One of the most popular comic book series of all time has roots that run deep right here in Western New England. For decades, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics were produced by Mirage Studios in Northampton, with the comic’s artists relocating to the area and making it home.

After Viacom purchased rights to the Turtles in 2009, most of those involved with the comic moved on to new ventures. Eric Talbot was one of the artists that drew the iconic green characters. Talbot decided to stay in western Mass and moved on to a new venture, one that keeps his art alive for anyone who wants to have it… forever!

Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman visits Oxbow Tattoo in Easthampton and finds out how Talbot’s career went from turtles to tattoos. 

This segment originally aired on January 20, 2020.

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: One of the most popular comic book series of all time has roots that run deep right here in western New England.

For decades, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics were produced out of Mirage Studios in Northampton, with its artists relocating to the area and making it home. Since Viacom purchased the rights to the Turtles in 2009, some have moved on to new ventures, including one who’s keeping his art alive for anyone who wants to have it forever.

Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman takes us to Easthampton and the shop where he’s gone from turtles to tattoos.

Eric Talbot, Oxbow Tattoo Artist: Moms don’t like tattoos.

Matt Miller, Oxbow Tattoo Customer: When I got my first one, I don’t think she talked to — I don’t think she spoke a word to me for like, two weeks.

Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: Inside Oxbow Tattoo in Easthampton, you get a sense that the artists are inspired by similar work and collectively are on the same page.

Steve Sanderson, Oxbow Tattoo Owner: Our shop’s a little different from most shops, where we make all our decisions collectively.

Ross Lippman: As was the case when bringing in its newest artist —

Eric Talbot: When you first start tattooing, it’s just —

Ross Lippman: — Eric Talbot.

Eric Talbot: — seat of your pants, like terrifying, you know, ordeal, to be honest.

Steve Sanderson: Eric’s got quite a history as an illustrator. He was a professional artist that a lot of these tattoo artists look up to.

Eric Talbot: A weird thing to be telling people when you — I would tell people what I would do I would say, “You know, I draw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and they would just be like, “What?”

Ross Lippman: In 1984, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird published the first issue of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, eventually becoming a global phenomenon, generating an estimated six billion dollars in merchandise revenue in its first 10 years.

Eric Talbot: One of the great things I think about the turtles, I think you touched on a little bit, was the fact that it wasn’t like normal comic books. And I think people still say that to me when I’m at conventions.

You could see the work, it wasn’t — it maybe wasn’t as polished as some of the, you know, mainstream comics, but had that charm that it was like a Do-It-Yourself kind of DIY thing where we were just kind of learning as we were going.

Eric Talbot: Do you have anything tomorrow at 3:00?

Ross Lippman: Now, Talbot, who no longer works on the Turtles comics, is trying his hand at a new canvas.

Eric Talbot: Tattooing has always kind of been there as something I’ve thought about doing. I’ve had offers from different people.

I think my art relates. I mean I draw a lot of skulls, I draw a lot of creatures, I draw a lot of stuff that kind of relates to tattoos.

Steve Sanderson: It’s kind of like an electrician deciding to be a plumber. You’re in the trades, but it’s not the same job.

Ross Lippman: Talbot’s artwork has a cult like following, and now that he’s in the tattoo world, some of his fans are trying to procure his art in a much more permanent way. Matt Miller is here getting one of Talbert’s signature reaper tattoos.

Is this your first tattoo that you’ve gotten done by Eric?

Matt Miller: This would be my third.

Ross Lippman: Your third?

Matt Miller: I usually just like to go in to artists. I check out their stuff and if I really like it, I just tell them to do their thing. And that way I think I’m like getting a better product out of it.

Ross Lippman: Tattooing is also physically demanding.

Eric Talbot: But, the more tattoos you do, the more comfortable you get with what to expect.

Ross Lippman: And for Talbot, who’s 30 years working on the Turtles is not just a reflection of his experience but also his age,  makes his switch to the tattoo world all the more unique.

Steve Sanderson: This is the first story like this I’ve ever heard of. I’ve heard of other people transitioning into tattooing from the trades at a later age. But as far as this, this is the first story of its kind of that I am aware of.

Matt Miller: And then I told like a million people, but I was getting tattooed with a Ninja Turtle guy. I thought it was dope.

Eric Talbot: It was it was very healthy for me to get outside my comfort zone and stay outside my comfort zone. And that’s actually one of the things I love about tattooing, is that I’ve got a place to go every day and there’s people around me. Y

ou sit down and do a drawing for people to see, you’re nervous and you choke up and you don’t grow. The only way to grow is make mistakes, in my opinion. And if you’re not worried about making mistakes, you’re going to make them, you know?

Ross Lippman: Perhaps tattooing was in the cards for Talbot all along. After all —

Eric Talbot: OK,

Ross Lippman: — what are the odds?

Eric Talbot: So, as I started doing these interviews at some point, my wife mentioned this character that I had designed. And she consequently got me these for Christmas.

And what they are is this character called Tattoo that I designed for the Ninja Turtles. And his name is actually Tattoo.

And I kind of forgot about this guy. So, it’s funny that tattooing has kind of just been there all along.