One Very Strategic Decision Set The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Up For Success

The rise of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is a remarkable underdog story. The bandana-wearing reptiles were the brainchild of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, starting back in 1983 with a simple sketch of a nunchuck-wielding turtle. Their comic book started out as a joke, but they both liked the concept and developed it into a comic book parodying superhero tropes. 

The duo formed their own company in Laird’s living room, named Mirage Studios. They scraped enough money together for an initial run of 3000 copies and used their last few bucks to place an advert in a comic industry magazine. Every copy sold in a matter of weeks, kickstarting a franchise that would lead to a 30-year comic book run and all the adaptations and merchandise that would accompany the snowballing and never-ending fandom.

The pinnacle was the 1990 feature film that became the most successful independent film ever made at the time. Several major studios passed on the concept because, “Batman” aside, comic book adaptations were considered box office poison, thanks to the likes of “Howard the Duck.” Up-and-coming indie studio New Line Cinema wisely took a punt and history was made.

As for the film itself, whether it was good or not was almost beside the point. Aimed squarely at its youthful target audience, it was a routine crowdpleaser miles better than the competition, giving fans all they needed with plenty of action, pizza, and wisecracks. The best part was the Turtle design by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, still far more endearing than the disturbing CG iterations in the charmless 2014 reboot.

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