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 Marvel Comics. The latter of which was known for their Superheroes. Marvel was where Ted expanded upon the world of the Mushroom Kingdom from the Mario Bros series. 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 Nintendrawer, who’d be alive and working at this point.) Ted described how he created his spin on the Mushroom Kingdom in a 2016 interview for a compilation book of his works:
First I looked at the Marios themselves. They looked not much like any super extraordinary character. But I thought of Asterix the Gaul when looking at them. With the mustaches and all taking on an empire and that. Then, I decided to have them act like a fusion Asterix, Popeye, and Disney characters. Then I decided to add another idea. Considering how they managed to take out the Koopa Kingdom so quickly...Ted elaborated on how he got the idea for his portrayal of the Marios, renamed the Marichellis.
I also decided to try and make them sort of a fusion of Asterix and the superheores like the ones I watched TV and read comics about as a kid. The 40's Superman cartoons, Hanna Barbera's Super Firends, and the 60's Batman show with Adam West were what I thought of at the time. As was their respective comic books.Ted lastly described how he reincorporated fantasy elements into his ideas
Then I decided to start working on the wonderland route the game went with. So I created some more fantasy elements. Things like JRR Toliken and Narnia, but especially Narnia. Then, I added some more whimsical things, mostly stuff I got from reading Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl. Then I fused it all. Mario, Asterix, Narnia, Superheroes, Roald Dahl, the works. Then, I presented it, and they let me do it.
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, this blue dress was often used interchangeably with the normal pink dress.
These comics introduced a variety of new settings and iterations of characters old and new. Among the characters introduced were the families of the main characters. Most famously Peach (depicted as a nickname for "Elizabeth Patricia"), was given her family. Consisting of her father, King James, her mother Queen Melody, and her younger sibling Prince Oliver Stanley “Cream” Toadstool. Cream soon became a very popular character. He was considered a near perfect child character. Cheerful, responsible (often more so than his sister), and all around positive. He is considered by many the Tagalong Kid character done right. He eventually receive a bigger role as a Robin-like character to Mario and Luigi's Batman/Superman-like characters, and even his own comic books series later on.
With all the things I fused together for my comics. I knew the villains I made would have to be diverse. So I got all sorts of ideas. There was Dimentio, which I thought of as a Joker for the franchise. Then there was Venoma, a Magica de Spell like villain. I just had more ideas than I can remember today. It's a good thing I recorded them all.Of course, Ted did plenty beyond 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. These games began with the first one, which was released on the Gamecube 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. Many of his stories have also been adapted as installments in the Paper Mario series.
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.
As can be imagined, Ted is a big fan of comic books in general. But especially of Asterix the Gaul, Disney Duck Comics, and ESPECIALLY Marvel and DC superhero comics, as well as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But he is also a fan of French director Georges Méliès. As well as directors Hayao Miyazaki and Chuck Jones.