The Co-Creator Of One Of The Most Successful Cartoons Of All-Time Is A Maine Native
When people begin to reel off the names of famous people who were born here in Maine, rarely does the name Kevin Eastman ever come up but it really should. Eastman, a Maine native, is partly responsible for inventing one of the most successful comic books turned cartoons of the late 80's and early 90's, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
As detailed in Down East Magazine, Eastman enjoyed an early upbringing in Buxton, Maine. In the days of his youth, Eastman would spend any money he made on comic books and Yoo-Hoo, fully immersing himself in stories of the supernatural and superhuman. Eastman attended Westbrook High School, where a teacher there fostered his idea of becoming a comic book artist himself.
The idea for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn't strike Eastman until he attended college. He began classes at the Portland School of Art (now the Maine College of Art) before moving on to the University of Southern Maine. Eastman found college to be a bit too expensive for his wallet, so he picked up a summer job in Ogunquit at a restaurant called Johnny Oarweed. That restaurant job would end up changing Eastman's life.
As the summer was winding down in 1983, Eastman met up with Peter Laird, who had a room for rent in Dover, New Hampshire. Laird and Eastman teamed up to create a studio of sorts, and that led to Eastman sketching a musclebound, upright turtle wearing a ninja mask and holding nunchucks. The two laughed at the drawing initially, but then realized they might be on to something.
The two used Laird's background in media to secure presentations to networks before nailing down a deal to produce episodes for something they called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Over the course of the next decade, the Ninja Turtles would permeate popular culture at every level. Backpacks, action figures, video games and even full length motion pictures, all from the brain, in part, of a kid from Maine.
The story of Eastman and Laird is a little more complicated. Their relationship frayed over the years, leaving two close friends and business partners feeling very distant from one another. The Netflix series "The Toys That Made Us" dedicated an entire episode to the rise and subsequent fallout from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles empire.
Eastman, who now resides on the west coast, didn't forget that summer job that changed everything. When he married his wife, he returned to Maine, specifically Ogunquit and Johnny Oarweed, to say his vows. As far as we know, nobody dressed up like Michelangelo or Donatello.
Here's the theme song that every kid knew by heart in the late 80's and early 90's. They probably still do today.