At Comic Con this year I got a chance to talk to Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, current owner of Heavy Metal magazine, and admirer of South Park.
Karyn Pinter: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 25 years later. A quarter of a century, how does that feel?
Kevin Eastman: Awesome. Honestly we’ve been very blessed and very lucky in so many capacities: the original conception of it, the fact that the fans bought it. It’s really amazing. I did a panel, and it still takes my breath away, it really is amazing that we’ve been around 25 years, and sit in a room full of people who say “thank you for bringing us” is just overwhelming. I really don’t know how to take it, being an artist; we’re introverted for the most part. We express ourselves through our work, so when you get that one on one respect from your fans, it’s just awesome.
KP: I’m of the age group that grew up watching the Ninja Turtles, and now our children are getting to watch them. How do you feel about your work passing to a new generation?
KE: That’s what’s amazing to me too, not only is it a huge compliment that we were successful the first time around starting with the original drawing back in 1983 and the first publication in 1984 and animated series in 1988 and the huge long wave that we rode, and by 96-97 it faded away as any licensing property does. We thought that was the end of it, and we had such a great run and had such a good time with it. And then to have it come back a few years later when Peter Laird and 4Kids launched a new series and have it resonate and find a new audience it was an even bigger compliment. I love the fact that moms and dads come and say they watched it when they were kids and now they are enjoying it with their kids. It’s pretty amazing.
KE: I’m lucky enough that a friend of mine, Galen Walker and Scott Mednick are producing it and they every once and a while give me the lowdown on what they’re doing. The concept from what I understand right now is what they would like to do is the traditional rubber suits going back to the early Henson days, when Jim Henson and his company did such an amazing job, and maybe do CGI enhancements to the head instead of having all puppetry.
KP: Any clues as to what the story is going to be like? Would it be an origins story, a “from the beginning” sort of story, or will we just jump right to the action of a fully formed Turtle team?
KE: I think it’s a great idea for them to go back to the roots. Go back to the original comic book and get back to the edginess that it had when Peter and I conceived it. Scott Mednick was one of the producers on 300 which pretty much says a lot of amazing things. Galen was the key producer, and the guy who I think did all the work the last Turtles project, and I really, really enjoyed the animated movie. If you look at the Batman model, the new Batman movie with Christian Bale, it all started at square one and built up to what he will become. I think, or at least my two cents would be to do the same thing with the new Turtles movie. I’m guessing they will; a revisit to the origin. It should be incredible.
KP: Let’s talk Heavy Metal. It’s still going strong, the booth was crazy busy in there.
KE: It is. It’s weird, the magazine started in 1977, now in its 32nd year, and I bought the magazine in 1990. So I’ve been running it for…god — 19 years. I love it. Heavy Metal Magazine in many ways is almost to blame, or is responsible if you will, for the Turtles. Because, in the time I was becoming bored with superhero comics and that sort of thing, I discovered Heavy Metal. And through artists like Richard Corben, who I found in Heavy Metal, in my pursuit to find out more about those artists, I discovered many of them were self publishers. So when we came up with the idea to do the Turtles, my idea was “let’s not try to go sell it to Marvel or DC, let’s just go publish it ourselves.” Having created it, published it, and owned it, gave me the money to buy Heavy Metal. So it’s like it really came full circle in a sorta cool way. Heavy Metal is a 5 person staff. We pick out every story that goes in the magazine, all the galleries, all the covers; we interact with all the artists whether it’s in the publishers note, or on the web site. It’s just one of those jobs that doesn’t feel like work. It really is a dream job.
KP: I thought I heard some whispering over the Internet about a new Heavy Metal movie coming out in the not so distant future.
KE: I’m glad you asked. It’s really exciting. When I bought Heavy Metal, I work with Columbia Tristar to get the original, Ivan Reitman produced Heavy Metal movie that was released back in 1981, back out on VHS for the first time in 1996 to great success — great reception. Then we produced a less successful Heavy Metal 2000, that was a frustrating experience having that movie made and I wanted to wait for the right situation to come up to do a Heavy Metal movie the way it deserved to be done. With the gods smiling down upon me once again, I’ve partnered Heavy Metal with a company called Blur Animation; they’re the animation facility that is going to do all the work on it. David Fincher came on as executive producer, James Cameron as well. Both of them will also be directing one of the anthology segments. Zack Snyder has come on board to do one of the segments. We have a number of other high profile directors that have agreed. We’re just working out the deals, so I can’t tell you all the details yet, but it’ll be roughly a fifty million dollar budget picture. It’ll be a full on animated, R-rated feature homage picture — Heavy Metal.
KP: Did you happen to catch the South Park episode, “Major Boobage”?
KE: The funniest, funniest, funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. The guys with the tit armor and the tit houses… I’m just a huge fan of Trey and Matt going back to Cannibal the Musical. I’m a big fan of Troma Films, and Lloyd Kaufman is one of my idols. I’ve acted in a number of Troma Films including one that Trey’s in. I think that what Trey and Matt are able to do — how timely, how cunning, how genius their humor is — the idea that they did that for Heavy Metal was just a huge honor. It rocked in every way.
KP: Do you have any other big projects in the wings that you’d like to share with us?
KE: One project that is not related to Heavy Metal or the Turtles is I’m executive producing a new project. A lot of people don’t know, but I co-produced an animated Highlander movie with my producing partner Joe Pearson, called Highlander: The Search for Vengeance. It came out through Anchor Bay, we worked with Madhouse Studios in Japan, which was an honor — I’m a big fan of Ghost in the Shell and Ninja Scroll — and Kawajiri was the director. So we did that and then we partnered with his relation company who came to the table with some funding and a series of animation and design studios, so now we’re doing a movie called War of the Worlds: Goliath. It’ll be an animated feature. The film will be finished in February 2010, and we’ve got a number of distribution options on the table so we’re hoping, say prior to San Diego Comic Con next year the film will be out, maybe theatrical. It will be a 90 minute animated feature, independent production. We’ve got Adrian Paul, from the Highlander TV series doing one of the voices, Peter Wingfield, who’s been on everything from 24 to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Adam Baldwin from Firefly. I’m really excited about. I’ve got some other things, but that’s that most fun, most exciting thing we’ve got cooking right now.
KP: Well, I guess we covered all the good stuff.
KE: Yup, covered all the good stuff.
KP: Thank you for talking with us at Comicsbulletin.com.
KE: Thanks so much.