This is from a March 2, 1984 letter to my brother Don:
"Right now, I am in the middle of a major project with Kevin. We are attempting to put together the first issue of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", for publication in late April. This is our biggest effort to date; 40 pages plus covers. It's been pretty crazy -- we thought up the idea in December, decided we wanted to do the artwork on this special kind of paper that costs $7.20 per sheet (we could fit 3 pages on each sheet, but just barely), had many discussions about whether we wanted or could spend the money on that paper (actually it was Kevin's money to be spent), and finally ordered 14 sheets of it from an art supply store in New York City in January. Of course, we couldn't start drawing the thing until that paper got here, so until about a week ago we were on tenterhooks, wondering if it would get here in time. You see, we have set a pretty tight schedule for finishing the art: pencils and lettering finished by the end of February, and start inking by March 1, finishing an average of a page and a half every day. That would allow us to bring the completed, camera-ready artwork to the printer by the first week in April, and. allowing the printer two weeks for printing, we should have the book ready for sale by the fourth week in April. Just in time, too, for we have committed ourselves to premiering the book at the Portsmouth Comics Convention being held May 5th. We have already paid for the table, and have started advertising, that we will be there. Whew! So, as you might imagine, the next two months will be filled with a frenzy of activity.
Of course, all this may come to naught if we can't get up the money to print the book. As I will explain further on in this letter, I have NO money, and Kevin has only his IRS refund of approximately $500, which is supposed to arrive sometime in March. To get the book printed with the minimum acceptable quality, so it won't repel potential buyers, we will have to have $750 to print 1000, or $1500 to print 5000. Take a look at those figures, and try to guess which scenario is more attractive. If we have 1000 printed, the unit cost is 75 cents per book; if we have 5000 printed, the cost to us per copy plummets to 30 cents! Obviously, we would prefer to spend twice as much and get FIVE TIMES as many copies, because the profit potential is so much greater. But as it stands now, we don't have enough to print 1000. I really don't know where we are going to get the money; and if we don't get it, then all our plans and work go down the tubes, and the "Turtles" book goes back on the shelf, publication postponed to who-knows-when. There is a possibility that one of Kevin's uncles may be willing to loan us some money, but it is still uncertain how much… and for that matter, whether he will.
All this is further complicated by our (Jeannine's and my) financial state. Until a couple of days ago, I hadn't realized how desperate it is going to get for us come May. Together we have perhaps $700 in the bank, and come May, Jen will no longer have her job. I am still making dribs and drabs of money, illustrating jobs being scarce of late -- maybe $200 per month. Add to that rent and utilities expenses of close to $400 for the summer months (each month) AND the fact that we have to move out of Dover by the end of the summer (Jeannine will have graduated, and we have no reason to stay), and you will perhaps see why I am starting to feel the icy fingers of despair probing my being… or something like that. I'm trying to maintain some level of confidence and cheer, but it is somewhat difficult with imminent financial doom staring me in the face."
[Interesting... here I make mention of our having created the TMNT concept in December of 1983 -- that's close to the November 1983 date I thought I saw on that letter which at the moment I cannot find.
I remember quite clearly the anxiety produced by having to wait for that "special kind of paper" (which real TMNT fans know is the Graphix Duo-Shade illustration board upon which we drew many of those early issues) to arrive. We literally could not start drawing the pages until we got that shipment, and there was definitely some nail-biting happening.
It's interesting to ponder what might have happened had we managed to get enough money together to print 5000 copies of that first issue, or, alternatively, if we'd only raised enough to print 1000. -- PL]