The TMNT #1 Production Negatives: Part 08 – Provenance & Acquisition

Please be sure to read the previous articles in this series.

The most frequent question I get asked about The TMNT #1 Production Negatives is where they came from; usually immediately followed by the question of how I acquired them.  Until just recently, I wasn’t able to provide much in response to the question of their provenance.  I really only knew what I had observed or heard; mainly that they surfaced about five years ago and consisted of forty negatives inside an orange box – each negative matching one of the forty pages of TMNT #1.  However, their origin, history, and authenticity remained vague and incomplete; their exact function and purpose only theorized – the result of educated, yet unsubstantiated, suspicions and speculation.  In other words, they were largely unexplained with nominal provenance.

TMNT #1 Production Negatives – Box Top portrait

Which is why, when these negatives first surfaced on eBay in December, 2014 as “TMNT Comic Art Negatives,” I passed on making the purchase.  They were being sold by an antique dealer (the second owner of these negatives) who had recently acquired them from the first / original owner.  Although they certainly were (are) incredibly cool items (regardless of their background), not enough was known about them or their origin for me to justify taking the risk.  I had a hunch that there might be something special about them but, unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough time for me to properly authenticate them.  So, on Dec. 14, 2014, they sold to another collector; a collector, as it turned out, I knew.  This collector became the third owner of these negatives.

TMNT #1 Production Negatives – Box Top landscape

Over the course of the next few weeks, the new owner of these negatives (a very well-respected and elite Turtles collector) relayed small bits of information about the acquisition of them.  More details of the physical negatives themselves were provided, along with some new pictures; but still, their provenance and utilization largely remained a mystery.  And, for the next four years, that’s how they stayed.

TMNT #1 Production Negatives – Box label side

During that time, I often thought about these negatives, wondering whatever became of them and if their secrets would ever be revealed or if they would forever remain the enigma they had become in my mind.  What were negatives of TMNT #1 created for if not for something related to the production of the book itself?  These HAD to hold some significance.  Yet, everything truly known at the time about these negatives was essentially circumstantial evidence; enough to indict but unlikely to convict.  Every time they came to mind, these negatives silently beckoned.

And then, in February 2019, I was afforded the (unexpected) opportunity to acquire these negatives and make them a part of my collection.  Although still no documented provenance existed or had been determined, this time around I decided it was more of a risk to pass them up.  I wanted the chance to hear what these negatives might have to tell about their past.  I became the fourth (and current) owner of these negatives.

TMNT #1 Production Negatives – Box label top

About a week later The TMNT #1 Production Negatives arrived and I just knew that what was in my hands was a genuine piece of comic book history.  My quest for their provenance began almost immediately.  My time and attention centered on a few small clues from the orange box that, to me, seemed the best indication of a possible link between these negatives and the creation of TMNT #1.  The following is documentation of what I found to establish the provenance of The TMNT #1 Production Negatives.

TMNT #1 Production Negatives – Box “Journal-Tribune”

The orange box itself is actually the first clue.  It’s an old box from what originally contained resin daylight contact paper for the Agfa Printon DL 520 RC Light Integrator – a piece of equipment once used in the printing industry to expose ultraviolet film.  The remaining clues are what’s hand-written on the box itself; both in black marker.  “NINJA TURTLES — FIRE MAN CATALOGUE” is written on the label of the box (lower corner) and, above that, the main hand-written clue – “Journal-Tribune #24288.”  Both are still clearly visible (although somewhat faded over the years).  An internet search revealed that the Journal-Tribune is a newspaper in Biddeford, ME (still in existence as of this article’s publication).  Could the Journal-Tribune be where at least one of the first three printings of TMNT #1 were printed?  It was a very promising lead (really, the only lead) but more was needed to truly prove this.  With nothing else readily available to me, I used the early history of Mirage Studios for my proof.

Dover, NH to Biddeford, ME

(PROOF #1) Maine sits next to – directly east/northeast of – New Hampshire.  Mirage Studios (the publishing company formed by Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird) was located in Dover, NH in 1984 when TMNT #1 1st and 2nd printings were made (May and June, 1984 respectively).  Biddeford, ME (Journal-Tribune) is just 35 miles northeast of Dover, NH; less than an hour’s drive away.  Mirage Studios published only two TMNT books while headquartered in Dover, NH before moving to Sharon, CT in August, 1984; those books were both TMNT #1 – the 1st & 2nd printings.

Dover, NH to Lakeville, CT

(PROOF #2) The next book published by Mirage Studios was TMNT #2 1st printing in October, 1984.  For that book, Mirage Studios used an unnamed printing company located in Lakeville, CT, just 7 miles north of Sharon, CT.  It’s highly unlikely that they would have used that Lakeville, CT printing company for TMNT #1 1st & 2nd printings.  This is because Lakeville, CT is 215 miles from Dover, NH; nearly a four-hour one-way drive!  Kevin & Peter (Mirage Studios) did their own distribution of the comic books through TMNT #3 1st printing (March, 1985) which meant they had to personally pick up every copy of the printed books, transport them back to Mirage Studios, and then ship them out to customers / comic book shops.  Multiple 8-hour round trips with return journeys that contained hundreds of pounds of books seems implausible, needless, and avoidable.

(PROOF #3) TMNT #1 3rd printing and TMNT #3 1st printing were published just a month apart (February and March, 1985 respectively), both while Mirage Studios resided in Sharon, CT.  It would stand to reason that, since Mirage Studios had already used the unnamed Lakeville, CT printer for TMNT #2 1st printing, they would continue with this same printer for TMNT #1 3rd printing and TMNT #3 1st printing.  However, this assertion becomes fact when the following evidence comes to light.  Beginning with the Raphael One-Issue Micro-Series 1st printing (April, 1985) and followed closely by TMNT #4 1st printing (June, 1985), Mirage Studios switched to using the Southern Dutchess News in Poughkeepsie, NY as the printer for their comic books.  This was also Mirage Studios’ third printing company.  The Southern Dutchess News (Poughkeepsie, NY) was (is) just 30 miles SW of Sharon, CT and they were the first printer to also handle the distribution of the books for Mirage Studios.

Equipped with nothing but the above historical facts, I believe the following three things can be concluded with reasonable certainty:

  1. the Journal-Tribune in Biddeford, ME was Mirage Studios’ first printing company;
  2. The TMNT #1 Production Negatives were created at the Journal-Tribune; and
  3. The TMNT #1 Production Negatives were used to make both the 1st & 2nd printings of TMNT #1.

Thankfully, however, the aforementioned details about Mirage Studios’ past aren’t the only things to be relied on for endorsement of the three proclamations above.  In just the last few weeks, the first two conclusions above were verified and validated in a couple different ways.  One affirmation came from Kevin Eastman’s own recollection.  In a conversation I had with Kevin just a few weeks ago, I asked if he remembered the name of the first printing company Mirage Studios used; the printer for TMNT #1.  Although Kevin wasn’t able to recall the name of the printer from memory, when I inquired if the “Journal-Tribune” sounded familiar to him, that clearly sparked something in his mind.  His reaction was one of immediate familiarity and recognition; his words were, “That does ring a bell…sounds right.”  While I realize that’s not iron-clad proof, it did come directly from the co-creator of the Ninja Turtles.  Who better to know, right?

TMNT #1 Production Negatives – Box label side

Further endorsement of the first two inferences above came just over a week ago and was most unexpected.  A former employee of the Journal-Tribune recognized the orange box and the negatives from pictures in previous articles in this series.  We got in touch and, over the course of our conversation, it was confirmed that these negatives did indeed originate at the Journal-TribuneThis individual had been shown the negatives (and the familiar orange box) and had been able to personally examine them while working at the Journal-Tribune.  This was exactly the kind of supporting evidence I knew had to be out there somewhere – third party corroboration of the negatives’ origin.

When all of the supporting evidence documented above is collectively taken into account, I absolutely believe it also affirms the third inference above – that The TMNT #1 Production Negatives were used to print the first two printings of TMNT #1.  And, if that is true, these negatives were responsible for the creation of at least* 9,275 comic books (3,275 1st printing / 6,000 2nd printing); each and every one of them being the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books ever created!   *Peter Laird has documented a possible increase in the print quantity for the 2nd printing by 250 copies – though it’s somewhat buried info. and not as clearly stated as the increase for the 1st printing.

It’s an astonishing and unbelievable revelation but one that can’t be left without further endorsement and corroboration.  A statement with such huge ramifications and historical implications simply demands more proof.

And more proof is exactly what I’ve found.

If you have more information or details about Agfa daylight contact paper and/or Agfa Printon Light Integrators (500 series), please email me (or use the ‘Contact Me’ form in the Blog sidebar).  I was unable to find much information about daylight contact paper or the Agfa Printon Light Integrators and I would be interested in knowing more about how the light integrators were used in conjunction with daylight contact paper.

- Peter Laird's TMNT Blog - Mirage Studios' founding (1983) in Dover, NH; in Sharon, CT for 2 years and then Northampton, MA
- Kevin Eastman Studios - move from Dover, NH to Sharon, CT (August, 1984)
- Peter Laird's TMNT Blog - unnamed printing company in Lakeville, CT
- Peter Laird's TMNT Blog - new printer printed & distributed Raphael One-Shot (April, 1985)
- Peter Laird's TMNT Blog - TMNT #3 final issue of self-distribution; new printer for Raphael One-Shot and TMNT #4
- Peter Laird's TMNT Blog - 3rd printer Southern Dutchess News in Poughkeepsie, NY
- Peter Laird's TMNT Blog - new printer (Southern Dutchess News) being third printing company & first to do distribution; doing Raphael One-Shot distribution
- Palblog (Peter Laird's Blog) - move from Sharon, CT to Northampton, MA (1986)
- Peter Laird's TMNT Blog - 3,275 copies of TMNT #1 1st printing
- Peter Laird's TMNT Blog - 6,000 copies of TMNT #1 2nd printing
- Peter Larid's TMNT Blog - possibly an extra 250 copies of TMNT #1 2nd printing

2 Responses to “The TMNT #1 Production Negatives: Part 08 – Provenance & Acquisition”

    • rich

      David, email coming your way shortly! Thank you.


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