By all accounts, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were born when radioactive mutagen ooze seeped into a sewer in New York City, transforming four baby turtles into pizza-loving humanoids who were taught ninja techniques by their master, Splinter. This story was first told by artists Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, whose Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles issue #1 debuted in 1984 to great acclaim.
But beyond the page, the turtles weren’t created below the streets of New York. In fact, they were created in a modest two-story house in Dover, New Hampshire.
In a story that itself has become something of a superhero origin tale, Eastman and Laird were roommates in Dover at a house on Union Street when they came up with the idea for the reptilian heroes. Just goofing around and drawing to make one another laugh one night in 1983, Eastman and Laird crossed Bruce Lee with the silliest animal they could imagine—a turtle—then proceeded to write a story around the concept. The duo wrote a one-off comic about four turtle brothers fighting crime, and after it debuted at a comic convention in neighboring Portsmouth, the rest was history.
They had no idea they would be responsible for creating comic book superheroes that defined a generation. There’s nearly nothing in the realm of entertainment the turtles haven’t appeared in—television, movies, theater, music…they’ve done it all!
As the 40th anniversary of the franchise’s creation approached, two unrelated commemorative projects began to take shape. Mirage Studios—the aforementioned two-story house Eastman and Laird lived in and named for the fact there really was no studio at all—had long been demolished, but its legacy stood tall.
On November 8, 2023, the city of Dover received not one, but two markers denoting the birthplace of Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo. At the unveiling ceremony was co-creator Kevin Eastman, as well as co-creator Peter Laird’s wife, who represented him.
At 28 Union Street, a stylized manhole cover pays homage to the turtles’ sewer lair at the site of Eastman’s and Laird’s former house/studio. The Animation Education Association, which installs historical markers across the United States for animation history, unveiled a historical marker for the creation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the intersection of Union Street and NH Route 108.
Now fans of the comics and characters alike will have the opportunity to take the pilgrimage to the site of the TMNT’s creation and see how the proud citizens of Dover are remembering their most famous export. Just don’t forget to bring the pizza!
Know Before You Go
The manhole itself is situated at the former site of Mirage Studios (28 Union Street), but the marker is at the entrance to Union Street on NH Route 108. There are sidewalks to view both safely.