This is from a March 28, 1985 letter to my friend Stan Wiater:
Back from Atlanta we are, and plowing through the accumulated work… answering mail, sending out orders of t-shirt iron-ons, figures, and books. Getting settled in again so we can get back to work on the art for Raphael, the one issue "Micro-Series" which has to go to press on April 15. In between now and then, we expect to get back 35,000 copies of the third printing of #1, which we will have to count, box and ship out. Then after that, we will have 50,000 copies of #3 with which to do the same.
Whoa! Am I getting ahead of myself? I guess I am… we haven't corresponded since some time around Christmas, so you aren't up on all the Turtle news. Briefly, things are still expanding at a fairly rapid clip. Kevin and I are still amazed at the response to our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book, but we don't have much time these days for amazement. It's workworkwork, 70-hour weeks, all on TMNT stuff. The books are selling like the proverbial hotcakes, and we have t-shirt iron-ons, little metal miniatures, and a projected fantasy role-plaing game based around the turtles which is in the works. Plus we've just started doing conventions; two weekends ago we did a small one up in Kittery, ME, and this past weekend we did one in Atlanta, GA… and can you believe that the Atlanta people actually paid for our hotel room and plane fare? Too much!!! I'm not complaining, of course… but it does take some getting used to.
Atlanta was fun, but it seemed to go really quickly… it almost seems now like we were never really there… there was no sense of actually traveling a great distance. On the plane, once you get high enough altitude-wise, you can't really tell where you are. It gets to be like riding a bus. Then you land, a couple of hours later, and you are a thousand miles away. And what we saw of Atlanta seemed no different than any big town up this way; the same stores, the same cars, the same people in the same clothes. About the only significant difference was the way everyone added "you all" to almost every sentence. The Northlake Hilton, at which we stayed, was on the outer outskirts of Atlanta proper, so we didn't get to stroll around downtown. That was okay, though, because we were too busy to really notice.
We got to the hotel at around 2:00 PM, checked in, freshened up, and then went and set up our table. The con opened at 3:00, and from then 'til about 7:00 we sold books and drew sketches. After it all closed down for the night, we were both too beat to do anything but take a short walk down "Mall Avenue", eat at Wendy's, and then go back to hotel and crash out. Saturday morning we went out to breakfast with some of the other artist-guests, Bob McCleod and June Brigman (and her husband Roy), who took us to a neat pancake house where we pigged out on huge apple and cinnamon pancakes the size of pizzas, and heard lots of inside gossip about Marvel Comics (Bob and June both work for Marvel). They're also very nice people, and I'm glad we got to meet them.
Then it was back to the convention to set up our table at 11:00 AM, and from that time until about 6:00 that evening we sold books and did sketches. There were almost no breaks; I think we easily made as much money sketching as we did on the books. We would charge $5 for a simple pencil drawing, and another $5 if the person wanted it inked in. Lots of people asked for sketches of the turtles with other characters; we ended up doing Elric, Dr. Strange, the Thing, Cerebus, Nghtcrawler, Wolverine, Daredevil, and Opus, among others. It was fun but stressful, with all those people standing there watching us draw. Everybody seemed happy with their sketches, though, which was nice.
That evening there was a seafood buffet in the hotel's restaurant for all the guests of the convention (paid for by the convention organizers), and Kevin and I of course attended that. The food was plentiful, and we proceeded to pig out on shrimp, fried chicken, roast beef, crab legs, etc., topping it off with ice cream sundaes. Quite enjoyable.
Oh, I just remembered that before that dinner I was shanghaied into being one of four judges at the costume contest. It was relatively painless, but kind of embarrassing.
One of the biggest geeks attending this convention turned out to be one of the big-time ______ Comics writers, ______, who writes ________, _______ and others. Partly because of the mammoth success of _______, his ego has swollen to monstrous dimensions, and he can't open his mouth without sounding incredibly arrogant and obnoxious. I'm glad that we didn't have much to do with him. The funny thing was that every other person here who knew him expressed the same opinion of him, but he was totally oblivious. I hope that I don't get that way if the turtles become mega-successful.
Sunday turned out to be pretty much the same. We sold books and sketched until around 3:00, when we took off with Bob McCleod to the airport. Our flight wasn't until 5:45, but we wanted to make sure we didn't miss it! As it turned out, the woman who was driving us to the airport missed the exit, and we were lost for about twenty minutes. And if I hadn't pointed out to her that we had indeed passed what looked like the airport several miles back, we might have been lost a lot longer. The flight back was pretty uneventful… more yucky airline food and lots of disgusting cigarette smoke (we were unable to get two seats in the non-smoking section). But coming over Hartford and into Bradley Field at night was pretty cool… seeing all the lights from high up was neat. I wouldn't mind doing it again.
As you know, we have another trip scheduled for April 6, this time a shorter one: We'll be in Amherst for a signing at Norm Witty's comic book store. If you can squeeze in a few moments to get there and say hi, that would be great. I don't know what our schedule will be exactly; we may be going back to Sharon right after the signing.
After that trip, who knows? Just about an hour ago, I got a call from some guy out in Michigan who wants Kevin and I to attend a benefit show for a children's hospital there. We might go… I'll have to think about it some more. We are seriously considering trying to get out to the San Diego convention in late July of this year -- it's probably the biggest in the country. But a lot depends on how things are going at that time."
[I note with some incredulity that at the time this letter was written, cigarette smoking was still allowed on airplanes. The staggering stupidity of this practice -- fortunately now long-gone -- always astonished me. It stands as one of the most moronic thing I have even encountered. And the idea that you could have a "smoking section" and a "non-smoking section" on the same aircraft, where the entire passenger compartment is essentially ONE UNINTERRUPTED METAL TUBE, is simply brain-bendingly inane. -- PL]