Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Co-Creator Kevin Eastman Talks NECA Haulathon Exclusive, The Last Ronin, and More

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The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are getting on NECA's first-ever Haulathon event. Haulathon is a four-week series that see NECA releasing brand new, exclusive items at Target stores and on Target.com. and will be available at Target and Target.com in the US and via Haulathon.com for international shoppers, with new items going on sale each Friday at 8 a.m. CST. ComicBook.com can exclusively reveal the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles item dropping as part of the Haulathon this Friday, March 18th: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Cartoon) – 7" Scale Action Figure – Cartoon Series 2 – 4 Pack "Style Guide Colors" figure set. You can take a look at the set, which retails for $149.99, below.

To celebrate the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Haulathon release, NECA got us on the phone with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman to talk about the figures. We also got some information on the upcoming final issue of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin (NECA has a figure for that as well). Check out our conversation, along with promotional images of the figures, below:

(Photo: NECA)

Could you tell me about your involvement with the design and production of these figures? Did you have input into how the figures came out?

Kevin Eastman: Man, it's just been such a wonderful journey and I have to go back to some of the toys that Peter [Laird] and I did when we worked with Playmates and with Fred Wolf Films back in the early days. That was really something, certainly for us as cartoonists, watching our comic books turn into fully animated figures and then to full 3D figures with some of the original toys. And I love the fact that we've been able to be part of that process all the way through. But then handing it off to the incredible and gifted and talented people at NECA who have brought them to life in such a fantastic way that is down to every single detail as we all grew up with them and saw them originally back in some of those original cartoons. So it's really been a joy to be part of the original process and then watch from afar while people, far more skilled than I am, bring it to life in another way, which is just wonderful. And of course, all the little bonuses and extras in the packages are just a hoot and a holler too.

There have been a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures. NECA is putting out a lot of very cool ones themselves. What do you think makes these figures stand out?

I think it's all the way it's packaged and the way it's presented and the overall style, that look, as well. I'm standing here looking at it right now as it sits on my studio shelf -- and I'm going to have to get more shelves to make more room for some of this stuff -- but it's all those little extras that are just impossible to find, like the turtle communicators for example, or even things as goofy as the slices, the bits of pizza. Or just the stylization of some of their weapons, giving you the chance to choose a different face for each of the characters, a different expression, the interchangeability if you are brave enough to open them, and I'm very tempted to open them, but I still like the full display of how it sort of laid out in the package.

So I like the uniqueness of it, and being a collector, I still get some of my original GI Joes and other figures and stuff that I had in the earliest of days. So having some of this stuff as inspirations from some of your favorite cartoons in the way that they present it and make the uniqueness of the collectibility of it is something I think is super fun.

I know that you and Peter Larid were both incredibly busy at the time that the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, which these figures are based on, was in production. It was the height of Turtlemania. Does looking at these figures bring any particular memories or feelings from those days rushing back to your mind?

Totally. It's still like it replays like a video in my mind as fresh as something I watched yesterday. And that being when we were going through the process and it was very interesting. It was a very, very busy time, but that's because we wanted to be involved in every part of the process, whether it be working with, say, the original writers like David Wise and some of the many other people bringing to life some of these stories into this new iteration of the Turtles as the cartoon show, which then became part of the toy line. But we wanted say and involvement in all the scripts. We had final approval over the look of all the characters, how they were interpreted or new characters were brought into the Turtle universe at that time and have continued to be part of the universe.

So I can sit there and see myself looking at that first prototype of that first toy based on the animated show, and that's exactly what these figures bring back to me. I feel I've reached into my TV screen and pulled out one of the figures right out of the cartoon, because they're just wonderfully exact and right down again to the simplest and the coolest little accessory that's packaged with them. It's torn right off the TV screen into your living room. So that's it. I love it. It brings back a lot of exciting and fun memories of that time.

(Photo: NECA)

You mentioned how you and Peter both wanted the final say on creative decisions for the franchise. You've talked elsewhere, like in The Toys That Made Us episode about the franchise, about how Venus' introduction was the biggest test of that [and now Venus is back]. Do any other major issues stick in your mind? Either one that you and Peter had to put a firm foot down over, or that caused a similar disagreement or discussion between the two of you? Or was Venus really the one?

You know, it really was not really that much. Luckily we, as co-creators of the property and the ideas that we explored, were careful. We continued to maintain a level of respect for each other. Whether it be talking about a story that we were drawing together within the comic series, it was discussed, put on the table, pros and cons, points of view and then we find a middle ground. And that was very similar in a lot of the creative aspects of developing, whether it be some of the work on the movies, to some of the work on the cartoon shows, especially in the early days.

There were certain things that we wanted to see done differently, and nothing that we disagreed particularly on. It was just always reaching for fresh ideas or new ideas or new characters to bring into the cartoon series. We didn't want to be one of those rinse and repeat kind of things like every episode was sort of standardized. And there were times that we felt like it was so we would push hard with some of the creative people that we were working with at Fred Wolf and things to get more creative and bring in some fresh ideas.

But no, nothing in particular. I think Venus was one of those ideas that, if there was going to be a girl turtle, that wasn't the way Peter saw it happening, I felt it was a good idea, you know? Because we've always been attracted to strong female characters, whether it be Sarah Connor or with Ellen Ripley or many, many, many others. But it was just one of those things that was a good idea, but at the wrong time, certainly for him and I, but we got past it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is still going strong today. Seth Rogen is working on a new movie. I know you've consulted on some things over the past few years. Are you consulting or at all involved in the Rogen project?

No, that's a good question. And I'm not directly involved in it for sure. It's funny that many things that I've been involved in creatively -- some a lot, some a little -- all stem from the original series that Peter and I created, co-created and built together. And to me, it is looking through these characters and looking through some of those concepts through fresh eyes, if you will, whether it be the evolution and what was built by IDW Turtle Universe that was built there; Nickelodeon's 2012 series, for example, one of my favorites in recent history of just a wonderfully creative and playful environment to tell stories from there. Some of the movies I like a little bit more than some of the others, but once you put your idea or the hands of an auteur, a creator or director, writer, certainly as it stands now where I don't have any say of what could be done or not be done, I've been asked to consult on different things at different times and I give my honest opinion. Whether they use it or not. It's really up to that particular artist.

In Seth Rogan's case, I'm not a big fan of him and his movies and I'm sure his team is given a lot of thought to something that I think he's personally a fan of. Whether he wants my two cents or not, that's totally up to him. But otherwise, I'll be in the theater when it comes out and we'll give my two cents then. But I'm excited. I've enjoyed so many different, I call them Turtle universes because they really are very unique and different varied turtle universes within a multiverse, if you will, which is always exciting, to see what other people see in these characters that Peter and I created almost 40 years ago.

(Photo: NECA)

Lastly, I know I am one of many fans eagerly awaiting the finale of The Last Ronin. I think it's fair to say the series has taken a little longer to come out than anyone was expecting or hoped. I checked before this interview and current the final issue is scheduled to release in April. Can you tell us whether that's a firm date at this point and enlighten us at all on what caused the delays over the past few months?

First and foremost, thanks a million, billion, trillion. It's been such an unexpected response to it. That really was the idea that was based on a concept that Pete and I had created back in 1987, and it came together. Tom [Waltz] and I built it into the story that it's become, and then it was unfortunate, even as it started in the earliest days, that creatively, our team that I brought in initially to help realize the concept didn't quite work out. So we were almost five months behind before it even started. So the slowness to it has all been my fault and uniquely my fault. And they're larger-sized stories like the original Mirage comics, 40 pages each. With the incredible amount of detail, it's almost like directing a movie in that each part of it has a script and a very basic script, but it evolves as I do the layouts. That's how the story comes together, the way it used to back in the earliest days when Pete and I worked together.

So the delays have been solely on my shoulders, but it's been a journey. That's been the toughest story I've told, but the most exciting personally, and satisfying, and we are just literally days away from wrapping up the last couple pages and it is going to press and I know that there's literally people standing by at the printer waiting for the PDF to arrive. Hopefully, the fans will think it's worth the wait. I think it is. This last issue is something that I just could not be more excited about for everybody to see. The way I'm ending it is the way I want to see it end and we'll leave it at that.

But yes, stand by, it is coming. We're days away from being wrapped and I appreciate everybody's patience, and again, I hope the thing is worth the wait when it finally arrives. If not, I'm sure I'll hear about it.

NECA's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Cartoon) – 7" Scale Action Figure – Cartoon Series 2 – 4 Pack "Style Guide Colors" figure set goes sale at Target, Target.com, and Haulathon.com at 8 a.m. CST on Friday, March 18th.