In "When We First Met", we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, "Avengers Assemble!" or the first appearance of Batman's giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man's face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that. Today, in honor of National Pizza Day, we see when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first ate pizza!
One of the most amazing things about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is simply just how much of a surprise the success of the comic book series was back in the 1980s. When Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird launched the original black and white Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book in 1984, the two men were simply trying to do a fun parody of some of the most popular comic book series of the early 1980s (the New Mutants, the X-Men, Frank Miller's Daredevil and Ronin and Dave Sim's Cerebus) with, well, you know, Teenage (New Mutants) Mutant (X-Men and New Mutants) Ninja (Daredevil and Ronin) Turtles (Cerebus, the aardvark).
Self-published comic books just weren't the big deal that they soon began, with Eastman and Laird just advertising their small print run of comics in comic book magazines like the Comic Buyers Guide. However, the response to the comic book was dramatic. Eastman and Laird had a small hit on their hand, so they went back to developing their series. However, there was not a ton of new Turtles comic book series during those years. During the first couple of years, there were roughly five issues of the main series and a Raphael microseries one-shot. They would do new printings of each of the early issues, though, and fans got more and more into the series and those early issues were in high demand (the prices of the original printings skyrocketed during this period).
With the relatively small amount of comic books released during this period, the "universe" of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was relatively self-contained.
The Turtles did not actually eat pizza in any of those early issues. If you were to pick anything that was their "thing," it would be drinking beer. It is not even that they drank a lot of beer, but it was at least something that they acknowledged as something that they were into in the comics. When they were transported to an alien planet in the fifth issue, one of the first things they did was try to get some beer on the planet.
Everything changed, though, when Eastman and Laird were approached by Mark Freedman in 1986.