Spotlight on Kevin Eastman Panel at San Diego Comic-Con
Friday, July 27, 2018
- Mike Sangregorio writes:
Kevin Eastman is many things. Most widely known as the co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and currently the Publisher of Heavy Metal magazine, he has been a constant presence in the comic industry for nearly 35 years. Much has changed in that time, from the company he works for to his title but the one thing that has not is his passion. This is a man who loves the medium and the people who work in it. There is much to see at Comic-Con, but spending a Saturday night sitting in a good-sized room full of adults clad in TMNT gear as they listen to a creator they unabashedly adore is a favorite.
Eastman was joined on stage by writer David Avallone and artist Ben Bishop, his collaborators on a project known as Drawing Blood — which was successfully funded via Kickstarter in late 2017 ($75,000 goal with over $100,000 raised). The project is a semi-autobiographical work about Eastman via the protagonist Shane Bookman. The panel was being streamed live for the project’s backers.
An artist himself, the character Books’s main accomplishment are the Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls, female cat-warriors who are named after famous manga artists instead of Renaissance painters. Having sold his famous creations, he must now deal with a variety of personal and professional problems along the way of dealing with more outlandish shenanigans.
Among the things he will have to deal with is running afoul of some Lithuanian mobsters. Eastman decided on the ethnicity because he once knew a Lithuanian man “who spoke English in a very interesting way” and felt that “standard Russian mobsters are overplayed.”
Books must also deal with film director Morgan Harbor, who wants to adapt the Ragdolls into a major motion picture. Eastman is quick to point out that a “harbor” is very similar to a “bay” (you may pick up on the allusion here) and that the main problem the fictional director has is that he wants to change the Ragdolls’ origin so that they are now space aliens.
Other characters in the comic include a fictional version of Eastman’s ex-wife, noted B-movie actress Julie Strain, and another that is based on comic artist Simon Bisley. Also included in the adventures will be the real-life creators of the documentary known as Turtle Power.
Eastman, a fan of the work, wanted to use the mechanic popularized in various television show of the characters “looking into the camera and instead of not explaining it we thought it would be better to just have this real-life crew explicitly follow Books around.”
Other projects Eastman is currently working on include a new Raphael Micro-Series from IDW. Eastman and his TMNT co-creator, Peter Laird, popularized the one-shot format back when they began their careers and Eastman is excited that IDW, the current TMNT comic license holder, is making use of the format. His story will feature Raph, who he describes as “my favorite of the Turtles to tell stories with” dealing with “his own version of the famous Wolverine story, Weapon X by Barry Windsor Smith.”
Bishop will be joining Eastman on the issue. He will be providing the bulk of the art while Eastman scripts and lays the issue out. Bishop added that Casey Jones will also be featured prominently in the issue, which is expected to ship December 2018.
Eastman informed the audience that the Netflix show The Toys That Made Us has recently finished filming a segment on the TMNT toys. Among those interviewed were Eastman and Laird.
During the question and answer section a fan thanked Eastman for inspiring his own career in art. Eastman, laughing humbly, responded that “you sound exactly like I did when I spoke to Jack Kirby.” He added that while he would never think of himself as being on anywhere near the same level as Kirby he was content that “if I got you to draw, that’s the highest compliment I can receive.”
When asked about how he felt about the new creators working on the TMNT he responded that he remembered when “this new penciler Frank Miller came onto my favorite book Daredevil.” He says that it is often tough to judge how impactful a work will be until it has had a time to find its audience that but that each new creator should be given their chance.
As far as his favorite Turtles’ adaptation he said that he has many favorites but that “the first live-action film is pretty hard to surpass and has held up very well.” When specifically asked about the two most recent live-action films he responded by saying that “there were good things about them and it was nice to see Rocksteady and Bebop on screen.”
Eastman admits that of the merchandise, he loves the Star Trek Turtle figures, the Pizza Thrower “cuz it’s lethal,” and Android Krang figure from the first animated series line of toys in particular.
As far as inspirations for the Turtles themselves, “Donatello is Peter Laird. He was the first one to get a computer, I told him it would never take off” and that “Mikey is based on my high school friend [who worked for Mirage as an artist]. He was like Robin Williams, funny beyond words.”
To close out the panel Eastman informed the crowd that this was his 33rd year attending SDCC and that he had no intention of not coming again next year. He added that “they’re going to have to bury me out back, by the loading dock.”