The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles come back to movie screens this weekend in a new film produced by Michael Bay. Original creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird may not have expected such a long life for their anthropomorphic heroes, celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2014.
But comics editor Bobby Curnow, editor of the current “TMNT” comic from IDW Publishing, says the Turtles’ tight bond with one another, despite their differences, makes them relatable to their fans.
“Everyone can identify with the Turtles as individual characters, but what they are as a group — a family — is what truly resonates,” Curnow said via e-mail. “The rest of the outside world might not understand you, but your friends and family always have your back. At its core, that’s what ‘TMNT’ is all about.”
The Turtles are mutated turtles with ninja skills, trained by Master Splinter, a rat, to be heroes. Brothers Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello first appeared in a comic book in 1984 that was famously funded by a tax refund and a loan from Eastman’s uncle.
From there, the characters became a phenomenon, appearing in a wildly popular animated series and films and becoming some of the most recognizable characters of the ’90s.
Turtles and ghosts
Locally, the Turtles are part of this weekend’s “Page & Screen” celebration at Barnes and Noble, 6100 N May Ave., which celebrates characters who went from book to screen or screen to book. Local “Ghostbusters” and “Doctor Who” fan clubs are expected. Characters will appear from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday.
Surprisingly, that won’t be the only place that the Turtles will meet up with the Ghostbusters. IDW plans a crossover this fall with the two franchises. Both are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year.
The four-issue miniseries starts in October. In the series, the TMNT are transported into a different universe by a faulty invention, where they find a New York haunted by ghosts. Fortunately, the world they have arrived in is home to the Ghostbusters.
Tom Waltz and Erik Burnham serve as co-writers for the series.
“Both Ghostbusters and Turtles are fun, funny and just a little bit weird,” said Curnow in a news release. “So, putting the two together is a natural choice, especially when you consider the fact that Tom and Erik have worked on both properties for years.”
Long-time “Ghostbusters” artist Dan Schoening will be the artist.
Turtles in print
There are plenty more “Turtles” comics currently available. The Turtles appear in monthly comics from IDW; eight volumes of collected editions have been released. Volume 1, “Change Is Constant,” is an obvious starting point, but not the only option.
“Volume 6 ‘City Fall Part One’ is a pretty action-packed jumping-on point for new readers who just saw the movie, and generally know the lore,” said Kahlil Schweitzer, coordinator of marketing and press relations for IDW.
Fans who want to start from the very beginning can go with “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection” Volume 1, which collects the original seven black-and-white issues from Mirage Studios, plus the Raphael one-shot, by creators Eastman and Laird. The original comics in mint condition would go for thousands of dollars today, making them some of the most collectible comic books of the 1980s. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Classics: The Works” Volume 1 collects the same stories reprinted in full color.
Rick Lowell, who owns Casablanca Comics in Portland, Maine, said there’s a strong interest in the issues, especially in New England, where the comics were originally distributed.
“The current price guides cannot keep up with the values on the early issues,” Lowell said. “We have seen huge spikes in sales prices this year. We cannot keep any of the early issues in stock for any length of time.”
North Carolina-based comic retail consultant Andrew Neal said he sold a first printing of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” No. 1 earlier this year.
“It sold for the most money I’ve ever gotten for a single issue,” Neal said.
The comic, which Neal called “the most legitimately collectible comic of the modern era,” sold for just under $3,000.