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Event Auction Highlight: The Quentin Eastman Collection

ComicConnect is proud to offer Quentin Eastman’s collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles memorabilia in Event Auction #52, a collection that includes many rare artifacts from the earliest days of the Turtles. Here’s Quentin’s story in his own words.

Dover, NH, May 1984. 

Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird introduced issue #1 of their creation, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, at the Portsmouth Comic Book Convention in Portsmouth NH on May 5, 1984.  The event was held in what was then a Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge and Restaurant located on Portsmouth Traffic Circle.  The Motor Lodge is now a Best Western and the restaurant has become the Roundabout Diner.

Click here to view all of The Quentin Eastman Collection lots of up for auction! Auction ends December 13th!!

      

With my wife and our week-old son I attended the “con,” my first, driving down from Manchester, NH where we lived then.  We met my brother, Kim, Kevin’s father, and his wife who had come from their home in ME. It was a very happy time for us, a high point, having seen Kevin develop his burning ambition from boyhood to now, young adulthood and publishing his first comic. We met Peter Laird’s mom and dad for the first time, who seemed as delighted as the rest of us. We all watched as proud families while our two young men joyfully presented their artwork and signed copies of TMNT#1 under the banner of their fledgling company, Mirage Studios.

      

Mirage was based at that time in Dover, NH in a small rented house that Kevin shared with Peter and his wife. I had visited them several times there as they were developing The Turtles and other creations.  I was working for Charrette, an art supply house that carried the special  “two-tone” paper Kevin and Peter liked to use for the black and white interior pages of the comic.  Once you inked the outlines you could brush on chemicals that made either small or large dots appear, or parallel lines (depending on which of the chemicals you used), enabling them to apply either light gray or dark gray “halftone” shading or background lines. Once or twice I brought the paper to them and always enjoyed visiting.

I saw “The Fugitoid” in its early forms and I really liked it, as well as the early Turtles.  As I understood it, the Turtles started as a short-term project to help fund development of The Fugitoid.  In my total ignorance of the “underground” comic culture I didn’t know that TMNT was a parody of another work I had never heard of: Frank Miller’s Ronin.  Beyond a limited appreciation for the stories themselves—good vs. evil always seems to work—I had no basis for understanding any of it!

      

 

But I liked them visually.  The way they were drawn (hilariously menacing?) and somehow the way their gritted teeth where shown on either side of their snouts seemed all Kevin to me, although I knew Peter had an equal role in their creation.  The dark scenes rendered so nicely in black and white with the halftone tints made you forget it was not in color, and I’m guessing this helped them stand out from other low-budget black-and-white creations.

      

During one visit in early ’84 I could see they were frustrated, struggling to scrape together enough money to get TMNT#1 printed. I lent them $1,000 to help publish the first issue—3000 copies as I recall—which they paid back with interest (their idea—I wasn’t expecting interest!) within a few months.  Years later I donated the cancelled check which I had framed with a copy of TMNT#1 to Kevin’s “Words and Pictures Museum” in Northampton, MA.  TMNT#1 has a “Special Thanks to Quentin Eastman” notation on the inside front cover, and they both signed a copy for me at the Portsmouth Con with a note thanking me for my help.  I also went home with several more copies of TMNT#1 and a copy of their press release which are now a part of my collection.

      

As most everyone knows, the Turtles’ popularity grew steadily from that humble beginning to become the popular culture fixtures they are today.  Over the next five years TMNT achieved print runs of over 100,000 per issue and spawned offshoots such as “Tales of TMNT” as well as single character “micro-series” for each of the Turtles by name (Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo, and Michelangelo), special appearances by guest artists, various crossovers with other comics, and so on.  Mirage studios also produced various other titles such as Gizmo by Mike Dooney, Bade Biker by Jim Lawson, and Rock-Ola by Ryan Brown.  Stephen Murphy’s The Puma Blues was also brought in-house to Mirage.

Kevin was always super generous and kept me supplied with copies of subsequent TMNT issues and related items, and as soon as Mirage had a mailing list he put me on it.  I received regular envelopes containing new issues with press releases and other goodies including one of the first licensed products, sets of miniature cast figurines used for role playing.  All were kept and became part of my collection, including the envelopes some of which bear the TMNT logo on the postage meter imprint. 

      

Later on, around ’88 and ’89, things really began to take off after Kevin and Peter signed with Mark Freedman and his company Surge Licensing, who succeeded in launching TMNT into the popular culture starting with Saturday morning kids’ cartoons (a gentler, more kid-friendly version, accompanied by an Archie Comics version of TMNT for younger readers), which then became a vehicle for selling a wide variety of licensed products for children that parents worldwide bought by the millions:  everything from breakfast cereal, action figures, lunch boxes, video games, clothing, and much more.  Kevin was always generous to everyone in the family, arriving at Christmastime with boxes and boxes of toys to give away.  I received a number of toys and other licensed goods, many of which were used and enjoyed by my children, but I did save a small number of items that are part of this collection.

When the first TMNT movie came out in 1990 our whole family attended the Northampton, MA premier at the Academy of Music theater, all of Kevin’s siblings, aunts and uncles, and even great aunts and great uncles, Kevin’s grandmother and a wide array of friends and associates joined the fun.  There was an after-party at the Hotel Northampton where a good time was had by all.  I think it is safe to say that none of us had ever experienced anything like this, and it was a very special event for everyone.  Kevin and Peter certainly went above and beyond in putting on the event and sharing their moment with those in their lives.

    

Prior to the movie release, Kevin had provided me with a stack of movie stills, some color and some black and white, as well as a VHS video tape showing pre-movie experimentation with the animatronics used for speech and facial expressions.  It was amazing and surreal to me, and I could not begin to imagine what it must have felt like to Kevin and Peter, as two young men who set out with a simple goal to make their living drawing comics, to have arrived at a point where they suddenly had success and fame far beyond what they could have imagined just five years before at that little comic con in Portsmouth, NH.  Two graphic-novel movie adaptations were produced, one from Mirage and one from Archie.  This collection includes those as well as invitations to the movie, the after party, and Kevin’s map of Northampton showing points of interest such as Mirage office, the studio, hotel, theater, and the best breakfast spot.

In late ’89 Kevin brought me to Northampton, MA with my family to work with him in his new venture, Tundra Publishing LTD., which I helped launch and run for about two years, then worked outside of Tundra for another year helping Kevin with that and several other enterprises with which he was involved, before returning to NH and resuming my life there.   In addition to Tundra his other enterprises included the “Words and Pictures” Museum, an advertising agency, a color pre-press shop, and a classic car dealership.

    

As this was taking shape, Kevin decided I needed an education in the comics culture, particularly the cutting edge and underground works that he admired,  He spent hundreds of dollars in comic shops setting me up with copies of works such as Arkham Asylum, Watchmen, the current Batman series, M, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, Omaha the Cat Dancer, and many others.  He admired a great number of artists including (but certainly not limited to) Jack Kirby, Frank Miller, Clive Barker, Dave McKean, Alan Moore, Mill Sienkiewicz, John Tottleben, Richard Corben, and many more. 

I read a few of these but confess that more than half ended up in a stack, never opened, later to be put in sleeves for safe keeping.  I had great faith in my ability to help start and run a business, but little in my ability to understand this culture.  My thinking was: “why should that matter?”  I was partnered with Kevin who, I was convinced, knew it better than anyone.  After all, he and a partner had come up with the hottest licensing success of the era and was known worldwide as a top artist.  If anyone could find the creators and concepts needed to succeed in a new publishing venture, he could.

During the Tundra years I kept copies of most of the work we published prior to my departure, along with other items picked up in my travels to various cons and meetings with artists who worked with Tundra or visited to pitch ideas.  The list includes Rick Veitch and Steve Bissette, who both published with Tundra early on, Mark Bode (son of Vaughn Bode), and Mark Martin who came and worked at Tundra, and all the Mirage guys including Eric Talbot, Mike Dooney, Steve Levigne, Jim Lawson, Ryan Brown, and Steve Murphy.  Artists who visited such as Bob Burden, Thomas Kidd and others also left samples of their work that ended up in my “read pile” and later to sleeves and storage.

In 1991 the second TMNT movie was released and also premiered in Northampton at the Academy of Music, but this time the entire weekend was dedicated to a fundraising for a local children’s charity, and was called the “Friends of Children Cowabunga Weekend.”  There were multiple showings of the movie in various smaller theaters; several events including a concert by children’s musical artist Rick Charette; silent auctions of artwork donated by many local artists, and other events.  Mirage studios donated heavily to the enterprise, including promotional costs and the production of a program that included sample art from several Mirage artists.  There are multiple copies of this in my collection as well as copies of the movie adaptation graphic novel of the second movie.

      

Upon my return to NH in 1992 I carefully stored my collection, most of which made it through in excellent condition.  In 2004 I brought it with me to CT where I now live, and over the past couple of years I have chipped away at cataloging each piece. 

      

At this stage of my life I feel it is time to sell it and move on to what’s next for my family and myself.  The best outcome of the sale of my collection would be for it to rest in the hands of someone who values it, protects it, and shares it with others.  Within this collection there is a story to tell and wisdom to be gleaned—which I have avoided discussing in the words above but which could be of interest to many.  Perhaps, if it is worth telling, the opportunity to do so will present itself, maybe as a result of the sale of my collection.  If requested I am open to working with the new owner of this collection to further flesh out the story of my involvement with Kevin and TMNT, perhaps in the form of written narrative, recorded interviews, or video.

Thank you for your interest!

Quentin Eastman, Glastonbury CT, October 2022

Click here to view all of The Quentin Eastman Collection lots of up for auction! Auction ends December 13th!!

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