The TMNT #1 Production Negatives: Part 10 – Evidence From the Sizes of the Books

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

TMNT #1 1st printing – Dimensions

As was mentioned near the end of Part 02 in this series, the first three printings of TMNT #1 (1st / 2nd – 1984; 3rd – 1985) are not standard comic book size but instead oversized, similar to the size of a magazine.  This is also true of other early Mirage Studios comic books: TMNT #2 1st & 2nd printings, TMNT #3 1st printing, TMNT #4 1st printing, Raphael #1 One-Issue Micro-Series, & Fugitoid (and Fugitoid is even larger – nearly an inch wider).  Interestingly, of the aforementioned comic books, only TMNT #2 1st & 2nd printings have matte covers; all the others are glossy.  But, only the information about the TMNT #1 1st, 2nd, & 3rd printings is really relevant to what follows.  It’s just fun to geek out over a bit of TMNT comic book trivia…which, now you know.

So, as it turns out, size really does matter…for TMNT #1 comic books.  😉  While the first three printings of TMNT #1 are all oversized, they are not all exactly the same size; their dimensions vary, especially in width.



TMNT #1 3rd printing – Dimensions

TMNT #1 2nd printing – Dimensions

The 2nd printing is the largest of the first three printings; 1/8″ wider than the 1st printing but identical in length.  The 3rd printing is the smallest; 1/8″ narrower and 1/16″ shorter than the 1st printing.  It should be noted that, while these measurements (and images) are from my actual books, there are likely slight variations in the sizes of books from the same printing (i.e., your copy of the 3rd printing could be a bit wider or narrower in any dimension above).  Trimming, cutting, binding, and all the other printing stuff that goes into making the books would play heavily into the actual final size of every book.  This could be especially true for TMNT #1 2nd printing because, if you read Peter’s full letter to his brother Don – from Part 09, it was documented that approx. 500 of those 2nd printing books had to be hand-trimmed by Kevin & Peter.  Crazy.

With that said, the size of all books within a given printing should VERY CLOSELY match all these dimensions with deviation no greater than about 1/16″.  Why?  Although the printing process (especially in the 1980’s) isn’t / wasn’t an exact science, once a book’s page images are plated (made into printing plates) and on the press, everything for those plated page images – from printing all the way through collating – is now being done in bulk and at roughly the same time.  Each imposed sheet is being printed, cut, and stacked in bulk; folded into signatures in bulk; collated with the other signatures in bulk.  It’s ALL coming off the press the same way; being handled and processed in the same manner.  And, while anomalies can occasionally creep in (e.g., untrimmed / mis-trimmed pages, print errors), typically those anomalies will persist throughout a significant number of copies from that printing.

When used in conjunction with other known authentication measures, the sizing of the TMNT #1 books can be important since the dimensions of each printing are different.  Sizing checks should be one among many tests used to authenticate the different printings; a significant variance in any of the recorded dimensions for a given printing could be a signal to do further investigation.

And, as I quickly found out, the size differential between the three printings of TMNT #1 assisted in the authentication of The TMNT #1 Production NegativesWhile the exterior dimensions of the book provide the first indication, it’s the sizing (and spacing) of the page images (artwork) inside the books that actually matters in relation to establishing the the provenance of these negatives.  Since each of the first three printings of TMNT #1 are similarly sized – before this, I actually thought they were all identically-sized – it was always my assumption that the same would be true of the interior pages throughout all three of those books.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Before I could perform comparisons on the interiors of each printing and then page-to-negative comparisons, I obviously had to access my copies of TMNT #1 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd printings).  However, my copy of the 1st printing is CGC graded and slabbed, prohibiting me from accessing the interior pages.  So, I went the path of least resistance and started with books in my collection I could actually open.  My lower-quality copies of both the 2nd and 3rd printings fit the bill perfectly.

TMNT #1 Pages 20 & 21 – 2nd printing

TMNT #1 Pages 20 & 21 – 3rd printing

With those 2nd and 3rd printing books now in hand, I decided to initially focus my attention on pages 20 & 21 since those are the exact center / middle of the TMNT #1 books (page 20 on the left; page 21 on the right).  While any single page from the printed books can be easily compared to its partner negative (either side by side or with the negative overlaid), only pages 20 & 21 could be an exact size and spacing match with their negative partner imposed sheet (Imposed Sheet 10 – FRONT) when laid flat – unless the printed books were disassembled, which I wasn’t about to do.  Additionally, it’s easiest to compare the sizes of the printed book’s interiors at the exact center; that’s where the staples are and the books can be opened fully and completely for true one-to-one sizing comparison, hopefully without causing any damage to the books themselves.

TMNT #1 Pages 20 & 21 – 2nd & 3rd printing comparison

I first compared the 2nd printing to the 3rd printingThat comparison revealed that the interiors of the 3rd printing are more narrow; scaled smaller (especially horizontally) than the 2nd printing.  In addition, the page spacing (“gutter” or gap between the pages) of the 3rd printing is not at all the same as the 2nd printing.  The page contents of the 3rd printing are also rotated slightly counter-clockwise, appearing somewhat slanted or left-leaning; definitely not well-centered on the sheet.

TMNT #1 Pages 20 & 21 – Digital Overlay (3rd printing & negatives)

Next, I compared the 3rd printing directly to the negatives, first side-by-side.  That really didn’t reveal much as it was difficult to discern much difference using that method.  However, when I compared the 3rd printing with the negatives overlaying it (using the text bubble on page 21 with “INTRUDER!” as my alignment point), it was impossible to make the image size on the negative completely match up with the image size on the 3rd printing.  There were always gaps of image coverage between the negative and the 3rd printing that gradually increased until it was totally misaligned on the opposite sides.  No matter how I arranged the negative over the 3rd printing pages, the images underneath never synchronized.  The page images printed on the 3rd printing are clearly smaller than the page images on the negatives.  The TMNT #1 Production Negatives could not have produced the 3rd printing.

TMNT #1 Page 20 – Negative over 2nd printing

TMNT #1 Page 21 – Negative over 2nd printing

Having already compared the 2nd printing to the 3rd printing, now knowing the 2nd printing page images were slightly larger, I was really anxious to now compare the 2nd printing with the negatives overlaid.  It took only a few seconds of positioning before the negative and the 2nd printing merged to a seamless image!  Every single place on the negative where white used to exist was now completely darkened by the 2nd printing image underneath.  A PERFECT MATCH!  But not just on one page…on BOTH PAGES!  Also, the spacing between the two page images of the 2nd printing is identical to the spacing between the negatives.  A match this exact would be nearly impossible to reproduce outside of using the original negatives imposed in their goldenrod flats.  The TMNT #1 Production Negatives must have been responsible for producing the 2nd printing.

This was an amazing discovery but I wanted to be completely sure the perfect alignment wasn’t somehow just an illusion.  Since pages 20 & 21 (of both the 2nd & 3rd printings) will lay completely flat on a large-format scanner, I created high-resolution digital replicas of the imposed sheets from the 2nd & 3rd printings.  I then digitally superimposed those with the negative version of that same imposed sheet (Imposed Sheet 10 – FRONT); the sizes of every imposed sheet (both print & negative) are completely un-scaled for a true one-to-one comparison.  The results of this digital comparison speak for themselves.

Visual proof that The TMNT #1 Production Negatives didn’t produce the 3rd printing but they absolutely were used to create the 2nd printing!  And, given that TMNT #1 1st & 2nd printing were printed just a month apart (May & June, 1984 respectively), I now highly suspected that the 1st printing also came from The TMNT #1 Production Negatives.  Unfortunately, without a loose copy of the 1st printing I could use for comparison, I was stuck; I couldn’t prove this.

I had to find a way to see inside a 1st printing.

NOTE Although this article focuses only on Pages 20 & 21, the observations and results hold true for the entirety of TMNT #1 2nd & 3rd printing.  Every comparison detailed above for Pages 20 & 21 was also done with the other thirty-eight pages from TMNT #1; the results identical every time.  Without exception, every page of the 3rd printing is scaled smaller than the same page in the 2nd printing; none of the 3rd printing page images fully harmonize with the negatives of that same page; all of the 2nd printing page images mesh in perfect synchronization with the negatives. 


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