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An Exhibit at the ToonSeum from February 7th through April 26

The ToonSeum's latest exhibition celebrates the iconic hit franchise Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This retrospective will be on display at the museum from February 7 through April 26, 2015. 2014 marked the 30th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles have become familiar to generations of fans around the world through their appearances in comic books, television cartoons, movies, video games and toys.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were created by New England cartoonists Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. In 1983, the pair formed Mirage Studios, a name referring to the fact that the "studio" was a shared living room in Laird's house. Although they earned a living from illustration work, Eastman and Laird loved comic books, especially the work of legendary artist Jack Kirby, and decided to collaborate on their own comics. Their first joint creation, the alien adventurer Fugitoid, made his debut in Mirage's self-published comic book Gobbledygook.

One night at Mirage Studios in November 1983, Eastman and Laird were working on the latest chapter of their Fugitoid comic when Eastman drew a masked, nunchuck-wielding "ninja turtle." He showed it to Laird, and the two of them shared a laugh at the sheer goofiness of the premise. "Pete drew a cooler one," remembers Eastman. "Then, of course, I had to top his sketch, so I drew four of them standing in a dramatic pose. That was in pencil, but Pete inked it, and added 'teenage mutant' to the 'ninja turtle' part."

With their life savings and a loan from Eastman's uncle Quentin, the pair self-published the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The comic debuted at New Hampshire's Portsmouth Mini-Con on May 5, 1984. The first issue sold out immediately. Subsequent printings sold out even more quickly, and Eastman and Laird realized that they could make a living as full-time comic book creators.

The first series of TMNT comics was drawn on DuoShade board, a type of illustration board that creates shading effects when treated with certain chemicals. Laird discovered DuoShade as a commercial illustrator, and he and Eastman liked the effect so much that they decided to use it on their TMNT comics. This rough, gritty texture literally set the tone for the first run of Turtles comic books. Reproductions produced from hi-res scans of the original artwork are displayed here.

This exhibition was curated by Andrew Farago of the Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco. He is the author of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History, published by Insight Editions in 2014. The artwork and propos featured in this exhibition comes from the collections of Andrew Farago, Ken Mitchroney, and Ross Campbell.

Additional items on loan from Michele Ivey have been added to the ToonSeum presentation of this exhibit.