It's the Year of the Turtle, according to Kevin Eastman, if not the Zodiac calendar. It's been 30 years since he and Peter Laird debuted their black and white comic about wisecracking mutants trained in jujitsu; thirty years' worth of animated and live action spinoffs, action figures and lunchboxes — and plenty more comic books along the way. Eastman has gotten back to the Turtles in a big way in the past three years, drawing new stories and working as a consultant on the upcoming Michael Bay-produced movie. Case in point: When I called him at home, I interrupted his work on an upcoming comic, the Turtles Annual for 2014; he's running two months behind and worries he'll give his editor a heart attack. Eastman joked that "The coolest part of my job is that our son, who's 8, came up to me about two months ago and said, 'Dad, you don't have a real job. You just sit home and draw turtles all day.' And I said, 'Yup, and I have the best job ever.'"
Eastman: You have stuff like the 30th Anniversary Special; a collection or showcase on the first Turtle movie, which we did the adaptation for, with original layouts and the original comics recolored - there are so many cool things coming out with the 30th anniversary, to be honest, I'm actually losing track myself.
I'm probably the biggest fan of IDW out there, and I've been working with IDW on a lot of these special projects, and I'm seriously not kidding that, as we speak, I'm actually drawing the next Turtles Annual, which is almost two months late. That's because - and I'm having so much fun doing it, but I've been working on so many different and cool special 30th Anniversary projects coming out through IDW.
Ultimate Collections, they're these 10 inch by 12 or 13 inch hardcover books that reprint some of the earliest issues of the Turtles in book form. And I feel like: Oh, my goodness; this is a real book and a real thing. We work in comics but at the same time, when you see it in a hardcover book form, it makes you feel like you've actually accomplished something cool. That's where the most fun is, besides the Annual that I'm working on and some of the Special Edition stuff we're doing.
Here we are in the Year of the Turtles again, 30 years down the road, and we get to see some incredibly cool stuff. I'm proud that we still have fans that want to buy that stuff.
NUVO: When people tell you that they like the Turtles, whether artists or fans or both, and that they've found your work inspirational, what do they say they like about them?
Kevin Eastman: Well, that's a great question, and I'll actually answer it in two different ways because there are two different kinds of fans that come up. In my opinion, I personally stand on the shoulders of giants, guys like Jack Kirby, Wally Wood, Steve Ditko, Frank Miller who inspired me to draw when I was younger. Now, here I am in this position where artists will come up to me and say, 'Dude, you inspired me to draw,' and I'm like, 'What's wrong with you?' I first feel unworthy — I don't completely understand because I'm far too young to have that kind of respect. But whatever inspires someone to draw comic books is what's important to me; however they got there, they're here and they're doing such fantastic work, and I love that they're living the same dream that I've always wanted to live and have been living since I was 9 years old and I wanted to draw comics for a living.
Secondarily, we have fans now where it's become this super-cool generational thing. My wife, Courtney, and I are doing about 25 shows this year for the 30th anniversary, and we have these fans who come up who were 5, 6, 7 years old when they were first exposed to Turtles when it came out in the late '80s, early '90s. And now they often come to shows with their kids, who are watching the new Nickelodeon series. ...So it's like, 'I loved Turtles when I was a kid. I wore Michelangelo as a costume for three years in a row. And now I get to share this with my kids and that's so cool!'
NUVO: You're working as a consultant on the new Turtles movie.Eastman: When I originally started working on the movie with the producers, Scott Mednick and Galen Walker, we started about three years before we started working with Michael Bay and Platinum Dunes. So we developed quite a bit of work, and when Michael Bay brought on [director] Jonathan Liebesman - who actually called me last night for some input - we basically sat down and he [Liebesman] said, 'Look, I want to do the best Turtles movie ever. I want to do fight scenes that no one's ever seen before. I want to keep it true to the roots. I want to do something exciting and fresh and give it my own spin, but I also want it to be something the fans can relate to.'
When they brought me on as consultant, I got to throw in my two cents on the script, I did a number of designs; I even got to do a cameo in the film, getting to do my Stan Lee thing, which was kind of fun. I think these guys' hearts are in the right places, and they want to make the best Turtles movie they can make. I'm, for one, pretty excited. I know that they're in rough cut stage, so I look forward to going out and seeing what they've been doing, maybe over the next couple of weeks. But I've seen a lot of footage, and it's really fun, it's different and it's exciting, and I think some of the action stuff is going to be what hopefully blows the fans away. But at the same time, I want them to be the same Turtles that they've loved their whole life! (Laughs) It's been fun.
Throwing in my two cents on the new animated series has been very light because Ciro Nieli, the executive producer, and Rich Magallanes, who's the main animation supervisor and producer at Nickelodeon, really took it back to square one and produced a show that really hit the reset button; they get to pull on 30 years of Turtle history to create the new series. I just love the new series, and I love that I got to do a voice for it. I don't know if you've heard, but I got to do the voice of a character called Ice Cream Kitty, which was exciting to me.
SEE: Eastman as Ice Cream KittyI was a friend of Ciro's before he got the gig on Turtles, and he said I want you do a voice on the new series. And I said, 'Well, it has to be something funky and crazy and weird. If at all possible, I'd love to do something like what George Clooney did on South Park, back in the day, where he was the voice of a dog.' And last year at ComicCon, they were showing a bunch of sketches for new characters that they were going to rolling out the next season, and one of them was a cat Pete and I added back in the original Michelangelo micro-series called Klunk. The cat ends up eating some ice cream covered in a mutagen and turns into Ice Cream Kitty. So I stood up in the audience, 'That's it! I want that character; that's me.' So I recorded the voice and it came out three months ago. That's all I am: Ice Cream Kitty.
NUVO: As for the cameo in the movie, are you comfortable before the camera? Was it nerve-racking, exciting?
Freeman: I'm one of those people that hates hearing his own voice on the answering machine. It's like Pee Wee Herman in Pee Wee's Big Adventure: We think we sound like Jon Hamm, but we end up sounding like [Freeman does a pretty good Pee Wee laugh]. I was pretty excited that they took the care and thought and wanted to include me. When fans see it, hopefully they'll see me and get a kick out of it.