On August 1st, 2017, a Kickstarter campaign for a trade paperback titled “Drawing Blood” was launched with a $75,000.00 stretch goal. The comic would tell the story of Shane Bookman, a comic book artist, writer and the co-creator of the immensely popular Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls, a property that would make Bookman a household name, while also being the bane of his existence. The comic, written by TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman and David Avallone, with art by Ben Bishop, saw a successful campaign and was funded within the month, more than exceeding its goal and is now available to backers of the campaign…and it’s a strange and incredible experience.
Drawing Blood opens with Shane Bookman both creatively bankrupt and mourning the loss of a friend and mentor, while also lamenting the fact that he created one of the biggest pop culture phenomenon’s in recent history. Shane is at something of a breaking point in his life as the story opens. He’s quickly running out of money, he’s dealing with fan backlash due to the gritty film reboot a beloved property of his and he’s starting to have strange and increasingly deranged hallucinations of his creations, the Ronin Ragdolls, while dodging a small band of lethal Lithuanians (like you do) he now owes money to thanks to the aforementioned mentor figure of Bookman.
While this is only volume one of a storyline that ends on a cliffhanger, we get to see Bookman take a control of his life in small increments. While he is seemingly done with the Ragdolls that made him famous, he becomes more confident in himself as the story moves forward, and while we don’t see him pick up a pencil and start drawing again as the volume comes to a close, you can see that he’s almost ready to get back in the chair again and start drawing.
Now, I am only one person, and I am willing to be wrong about this, but it was hilarious seeing Bookman react to how immense his creation had become, the devotion of the Ragdolls’ fans and how ridiculous, crazy and stressful it all became. It was at this point that I had to wonder about Kevin Eastman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I have had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Eastman twice over the last couple of years and I want everyone reading this to know that Kevin is a real class act. He’s jovial, personable and incredibly patient. But, it was always in the back of my head, the desire to know what he really felt about the Turtles that he co-created and (arguably) owes his success to. While I have no concrete answers about that after reading Drawing Blood, I feel like I know Kevin a bit better now than I did yesterday. What the man thinks and how he feels about the Turtles is honestly none of my business and I will never be so arrogant to think that he owes me or anyone a straight answer this book does something almost impossible, it makes me feel like I know Kevin Eastman, the real Kevin Eastman. But maybe I’m wrong.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the art by Ben Bishop which is fan-fucking-tastic to say the least. The art in this book seems to skew more on the side of realism while offing amore pop art-inspired color scheme. I’m no artist, but it’s very cool seeing a more realistic art style while looking cartoony. Ben Bishop, along with colorists Brittany Peer and Tomi Varga, made something that looked both complex and simplistic. It’s a style that I have always loved and it can’t be easy to do. Drawing people that look like they actually exist is much harder than it sounds and when an artist is brave enough to go for that style, it catches my eye immediately.
I really want to dive into the details of the story line, but I just can’t do it, at least not right now. You owe it to yourself to track down a copy of this and read it for yourself. I don’t know if that’s actually possible, but I hope you get to read this one day. There are so many moments that, as a fan of Eastman and the TMNT, I really just loved and fell out of my chair laughing at. From fan interactions, to cameos from some famous directors and dealing with fame as only Kevin Eastman may have dealt with it, I just adored this book and I hope there is more to come. Shane Bookman is a great character that deserves more story and our interest. Sometimes you can forget that comic books are a medium that can do more than tell stories about tights and flights, some stories give us a look behind the curtain and show us that these creators, these giants that we revere, they’re people too.
Finally, every copy of Drawing Blood comes with the first issue of the Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls written by brothers Shane and Paul Bookman. This book is a fun throwback to the simpler times of 90’s comics that is also a fun riff on the TMNT. While I wish it were in black and white like the ’84 Turtles comic, this isn’t the Turtles, and I really hope we see more Ragdolls in the coming years. Seriously, Playmates Toys, make figures of these girls. Because a parody of a parody created by an artist’s fictional counterpart is pretty much the epitome of the American success story.
Thank you to Kevin Eastman, Ben Bishop, David Avallone, Troy Little, Tomi Varga, Brittany Peer and Taylor Esposito.
Very Special thank you to Shane and Paul Bookman for giving me a new favorite team of mutant heroes.
Mutants, NOT Aliens!