Comics / Comics News

TMNT Creators Honored in Dover, NH


By Philip Schweier and Doug Larson
November 10, 2023 - 14:02

The 40th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was recognized this week by the city of Dover, New Hampshire, with a historical marker near where Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created their beloved “heroes in a half-shell.”


A decorative manhole cover designed by Eastman was installed near 28 Union Street, where the two roommates formed Mirage Studios in the house they shared before relocating the studio to Northampton, Massachusetts. The house where they created the first TMNT comic book has since been demolished, but the location remains the historical roots of what has grown into a worldwide franchise.

The unveiling ceremony included remarks by Dover Mayor Robert Carrier, TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird’s wife Jeannine and other guests. Eastman also designed the artwork for the marker.

In addition, the Dover Arts Commission, the city’s Planning Department, the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources and the Department of Transportation collaborated to create an official State historical marker at the intersection of Union Street and Central Avenue. The sign recognizes Dover as the birthplace of the comic characters.

James Lane, a resident of Eastman’s and Laird’s former neighborhood, spearheaded the effort. “I would walk my dog past it and wish there was a historical marker – something memorializing the spot,” Lane told Foster’s Daily Democrat last spring. “After a while, I decided to be the guy to make that happen.”

After seeing a manhole cover near the site, Lane was inspired as to how to recognize the site. He presented his idea to the Dover Arts Commission, calling it "a part of Dover's hidden history that needs to be told." His original idea was to place the marker on the maintenance hole in the street outside the former Mirage Studios. It served as a symbolic entrance to the turtles’ underground lair in city sewers, as featured in the comics. However, the Dover City Council believed pedestrians viewing the marker in the middle of the street was unsafe. Instead, a faux sewer cover was installed on the sidewalk.

Once the project was approved, Lane launched a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo with a goal of $13,000, donated by locals and TMNT fans nationwide.

He then donated the money to the city to cover the cost of creating and installing the marker. Any excess money was to be donated to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, New Hampshire; Turtle Rescue League in Southbridge, Massachusetts; and the Turtle Conservancy in Ojai, California.

When Ralph DiBernardo, owner of Jetpack Comics in Rochester, heard Dover was looking to promote the history of the early days of TMNT, he was immediately on board.

A recognized authority on the history of the Turtles, Ralph DiBernardo sold new comics at the Newington “Star Center” Flea Market with business partners Doug Larson and Paul Vachon in the early 1980s, where he befriended regular customers Eastman and Laird. The duo would occasionally hang out and draw at their flea market tables. As the story evolved into a fully realized comic, they asked DiBernardo to stock their original comic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so they could repay a $1,000 loan from Eastman's uncle Quentin which paid for the initial print run of 2,500 copies.

According to Larson, he and Vachon thought a couple dozen copies would be purchased as a favor to the young artists since even the red hot X-Men only sold around a 100 copies an issue. DiBernardo was very enthusiastic about the Turtles and agreed to buy 300 copies. His business partners tried hard to interest the customers, and a few dozen copies sold. Marketing in the 1980s was much different without the Internet, so it was decided to mail out single issues to a couple dozen comic shops in region in hopes of sparking more interest. DiBernardo cut up some of them to make advertisements. Those early black-and-white Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics would now be worth a fortune.

Eastman and Laird officially premiered the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the Portsmouth Mini-Con on May 5, 1984. The event was organized by DiBernardo and held at the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge to great success.

DiBernardo stayed in retail comics and eventually established Jetpack Comics in Rochester, New Hampshire. He has collected “hundreds of thousands” of TMNT materials. Over the years, Eastman and Laird have returned to visit the shop and allowed him to do reprints exclusive to his store, including a cover featuring a rough sketch of Rochester's downtown, where Jetpack Comics stands today in the background.

Ralph DiBernardo of Jetpack Comics
When learning of efforts to erect a historical marker, assisting was a no brainer for DiBernardo, calling it, "a brilliant idea.” Jetpack Comics provided support for the fundraiser by donating pledge premiums, including limited-edition TMNT comics, some signed by Mirage Studios artists, and Laird’s original, hand-drawn art. The store also offered free Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics to attendees of the marker unveiling.

“I just never understood why nobody had stepped up to commemorate the Turtles, because in the end, Dover is their birthplace,” he told the press. “That is where Kevin and Peter came up with the concept, and it definitely deserves the recognition.”

In addition to Lane and DiBernardo, the commemoration is made possible by Griffin Hansen of the Animation Education Association, the Dover Arts Commission, the city's Planning Department, and the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources.

Linnea Nemeth, vice chairperson of the Dover Arts Commission, said the idea of commemorating Dover as the birthplace of the TMNT has been brought up before over the years, but never moved forward. Lane worked for a few years to get the project approved, hoping to get the marker installed this year, to connect Dover’s 400th anniversary with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' 40th. The Dover 400th committee helped promote the TMNT project

Last Updated: November 10, 2023 - 14:53

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