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Book Review

TMNT: The Ultimate Visual History



'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History' cover art
'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History' cover art

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History’ cover art

To celebrate this years 30th anniversary of the heroes-in-a-half-shell Insight Editions brings this brilliant hardcover book featuring anecdotes, artwork and collectable inserts from each year of the ‘TMNT‘ history and all for the reasonable price of £22.50 (thank you Amazon!).

The publishers press release for the title reads:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History relates the amazing story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, from their humble beginnings in the pages of a cult comic book, to their enduring status as cultural icons. Beginning with the creative spark that led comic book artists Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird to envision these unlikely heroes, this lavishly illustrated book tracks the Turtles’ phenomenal explosion in popularity as they became mainstays of kids’ TV and the protagonists of one of 1990s’ biggest box office hits. The Ultimate Visual History also looks at the periods when the Turtles briefly slipped out of fashion, showing how enthusiasm for these evergreen warriors was kept alive by new comic books, animated shows, and, of course, some hugely imaginative merchandising.

Bringing together exceptional visuals, including exclusive comic book artwork, candid behind-the-scenes shots, rare merchandise, and other never-before-seen material, The Ultimate Visual History will uncover the previously untold story of the multimillion-dollar franchise. Featuring interviews with key players, including Eastman and Laird, and the talented teams behind the cartoons, comics, movies, and merchandise, this comprehensive look at the TMNT phenomenon leaves no shell unturned.

With Nickelodeon’s hit animated show putting TMNT firmly back in the limelight and the new Michael Bay-produced movie on the horizon, the Heroes in a Half-Shell have never been more popular. The Ultimate Visual History will also take an in-depth look at these exciting new ventures for the Turtles, while putting them in the context of three decades of TMNT action.

PUB DATE: June 24, 2014

'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History'

The book itself is 11″ tall and comes with a reprint of the original ‘TMNT‘ #1 plus a poster-sized rendering of the cover art by Kevin Eastman which is perfect for framing and putting on your wall. Inside the book is broken down in to chapters which each cover a different aspect of the history starting with the creation of the partnership of Eastman and Laird and going right through to the imminent release of the new movie this year.

As a fan of the original cartoon and movies with little knowledge for pre IDW comics the highlights for were ‘Origin Story‘ which covers how Eastman and Laird met, ‘Heroes in a Half Shell‘ which tells the story of how that original cartoon came to be and ‘Turtles Forever‘ which gave a lot of insight in to the feelings around the creation of the animated movie of the same name (reviewed here!) and how the decision of sell the property to now-owners Nickelodeon came about.

The author – Andrew Farago – has taken a great deal of time to interview important figures from the past of the franchise branching out from Eastman and Laird to speak to actors, producers, writers and artists from all corners of the ‘TMNT‘ world. Each brings their own experience of working with Mirage Studios as well as their experiences and love for the characters themselves. Aside from tales of personal struggles felt by several of the major players as they exited the franchise this is generally a love-fest for Leonard, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo, all the supporting players and even the villains.

Page art from 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History'

Page art from ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History’

The pages themselves take the form of small columns of text, mainly based around interviews with those involved with the project at that particular moment in time and those are spliced around sketches and stills to match the story. A lot of the images are from the personal archives of the interviewees and give a great glimpse in to some of the hysteria around ‘TMNT‘. In particular look out for some of the variant action figures which were release around the late 80s/early 90s at the height of the franchise first boom.

Any reader will be quick to realise that there’s far more visuals in the book than there is text but what reading there is to be done is top-notch and none of the contributing interviewees seems to hold back in putting forward their view of how things worked – and in some cases didn’t work – at Mirage Studios. Insight Editions have a talent for creating the perfect mix of visual and text that will entice visitors when they see the book lying on your coffee table which is where mine shall be for the foreseeable future.

The book also brings together a huge amount of inserts attached to many of the pages to help add to the aesthetic, these range from fan club letters to hand drawn posters for appearances and even script pages from films and cartoons. There’s no denying that given more use these will become a little worn and possible detach from the pages but they help take this book from great to brilliant. On some pages the descriptions of the images is almost as long, if not longer, than the accompanying interview text.

There’s so much packed in to the 184 pages that even now, several weeks after finishing it, I’m still delighting colleagues with anecdotes about the history of the characters and those involved in their development. There’s a lot of heart to the book and there’s no doubt that you’ll close the last page knowing the feelings of Eastman, Laird and co about the impact these teenage ninjas have had on their lives from the highs of opening their own studios to the lows of arguments and walking away to allow others to carry on the story.

For fans of ‘Secret of the Ooze‘ or ‘TMNT 3‘ there’s not a lot to be said about these films, those involved in adding to the book don’t have much love for the creative choices made by the producers but both still have brief moments to take the stage. Likewise failed TV series ‘The Next Mutation‘ is discussed with as much fondness as can be mustered.

Whatever your thoughts on the current stage of the franchise (we’re looking at your critics of ‘TMNT 2014‘) there are moments in ‘TMNT‘ history that you will treasure forever and this book is a chance to learn a lot more about the work that went in to creating those moments.

There’s not a huge draw here for the casual reader but for ‘TMNT‘ fans this is a must have item.

4 stars




4 stars


Pick-up your copy of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History‘ from now.


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