Author: Joshua Pantalleresco

Joshua Pantalleresco still wonders how he got on comicmix. He has published the comic Veritas, and is currently working on his next book due out December 2013. You can find his home at and say hi to him on twitter at @jpantalleresco.

Journeying into The Taranormal With Howie Noel

Happy Hallowe’en!

Howie Noel is a writer, artist and filmmaker.  He created the web series Tara Normal, which he now brings to kickstarter. I had a  chance to talk to him about Tara Normal , and his filming experiences.

Joshua Pantalleresco:  What Inspired Tara Normal?

Howie Noel: Tara Normal was inspired by my love of the paranormal as a field and as a genre. I wanted to create a story using the genres of horror and science fiction. I always wanted to create a story starring a strong female character who saves the day and is fearless. My wife and I are both big fans of the X-Files so there are hints of a tribute in my stories as well. There’s actually of lot of my wife’s personality and more in the character.

JP:  Since a lot of your protrayal of Tara’s personality happens to come from your wife, can you reveal some of those parts?

HN: My wife is very brave and doesn’t take crap from anyone so those are 2 of the traits.

JP:  Heh. For those of us coming into the series, describe Tara.

HN: Tara is a paranormal investigator who has also has special powers. Yes, she can see and speak to ghosts, but she can also punch them. She has the special strength and ability to fight all supernatural beings. The mystery behind her powers will get revealed in the graphic novel. Tara wants to save her mother’s soul which was lost after a demon took her life.

JP: One of my favorite things about this series is the little bit of world building and the attention to detail that comes with it.  I love Tara’s business card and the ghost hunters show, just neat little details like that.  Which ones are your favorites?  Describe how they came to be.

HN: My favorite parts of the world building are designing the businesses and their logos. Making the pirate bar in the new graphic novel was a lot of fun. Also, if the Kickstarter hits $6,000 I’ll be making a Tara Normal tour guide featuring ads for the businesses from the comic. A fun little extra for backers and fan

JP:  If I had to pin you down to just one scene, written or drawn, what is your favorite moment in the series?

HN:  Wow. Tough question. I can’t really pick one moment that is my favorite. There’s a lot of scenes at the end that I can’t share. I think the ending is what readers will love the most.

JP:  Do you prefer writing or illustrating?  What’s your favorite thing to draw?

HN: I like storytelling. I believe that comic books are a visual medium so art is very important to me. I need it to tell as much as the story as the text. I love drawing and if I don’t draw, I get a little crazy. I’m always thinking of stories in my head so it’s just the creative process that I adore.

JP:  I want to know about that short film you did!  Can I watch it anywhere?

HN: The film! The zombie film I wrote and starred in is 8 Hours Earlier. It came out years before 28 Days Later (which is funny to me). My wife directed and filmed it for her senior project at Pratt Institute. It’s a short film and we made it at the same cemetery in Pennsylvania where Night of the Living Dead was filmed. I love George Romero so it’s a fun tribute to him. It was made before the current zombie craze. I’ve always been a huge fan of Romero zombies.

You can check it here:

JP:  How was your filming experience?  Was it fun?  Would you do another horror movie again?

HN: The filming experience was fun. The best part of being in the cemetery with 2 of my friends as zombies. The local police showed up and saw we were doing a tribute to Romero and just drove away wishing us luck. I would love to do another horror movie and I also just finished writing the script for a Tara Normal film.

JP:  Will you be kickstartering for the Tara Normal movie?  Or is it going to be another short?

HN: As of now, I’m not planning on Kickstartering a movie project- only Tara books for right now. The movie talks are in early stages so no real announcement can be made. I’ve been in talks since day 1 of the book so I like to just cross my fingers and focus on the book. I try not to let it distract from the fact that the book is my focus

JP: Finally, congratulations on making your goal for Tara Normal.  What is next for Howie Noel?  Anything else you’d like to add?

HN:  Thank you. I am very appreciative of all the backers on Kickstarter for helping me on this journey to get the book made. I’m spending the next few months drawing the 2nd half of the book and preparing it for print. Then I get to share it with everyone. I can’t wait.

You can donate to Howie’s kickstarter at: Howie’s website is at and his twitter is @hcnoel.

Talking Mr. Rhee with Dirk Manning

Dirk Manning is slowly becoming a household name in comics.  Currently, he is putting together Tales of Mr. Rhee for kickstarter which is going on right now.  You can find it here:

I talked to Dirk about Mr. Rhee, his kickstarter experiences, and his recent schedule.

Joshua Pantalleresco:  So you had a rock band perform at your signing?

Dirk Manning:  Absolutely.   I go to the signing and they tell me that they are going to have a band perform.  The great thing about this is that I know them [Voyag3r].    I said to them as we shook hands that  “Guys, it’s me.  Remember that music magazine ten years ago and that journalist guy?”  They replied “No way…”

JP: It really is a small world.

DM:  It really is.

JP:  So I think you’re at $5000 now on kickstarter?

DM:  Very close.   We’re around 4700 in 8 days which isn’t too bad.  I haven’t had the chance to really promote this like I really want to.  I’ve been busy touring and the kickstarter has pretty much been moving on its own.

JP:  So if you describe your kickstarter experience in one word?

DM:  Nerve Wracking.

JP:  So where did the Mr. Rhee as a character come from?

DM:  Originally, Mr. Rhee came from me being contacted by a cable company wanting me to do a horror comic.  I offered them Nightmare World, but they told me they wanted something darker.

In Mr. Rhee, the world had survived an apocalypse.  It wasn’t like the walking dead per se, but it destroyed society.  I always like the Kafkaesque stories where characters have to deal with the tyranny of the majority.   Mr. Rhee comes from a world that was invaded for three days by monsters and horrors and everything imaginable.   Society rebuilt itself and believed that the monsters are gone.  Rhee knows better.   Of course the tagline is once you call Mr. Rhee, it is already too late for a happy ending.

Rhee combines the kafka type story with horror and monster with my love of pulp and noir.   It’s probably the one character that I think is associated with me and I’m happy it’s that way.

JP:   So what’s in the kickstarter?

DM:  We’re collecting Volume one – the first 13 eight page stories of Mr. Rhee, plus it’ll include other material.  There will be a brand new  prose story.  One of the bidders had the option to give me a song title and that I would have to write a story about it in Mr. Rhee, and that’ll be included.  There is also a hardcover edition exclusive to Kickstarter with the cover illustrated by Riley Rossmo.

JP:  I’m so jealous of that. Riley is like one of my favorites.

DM:  Mine too.  I’m looking at the pieces(hardcover and softcover) right now.  If we hit $15000 we’ll include a five page Mr. Rhee story that was available online for a short time.  It’s probably one of my favorite stories I’ve ever done.  If we go past that and all the stretch goals, what I’d like to do with Mr. Rhee is make a Marvel Handbook like who’s who.

JP:  That would be awesome!

DM:  There’s this one scene in Mr. Rhee for example where this woman is sitting in a limo that fans of Nightmare World will know who she is, but it would be neat to do a who’s who on her and some of the other characters that appear in the series.

Beyond that, I’ll be adding a couple of new tiers in the kickstarter as well.   The nice thing about doing Rhee on kickstarter is that I’m able to reward fans of the series with things like the hardcover.  Most of the things I do aren’t collectible.  There’s no way to tell if there is a first printing of a Nightmare World softcover.  But here, the hardcover will be released for kickstarter and that’s it.  Once it’s printed it’s done.

(Update: It is funded.   Check it out for stretch goals.)

Talking Ultrasylvania with Brian Schirmer

With the final volume currently on Kickstarter, I had a chance to talk to Brian Schrimer and Jeremy Saliba about Ultrasylvania – a comic series crafted in the classroom.

Joshua Pantalleresco:  How did Ultrasylvania came to be?

Brian Schrimer:  I was traveling in Europe in 2011, making any notes of things that crossed my mind in a little notebook – observations, passing thoughts, ideas. One notion – “What if Dracula had been a world leader?” – stuck with me. I didn’t know what I’d do with it, but it certainly had its hooks in me.

Months later, I was approached by a former student of mine – I teach Writing for Comics and Graphic Novels at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco – who suggested that the school should offer a class that would be built around something I wrote, where students would provide the artwork. Naturally, I laughed at him.

Then, a few days passed and I realized the notion stuck with me. I spoke with Jeremy about it – and about the prospect of building a class around the idea that would become Ultrasylvania. He was on board, followed by the School of Illustration’s director, Chuck Pyle. We were off and running.

JP:  Is it a little intimidating using such classic characters?

BS: So many of our key characters – from Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster to the Invisible Man and the Mummy – have well known legacies. You know what to expect in a story that features any of them. Our challenge was to subvert those expectations. That was part of the fun. It wasn’t intimidating – it was liberating. We’d found a new way to look at these classic characters, despite some of them having been around for 100 years or more.

JP: What were your influences in creating this series?

BS:  I put a bit of my love for most everything in there somewhere. Coen Brothers films, ancient Egypt, Shakespeare. Apocalypse Now is in there a few times. Moral and ethical ambiguity abounds. Dracula is a bastard and Victor (our Frankenstein Monster) is very sympathetic – but neither is a hero or villain. I really wanted that to be the case, as it was something I wanted to explore.

JP:  Is it still a class project to this day?  If it is, have you had any comics pros work on the concept?  Would you like to?

BS:  The class is on indefinite hiatus.  After running the course for three consecutive semesters, completing three graphic novels worth of material in 18 months, and all of the subsequent efforts that go into bringing those works to digital and to print – including the Kickstarter for Volume Three that launches Monday – we decided to take a break and to work on other projects.

JP:The first story seemed to be about the concept of finding and losing love.  Was that an intentional theme?

BS:  It was indeed.  You’ll find that same theme explored in Volume Two.  More to the point, before writing this project I’d come to realize that perhaps the overarching subject in most of my work has been hope.  It was never something I set out to do.  I just began to recognize it as a throughline, as a pattern.  So, I decided to dive into Ultrasylvania with that in the back of my mind, allowing the tale to explore hope in all its permutations – loss of hope, misplaced hope, the hope one feels when richly in love, that last bit of pure hope one has when it seems things are all but lost, and so on.

JP:  What’s coming up in volume three?

BS:  Each volume has its own subtitle – Volume One: King Dracula, Volume Two: Emperor Frankenstein….  I had a couple working titles in my head that carried on that would have carried on that theme for Volume Three.  But once I’d seen the finished artwork and saw the lettering come together, I realized it needed to be titled Ultrasylvania, Vol. 3: The Book of the Dead.  There’s a very distinct reason for this.  To my mind, it couldn’t be called anything else.  This time out we finally see the origin of Meritaten, the “mummy” of our tale – and it’s a bit disturbing.  We also fill in some of the other blanks on Dracula’s side, including how he acquired the third of his three brides.  (Hint: There are witches in this world!  Hint #2: She’s not one of them.)  Also, we finally make it to the US of A – or what would be the US of A, had certain… unpleasantries not occurred.  This last part sets the stage for our big finish.  You know what else if coming up in Volume Three?  Quite possibly the best artwork of the whole damn series.  I know this sounds like self-serving hyperbole, but seriously, some of this work is jaw-dropping awesome.

JP:  So when does your kickstarter for volume three launch?

BS:  We are Kickstarting Volume 3 right now. We’ve already been spreading the word – via social media, recent cons – and sounds like there’s some anticipation out there – which is fantastic. I suspect October will be flush with campaigns. Here’s hoping we’ve got something that truly stands out in the crowd.

JP:  Anything else you’d like to add?

BS:  Jeremy and I have been so lucky to work with so many amazing artists on this project. It’s hard to believe they’re still both university students and so damned young! Some of them should absolutely be working in the industry NOW. If Ultrasylvania can be a calling card for us all, then that’s something of which I can feel proud.

Thanks Brian!

You can find and donate to volume three’s kickstarter at:, the webpage is located at and the twitter handle is @ultrasylvania.

(Update: The kickstarter has been funded.  Still, feel free to donate to achieve stretch goals.)m