Theodore Jacob “Ted” Culkin (June 23rd, 1952), is an American cartoonist and author. He is best known across the world for his contributions to the Nintendo comic books, namely his stories about characters and setting in the Super Mario Bros. series, and as the creator of Prince Cream.
Culkin first worked for Nintendo and Western Publishing. The latter of which was known for their work on Disney comics, in fact, this is what led to Nintendo giving the rights to produce tie-in media to Disney. Western was where he expanded upon the world of the Mushroom Kingdom from the Mario Bros series. Here he turned the Mushroom world from a small, lighthearted dimension into a massive, epic world that has been compared favorably to such realms as Narnia (which was a major inspiration in his darker works.
Ted also created many of the new inhabitants for his spin on the Mushroom Kingdom and its neighboring lands. Such as Prince Cream (the younger brother of Princess Peach, created 1987), Queen Cookie (their bossy older sister, created 1988), Queen Ursula (their strict but fair nanny, created 1989), their parents (both created 1990), Mary Hoskins (Cream’s love interest, created 1991), Starlow (character later featured in the Mario and Luigi series, created 1992), and many other who cannot be described at this time.
His first comic with the Mario characters was when he got a job for Nintendo at the assistance of Canadian artist Monica Rupa (our reality’s , who’d be alive and working at this point.) Culkin was presented with a deadline to finish a basic story featuring the currently existing Mario characters of the Marios, Princess Peach, and Toad. He did, and it became very popular for its time. Later, he went on to help Rupa complete her comic adaptation of the original Mario Bros. game. The duo was soon joined in 1988 by writer Don Rosa, who was also popular for his Disney Duck comics, elements of which he incorporated into his own stories. (Also, here Rosa is still working well without bad eyesight in this reality.)
After this, he received more and more stories to create. With all the artistic liberties he wanted. For instance, when Princess Daisy was introduced in the 1989 game Super Mario Land, Ted not only created the idea of her being Luigi’s counterpart to Peach, but also changed Peach’s color palette from pink to light blue, to serve as a contrast to Daisy’s primarily orange palette. Though this change has only recently begun to be seen in other Mario mediums, Culkin himself did not use this in many animated adaptations he made.
When Miyamoto saw the comics for himself. He called for the writers to being incorporating various elements of his stories into the games. Among the things Ted created being the claim that Princess Peach’s nickname for her real name, Elizabeth Patricia. Miyamoto even let Ted create his own characters.
The first original character was Benjamin Stanley “Cream” Toadstool, the younger brother of Princess Peach. Cream was initially characterized as the kid that would follow the team along. But things changed with the 1989 story "Creamed Corn", where Cream cons Bowser out of half the Koopa Kingdom. Which Cream himself develops into a prosperous farming area. Other times, though, Cream would end up dependent on Peach due to ending up in a place unfamiliar to him and running into trouble. That said, the fans loved Cream for being such a likable character. Even receiving his own comic book stories centered around him. As well as a prominent role in many Mario spin off titles, namely sports games.
Of course, Ted did plenty with other characters. In his Mario comics, Ted was responsible for the layout of a typical issue, which was released weekly on Friday. This typically included a part in a long story arc, followed by shorter stories and one-page gags. These books were enormous by weekly comic book standards. Which meant that the cheapest way for people to read them was subscribing to them for $10 a month. Which was surprisingly effective. This massive amount of content led to the books being popular around the world, especially in Latin America, Eastern Europe (especially Poland and Hungary), and Africa in general, but especially the United Republics of South Africa, where most of the Mario characters are known through the comics. Most story arcs were released on their own in graphic novels, with other stories getting into comics found at book stores or libraries. However, treasuries that keep the story arc in one large graphic novel, followed by the short stories in the original issues, are growing more and more popular.
Ted’s comics left a lasting impression among the numerous people who read them. Among those being the writers for such modern cartoon classics as Butch Hartman, Craig McCracken, Alex Hirsch, Pendelton Ward, the creators of Kim Possible, Rebecca Sugar, Chris Savino (who cited Cream as one of the inspirations of Lincoln Loud), and the writers for many of the Mario RPGs.
Among the three principal RPG Mario series is Mario Inc. Which features the cast of the Marios, Peach, Daisy, Yoshi, Toad, DK, and Cream going into all sorts of adventures, usually as a team or with entirely new characters joining them. These games often adapt several stories from Ted, and his son Bill and successor Jeremiah "Jem" Crawford, who has been compared to Don Rosa. These games began wit the first one, which was released on the Nintendo 64 in 2001. Followed by a Gamecube Sequel the following year. These were written mainly by Ted himself, his young son Bill, and Henry Banks, who had previously been a casting director for various Nintendo franchises.
By far the most famous of Ted’s comic arcs was The Millennial Door. Serialized in 1991 and released as a graphic novel the following year. This arc has been compared to Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in several ways. One, the story’s subjects are rather dark by the standards of the other works of their creators, with frequent danger and macabre topics. Second, both are widely loved across the world, albeit mainly through its adaptation. Third, The Millennial Door was also adapted twice, first as Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, which was released on the Gamecube in 2004. Albeit with many alterations, such as the omission of various villain deaths and other events. The second time the story was adapted was as Mario Inc: The Millennial Door. Which is far more faithful to the original story arc, has more of the characters from the original story, and was released on the 3DS in 2012, instead of a scrapped Paper Mario game titled Sticker Star. The vharacter Vivan has also become a staple in the Mario INC RPGs.
Nintendo itself has also taken inspiration from his works. As the writers for several Legend of Zelda games like Twilight Princess and Breath of the Wild admitted to being inspired but his spins on various stories Ted created for his Prince Cream comics. As have the creators of games like the Fire emblem series. The team of Rare, a second party developer for Nintendo, have also stated his stories inspired some levels in Banjo- Kazooie, Conker's Bad Fur Day, and its sequels. Critics have lauded his story telling for his strong, intertwined plots, as well as memorable characters and plenty of tragic, scary, touching, and outright funny scenes. With plenty of action, strong plots, and parodies and references strewn throughout both his story arcs and shorter comics. Ever since he first started to write comics with the Mario Characters in 1985, many who compared Shigeru Miyamoto to Walt Disney have also compared Ted to Carl Barks, creator of the expanded Donald Duck universe.
Ted was a devout Catholic early on in his life. Thought he has since become strongly critical of a few Church doctrines, namely it preaching of a “One true Church”. In addition, he bluntly criticized Catholic leaders who condemned President Trump’s repeal of DACA by calling them “sellouts”.
Ted is also the father of several children, those kids being Rob (b. 1974), Jonah “Jones” (b. 1975), April (b. 1977), Emma (b. 1979), Bill (b. 1980), Jim and Tim (b. 1983), and Bert (b. 1984). All were born between him and his wife Joan.
Ted is a devout model railroader. He has developed his homebuilt model locomotives. Which he operated on a layout modeled after the Appalachian. Among the most famous kitbaashed models he has made is Old Ollie, a 4-8-0 steam engine made with mainly arts of a model for an AT&SF Pacific, and other parts. Of course, this is only one among his famous model steam engines.
Ted is also a fan of French director Georges Méliès. As well as directors Hayao Miyazaki and Chuck Jones. All of whom inspired some of his stories.