‘Cowabunga’: Birthplace of Ninja Turtles in N.H. to get commemorative manhole

"I just never understood why nobody had stepped up to commemorate the turtles because in the end, Dover is their birthplace."

James Lane, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan and resident of Dover, New Hampshire, discovered in 2020 that he’d been routinely walking his dog past a landmark and “didn’t even know.” 

He had stumbled upon the spot of the former Mirage Studios, the comic book company started by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, and the birthplace of TMNT.

While the original structure is gone, a remaining sewer grate called to him.

“I came up with this idea to replace that manhole cover with a commemorative one,” he told Boston.com, adding that he realized the significance of the structure after researching Dover’s history with TMNT, something he’d heard about since becoming a resident about eight years before.

The sewer outside of where the old Mirage Studios space was located in Dover, New Hampshire, the birthplace of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. – Courtesy of James Lane

He said he called the sewer department to get the ball rolling, and logistically, replacing an active sewer manhole cover turned out to be a bit too much of a liability for the town.


But he found a way around it. On Sunday, he raised the $13,000 required to place a decorative manhole on the sidewalk instead.

A design has yet to be finalized, but Eastman is set to helm the artwork. The comic book company co-founder also posted on his website in April, encouraging people to donate to the cause.

The decorative manhole on the sidewalk will be the second TMNT commemoration to crop up in New England as of late. In February, Northampton, Massachusetts, allocated $20,000 of American Rescue Plan dollars for the creation of four custom manholes dedicated to the turtles.

Some claim Northampton is the birthplace of TMNT and Mirage, but, according to Foster’s Daily Democrat, it was technically the second location of the comic studio.

Lane said that all of the funds for the Dover historic marker came from locals and TMNT fans nationwide. 

Ralph DiBernardo, owner of Jetpack Comics & Games in Rochester, New Hampshire, supplied TMNT memorabilia to incentivize donations for the Granite State turtle commemoration.

“I don’t think James wanted it to come out of taxpayers’ money,” DiBernardo told Boston.com. “I think James wanted people that agreed with him to help fund this project.”


Lane, a childhood fan of the TMNT comics and an adult admirer of the franchise, said he took it upon himself to initiate conversations in the town. Ultimately, he wound up spearheading the project, which DiBernardo and the Dover Arts Commission supported.

For DiBernardo, assisting was a no brainer.

A sort of “specialist in the turtles,” he said he’s collected “hundreds of thousands” of TMNT materials over the years. It all started in 1984, when he agreed to buy 500 copies of the first comic to help his friends, Eastman and Laird. 

“I just never understood why nobody had stepped up to commemorate the turtles because in the end, Dover is their birthplace,” he said. “That is where Kevin and Peter came up with the concept, and it definitely deserves the recognition.”

Lane said hopes to see work done on the project this spring or summer.

Jane Hamor, chair of the Dover Arts Commission, told Boston.com that Lane was the “driving force” behind the effort.

She added that the commission doesn’t tend to do arts projects like this one, as they are more focused on policy, but the group fully supported Lane in his mission.


“Our goal is to create more opportunities for art within the city, and certainly this is a hallmark of Dover, and we knew there would be a lot of support for it,” she said, adding that it helps the town “put its mark on this whole project and phenomenon [that] was really pretty special and still is.”


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