If you were a kid in the 1980s or 90s, you probably spent some time reading, watching, or playing with four adolescent reptilian martial arts experts with irregular DNA. If you’re looking for a thorough history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this is a pretty good place to start.
From a Simple Sketch
Struggling artists Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were living in Northampton, Massachusetts, when they came up with the Turtles in November 1983. As a joke, Eastman drew a turtle standing on its hind legs, wearing a mask, with nunchucks strapped to its arms. Eastman wrote “Ninja Turtle” on the top of the page. Laird laughed and then drew a more refined version of the turtle.
Not to be outdone, Eastman drew four turtles, each armed with a ninja-style weapon. Laird outlined the group shot in ink and added “Teenage Mutant” to the “Ninja Turtles” title.
As Eastman and Laird began fleshing out the Turtles to create a comic book, they had to give the Turtles names. At first they tried Japanese names, but it just wasn’t working. So they tried great Renaissance artists instead – Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo. In an interview, Laird said, “It felt just quirky enough to fit the concept.”
In May 2012, that original drawing of the Turtles sold at auction for $71,700.
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