Ex Libris Toy-Lines: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Ultimate Visual History

Years before there was a Toy-Lines, Tommy & I used to take trips down to Red Bank, NJ to Kevin Smith’s “Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash”. On these rides we’d discuss our idea of having our own comic magazine, & one of the features I always wanted to have in it would be the uber history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, from their unknown beginning as Mirage Comics second comic to when Nickelodeon bought them. Tommy always thought it was a great idea but I never knew how to write it. A few years later Tommy went from magazine idea to blog, Toy-Lines was created, & I joined him on the site.

The irony is, a few weeks ago, when my wife & I got back from our vacation in Disney World, I went with Tommy to see the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.  He also lent me Andrew Farago’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Ultimate Visual History” from Insight Editions.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Ultimate Visual History is everything I wanted to do & more. Andrew covers everything from how Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird met to the forming of Mirage Studios to how they created the idea of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one night & the idea becoming their second comic for Mirage. From the beginning to today Andrew captures it all with detailed info, black & white, color pictures, inserts, as well as a foreword by Peter Laird.

In just 190 pages, Farago gives you the various comic books: Mirage’s Volumes 1, 2, & 4, the Archie Comics Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures series, the appearances the Turtles made in Image Comics Savage Dragon, the mini-series Bodycount, as well as Volume 3 of the turtles with Image, the Dream wave 7 issue sieres, as well as Volume 5 by IDW.

He covers all the animated series from the first one which lasted 193 episodes to the second series which ran for 5 seasons before becoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Fast Forward for season 6, to the season 7 finale of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Back to the Sewers as well as Turtles Forever & Nickelodeon’s newest series.

Also detailed are the five movies: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990); Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 The Secret of the Ooze (1991; with interview by former rapper Vanilla Ice’s involvement in the movie); Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 (1993); TMNT (2007), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) as well as the live action television series by Saban Entertainment Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (1997) to the live-action stage show event Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out of their Shells (1990).

What you’d expect to read in a book like this, the comics, the cartoons, the movies, the toys is all here, but in depth giving you the facts on how things started, how Playmates got involved in producing the toy line, to interesting facts such as how Pizza Hut passed on promoting the first live-action movie, despite the popular cartoon series & toy line & how Burger King promoted it.

But it’s not just devoted to the comics or cartoons, the book really devotes itself to the details to how it all began, how a licensing agent named Mark Freedman met with them & made a deal to help sell the turtles as a toy line & animated series to how that led into the phenomenon that we know today. Through the interviews with creators Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird you learn how they worked in tandem to create the original comic to having a popular comic to suddenly toys & movies based off them, to the live-action Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation that seems to be the final straw that ended their friendship.

Farago captures this all in his book, even explaining how Laird bought out Eastman’s share of the turtles, then Laird’s own selling of the franchise to Nickelodeon.  All those questions you ever wanted to know about how Eastman & Lair stopped working on the comic together, how Nickelodeon bought the turtles are all answered here.

If all this information wasn’t enough, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Ultimate Visual History has 22 inserts, over 100 black & white drawings, over 200 color ones plus a reprint of the very first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, & a poster of the cover of the book.

What more could I ask for in such a volume of information?  Well, I could nit-pick & say I would have liked to read about the summer the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles appeared for meet & greets in Disney’s then MGM Studios in 1990 (now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios) or asked for pages devoted to a cover gallery of every turtles comic ever made.

But this would be nit-picking.

This is an exceptionally well researched & written book. The inserts help you see the turtles as they grew in stardom from starting out as a self-published comic to having their own day declared in the city of Los Angeles on March 19, 1993. The re-print of issue 1 is a great piece to read, then re-read, the comic that started it all. The interviews, information & captions help you understand what it was like for 2 Jack Kirby fans like Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird to create their own comic then see the turtles go from their humble beginnings to their Hollywood lives.

Is this book worth the $50.00 price it says on it? No. With the inserts, the comic, the poster, the price is well worth $100. When the title of the book says “The Ultimate Visual History” they weren’t kidding. This book is well worth every cent you spend on it & it deserves a place on your book shelf.

If Michelangelo were to sum this book up in one word it would be, “Cowabunga!”


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