Turtles Talk: Another Do It Yourself Success! (Encouragement for Creators)

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“If you want it done right, you’d better do it yourself!” When it comes to creative endeavors, this is often the case. In fact, sometimes you have to do it yourself if you want to get it done at all! That was certainly true in 1983, when two young men set out to get their ideas for a new comic book published.

Kevin Eastman

Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were big fans of DC and Marvel superheroes. They kept up with all the latest trends in comics, and realized several tropes were so overused they were ripe for a loving parody. At the time, team-up books such as X-Men and Teen Titans were all the rage, and several of these superhero teams were composed of characters who were: pre-adult, genetically mutated, and/or skilled in martial arts. There also seemed to be a proliferation of intelligent, talking animals, such as Howard the Duck.

Eastman and Laird decided a mash-up of all these elements would be a hoot! They created a quartet of superheroes with all the characteristics popular in DC and Marvel’s top-selling books, wrote an elaborate story detailing their heroes’ origins and debut adventure, and then illustrated the tale themselves. The resulting art lacked a little polish, but the apparent joy and creative energy that went into the work more than made up for it.

The daring duo then tried to sell their project to the publishers that had inspired them: DC and Marvel. Without hesitation, both companies said, “Um, no!” Over the next several months, Eastman and Laird went to every independent comics publisher they could think of; and they got rejection slips from each one — enough rejection slips to make most creators want to throw in the towel, or take matters into their own hands!

Early in 1984, Eastman and Laird formed their own company, Mirage Studios, for the sole purpose of publishing their comic book, a 40-page black-and-white one-shot. To finance the venture, the two creators emptied their bank accounts, and Eastman donated his income tax return — but it still wasn’t enough to pay the costs of printing the comic. So Eastman also borrowed money from his uncle. The pressure to succeed was on, and the duo had a heated discussion about the size of the print run.

Peter Laird

Laird wanted to go for broke and print 5,000 copies. Eastman, who’d put up most of the money, thought his business partner was crazy! Eastman was more inclined to print only 1,000 copies. He figured they’d be lucky if half of them sold, but with 500 copies they’d at least break even. Ultimately the two compromised on a print run of 3,000 copies.

They approached several distributors and found a few that were willing to handle the new book. The creators also wrote a press release and sent it out to all the fan magazines and numerous comic shops. The result? Before the book was even printed the distributors had ordered 1,500 copies. And by the time the book was printed, the remaining copies were spoken for. Eastman and Laird immediately ordered another 6,000 copies from the printer, all of which sold out.

Then, despite creating their comic book as a one-shot, Eastman and Laird went to work on a second issue. Only this time, to ensure they could meet buyer demand, they did a print run of 15,000 copies! It sold out! So they produced a second print run of 30,000 issues. And by the end of 1984, their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the best-selling independent comic of the year!

Oh, and by the way, Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo and Michelangelo love pizza!

More issues followed, as well as the merchandising of the characters for cartoons, games, toys — and movies. The comic book project that no publisher wanted was soon adapted for the big screen, in 1990, with a box-office success that generated two sequels. Eventually this movie franchise was rebooted, and two more big-budget movies premiered (in 2014 and 2016).

Eastman and Laird took a chance and did the job themselves. They did it right, and they continue to be rewarded for their efforts!

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'” (Isaiah 30:21 NIV)

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What Took You So Long? (Encouragement for Creators)

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In regards to your creativity, do you ever feel overlooked and unappreciated? Or that your gifts and talents are being marginalized, and your efforts minimized? Do you feel people have underestimated you, and perhaps even misunderstood you? If so, you’re not alone.

Shatner, at far right, with Richard Basehart, Lee J. Cobb, Yul Brynner, and Albert Salmi, in The Brothers Karamazov (1958).

We know of an accomplished Canadian performer who, at one time or another, probably entertained similar notions. He began as a Shakespearean stage actor and made his broadway debut in 1956 to positive critical reviews, and then quickly graduated to supporting parts in two major movies: opposite Yul Brynner in The Brothers Karamazov; and with Spencer Tracy in Judgment at Nuremberg. He was excellent in both films, but additional A-list movie roles failed to materialize — a curious thing, indeed, given his skill and leading-man good looks.

But the talented actor persevered and even flourished in a string of guest appearances on the finest television dramas of the early 1960s. He delivered a wide spectrum of remarkable performances in series such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, and Dr. Kildare. Eventually he got his own weekly show, a popular science fiction adventure series that made his name a household word. Unfortunately, many of the scripts William Shatner received during his three-year run on Star Trek, playing the swashbuckling larger-than-life Captain Kirk, called for some over-the-top performances. Shatner was more than up to the task, and his work helped viewers to easily suspend their disbelief.

In the process, the actor got a reputation for chewing the scenery and hogging the camera. It’s easy to buy into this assessment, but his role practically demanded as much. And adding insult to injury, Shatner, who’d easily “owned” the part after only a handful of episodes, made what he was doing look so easy and natural that viewers soon decided the man wasn’t acting at all; he was simply playing himself!

Following Star Trek, Shatner starred in a few B-flicks and several made-for-television movies. He was usually better than the material he was given, but no matter how hard he worked — and he was absolutely brilliant in The Andersonville Trials — he was never able to shake the general public’s perception that regardless of what he did, he was just being William Shatner. That was more than enough for many viewers: Shatner had been transformed into a pop-culture celebrity! But it greatly diminished the actor’s talents and abilities.

Shatner quickly branched out in a variety of directions, such as hosting and narrating documentaries, in which his distinctive voice and … method … of delivery … were unmistakable! He wrote several best-selling novels, produced and directed in television, and even recorded a couple of LPs on which he sang — sort of!

Some people loved him, while others couldn’t take him seriously. But Shatner began to boldly humor any detractors by playing off their silly notions of who he was. Shatner the talented actor started playing Shatner the foolish and hammy hack! This led to a series of lucrative commercials for Priceline.com that showcased his comic timing and bolstered his popularity. He also got on the radar of the producers of the series The Practice, who snatched him up in 2004 for the role of ultra conservative attorney Denny Crane, a part created just for Shatner. And he was so good in the part that the character was spun off into his own show, the phenomenally popular Boston Legal, which ran 5 seasons and netted Shatner two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe!

When the actor accepted the first of his Emmy Awards, he gazed at the audience and humorously asked, “What took you so long?” It’s a fair question. Shatner has been performing since the mid-fifties. That’s over 60 years of stellar work on the stage, screen, and tube! What had changed? Certainly not Shatner. He’s always been a tremendous talent. Was it the timing? Or a fresh perspective on the part of audiences?

Let’s ask again, are you feeling overlooked, unappreciated, minimized and maybe even misunderstood? If so, (and we’ll state it the way Shatner might say it) then you … our dear, creative … friend … are in … good company!

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 ESV)

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