Personal blog for writer/editor/publisher Renee Witterstaetter-- film and publishing professional as well as agent to actors, media guests, writers and artists via Pros & Cons Celebrity Booking AND Eva Ink Artist Group. Owner of the virtual experience site: happyspacePOPcon.com. In this blog, Renee will post missives and observances for entertainment, as well as keep followers updated on the creative endeavors of both herself and her associates at Pros & Cons and Eva Ink.
Welcome to our blog!
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Happy Holidays from Eva Ink Artist Group/Pros & Cons Celebrity Booking and HappySpacePOP.com
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Jefferson and the Election of 2020
Monday, September 7, 2020
Christpher Rokku Coates--Anime Artist Available for Commissions!
Thursday, August 20, 2020
My Mother's Shoes
My Mother had many shoes
Over the past few months of looking through her closets… sorting… what to keep… what to throw away… it’s hard when each item reminds you of a time. “Oh, she wore that in that photo with Dad” “Here’s the dress she made for the Bicentennial.” “Oh gosh, this one was so 80’s” ... So many pockets had tissues tucked inside, or a movie stub, or in one case... a nickel and two pennies…
Every thing is a time capsule. Every room a time machine. But one that let’s me only observe and not participate, like a movie overlay flickering…. transparently…over what remains… Actors walking in and out in spirit only, since they have exited the stage, in some cases...a long time ago.
Maw Maw is sitting on the couch, her throaty laugh. I hear it. Still. She asks me in my mind again, why I bought a red angel for the top of the Christmas tree? I happily say “Well, Maw Maw,” maybe she’s a fallen angel." She liked that one. Or I’ve fallen asleep on the sofa again watching the late late movie and Daddy is waking me up and sending me to bed as he heads off to deliver mail. Sometimes I'd sit with him first and he'd make this mash up of peanut butter, honey, butter and jelly and we would spread it on toast, in our kitchen that was always dimly lit, although I never realized it at the time...Or Mom is on the couch watching “Happy Days,” in the few hours she was home from work at her job at Sears, before going to sleep to wake up and do it all over again. She'd laugh and say "That's so silly"... but only when something silly happened.
I get lost in the moments. In the memories. And I pull myself back to the present.
For two weekends now I’ve had an “estate sale.”
I don’t even know what that means.
As far as I can tell, it’s the dismantling of a life accumulated. A life transferred on to things. Infused cumulatively with the essence of the person who owned them. As a whole they show you a picture of who that person was. And then people come. They look at the "things." You tell them the price is $20. and they offer you fifty cents. You say no.
Because to you, it’s not just a brooch. It was the one they wore when you went to see the “Jungle Book” when you were 5. Remember when you had to come in from playing in the sandbox and she combed the tangles from your hair, and you cried so hard? But then you saw Baloo and Mowgli for the first time, and you smiled, and you forgot the tears.
The Bear Necessities. The bare necessities... So after they leave thinking you so unreasonable, you take the brooch from the box, and you put it into the ever growing pile of things you will not sell.
My Mother wore many shoes.
She grew up in a family that like many during World War II was struggling. She remembered the fireside chats from the President. She remembered her mother canning food to save for these hard times. She remembered the time the jar exploded in the pressure cooker and the glass cut my grandmother’s arm… So much blood... My Mom, roughly 8, I suppose, so scared, ran to a neighbors to get help. She remembered the sound of her shoes on the pavement as she ran. The neighbors, they put my grandmother into their new car to rush her to the hospital. So much blood. The aqua blue interior. Maw Maw always felt bad about that. Mom would never let me buy a pressure cooker.
My Mother filled many shoes.
She always had to be older than her years, even as a child. She often took care of her two younger sisters. As a young adult she went to secretarial school to improve her future. She excelled at that. She got a job at East Texas Motor Freight where she met my Dad. They married. I see the picture of Mom and Dad in their wedding clothes in Maw Maw's front yard. Happy. Unaware of what the future would bring. You want to say to them, "Don't worry. SO much of it will be good. " The mid-calf blue satin dress she wore is still folded neatly in the closet. I wonder where the little high heel pumps are? But like so much they were absorbed by time...
After trying for so long, she finally had her first child, and then two more. She always wanted to be a mother. I was the third, and her last attempt to have a daughter,.
If you were to ask her what her greatest accomplishment was, she’d always say “My kids.”
I hope I was what she hoped I would be?
She took a job at Sears, and worked her way up from secretary to Personnel Manager— a high position for a women in her day. And she had such delight in giving people their first jobs. In helping when she could.
A gentleman stopped by the sale yesterday. He asked “Are you Erma’s daughter.” Yes, I said. "I worked with her at Sears. I was in automotive," he continued. "We loved your Mom. We knew that if there was a problem to just go to her, and if there was a way to solve it, she would.”
I thanked him for his kind words.
I wonder if life was what she hoped it would be?
I never judge my Mother. Her life was a result of her own unique recipe of circumstances. But I never was hungry. I always had clothes. I was given an education. I knew I was loved. I inherited a strong will— probably too strong to her chagrin. If she made mistakes, I don’t dwell on them... it's only fair...as she hardly ever dwelt on mine.... In fact I don’t think I could name her's as true mistakes. Yes, she was nosy, and opinionated, and tried to tell me what to do ALL the time. But I miss those things now...
She was the one they all came to when they needed a loan co-signed, a car bought, a problem addressed, money borrowed… sometimes folks would pay her back even. But she’d never ask. She was the one that would worry herself sick. Called at inopportune times. She was also the one who would get dressed, put on her shoes and come to you at any time of day or night.
She was my Mom.
So I watch… as people pick up a coffee cup here, a jacket there. And the whole becomes parts, and the picture starts to separate. Like a kaleidoscope turning.... It was one image. Now the picture breaks up. To become something entirely new.
Someone else’s picture now.
Once when I was a teen I was selected to go on a trip called “Paint the West.” Myself and other girls my age from all over the country went to Montana to paint landscapes and learn more about art. I drew alot in those days. My Mom was very supportive of course, and sent me off on this great adventure.
I don’t think she knew we’d be killing the rattlesnake under my tent and cooking it for dinner, but well, that’s our secret.
I remember that on the trip we visited a western museum and our assignment was to draw something we saw there. It wasn’t a hard decision for me. I gravitated towards a pair of old cowboy boots. They were cracked and sun-baked, shriveled. creased, slumping to one side.
They were beautiful.
And I imagined that they were perhaps just as they were when that cowboy took them off for the last time after -- The last ride--The last roundup--The last pony broken. After how many years? And so they sat, and they dried, and they remained.
Just as they were.
Like forgotten pennies in a pocket.
A whole history was there— in their cracked visage if you looked hard enough. To me they were not just boots. They were that story. Of a man. His life. His hardships. An artifact as sure as a fossil I dug from the ground.
I suppose that’s why I picked this pair of my Mother’s shoes to show... The ones you see.
They are not the prettiest. Those she kept in a box and wrapped in tissue paper in case she wore them for some special occasion again. Maybe a wedding. Maybe a dinner if someone took her (but be warned that even if you did, she'd only order a bowl of soup because she didn't want you to spend the money). They were not the newest. They were not even the most expensive even when new.
But they were the shoes she wore the most.
Her joint on one side of a big toe jutted out and after awhile the leather started to stretch. The seam to burst. The sole is worn a little more in places she favored when she walked. The creases formed from constant use tell of the many hours she worked standing, walking, going to church.
They tell a story of a long life. Of a beautiful, hopeful girl, who grew up to be a wife, a mother and an executive and tried to balance it all. They tell the story of a woman who worked hard, and loved strong, and who even after she retired, and her husband died, decided to go back to work as a salesperson at the very company she had once helped run... Because she was lonely, and it “kept her mind sharp.”
It tells the story of a woman who stayed at her church for over 65 years, a woman of faith, who propelled those shoes-- and others like them-- to go every Sunday, every Wednesday. They tell the story of a woman who worked until she was 84. By choice. Retiring only when she just could not do it any longer.
She died at 85.
When my Grandmother, Maw Maw, was a teenager, she was thrown from a carriage and broke her back. She was told she’d never walk again. Instead, for a year, while her family worked on the farm, she would drag herself around the house and she taught herself to walk again. There was no "can't" in her.
My Mother came from strong stock.
Those are my Mother’s shoes.
Today a lady came to our sale. My Mother’s sale. She walked slow. She’d pause from time to time and reach for something to steady herself. I asked if she needed a chair. She said “No, I’m okay. I just need to take it slow. I'll get there.”
Among the newer things in the offing, a pair of silver shoes . The kind my Mom liked-- leather, comfortable-- most important to her in later years. I had bought her numerous pairs of these shoes and she’d worn them out! She loved them so much.
These I had given her for what would be her last Christmas. She never got to wear them. Not even once.
“What size are these?” the lady asked
“9 W ,” I replied.
“My size... ” she said.
After my father passed in 1993, I kept a few things. A red flannel shirt he always wore that still smelled like him, a handkerchief with his initials that he kept in his pocket, some items from the Post Office-- his hat... pair of black leather work shoes, he’d ordered but never got to wear, still in the box. I had looked at those shoes that morning, but I could not find him there… and I was surprised.
“The silver shoes are so pretty,” she said. “But. I’d be pampering myself too much.”
"And you should!" I replied. But she never asked the price. Just looked, and touched the seam of a loafer and held one up to the sun to watch it shine.
She picked out a few things, some dresses with a floral print, a red lacy top, and paid for them “That’s about what I can afford today,” she smiled. I thanked her and she slowly walked away with measured, planted, steps.
And I realized why I did not see my Father in his leather work shoes. The ones wrapped in a box. It's because of course, unlike the picture above, unlike the boots of the unknown cowpoke, they had never walked with him. They never propelled him through this life. They were a blank piece of paper. An unopened book. A match never struck.
Mom would never walk in the silver shoes either. The ones that shined in the sun. She would never crease them or cause the seams to pop out or wear the edges of the sole on the side she favored.
But someone could…
And…I guess so that new stories can be told… because it’s always the stories I love…
I went after the lady and I gave her...
My Mother’s shoes.
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Michael Golden "Sketch Masks" Available!
New Round of Michael Golden "Sketch Masks" Available!
Here are some examples of the current round Michael just finished.
You can order your own via email@example.com.
All masks are $35 or $70 for a double mask and that includes the domestic shipping. Mainstream characters are all fair game.
Just contact us for more details!
If ya gotta wear 'em we might as well have some fun with it!
Sunday, July 12, 2020
Cover Recreations: Venom Lethal Protector #1 by Sam de la Rosa!
Artist Sam de la Rosa is offering a special recreation Venom Lethal Protector #1 on a blank (blank included) OR you can upgrade to a 12x18 piece of Original Art.
New Round of Michael Golden "Sketch Masks" Available!
Here are some examples of the current round Michael just finished.
You can order your own via firstname.lastname@example.org.
All masks are $35 or $70 for a double mask and that includes the domestic shipping. Mainstream characters are all fair game.
Just contact us for more details!
If ya gotta wear 'em we might as well have some fun with it!
Thursday, July 9, 2020
Custom "Sketch Masks" by Michael Golden
Since it's the new necessary item we all need to have, why not have a little fun with it too?!
Announcing washable/reuseable "Sketch Masks" by artist Michael Golden!
Artist on Dr. Strange, Micronauts, Baman, "The 'Nam," Star Wars and so much more, as well as the co-creator of Rogue, you have alot of material to choose from.
That's right, this is an original piece of art on a MASK, and you get to pick the character you want to sport. Any comic book character is game. And if it's some other character you have in mind, just contact us for details. You never know!
|Samples of Masks. Colors include white, pink, gray or light blue.|
Each mask is $35. That includes shipping and handling. Double images are $70. The colors we have right now are white, pink, gray and light blue.
For more details or to order you persoanlized "Sketch Mask" contact us at: email@example.com
Monday, July 6, 2020
Happy Space POP Con! Virtual Experiences! Check it out!
Eva Ink Artist Group/Pros & Cons Celebrity Booking has announced a series of virtual experiences in partnership with Fayetteville Comic Con. These experiences with media and comics pros also include the chance to buy products and collectibles.
The events include Dynamic Figure Drawing with Rags Morales on July 4, Beauty & Brains with Joycelyne Lew and Ric Myers on July 5, Jim Shooter on the history of Marvel on July 11, zombie king Arthur Suydam on July 12, Invader Zim reunion with Rikki Simons, Eric Trueheart, and Aaron Alexovich on July 18, Bleach reunion with Megan Hollingshead, Michelle Ruff, and Quinton Flynn July 19, Tim Colceri Acting Up! online class on July 25, and Jim Shooter on writing comics on July 26.
Events continue with Veronica Taylor All Things Pokémon on August 1, Butch Patrick and James Marsden Howling at the Moon on August 2, Michael Golden rogue creator on August 8, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reunion with Bobby Herbeck and Kim Dawson on August 9, Alien reunion with Mark Rolston, Michael Biehn, and Ricco Ross on August 15, Yu-Gi-Oh reunion with Megan Hollingshead, Wayne Grayson, and Darren Dunston August 16, Graham Nolan and Chuck Dixon The Bane of Their Existence on August 22, Cynthia Rothrock: the Queen of Martial Arts with Ric Meyers on August 23, Talkin’ Spidey and Beyond with Todd McFarlane and Jim Salicrup on August 29, Happy Space Pop Con Jamboree with Renee Witterstaetter and surprise guests on August 30, and Robert Trebor and the Wisdom of Salmoneus on August 30.
Each event is $4.99, which can be used for any of the ten events in July and August, admission to the McFarlane/Jim Salicrup panel on August 29, 2020, and their wrap up panel with surprise guests on August 30. An all access pass is available for $68.
Don't forget if a panel has already happened, you can still watch it when you buy the link!
Once an event is purchased, virtual attendees can submit questions to the guests for the chance to have them answered live.
More details are available on happyspacepopcon.com.
Friday, June 12, 2020
Arthur Suydam Gets (Re) Animated About His Career, Talking Zombies!
Scoop: Were you a fan of comics before you got into the industry?
Arthur Suydam (AS): When I was 5 years old, I was caught in a fire and as a consequence laid up for a year in the hospital. Having been burned over 50% of my body, no one expected me to make it and the team of four doctors in charge of my case lobbied my parents, that perhaps it might be more merciful to just let me go. My father would hear none of that, and told them that if they didn't try everything to save his son that he would kill them.
On weekends my parents would come to visit me, and they would bring me comic books to read. DC’s Star Spangled War Stories with dinosaurs, Legion of Super Heroes, World’s Finest and Superman. At that time those were my favorites. I was wrapped from head to toe in bandages, wrapped up like a mummy. When I finally was released from the hospital a year later, I had to relearn how to walk. Soon as they began to take some of the bandages off my hands I began to draw. I taught myself to hold a pencil between fingers that were less burned. At that time, I drew mostly dinosaurs with my older brother who also liked to draw, later animals, and then superheroes.
In my early teens I stumbled on the Marvel pre-hero sci-fi books from the “title cut off” comic book returns, because they were cheap and that’s what I could afford. Three in a pack for 20¢ at the little corner dime store. The ‘60s sci-fi short stories with the great [Steve] Ditko and [Jack] Kirby art really caught my attention and called to me and I became a big Marvel comics fan. I spent all my money on comics. One day, years later while trading comics with a local neighbor I discovered these incredible large size black and white horror magazine size comics with the best comic art I had ever seen. Turns out those were the Warren books featuring many of the EC comics faculty – Reed Crandall, Al Williamson, Angelo Torres, Frank Frazetta along with my own personal hero, Steve Ditko, doing the best work of his career. In fact, they were all doing the best work of their careers. That work still holds up for me as the best comic art I’ve ever seen.
I made a promise to myself that someday I would work for Warren publishing doing their horror books. Years later, when I was in my senior year of high school, I went up to visit their editor, Jim Warren in New York to show him my work. Warren hired me on the spot. However, when I mentioned that I was still in high school, he informed me that I had the job if I wanted it, but to come back after I graduated. Upon graduation, the following year, I returned to New York to begin work at Warren publishing on their Creepy and Eerie magazines and on the way, I stopped off at DC Comics to see editor Joe Orlando who was managing a series of EC/Warren style horror comics for DC. During the interview, Joe informed me that he was the art director for Warren who had brought over all the great EC artists to work at Warren. After reviewing my portfolio Joe asked me to work for DC Comics instead and to forget about working for Warren. Joe opened up a drawer and told me that there were 250 scripts in that drawer and that I could have as many of them as I wanted and he handed me my first script and the pro career began. My first story was entitled: “Carnival of Dwarfs.”
Scoop: What’s your artistic process like – do you do a lot of preliminary sketches and planning?
AS: I had an uncle who reportedly studied with Albert Dorne and Norman Rockwell and I inherited his lesson books from my aunt when I was about 8 years old. That began my formal art studies. Later on, I studied at a classical atelier recreation of the school of Raphael, Michelangelo, and Da Vinci in New York City modeled after their old study notes. These studies inform my drawing process. The Rockwell system, I’d say, is the system which most resembles my process when painting illustrations. Much the same for sepia illustrations. I do lots of pre-sketches and typically a pretty exact ink drawing for most of the covers and then an exact underpainting.
Scoop: How about the environment when you work – do you listen to music, do you like having a view, etc.?
AS: I like to either listen to a mix of classical solo instrumental performances – or to silence while working depending on which stage I’m at in the job. Silence when writing and in the planning stage – and then solo music in the grunt work stages. I need to be next to a window with lots of natural light when illustrating. When so many hours are going into the work, one needs to stretch the eyes to prevent eye strain and fatigue from setting in and hopefully keep the progress moving.
Scoop: You are well known for attention grabbing cover art. What do you find challenging about crafting covers?
AS: Typically, things run pretty smoothly. My MO is always to try to deliver my best work to publishers. It’s good for everyone. At Marvel I worked directly with the artist liaison at the time, Chris Allo, who very smartly always endeavored to place the right artist with the right job and then did follow through to make it all happen. Chris was one of the instrumental forces behind the incredible zombie explosion prompted by the Marvel Zombie project.
Scoop: Did you like zombie movies as a kid? If so, what’s your favorite?
AS: Actually, I’ve always had a hard time watching them, mostly because they were low quality – and then the good ones actually gave me nightmares for decades. That said, my favorite Z-list goes something like this: Return of the Living Dead – great in large part because the creative team was comprised of talented comic book talent like Dan Obandon and Bill Stout. Night of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead, had a nice first half and then fell flat once the comedy fell out in the second act. Marvel Zombies is what prompted the big recent zombie craze and was instrumented in establishing the signing of The Walking Dead AMC TV series. I thought the series was incredible and I like it better than the movies.
Scoop: Are there any Marvel characters that you wanted to turn into zombies but didn’t get the opportunity?
AS: In the opinion of many fans, there is an untapped gold mine for Marvel in the Marvel Zombies universe, both in publishing and more so on the big screen. The Marvel Zombies movie is the film all the fans have been calling for for years. I have IP designs for a comprehensive collection of cutting edge progressive new Marvel Zombies scripts and series titles here in the office on ice. Maybe we can all get something to happen there someday. I’d like to write and do covers for a DC “Batman Zombie” series. I’ve been pretty busy lately with the KISS Zombies series.
Scoop: For Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth you created a series of homage covers for movie posters and other covers. Which was your favorite and why?
AS: Yea, the whole mash-up homage cover thing I do began with Marvel Zombies and the Dynamite series, Raise the Dead, and Army of Darkness vs Marvel Zombies. I was told that fans were collecting the books for the covers, purchasing five copies of the same book just to get the new covers. Because these series were big hits, editors kept calling me to work on their other series. I recall one particular meeting when one editor, who had been soliciting me for a year to work on his line of books, blew up because I couldn’t work on his books because all my time was already contracted with the Marvel Zombie series, which kept selling out every couple of days mandating new covers for the second, third, and fourth printings and so on. There were a lot of months where I had very little sleep during those days. Finally, one day he called me when there was an opening and I was able to say yes to the Deadpool Merc with a Mouth series, where I continued the homage to the classics direction.
Regarding favorites, I don’t think I have any favorites. I try to do my best work on whatever series I’m working on at the time. I believe some of the fans favorite from that series might be the Nirvana water baby homage I did for issue 12. That one was based on a cover I did for the Dynamite, Raise the Dead series. I told Marvel’s editor that I didn’t want to repeat anything I had already done on another series, however the editor insisted, so here we are.
Scoop: What do you like about working on horror and sci-fi titles like House of Secrets and Heavy Metal?
AS: I grew up on horror movies, TV and novels and came into the business doing horror and have been doing horror my entire life. I guess over the decades one is informed by what one eats. What I like are writing and illustration opportunities to do some good work – unrestricted – uncensored. That’s the opportunity Heavy Metal provided. They told me I could write and draw anything I wanted and that’s what we all did. That magazine revolutionized the comics industry.
Scoop: You’ve worked on many big name characters from Black Panther to Wolverine to Ghost Rider and several others. Do you have a favorite character or title that you like working on and if so, why that one?
AS: My favorite gigs are the ones that provide opportunity to try out new things and that give me a challenge. I like inserting little ironies into the storytelling of a cover illustration and find that it can help prevent a theme from going flat.
Scoop: In addition to comics, you’ve provided art for the game Touch the Dead, for the novel Dead Street, and worked with the Misfits a few times. How do those projects differ from working in comics?
AS: There’s no difference really. Perhaps a bit more of input in the planning stage from the client working on band album covers, depending on the group. Bands tend to come to you with an idea of what they want – comic publishers tend to want me to provide the full concept from start to finish for a piece.
Scoop: Are you a collector? If so, what do you collect?
AS: These days I collect sculpture and original art. I like to have a piece by some of the artists whose work I’ve admired growing up. I have a few in mind from the Warren days I’d love to get ahold of someday – maybe some splash pages. When traveling I look for little pieces of art that speaks to me to add to my collection. Could be any genre by anyone. I like to support other artists.
Scoop: What are you working on now and how can fans support your work?
AS: Well I just finished working on the big Kiss Zombies series for Dynamite and currently I’m working on the Mars Attacks vs Red Sonja series – the final cover for that series took so long. I had a friend pose for the main character and spent days painting scores of tiny Martians running around, driving little space cars and the like. I am just starting another new series, and as always, teaching Muay Thai.
Fans can come by to see me at any show when shows start up again. I’d be happy to meet you all. My agents contact is also included in this article for those who are interested in convention bookings. A big thank you to all of those who have supported my work over the years.
For more information on booking Arthur Suydam or inquiring about artwork, contact his agent at Eva Ink Artist Group: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, May 28, 2020
TMNT '90 Producer Kim Dawson, Writer Bobby Herbeck-- Talk Turtles!
Scoop: Let’s start with how each of you got involved in this movie.
Kim Dawson (KD): In the summer of 1986, I got a call from my partner [producer] Gary Propper that he was in Detroit and had found a comic book that was the first issue of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the black and white. He was a talent manager, managing a comedian named Gallagher playing at the Fox Theatre. He got so excited when he found this comic because he felt it could be the first movie that we made. We did a lot of television projects together, but the first movie we made that could be a live-action picture. He sent me the comic and then the next day I called Mirage Studios, who had just signed a deal with Surge Licensing for treatment and then with the two of them it took us a couple of months to negotiate the deal and we finally put it together. Actually, I misspoke, it was the summer of ’87, so by the fall of ’87 we had a deal in place and that’s when I introduced the project to Bobby.
Bobby Herbeck (BH): I was working for Golden Harvest, I was writing a movie for them, they’re out of Hong Kong, they did the Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies. Kim told them “Bobby’s over there working with Golden Harvest, that’s a perfect fit to make the Ninja Turtles.” Which took some time to get my boss to put the dots together. He kept telling me, “Write the movie I’m paying you for and quit bugging me with the pinjin, ninjin turtles.” He gave it a different title, which someday maybe we’ll do the Pinjin Ninjin Turtles. A couple of months maybe, it was going around Hollywood.
KD: It was longer than that because by December that year we had prototype toys from Playmates, and there was a graphic novel by that point, and there was now going to be a cartoon series promoting the toy line. The toy line launched at Toy Fair in February of ’88. Bobby and I and Gary Propper went out to Hollywood and talked to everybody we knew and basically pitched our hearts out. We had the toys, we had the press kit, we had what we thought was a viable package and people weren’t buying at that point. Nobody was interested.
BH: I was literally laughed out of some pitch meetings and after one of the pitch meetings, they called my agent and said, “Who’s the guy smoking pot that came in with this turtles thing?” They thought this was just some stoner trying to sell a movie. It didn’t happen easy, but I kept going back to Tom Gray, my boss at Golden Harvest. Finally, one night we had a drink and it donned on me, he had a 12 year-old kid at home and I said, “Hey Tom…” and he said “Don’t go there.” I said, “Just one more time, you go home tonight and ask your kid about the Turtles because now they’re on TV, building an audience.” By the time I got back to Long Beach that night he’d left me a message to call him and get Kim and meet him for breakfast in the morning. We had a meeting and he was leaving the booth, he calls it he had one butt cheek off the booth when Kim reeled him back in with “You have the best martial arts guys in the world. You just put them in the costumes and dub the voices.” Then he slid back in and the ball started rolling. It took, maybe three months.
Scoop: You said it was a tough sell and I was wondering if you saw any reluctance because of Howard the Duck since that was around the same time.
BH: You are so right my dear. This was Tom Gray’s biggest fear: that it was Howard the Duck. [both laugh]
KD: And there was another comic book that had been a live-action picture called Garbage Pail Kids that had also tanked badly. Howard the Duck was obviously George Lucas, and Lucas was…I think everyone at Universal was stunned that the movie didn’t do better.
BH: And again, this wasn’t what Golden Harvest did. They did these action kick butt martial arts movies; they didn’t do kids movies. They didn’t have a clue at the beginning and I’m sure Raymond Chow, the man that owned the company was like “What are you talking about?” I don’t think he had a clue how you make that movie. As time evolved with the help of Kim and Gary Propper, rest his soul, the other producer we lost last year, really the force behind finding the book and then coming to me, and then working with Tom and putting it in his brain, really – this is how you do this movie. It just started evolving. Everything I tell people, Kim and I – it was all timing. It’s like catching a wave, our timing was perfect. Kids had only had TVs then, they didn’t have iPads and Xboxes and stuff, they got their entertainment on TV. Pong was the game.
Scoop: You mentioned that part of the pitch was getting martial arts actors and putting them in the suits, then dubbing the voices. Did you have any voice or suit actors in mind when you started?
KD: No, here’s how it went down when Golden Harvest made the deal for the rights, they sent Bobby to Massachusetts to work with Kevin [Eastman] and Peter [Laird], they were looking for the right director to do it. We focused in on Steve Barron who had been doing a lot of Michael Jackson videos, he did “Billie Jean” and a few others. I think he was the production designer/art director on Dark Crystal. He just had a real look that they liked, and I felt that would probably be to our advantage. So, when Steve came on board, he was good friends with Brian Henson and together, they convinced Jim [Henson] that the Creature Shop should be the ones to make the costumes. Brian felt that in order to do the movie properly, that the actor inside the costume had to be enough of a stuntman to do a backflip and drop through a simulated manhole cover. So, they had trampolines in the Creature Shop, so they were building suits to make those work, so it was really focused around the puppeteers and the actors that he brought together. The voice actors were an after thought later on. We didn’t replace those voices until well after the movie had been finished.
Scoop: I wanted to ask about the costumes. We’re at the 30-year mark and the costumes still look great. I was curious about the process of getting Jim Henson’s Creature Shop involved. It sounds like they put a lot of thought into mobility as well as the look.
BH: A lot.
KD: It had to be. There were actually two sets of turtle costumes: you had the stunt turtles, the guys who did all the fighting and running, that sort of stuff, then you had the talking turtles, that were the acting turtles. The acting turtles had, under their shells, extensive electronics that were the servo motors that were used to move the facial features. I think what you’re driving at, a key point of the success of the film, is between the puppeteers who used joysticks and also remote control gloves called waldos and the actor inside the suit. There had to be a rapport. Brian was very careful in casting those parts so that those guys could behave the way the characters are written, because Bobby wrote these deep characters that were all differentiated in their words and that had to manifest itself in how they behaved inside the costume with their facial features and everything. So, it was a complex dance, if you will.
Steve Barron was at the heart of it because even as they cast all these characters, he had to be thinking about how they would interact. I think it was that chemistry between the puppeteers, the actors inside the costumes, Steve Barron, and Brian, even the script supervisor, because they were all wired up – could hear one another, talk to one another. So, aside from the fact that the costumes were operating at 110 degrees of non-air conditioned studios, the sweat that built up in the costumes kind of shut them down. It kind of fried those electronics on a regular basis. It took longer to make it than it should have, probably.
Scoop: What story points or background from the comics did you want to include in the movie?
BH: That was all by design. Once Tom Gray said he was in, we were going to go for it. We flew to Northampton to meet Peter and Kevin, to convince them. My job was to convince them that Golden Harvest was the company to make the movie – which we did. I got back, not home two days and was told, “Pack up, you need to go back and sit with Peter and Kevin. They need to sign off on the story for the movie.” That was not a short and easy process, it took some time for them both. I’d do a treatment and give it to them, we’d meet a few days later and I could tell by their body language that one liked it and one didn’t. That went on for a while. I finally said one morning, “How did you guys ever get a comic book done? You can’t agree on anything.” So, they finally agreed and I came back. I’m getting to answer your question, a lot of it came from the graphic comic book, obviously, the characters and then to just delineate them a bit more on screen and some of the story points, plot points were from the comic book. I added Tatsu to the mix.
KD: You added comedy to it and rapport. The original comics are pretty anxious. It’s much darker. I think that we knew we had to make a movie that was PG-13 or PG. We couldn’t make a movie that was dark and an R. We knew that there was an audience of comic fans out there, but Tom Gray was interested in the more youthful audience, which is where New Line felt that they could bring it to the theaters and attract an audience that was kind of bifurcated. We had a youth audience in the afternoon and in the evenings and then later at night we had the cult comic book collectors.
BH: Two things here, first of all, Kim’s the one that brought this up a while ago, Tom didn’t really give two beans about the story as much as the action, because they were an action company. So, it was not always easy with him and writing it, as to what they wanted and didn’t want. Once I was assigned to it, Steve took me to London to write this – which was great to be away from Hollywood with Steve and do this. I looked at Star Wars, the first one, I wanted to count the number of battles and I wanted to see the motivation from Lucas as a writer. I realized each battle had a reason, a theme. It wasn’t just “Hey we need a battle scene here.” But that is part of a template.
So, every time in that movie when the Turtles go up against the Foot, there’s a reason for it. It’s very important in the writing that Splinter says, I’m paraphrasing this “You never start the fight, you only defend.” That was the message. I’m a message guy. I love the scene where he talks to the boys and tells them he loves them and will always be there. My friends, adults who took the kids to the movie back then, one big rugby player guy starts crying and says “Oh, man I took my son to see the movie.” And I asked “What are you crying about?” and he said “My son looked up and said, ‘Are you my friend daddy?’ and I said ‘Yes’ and he said ‘I love you daddy.’ I started crying and said, ‘I love you.’” He’s telling me “You piece of s---, you made me cry in front of my son at the movie theater.” [both laugh]
For Kim and I, this has all been wonderful for us because we’ve been kind of in this bubble. I know when I’m out in the world and someone says, “This guy wrote the Ninja Turtles movie” the reaction I get. We are just blown away by the love and devotion of the fans and how many there are. We had no idea, after all these years. And the second generation. It’s a blessing.
Scoop: What are each of your favorite parts of the movie?
BH: I have several, I like the whole thing because it was a success. I love the opening because kids are at the edge of their seats to see the Turtles like this. Seeing Raphael lifting the manhole cover and knocking the light out and you finally see his face from the cop’s bubble light and the next shot is in the sewer and you see them in silhouette. I get goosebumps every time. I think that was a brilliant thing. The beginning for me.
KD: One of my favorite parts of the movie is the farmhouse. When they go to the farmhouse and the things that happen there. The dialogue between Donny and Casey and certainly the repertoire between Casey and April, I love. The Kodak moment when Raphael wakes up and Leonardo is there is my favorite moment in the movie because it’s like what brothers would do. “Get a grip. What’s the matter with you?”
BH: Two of my favorites scenes are that Kodak moment and the one when they bring April down to the den and she’s passed out and they look at Splinter and say, “Can we keep her?” that had all kinds of connotations to me. I just love that.
Scoop: Did you have any pushback from the studio or censors regarding the fighting in the movie?
KD: It’s interesting. Particularly in certain territories around the world, there was a fair bit of pushback. Norway, I think they changed the name to Hero Turtles. I don’t think it got nearly the traction it could have or should have in Japan or Korea where martial arts are a big thing because they felt it was –
BH: A mockery.
KD: Right. Whereas the guys who played the characters, the stunt Turtles, Pat Johnson was the choreographer and he did all the Three Ninja movies, he was brilliant. He was an amazing fight choreographer. You just can’t say enough. Oddly enough, the second and third film don’t have quite as much violence in them. This was back in a time when violence wasn’t tolerated as much as in today’s world, when you compare movies where they’re blowing the crap out of stuff. There was pushback. We did get some from whatever organization in Washington, DC pushes back on kids’ violence. The truth is, when you look at it, these fights do have a message and all that. The movie’s an allegory for things that are going on in life that are much deeper and richer than a 7 or 8-year-old can understand, I think. There’s a lot of double entendre in the film and that’s all due to Bobby and [co-screenplay writer Todd Langen] and the words that they wrote and built the characters and certainly the direction. But, there was some pushback.
Scoop: The movie has built a legacy. It was No. 1 on its opening weekend, a lot of people consider it among their favorite movies, and the kids who saw it in 1990 are showing their kids now. As the movie is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, what are you feeling as you reflect back on it?
KD: Oh, how blessed we were to be involved. I swear. In life you have those moments where you can go left or right, it’s that Robert Frost poem “The Road Less Traveled” it feels like we arrived in that moment at the right time in our lives. It’s been that sort of thing. It kind of launched a whole new career for me, because I was a television producer up until that time and I’ve been able to produce films since then and I’ve made amazing relationships with people.
So, as I start to build from 30 years ago the things I’ve been able to do as a result of that particular picture, it’s a blessing. When the movie was first released, I’d moved to Orlando to produce The Mickey Mouse Club for Disney Channel. I was out of the Hollywood mix and I’ve been able to stay in Florida as a result of the film because we did three in a row. Two up in North Carolina where it was easy to get to and the third film was made out in Oregon. For me, it was just that seminal moment that broke open a new pathway in what was now a long career. I started in the mid-‘70s in the film and television business. For me, it was just that opportunity where you got to take a path that you never even anticipated. I owe that to GP, Gary Propper was my partner, like I said, he was the manager of Gallagher at the time. We made a dozen specials for Showtime and I’d done a lot of work in entertainment and sports prior to that. Once we started down the path of Turtles, it kind of gave me a new perspective of what the world was about because it was frivolous and it was lightning in a bottle. No doubt about it.
[Editor’s Note: Kim Dawson had to end his portion of the interview at this point for another engagement.]
Scoop: Bobby, do you want to comment on getting pushback from the studio or censors regarding the fighting in the movie?
BH: Like Kim said, we did get that, you always get it, but to go a step further on what Kim was saying about the Asian market, according to Tom Gray who was running the company at the time, he told me a couple of year ago – I was shocked – this movie didn’t really play in Asia at all. They didn’t want it. It played everywhere else in the world. I think he told me there was no Asian market, therefore the foreign numbers weren’t very good, box office-wise. Now, once it was a hit, they started buying into it because it became a phenomena around the world. It just brought awareness to it – this little graphic book that was in a store in Detroit. It just put it on the map and Peter and Kevin.
The other thing, when I was writing the delicate balance I always felt was not to write down to the kids on this movie and to write straight across and keep the parents in mind because you had the teenagers and then you had the younger kids. Like Kim said, there were two groups that went to the movie. I always say that part of the success of the movie is that it was written such that the parents – and I know for a fact because I’ve had parents tell me – they took the kid to see it, kind of begrudgingly, and come home and call their sister or brother or friend and say, “It was really a cute movie. It’s really good, go see it, you’ll enjoy it too.” So that helped.
In the business, they’re making big money on these movies, these tentpole movies, because people are going back to see them again. I’m not a math person, but someday I’m going to ask somebody what they think the box office would’ve been today at today’s price of a ticket, because you remember, tickets were a heck of a lot cheaper in 1990. I’d be curious what that number would’ve been today.
Tom Gray and I had made a bet. We were going to lunch the week before it opened, and he was nervous as hell. He said, “Herbs, I think we’ve got Howard the Duck on our hands.” I said, “No, we have an audience. Howard the Duck fell out of the sky. We have an audience already waiting to see this.” He said, “What do you think it’s going to do opening weekend?” I said, “My money is on $20 million-plus.” And he goes, “From your mouth to God’s ears. If that movie opens to $20 million the first weekend, Golden Harvest will buy you anything you want.” I didn’t go for the house. So, we’re in his car going to lunch in Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevard where they cross and this beautiful black convertible two-seater Mercedes pulls up and I said, “I want one of those.” And I was about to get married to boot. And he said, “You got it Herbs. If the movie does $23, $25 million the first weekend.” To this day, 30 years later, no I never got the car.
And I say, that is typical Hollywood. They love you at the time and then…next… They didn’t let me write the sequel. I didn’t have a sequel to write. They didn’t let Judith [Hoag] come back for the sequel either to play April. That’s all Raymond Chow because he’s very tight. When you write a movie, if you write the sequel, it’s called your quote – what you got paid to write the first one, they have to up the ante on the second one. He didn’t want to do that. He didn’t let me have the sequel. I was not happy at all. I said to Tom, how can you let this happen, I’m the one that brought you the movie? He said, “Well, my hands are tied.” I did not leave with very good feelings there. Tom was very upset when we won the People’s Choice Award on national TV and Kim and I are on stage thanking everybody and Tom, to this day, has not gotten over that we didn’t thank him.
There’s just so many things to the story. We’re doing a documentary series on this whole history from the beginning of Peter and Kevin to how this movie got made and subsequently what happened during and what’s happened over the years after and the lawsuits and the this and that. The latest chapter after this is the coronavirus. We were all set, 30th anniversary. The virus couldn’t have hit on the 29th or the 31st anniversary – on the 30th the virus hits. We were supposed to do WonderCon and Comic-Con, we were supposed to do a series of autograph shows and other cons. But everything’s shut down.
But, we found a workaround with social media. We’re doing a pizza party on the 23rd of May on our YouTube channel at 8 at night Eastern, 5 Pacific. Judith, bless her, has rounded up not only the cast, but she got Steve Barron, Brian Henson, Kim and I are going to be on it. It’s just a thank you to the fans. No money involved here. This is just a thank you to everybody and our way of showing some appreciation. It’s the first time we will have all been together in all these years.
Scoop: You have the documentary and the pizza party. Are you working on anything else for the anniversary?
BH: We’re going to do a book. We just talked to Neca who had some ideas, because they think it should be a coffee table book with pictures and stuff. They’re going to join forces with us. This guy Randy [Falk] is amazing, the guy that runs that company and his partner, the guy who designs stuff, Trevor [Zammit]. I thought, “this will be a half-hour conversation [referencing a call from earlier in the day], we’ll get to Amanda in no problem.” This thing went on and on. They’re doing a whole line of 30th anniversary toys that are going to be in Walmart and Target in June. When it comes to the Turtles, they do a lot of other action figure stuff, but when it comes to the Turtles, all they are interested in are the early Turtles. Not today’s, they just want ones from our time. They think they’re the original, and I agree.
I’m not a big Michael Bay fan and what he did to the Turtles. I get asked that in a lot of interviews. Frank’s TV interviewed me last year and asked, “What do you think of the Michael Bay Turtles?” and I said, “Not much.” They didn’t change Superman and Spider-Man and Wonder Woman and how Batman looked. Maybe a subtle change, but not a change like that, to a point where there… My grandson jumped in my lap, he was 6 when he first saw the first Michael Bay one and he said “Pop-Pop, why’d you make them so scary?” I said, “I had nothing to do with it.” They are! They’re just not the sweet, fun looking little Turtles.
Scoop: One of the things I like about this movie is that April O’Neil isn’t just a damsel. Raphael does save her, but she has gumption and attitude. Was it important to you to write her that way?
BH: Absolutely. I asked [Judith] what was the hardest scene in the movie, I knew what it was, it was waking up and discovering Splinter and the Turtles and she has to scream and jump up on the couch. She said that was the scene and I said I thought that was the hardest to do. That scene I didn’t like that much, not her fault. I didn’t want her to look like some screeching little… I had a thing in my comedy act that when you look at older movies, the woman when she always fell down. How come the men don’t fall down? I fall down all the time. You see a woman running and she falls, you go “C’mon, with the falling. Stop falling.”
I wanted her to have just a little edge to her because that’s what the ‘90s was, you know. Women were raising a little hell about the glass ceiling and I thought she should not be the atypical woman that they put on the screen. She could carry her own and in real life, she is that way. She’s a tough broad. I love her. I mean it, she’s been a godsend for us, putting this thing together. I said, “You’re our superstar, you’re going to get the Oscar for this – I’m not sure what we’ll call it. Best supporting, that’s for sure.”
Scoop: Before Kim got off the phone, I asked how he’s feeling as he reflects on how popular the movie is and the fact that people who saw it in 1990 are showing their kids now. With the 30th anniversary this year, how are you feeling?
BH: I’m a weepy guy. I’m very sensitive and I cannot tell you…I’m touched. I’m almost going to cry. I’m touched by it all, I’m overwhelmed. When my wife and I go to a public function… I’ll give you a couple quick examples. I go to a wedding last year and there’s people in their 30s, mainly, at this wedding. Someone mentioned, “See the guy over there, he wrote Ninja Turtles, the movie.” So, when I’m leaving, I was stormed by about eight guys going out the door, saying, “Dude, you can’t go” and when they say “dude,” I know they know. “Dude, can we get a picture with you?”
It’s happened again and again to almost the point of embarrassment. I’ve been invited to celebrity events and I used to be a judge at the Pepperdine Songfest that the students put on every year. The first year I went, I was sitting next to Ben Stein and some other faces. Ben was introduced and he got a nice ovation and they go “Bobby Herbeck” and I’m standing up and they say, “The man who wrote the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie” and as I’m standing up – my wife will tell you – the kids jumped up and were screaming like I was Elvis. I shot back down in the seat. This was an auditorium full of kids.
At the intermission, someone came in the green room and asked, “Are you here for the second part of the show?” and I said, “Yes, I’m judging.” They said, “Oh man, you aren’t going to believe this.” There were all kinds of students putting on productions, song and dance. The second number, these four guys come out – they didn’t know I was going to be there – they come out on stage dressed as Ninja Turtles. They’re singing a number and pointing out at me. I look at Tami [his wife] and I got tears, and said, “Can you believe this?” That’s why the kids wanted to know if I was going to stay. And I was mobbed afterwards when the show was over.
I’m just saying, it’s there, it’s been there and now I’m realizing it’s bigger. When we talked to TMNT Minute podcast, I said, “So what do you think, we have several thousand fans?” And they said, “No dude, it’s in the millions.” I said, “You’re kidding me.” And that’s what the Neca guys are saying. That’s what Randy was saying today. I’m just blown away, you know? In my business… First of all, to get a hit like this and it lasts this long, and still has a gravity pull? You just can’t be more blessed than that. I’m serious. We got so lucky. I’ve tried to get another one all along the way, but lightning only strikes once. Now, George Lucas is a different cat, but we’ll take this. The second one did okay, but everybody loves the first movie. I’m blessed. And people like you, I can’t thank you enough for wanting to take your time and hear what we have to say, but beyond that being a fan. That’s why we’re doing this.
For more information on convention appearances for Bobby Herbeck and Kim Dawson, contact their booking agent at Eva Ink Artist Group/Pros & Cons Celebrity Booking at email@example.com.