The TMNT #1 Production Negatives: Part 09 – The Missing Cover

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

There is one last item that needs a bit of attention before revealing further proof that The TMNT #1 Production Negatives were used to print the first two printings of TMNT #1.  After everything that’s been covered and documented up to this point, one question might still linger in your mind.  Where are the negatives for the cover of TMNT #1?  As it turns out, that question is currently left unanswered.

TMNT #1 Cover – imposed sheet

To date, it’s not really known what happened to the negatives for the cover images and, to my knowledge, they have never surfaced.  The first three printings of TMNT #1 have a full wrap-around cover exterior (i.e., single piece of artwork).  The outside of the cover (exterior front and exterior back) would have likely been a single image / negative since there is no gap in the artwork at the spine.  The inside of the cover (interior front and interior back) would have likely been two separate images (exactly like the forty body pages).  A total of three (possibly four) negatives.  Sadly, it seems the negatives to the cover images are a casualty of time and, most likely, are gone forever.

All that can really be done is to try and determine why the TMNT #1 cover negatives aren’t included along with the forty body-page negatives; all in hopes of rounding out the entire story about the genesis of TMNT #1.  It does seem curious that, although the cover negatives didn’t seem to survive the past 35 years, every one of the body pages did – along with their goldenrod flats.  But maybe, that’s the key to unlocking the mystery behind the missing cover negatives.

Someone at the Journal-Tribune obviously cared enough to retain all forty negatives from the body pages of TMNT #1; stashing them away for years.  That individual clearly had foreknowledge of the negatives’ potential significance.  It would have hardly been any additional effort or overhead to then also preserve the cover negatives in the same way.  So, why wasn’t that done?  It could simply be that the cover negatives had already been destroyed or discarded by the time this individual realized he wanted to archive them.  Or, maybe it’s because no one at the Journal-Tribune actually had access to the negatives used to print the cover.

TMNT #1 – Cover Exterior (Outside Back & Outside Front)

The outside of the cover to TMNT #1 is the only part of the entire book that has color; a singe color – red.  The cover is also the only imposed sheet of TMNT #1 not printed on newsprint but instead on glossy paper stock.  In printing, color (even a single color) is achieved by means of combining four separate colors – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, & Black (read more about that here if you’re interested).  Color printing would have required equipment and presses that supported four color separation.  Maybe, in 1984, the Journal-Tribune didn’t have the capability to print a color cover or couldn’t print on the type of paper required (or both).  And maybe, because of that, the cover was actually printed elsewhere and then later combined and bound with the signatures printed at the Journal-Tribune.

TMNT #1 – Cover Interior (Inside Front & Inside Back)

This argument does seem to be supported by Peter Laird himself in a post on his TMNT blog.  Two key items from the contents of the letter he sent to his “Mom and Pop” indicate that the covers for their early books could have been printed separately from the body pages.  Two people are mentioned in the letter – Chuck Bradley and Ken Keller – both individuals whom Peter identifies as contacts at current and former printing companies.  In Peter’s letter, he mentions stopping in at the printers to get the acetate overlay containing the title and logo for TMNT #4 so that he could make copies of the entire cover for Kevin.  Then, at the end of that same paragraph, Peter states, “I just hope he (Chuck Bradley) does a good job on the cover and binding.”  Notice how Peter never makes mention of the interior pages to TMNT #4 – everything is in reference to either the cover or binding.  Could this be an indication that Chuck Bradley is associated with a printing company that was only responsible for printing the cover to TMNT #4 and then binding it to the book’s body pages (which were printed by the Journal-Tribune)?

Additional evidence exists that appears to not just validate this assumption but actually prove it.  Take a look at this post, again from Peter Laird’s TMNT Blog.  In the second paragraph of Peter’s letter to his brother Don, he records the following, “the printer who did the newsprint insides of the book (TMNT #1 2nd printing) screwed up a lot of the folding, with the result that when the printer who did the cover and the binding went to trim the books, a lot of them were incompletely trimmed…”  WOW!  ?

Not only does that provide the proof of separate printers being used for each book – one for the body pages and one for the covers – but it also reveals more about what each printer was responsible for in the entire book production process (folding, collating, binding, trimming – covered in Part 05).  Specifically in relation to TMNT #1 1st & 2nd printings, we now know that the Journal-Tribune was responsible for printing the body pages and folding the signatures.  Another (currently unknown) printer was responsible for printing the cover, binding the cover to the body pages, and then trimming the final book (to eliminate the folds).  All that isn’t known for sure is which of the two printers was responsible for the collation of the signatures into final correctly-sequenced pages; but, my money’s on the Journal-Tribune for that.

Tragically, the negatives for the cover of TMNT #1 are likely to remain lost; forever separated from their body-page brothers.  The only solace is in now knowing the reason why the cover negatives were not also discovered in company with the forty body-page negatives; three negatives (maybe four), unfortunately absent from the orange box.  The Journal-Tribune wasn’t responsible for printing the cover for TMNT #1 but, whoever was likely didn’t realize what is now common knowledge; that what they had in their possession was to be the final piece of a comic book that would make history.  Fortunately, one perceptive individual at the Journal-Tribune did recognize this; preserving what we now know to be The TMNT #1 Production Negatives.

- PrintWiki - The Free Encyclopedia of Print
- PrintWiki - Color Separation
- PrintWiki - Color Separation Negative
- Peter Laird's TMNT Blog - cover printers Chuck Bradley (Sharon, CT) and Ken Keller (Dover, NH)
- Peter Laird's TMNT Blog - printer that did the newsprint insides

2 Responses to “The TMNT #1 Production Negatives: Part 09 – The Missing Cover”

  1. Adam

    Fantastic work on these posts, Rich. Very enjoyable and enlightening. Thank you so much for sharing and for demonstrating respect of the importance of these items.

    • rich

      Thank you Adam. I appreciate the sentiments. And, so glad you are enjoying the articles. These are true comic book treasures and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate them than to make them publicly viewable…compared to the books they produced. Much more still to come! Thanks for reading and following along.


Comments are closed.

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