Regardless of what one may think about the vast assortment of various products that have been spun off, it’s amazing that 30 years ago this past May the pop culture world was forever changed when two men (Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman) realized a dream by publishing their own comic book, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1. In this outstanding book, Andrew Farago documents the franchise’s history from how the creators met, how the turtles made their big splash when they transitioned from the comics to an animated television series, and how the Turtles have evolved in different mediums, up to and including the fifth film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014).
In his forward, Laird writes about how the first issue, intended as a one-off Frank Miller parody, became a sensation. There was a first print run of three thousand copies, “a second run of six thousand, which also sold out immediately” followed by a third printing that did the same. The best thing about The Ultimate Visual History is there is a reprint of that issue, allowing readers like myself the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about back then. And it’s great, from the finely detailed, black and white artwork to the engaging story that revealed the Turtles’ origin is tied to that of Marvel’s Daredevil. It makes me want to find issue #2.
Farago tells the story of the Turtles through interviews with key individuals involved in their various iterations, and as the title indicates, it is jam packed with visuals to pore over. In addition to expected pictures from the comics, TV show, and movies that are familiar, the best the book has to offer are from licensed products that illustrate the height of Turtlemania with items like the costume kit from the third movie, which includes “SAFE, SOFT Samurai Sais,” their cereal box, and the odd Sewer Party Tube.
In addition to the book’s 192 pages, there are 23 inserts that include reproductions of their humble beginning, such as the Mirage Studios press release from 1984 announcing the release of the first issue and a flyer for the May 5th Portsmouth, NH Mini-Con held at the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge where it debuted to character sketches of Leonardo in action from the current Nickelodeon series and a script page from the latest movie.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History is a must-have for fans and highly recommend for pop-culture aficionados.