The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles turned 30 this year and the "Ultimate Visual History" is just one way the franchise is being celebrated. Written by Andrew Farago and published by Insight Editions, this hardcover book gives us an in-depth look at the birth of the heroes in the half shell and every incarnation we've seen since they debuted back in 1984. Yes, that means we're treated to a detailed look at basically everything from their creation all the way to the upcoming movie! In fact, the only thing this book doesn't cover in great detail is their various video games.
This book breaks up the eras into nineteen chapters. Not only does each one offer a huge amount of insight by offering us a behind the scenes look and comments from various people involved in each project, but the chapters are also loaded with concept art and inserts. There's a whole variety of inserts, ranging from fan club letters to scripts from the 4Kids show and even the new movie. As you progress through the eras, these additions really help you understand just how much the franchise changed along the years and how it molded to reach out to new audiences.
As enjoyable as all of the inserts and art may be, what makes this book truly great is the way Farago's writing immerses you in this franchise's history. You can tell he had a more than extensive interview with all of the talent and guides us through every era in an engaging fashion. Even if something like the merchandise boom doesn't interest you, odds are you'll learn quite a bit from the section and have a whole new appreciation for what the franchise has gone through. I consider myself a pretty big fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I can honestly say I learned quite a lot after reading through the entire book. Sure, it's important to learn about every project and how the creators felt about it, but what makes this reading experience special is that your journey is entertaining and not just informative. You get a solid read on both Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman's opinions, and odds are you'll have a newfound appreciation for Mark Freedman's efforts. As a fan of the current Nick show, I also really enjoyed the remarks from Ciro Nieli and the concept art teases a potential story we could see in the series' future.
I have to praise the way this book is put together. This doesn't feel like a cheap way to cash in on the franchise's relatively recent boost in popularity and the way the inserts are provided almost makes it feel like someone made this just for you instead of it simply feeling like a mass produced product. And, when you finally do finish the read, the inside of the back cover holds two more collectibles: a poster version of the book's cover (by Kevin Eastman and Ryan Brown) and a reprint of the very first issue... which is in black and white, of course! I won't lie, Donatello's eyes stand out a bit in the picture, but it's pretty creative the way they managed to show how the characters have changed from Mirage's series to the current animated show.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History is a must buy if you're a big fan of the heroes in a half shell. Even if you think you know plenty about the franchise's history, this is still an engrossing read that'll shed so much more light on its story and the constant supply of artwork and inserts is thoroughly entertaining. It's a very well-made collection that's full of treats and the trip down memory lane kept this TMNT fan smiling virtually the entire time. If you love TMNT, I strongly recommend adding this to your collection.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History is currently on sale.