Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History

From left to right: Barry Goldman, Cam Clarke, Dakster Sullivan, Townsend Coleman, and Rob Paulson  Image: Dakster Sullivan
From left to right: Barry Goldman, Cam Clarke, Dakster Sullivan (holding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History), Townsend Coleman, and Rob Paulsen. Image: Dakster Sullivan.

The Chinese calendar might declare 2014 to be the year of the horse, but for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans, it’s the year of the Turtle! I can’t believe that my favorite Turtles are turning 30 years old this year. I was born in 1985, so I have 29 years of happy memories with the Turtles and now I have all those memories in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago (published by Insight Editions).

My mother remembers getting me and my brothers tickets to TMNT Live in Concert (I was too scared of Shredder to go, so I regretfully sat this one out) and taking us to see all three movies in theaters. I traded a toy with a another child in kindergarten for my first Raphael action figure.

My copy of the book arrived just a few days before a press event at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort for TMNT weekend. What was so cool about it was that the original 80’s cast of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was scheduled to be in attendance, and I thought this would be a great opportunity for them to sign my book. To make it even cooler, the book has a picture of the entire cast back when the series first started!

I wish I could convey how excited Rob Paulsen (voice of Raphael), Barry Gordon (voice of Donatello), Cam Clarke (voice of Leonardo), and Townsend Coleman (voice of Michelangelo) were when they saw the book. The really cool thing was that they had never seen the picture I showed them as a cast. They didn’t even know how the author was able to get it. Each of them took a few minutes to flip through the book and ask me questions on where I got it and pointed out things they recognized. Before I left, I managed to get a picture of them with the book on the page of them as a cast 25 years earlier (see top image).

Andrew Farago is the author of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History and I couldn’t be happier with the job he did in putting all the things I love about the Turtles’ history in one book for me to pass on to my son. Fargo was kind enough to answer a few of my questions regarding how he put the book together, the length of time a volume like this takes, and the challenges of putting this title together.

Reprinted from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago, published by Insight Editions. © 2014 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. Nickelodeon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and all related titles, logos and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc.
Reprinted from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago, published by Insight Editions. © 2014 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. Nickelodeon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and all related titles, logos, and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc.

GeekMom: Where did you get the reference pictures that were included in the book, specifically the one of the original voice cast on page 70? (Rob Paulsen and the rest of the gang would love a copy!)

Andrew Farago: I tracked down the artwork in the book over a long period of corresponding with fans, collectors, artists, writers, actors, and just about everyone associated with TMNT. I’ll have to check with my editor to figure out where we got the photo of the voice cast—we narrowed down the book’s contents from literally thousands of pictures over the years.

GM: How long did it take to put the book together?

AF: I started researching back in spring 2012, after editor Chris Prince wrote to me and asked, “Would you be interested in writing a book about the Ninja Turtles?” I jumped at the chance, and started reading through all of my old comic books and pulling all of my TMNT action figures out of my basement. From there, it was almost two years of tracking down comic books, watching cartoons and movies, emailing, calling, and visiting artists, collectors, sculptors, puppeteers, actors, licensing people, toymakers, animators, producers, rappers, fans, collectors, and everyone I could find who’d worked on TMNT over the years.

Until you write a book like this, you don’t appreciate how much work goes into finding all of the artwork, writing every single caption, and all of the extra work on top of the basic manuscript. Chris Prince of Insight Editions is one of the book’s unsung heroes, as he kept tabs on all of this while I was researching and writing.

GM: What was your favorite part of the process?

AF: Although I’ve been a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan for nearly 30 years, I’ve been a fan of The Muppets my entire life. Getting the opportunity to interview Brian Henson for this book was such an amazing experience. The family name is synonymous with puppeteering, and I’ll always remember that phone call.

GM: What was the most challenging thing about the research and writing about the Turtles?

AF: The scope of the project was so much bigger than anything I’d tackled before. My previous big project, The Looney Tunes Treasury, focused on classic cartoons spanning about a 10-year period, and that meant many long hours in front of the TV watching cartoons and taking notes (sounds like a really rough job, doesn’t it?). But almost all of the research came from watching those cartoons and reading a small stack of reference books about the Warner Bros. Studios and the people who worked there.

With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the story starts with co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, but it quickly branches out into the expansion of their studio to keep up with the demand of producing their comic book on a regular basis. Then, you branch out to their first meeting with Mark Freedman, who licensed the characters and set up deals with Playmates Toys and the Murakami-Wolf-Swenson animation studio. And then, I was talking to the people at those companies, and the animators, and the voice actors, and the studios who made the live-action movies—and then I spent months tracking down Vanilla Ice’s agent, and then…

I conducted interviews with almost 100 people, often over the course of several weeks’ worth of email exchanges, or calling people and talking to them on the phone for anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, which meant that I’d have to spend another several hours transcribing calls. If I’d had another two years to work on the book, I’m still not sure I’d have found every possible interview subject and every piece of artwork and every photograph…but I’m really pleased with the book that we produced.

Reprinted from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago, published by Insight Editions. © 2014 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. Nickelodeon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and all related titles, logos and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc.
Reprinted from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago, published by Insight Editions. © 2014 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. Nickelodeon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and all related titles, logos and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc.

Between my Turtle shell backpack and my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History in hand, I was one popular fan at the Nickelodeon TMNT Weekend. My fellow fans of the Turtles were excited to flip through its pages as we waited for our time to meet the cast. A couple of the people I met shared their memories of our heroes-in-a-half-shell and the various times they’ve had the opportunity to work on something TMNT-related or meet someone involved with the Turtles. It was an awesome experience talking with these individuals that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, if I didn’t have this book to start the conversation.

If you’re a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan or know someone who is, make sure you pick up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History! It’s filled with more COWABUNGA awesomeness than should be allowed in any one book.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History retails for $30.99 and is available at your local book store and on Amazon.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

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Dakster Sullivan is a network administrator by day and a cosplayer by night. She loves discovering new books to read, tech to play with, and ways to express her herself. She has anxiety and depression and strives to educate others about these invisible illnesses.