Over at the Comics Journal website they have an interview with Kevin Eastman that originally ran in the magazine back in March 1998. I remember reading it at the time and being just as absorbed then as I was this time around. It was a magnificently insane time, with Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird still relatively new to the whole more money than they could really imagine thing in the wake of their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hitting the big-time.
(Kevin Eastman and his oh-so famous co-creation)
Laird retreated somewhat, eventually setting up the Xeric Foundation, providing grants for comic artists over the course of more than a decade. Eastman was nowhere near as careful, sensible or smart about being rich. And that’s why his story is far, far, far more interesting and entertaining.
The interview covers a lot of the Turtles phenomenon, but what it really fascinated me at the time was Eastman’s candour over the debacle that was Tundra. If you wanted a blueprint for just how wrong you could get when setting up a (comics) publisher, then Tundra was it. In the short time it existed (less than 3 years), Eastman managed to promise so much, deliver so little, and spend so much in doing so. It’s a beautiful, brilliant farce, made all the more so by Eastman’s relative easygoing nature, despite having to recount some truly idiotic decisions…
Part 1: Turtles and the insanity of a hit:
“I think we did three or four issues that year, and it went from 15,000 copies for the first printing of #2 to a re-solicitation of #1 that sold almost 30,000 copies to a re-solicitation of #2 which was higher than that, to the first solicitation of #3 which was 50-55,000 — it was making incredible jumps like that, and by the end of ’85 into early ’86, we were filthy stinking rich. In our own minds. We were paying our rent, we were putting money in the bank. We were still doing everything ourselves, doing the whole thing, and the dream had come true.”
Part 2: Finding new and interesting ways to haemorrage money – The Tundra story:
GROTH: About the very beginning of the company, Bissette said, “In our first meetings, Rick and I understood that Kevin intended to start a small, select roster of projects and build it slowly, year by year, without needing to turn a profit to nurture Tundra. By the time he went to his first convention as Tundra, he returned with something like 70 projects. It was mind-bogglingly out of control in its first few months.” And Veitch basically corroborates this by saying, “Steve and I and Kevin sort of worked out a plan for what we thought Tundra could be. The original plan was to do five titles the first year, and 10 the second year, and then cap it at 15. Kevin lost control of it very early on.”
EASTMAN: Totally, that’s totally correct.
GROTH: “That first summer at San Diego he bought into 65 projects.” [Laughter.]
EASTMAN: That’s right. I blew the fuck out of that plan.