely buy, as it really does do justice to most of the history of the TMNT under one cover. It's a hefty tome with the feel of quality, and the numerous reproductions of art and photos make for quite a handsome volume.

   Is it truly "The Ultimate Visual History"? Well… so far, anyway. I think the upcoming TMNT documentary from those dudes in Canada may give it a run for its money. But that's comparing apples to oranges, as they say, given that the documentary is video and this is a printed book. I'd say that, at least for now, the title of Andrew's book is pretty accurate. If you're a TMNT fan, you should have this book.

  However, I was disappointed that it also contains a number of mistakes, inaccuracies, and some weirdly inconsistent editorial decisions with regard to art credits (sometimes there are, sometimes there aren't, with no discernible rhyme or reason). I used up about half a package of Post-It notes while carefully going through the book so I could put together this list of comments.

   Here goes…

   End pages in the front of the book:  I was sort of baffled by the odd choice of art for this, out of all of the TMNT artwork available -- a drawing of a Turtle in boxer shorts? With this image begins a strangely inconsistent treatment of crediting and/or describing the illustrations -- in this case, no artist is cited as having drawn that image, either on these pages, or -- as would be more likely in a book like this -- on one of the pages to follow. It kind of looks like a Mike Dooney drawing, though I cannot say for certain.

  First glossy page, right hand side: This reproduction of the very first group shot of the TMNT, penciled by Kevin Eastman and inked by me back in 1983, with a slab of mottled green superimposed for some reason, is not credited  anywhere that I could find. It's also an odd place to put this uncredited drawing, in my opinion, when a far better location would be on page 20, where it is described in the section about the creation of the TMNT.

   Following page, left hand side: This full-color piece by Kevin is also uncredited, as least as far as I could tell.

   Second page following, left hand side: Another full-color piece, this one of a leaping Leonardo, again by Kevin, is uncredited.

   Two page spread following the "Contents" page: This unusual full-color piece by me is also uncredited, and no information about it is given at all, which to my mind is extremely weird, given the curious nature of it, with the Turtles wearing costumes that are very different from the norm.

  Pages 12 and 13: Mike Dooney's great painting from the cover of the reprinting of TMNT Volume One issue #4 is properly credited. However, it would have been nice to add to it, somewhere, something to the effect of "(after Peter Laird original cover for TMNT #4)", as Mike's painting is essentially a painted version which closely follows the drawing I did for that original TMNT #4 first printing cover.

   Page 19: In the last paragraph on this page, mention is made of "I'm Only a Loser" and "Don't Sleep on Main Street" as being "short Eastman and Laird joint efforts", which were printed in "Gobbledygook" number two. There is greater significance to these two pieces, however, which is not mentioned -- these were the very first Eastman and Laird collaborations, done within days of our first meeting in Northampton in 1981, created to see if our respective art styles would mesh well. We settled on a concept -- I think it was something like "a robot survivor of the apocalypse encounters strange creatures" -- and agreed that each of us would pencil a one-page strip illustrating a vignette of that concept, then we would exchange them for inking. I did one page ("Don't Sleep on Main Street"), while Kevin -- true to energetic form -- came back with TWO pages ("I'm Only a Loser"). Without this first collaboration, I think it is safe to say there would never have been any TMNT. I reckon that is kind of important in a history of this nature.

   Page 20: As mentioned earlier, it strikes me that this, rather than in the front of the book (or perhaps in ADDITION to it being in the front of the book) would be the perfect place for that very first group shot drawing of all four Turtles together. As I think about that piece, it may also represent the very first time the whole name, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", was written down.

   Also, in fairness, I think it should have been mentioned that Kevin's "first Turtle" drawing was originally penciled by him back in 1983, but actually inked in 1985, whereas my first Turtle drawing is exactly as I drew it that day in 1983.

  Page 25: The description of the image at the top of the page refers to it as "sketches", when it is only a single sketch.

  Page 28: Four of my black and white TMNT pin-up sketches are printed on this page with no artist's credit or description.

  Page 31: There are no artist's credits listed for the insert. This, as I recall, was penciled by Kevin and inked and toned by me.

  Page 33: The image of April on the right hand side of the page is described as "April O' Neil as she appeared in Eastman and Laird's original comics." I don't understand why there is no mention of which issue and what page this panel is from.

  Page 34: There is no information describing what the insert card in the lower left hand corner is.

  Page 35: This image is described as "The Turtles preparing to engage in combat with the deadly Triceratons." Why not say which issue it was from? (I think it was TMNT Volume One, #6.)

  Page 36: There is no artist's credit for this image we used for one of the iron-on t-shirt transfers. (I painted that piece.)

  Page 37: The first paragraph reads oddly to me, particularly this bit regarding our move from Connecticut to Massachusetts:

   "…where they finally established a studio space for Mirage, as well as separate living quarters for themselves."

   The implication -- as I read it -- is that while in Connecticut we did NOT have separate living quarters. It's true that when Kevin first moved down to Connecticut, he stayed in our house for a couple of weeks, but then found an apartment of his own (which he later shared with Steve Lavigne when Steve moved down from Maine to join the studio).

  Also on this page, there are no artist credits for the cover of the first Palladium role-playing game (Kevin painted that cover).

  In addition, in reference to the small black and white illustrations of the figures on the right hand side of the page, this is said:

  "The sketches on the right-hand side of this page served as guides for Dark Horse's sculptors."

  That is entirely incorrect -- in fact, it is exactly BACKWARDS. I used the miniature lead figures as models for those drawings, which I drew so that we could use them in ads for the Dark Horse miniatures within the comics.

  And while it is not a mistake, per se, it might have been nice to note that the image of the package of Dark Horse figures (a) represented the basic set of TMNT figures that Dark Horse started out with, and (b) was the second style of packaging for those figures, the first being a simple plastic bag, with no foam, and a header card folded over and stapled to the bag.

  Page 39: In the first paragraph on this page, mention is made of TMNT #9 and the fact that Mike Dooney penciled it, and credit is given to me, Kevin, and Ryan Brown for inking and toning, and Steve Lavigne for lettering, but not for the fact that I did the layouts for that issue.

   At the bottom of this page, there is a reproduction of the cover of the issue of "Hampshire Life" which featured a story about Kevin and me and the TMNT. Weirdly, there is no mention of my connection to "Hampshire Life" (my having made most of my living as a freelance illustrator for about three years doing drawings for that publication, including my first use of the Graphix Duo-Shade board which Kevin and I would later go on to use for most of the issues of TMNT which we worked on together), or where Hampshire Life originated (Northampton, where Mirage was now headquartered). That seems odd to me.

   Page 40: In the second paragraph on this page, it is said that "… Eastman and Laird knew that the time was right to take the Turtles to the next level." The obvious implication here is that we were actively looking around for ways to grow the TMNT business in the direction of licensing and merchandising, and that's simply not true. It's not that we were averse to it -- we'd already proved that by striking deals with Dark Horse and Palladium Books and a few others -- but these are things that came to us, not deals that we went out looking for. We were focused on trying to get the TMNT comics out on time and with a decent level of quality.

  Also, Kevin is quoted as saying that we'd been approached by other licensing agents wanting to rep the TMNT before Mark Freedman showed up. I have no memory of any agents other than Mark Freedman ever approaching us.

  On the bottom right of the page is a reproduction of a large TMNT group shot that I penciled and inked; again, no artist credit.

   Pages 41 and 42: On page 40, the art on these two pages is described as "Pages hand-painted by Kevin Eastman as a guide for coloring the First Comics graphic novels." I'm fairly certain that's not what they were, and that they were, in fact, the final painted pages which Kevin painted and which were supplied to FIrst Comics to color-separate and use for printing of the books.
  I am not 100% sure of this, but I think the third image, on page 43, was colored by Steve Lavigne and not Kevin. In any event, it is very poorly reproduced, with the black line overlay sloppily not lined up with the colored "blue line" underneath.

  Page 45: The "Day in the Life" self-portrait of me and Kevin has no artist credits. It was penciled and inked by both of us, and colored by Kevin. I believe it was also used as the back cover to one issue of the TMNT comics, though I cannot off the top of my head remember which one.

  Page 46: The credits block on this page is a good example of the strange inconsistency of art credits in this book -- the TMNT fighting the robot drawing (awkwardly almost entirely covered up by that unfortunately placed insert) is listed as "… penciled by Peter Laird and inked by Kevin Eastman in 1984", but the drawings in the insert (penciled by Kevin, inked by me, toned by…?) and at the top right of the previous page (penciled by Kevin, inked by me) are absent of credits. Why? Why bother crediting some things but not others? I just don't get it.

   Page 48: Perhaps the most bizarre thing in this book (to me, at least) is on this page, and I refer to the tale Mark Freedman is quoted as telling about the two TMNT puppets he supposedly commissioned Tony Basilicato to make, so that Mark could use them when he made his sales pitches to various toy companies. I am not going to claim that it is impossible to conceive that Mark, after striking his deal with us, tracked down Tony Basilicato and hired him to make two more TMNT puppets.
  ... this is the first time I have ever heard this story. In all the time that we worked with Mark, I cannot remember him ever once mentioning such a thing. Furthermore, while I can't remember exactly WHEN it was that Kevin and I came to know Tony Basilicato and agreed to publish his "Prime Slime Tales" comic book through Mirage (with Jim Lawson's first official Mirage Studios work, inking over Tony's pencils), and Tony made two essentially identical TMNT puppets, giving one to me and one to Kevin, it was definitely at some time during the two years we spent in Connecticut, from the summer of 1984 to the summer of 1986. That was months -- possibly a year or more -- BEFORE we met Mark Freedman for the very first time, in Northampton.
  I loaned my puppet to Mark to use for his sales pitches. I think -- though I can't be entirely sure -- Kevin still has the puppet Tony built and gave to him.

   Page 50: The image of one of Kevin's roughs which begins on this page and spills over onto page 51 is described this way: "Eastman's simple but expressive layouts allowed him to plan out an issue's entire story  before committing to the final draft." There is nothing wrong with that description -- however, I don't think this layout was ever used for any page of any of the books Mirage published, and thus seems to be an odd choice to illustrate this notion. I certainly can't remember a scene with this composition in any of the comics.

   Page 51: This cropped image of the cover to the first paperback TMNT collection Mirage published featured a cover penciled, inked and toned by me. It is not credited here.

   Page 52: This is a minor thing, but I thought i should point it out -- in the description of the  black and white drawing of Leonardo, it's said that he "crosses swords". I can't see how holding one sword diagonally over his head and the other horizontally below his waist can possibly be described as crossing swords.

  Page 53: Another piece which has no artist's credit (even though the "crosses swords" drawing of Leonardo on the previous page does… why?) -- this one was penciled by Kevin and inked and colored by me.

   Page 54: No artist's credits.

   Page 71: No artist's credits.

   Pages 73 and 74: There are five pieces of artwork on this two-page spread: a piece from the first animated series on the upper left, another one on the lower half of page 74 (with a little spillover onto page 73), two pieces of licensing art (again, uncredited) at the top of page 74, and on the right lower side of page 73, the drawing Ryan Brown and I did for the proposed (but never used) cover for TV Guide.
   However, the descriptions are confusing, as the TV Guide drawing is said to be "Below RIght"… even though that text is actually aligned with and above the second piece of animation art, which is, when you think about it, the only thing below and to the right of this block of text. Perhaps a minor thing, but it is sloppy and confusing.

   Page 78: This artwork for the cover of the first issue of Archie's "TMNT Adventures" has no artist's credits -- while, on the facing page, Ken Mitchroney's layout sketches do. Why? (The Archie cover was penciled by Kevin, inked by me, and -- I think -- colored by Steve Lavigne.)

   Page 80: No artist's credits.

  Page 81: There are no artist's credits for the four pieces of color art on this page. I believe they may have been laid out and/or penciled by me or Kevin, definitely inked by me, and colored by Steve Lavigne.

   Page 82: There are no artist's credits for the black and white artwork on the upper right of this page. I think Ryan Brown drew this. Also, I am pretty sure that contrary to what is implied by the description in the lower left-hand side of this page, this piece was not from a comic book, but was done for an advertisement, possibly related to a TMNT cereal product.

   Page 85 and part of page 84: This color piece has no artist's credits (though the Archie TMNT cover opposite IS credited -- why?). I believe it was penciled by Kevin, inked by me, and colored by… Steve Lavigne? I can't remember. I also can't remember what this was done for, as it does not seem to have anything to do with any comic book story I can recall. It might be nice to ask Steve and Kevin, as it would be good to know what this was used for… or not used, as I can't recall it ever seeing print.

   Page 87: The color page here has no artist's credits. I believe it was penciled by Jim Lawson and colored by Steve Lavigne.

   Page 88: Neither of the Archie TMNT covers on this page have artist's credits -- yet the Brown/Mitchroney piece on the facing page does. Why?

   Pages 90 and 91: The text block on the lower left of page 90 states that I illustrated the Archie TMNT covers at the top left of page 90 and on the facing page. That is only half correct -- I inked them, but Kevin penciled them.
   Also on page 90, while it is stated that I, Steve Lavigne and Ryan Brown worked on the cover to the reprint of TMNT #7, there is no breakdown as to who did what. (I penciled it, Ryan inked it, and Steve colored it.)

   Page 94: In a quote attributed to Kevin about Steve Barron, it is said that Steve "…had gone through one of the four-hundred-page collections that First Comics had published…" First Comics never published any "four-hundred-page collections" of TMNT comics that I am aware of. However, Mirage had, and I believe that is what Kevin must have been thinking about.

  Page 103: I have to wonder -- why was I cropped out of this photo, one of a number of publicity photos for which Kevin and I posed with one of the first TMNT movie's Turtles? (You can still see one of my fingers to the left of Leonardo's right cheek.) Baffling.

  Page 104: There is no artist's credit for the TMNT comic strip at the top of this page.

   Page 108: There is a quote attributed to Gary Richardson, referring to Kevin and me, which says that we "… never really enjoyed working with lawyers, licensing agents, licensors, etcetera…"
  While it could be argued that there actually were times -- maybe not many, but some -- that we enjoyed working with the aforementioned lawyers and licensing agents, this passage is mostly kind of strange to see "licensors" included there -- as, in the case of TMNT, WE were the licenSORS, and people with TMNT licenses were the licenSEES.

   Pages 112 and 113: There are nine different images total on these two spreads, and only some of them -- I think about half -- featured artwork by Ryan Brown and Steve Lavigne. Why, then, does the text piece on the upper right of page 113 say that "Steve Lavigne and Ryan Brown were responsible for the licensing art on some of the most popular TMNT toys of the 1990s"? Why couldn't their art have been specifically identified? To me, this is simply sloppy.

  Page 118: There is no artist's credit for the cover of the TMNT Movie 2 comic book cover, which I think was penciled and inked by Jim Lawson and colored by Steve Lavigne.

   Page 122: The large penciled piece at the bottom of this page was not created to be part of TMNT issue #50, so I don't think it is accurate to say -- as the text on the upper left hand side does -- that it is "… from TMNT #50."
  As I recall, I did this tightly-penciled piece (much more tightly-penciled than I would ordinarily work) from a fairly rough sketch layout by Kevin. And I don't think it was ever intended for anything in particular, or at the very least wasn't USED for anything in particular. I can't remember it being printed anywhere.

   Page 136: There is a line in the text on this page which says, in part, that "Whatever the future had in store for TMNT, Laird felt that Eastman had no place in it…" This is a very unfair and extreme description of my feelings. While it is absolutely true that I no longer wanted Kevin as my partner in Mirage Studios, I also felt -- and still feel -- that Kevin was, is and always will be the other co-creator of the Turtles, and worked fifteen longs years on them with me (and more now, given his ongoing professional work on the TMNT for its new owners since the sale), and deserves whatever recognition and perks are attendant to that.
   Pages 138, 140, and 142: There is a brief bit on TMNT Volume 4, the series of comics that Jim Lawson penciled, Mike Dooney did beautiful painted covers for, and I wrote, lettered, did some of the artwork on, and published through Mirage Studios starting in 2001, over the course of these three pages -- maybe just about enough to fill almost one whole page. But there are no illustrations.
  Not one. 
   Out of thirty-two issues of Volume 4, there is not one piece of artwork used to illustrate this.
   And yet -- somehow -- the Image Comics version of TMNT somehow rates six entire pages and eleven illustrations.
   This -- to use the vernacular -- is bullshit. I find it very offensive.

  Pages 162 and 163: The artwork on these pages is described as "… a new TMNT print for the Turtles twenty-fifth anniversary in 2009." 
   While it was indeed produced in that anniversary year, that is NOT what this artwork and print was created for. It was a project organized by Steve Murphy to try to raise some money to  help defray medical expenses incurred by Jake Black, a writer on some of the issues of the second "Tales of the TMNT" comic series published by Mirage. See my blog post about it here:

  And speaking of the second "Tales" series, it strikes me that that's another thing which gets very short shrift in this book. In fact, I don't think it is ever mentioned at all… even though I am pretty sure there were more issues published in that series than there were in Volume 4, and also in the whole Image run.

  Page 188: Perhaps the biggest "face palm" moment for me in this book comes at the top of this page, in the very first line of text. After 187 pages of what could be fairly described as a good -- if somewhat incomplete -- account of the history  of TMNT, we have this line:

   "The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began their existence as a simple sketch on paper -- a joke between friends passing the time in their cramped studio space in Massachusetts."



   Even with the flaws enumerated above, this book is well worth the cover price, and will definitely have a place on my bookshelf. -- PL

  Here's a link to the amazon.com page for the book:




  When I first posted this blog entry, it contained the following:

  " Page 103: I have to wonder -- why was I cropped out of this photo, one of a number of publicity photos for which Kevin and I posed with one of the first TMNT movie's Turtles? (You can still see one of my fingers to the left of Leonardo's right cheek.) I'm trying -- and failing -- to imagine the thought processes of an editor who would come to the conclusion that a photograph of Leonardo, showing the entire Jim Henson Creature Shop Turtle costume, and with BOTH creators of the TMNT by his sides, would somehow be less interesting than this partial image showing only part of the Turtle movie costume and ONE -co-creator. Baffling."

  As I thought more about that comment, I realized that I was mistaken about that photograph. I was actually thinking of this one…

  … which does show both of us as well as the actor in the Leonardo costume. The actual photograph which was cropped and used in the book was this one:

  ... and here is how it appears in the book.

  I have made the appropriate correction in the body of the blog entry above.

  The questions still remain, though -- why was I cropped out of the photograph, and why was that one used instead of the full-body one (which I think is a much cooler photo)? Was the publisher given the photo already cropped, and didn't know about the cropping? If so, then my question becomes "Who supplied the photo, and why did they crop it?" I'm still baffled. 

  My apologies to the photographer who took these neat shots -- I don't remember his 
name. -- PL 07-08-14


  1. Interesting. Perhaps this is why you should have been sent an advanced copy of the book to review before it went to press, so you could have given this review to the author before it was released.

    Did Andrew Farago ever send you this book to proofread before it went to print? Perhaps this is why it is a good thing to keep tabs on some upcoming TMNT productions, so you could address the issues you have explained above.

  2. One thing I was extremely disappointed with the book is the coverage on the 2003 cartoon, since it is my personal favorite incarnation of these characters. Or seemingly lack thereof...A very limited amount of text for 7 seasons of my personal favorite (if added, maybe a 1 1/2 pages at most)...and even the pictures/art used were disappointing. One pic of Mikey from the very last season for 1 whole page? And then one pic of Shredder from the very last season for 1 whole page? No pics of the 4 of them in action, or the 4 of them together, or even villains like Agent Bishop, or artwork/pictures to show people the darker tone/aspects of the cartoon & how it pushed the show as far as it could go for a cartoon, which I very much appreciated (whether it be samples from episodes like Same As It Never Was or Bad Day, or the hallucination/nightmare of Leonardo stabbing through Splinter, Baxter Stockman's body falling apart, etc.), no comments from any of the voice actors of the show...the 2003 cartoon portion of the book I was honestly very disheartened about. But hey, what can I say. I'm just a guy named Matt from Iowa who just loves the 4kids show to death, lol. It's very partial to me and it's what got me back into the characters.

    1. I'm a huge fan of that show too. Its really one of the best animated shows hands down simply because it really maintained the tone of the mirage studios comics. No easy feat for a Saturday morning cartoon.

  3. Mr. Laird on page 16 an insert says "Eastman and Laird created the famous quartet at this site in 1984". Isn't this a mistake? Other parts of the book say you and Kevin created the Turtles in 1983.

    1. Dan, I missed that one -- thanks for pointing it out! You're correct -- the TMNT were created in 1983, not 1984. -- PL

  4. It's a shame that TMNT Volume 4 and Tales Volume 2 were passed over. I've been re-reading Volume 4 to get up to speed for issue 32. Volume 4 is MUCH better than I remember, and I liked it back then! Maybe its having the chance of reading each one back to back without a break in between, everything stays fresh. Also, in my opinion, Tales Volume 2 had some of the best TMNT stories ever told. To not mention that series is a crime.

    1. Among other things, I am still trying to figure out the short shrift given to Volume 4 (I mean, NO illustrations at all, after 32 issues and close to a thousand pages of art and story?) and the complete exclusion of the second volume of "Tales", and am having no luck. It's baffling to me. Maybe I just don't get it.

      Thanks for the kind words about Volume 4, by the way. -- PL

  5. Crap. I just typed something that I lost because it didn't see fit to save it when I logged in. Shorter version.

    To be totally honest, the art in the Image book was crap. It was VERY hard to tell what was going on in some panels....and that slowed down the read of the book. I was so happy when Mirage started doing them again...and I really hope that IDW publishes an omnibus of Volume 4 so I can relive it again. I also put in an order for the latest issue.

    As for mistakes: Two mis labels of art. 1) An image of 'red sky' Leonardo is not credited and thrown in randomly. The Background underneath him is from "Once Upon a Time Machine"...probably taken from someone's cell collection where backgrounds where often mismatched. On the other page, the b ackground credited to one of the turtles final episodes, "A Turtle in Time", is also wrong. The one with the turtles as giant statues in the middle of NY is also from "Once Upon a Time Machine".

    As far as the mistake you menitoned with the reproduction art. The top images looks like it could be from the 1989 season of the turtles Lair. Possibly "Turtles on Trial". As for the Portal Chamber below, to me, that does not look like it's from the Toei Version. The Control panel is very cheaply designed, and the proportions of it are all wrong, overly cartoon-y looking.. There is also some detail (rings?) at the top of the image that never showed up in the show, which lead me to think this might have been an early concept sketch rather than a finished piece.

    I also thought the idea of having inserts, while interesting, was poorly done. it's highly annoying to have to flip up and hold a page just so you can read the text underneath. I would rather have had them reduced to a page in the book.

    Other than that, the idea was a nice attempt. I wonder if they covered the Words and Pictures Museum. It was a cool place. I think my favorite part was the second (?) floor with the giant turtle statues and arcade game. Wish there where more detailed pictures and video of the creation of it. I'm only halfway through the bo ok.

  6. Hello Mr. Laird,
    After reading your blog, I bought the book today and reviewed it with your notes and I feel its a great addition to my turtle collection. Thanks. As you know the Turtles inspired me to start my own Taekwondo School.

  7. I picked up the book at Barnes & Noble on Friday and, read it over the weekend. I really enjoyed it. I learned a few things I did not previously know. It is a great book for a fan of TMNT. It was a bit light on Vol 4 though. It is weird that they cropped you out of that picture. When I was a boy I had the collection of cards from the first TMNT live action film. That picture was on one of my favorite cards. I'm a little disappointed to see such a cool picture get cropped like that. Still, the book had a lot of great artwork. It is worth the cover price.

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  12. Escribiré esto en español dado que mi Ingles no es tan fluido como para redactarlo, compre este libro porque crei que seria un compendio magnifico, buscando por ahi encontre este blog el cual creo que es increible!!! Una pena que no haya sido un volumen revisado por ti o por Eastman. Como sea lo pondre en mi anaquel y lo rellenare con todas tus anotaciones...