Tagged: novel

REVIEW: The Black Swan

BLACK SWANToday, you say Black Swan and images of a crazed Natalie Portman come to mind, but there was an earlier film by that name, a swashbuckler that has been forgotten by many.  The first Black Swan is a 1942 adventure starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara based on Rafael Sabatini’s novel. Having already succeeded with adaptations of Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk, this seemed a natural followup for 20th Century Fox.

Out on Blu-ray from 20th Century Home Entertainment, The Black Swan tells the story of the infamous Captain Morgan (Laird Cregar), attempting to lead a more virtuous life. He is appointed as Governor of Jamaica, charged with ridding the waters of his former brigands. No one trusts the notorious former pirate, complicating his work although he’s successful using his personal relationships to convince Captain Jamie Waring (Power) and Tom Blue (Thomas Mitchell) to end their criminal work. Others, including Captain Billy Leech (George Sanders) and Wogan (Anthony Quinn) do not agree with Morgan’s pleas.

(Yes, this is the captain Henry Morgan of history and the famous rum, but the film takes incredible liberties with the facts.)

While Morgan is doing his duty, Waring is now on land, and falls for Lady Margaret (Maureen O’Hara), daughter of the former governor, Lord Denby (George Zucco). She’s also involved with Roger Ingram (Edward Ashley), an English gentleman who provides a sharp contrast with Waring. Things get complicated when no one believes Morgan as piracy continues and Waring takes it upon himself to figure things out leading to intrigue, betrayal, and a few flashy sword fights. An early color film, it provides a visual impact the earlier adaptations lacked, which is why Leon Shamroy won the Academy Award for cinematography.  Power, on the other hand, lacked the charisma of Errol Flynn, his action rival of the day, and the film lacks a verve the others provided. Still, this is most watchable and worth a look. The film transfer is nicely done and sounds great.

There is an interesting commentary by film critic Rudy Behlmer and O’Hara along with the original Theatrical Trailer.

John Ostrander: Two Good To Read

Ostrander Art 131208For this week’s column I’m going to talk about two books that I’ve read recently, both of which I enjoyed although they are vastly dissimilar. The books are The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith (published by Pantheon) and Steelheart  by Brandon Sanderson (published by Delacorte Press). Both of them are series books: the former is the fourteenth and latest in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and the latter is the first in a planned Reckoners series.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series takes place in Botswana, which is in southern Africa, and the series follows the agency’s founder, Mma Precious Ramotswe and her friends, family, and co-workers as she solves small mysteries. Nothing is huge in these novels – the main mystery of the new book is about someone who is slandering the owner of the beauty salon in the title – but its very warm. The biggest mystery in the series, to me, is how the author, Alexander McCall Smith, captures the characters, all African, and the setting so wonderfully. McCall, Smith is a white Scot, now living in his homeland, was born in Rhodesia but he also lived in Botswana, helping to create and teach at the University of Botswana, and evidently knows and loves the land and its people.

The books in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series exemplify the pleasures of good serial fiction. The characters become familiar, as does the setting, and we come to both as old friends. Its not that the series is unchanging but often the changes are small, as befitting the tone of the books. Still, in this one, momentous events occur but they may only seem that way if you’ve read the entire series. If you’ve just come into the series and this is your first encounter with Precious and her friends, I don’t know if the events would mean as much.

In any books in a series, you have better ones and lesser ones. This year’s visit is one of the better ones.

Steelheart couldn’t be more different. Part science fiction, part super-hero exploit, it takes place slightly in the future. There’s been an event that gives certain people extrahuman abilities but the catch is it also appears to make them crazy and unleashes the darker side of their personalities. They’re supervillains and there’s no one around to stop them, especially the title character, Steelheart. However, he – like all other “Epics” (as the superhumans are termed) – has a weakness and, if you can find it, you can maybe kill them.

The novel isn’t really Steelheart’s story – it belongs to David, a young man who, years before, saw Steelheart kill David’s father. David has devoted his life to finding out the weaknesses of Epics, especially Steelheart, so they can be killed and the stranglehold they have on normal human society can be broken. To this end, he seeks out and falls in with a shadowy group called Reckoners who are normal humans also looking to kill Epics. David makes a case for going after Steelheart and that’s the bulk of the novel.

The book reads like an epic comic book but also asks some interesting questions along the way. Steelheart has created Newcago out of what was Chicago and rules like a ruthless tyrant but there is also some kind of order. Electricity works (some times) and there is some sense or society working, unlike other places. Remove Steelheart and will that still be true? Will the ordinary people thanks the Reckoners for their “freedom”?

The book is well written, the pace is fast, and the characters are interesting. I guessed one or two of the twists (that goes with the territory; as a writer myself, I can sometimes see the tricks in another writer’s hand) but I didn’t get all of them and did not guess the climax. It’s a fun read and there’s more on the way. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one become a movie.

Both books are currently in hardback but are almost certain to go into paperback some time next year. Both are worth reading.


MONDAY LATER: Introducing Jen Krueger

TUESDAY MORNING: The Debut of Jen Krueger


Martha Thomases: The Pesky Dreams Stuff

Thomases Art 131206The dame walked into my office just before closing. An older woman, dressed like every other woman in this city in a black leather jacket and black pants. You wouldn’t look twice at her unless you were allergic to cats, because she was covered with cat hair.

“I require your services, Mr. Spade,” she said, a trace of the midwest in her voice. “I’ve lost something very precious. Perhaps it was stolen. In any case, I must have it returned to me. I’ll pay you anything if you can find it.”

I looked here up and down, paying attention this time. Did she have money to spend? “Tell me about the case,” I said, motioning to the chair across from my desk. “Let’s start out with your name.”

“Thank you. I just don’t know what to do.” With this, she wiped a tear away from her eye, using the sleeve of her jacket.

I handed her my handkerchief and waited while she pulled herself together. After a few minutes, she took a deep breath and spoke. “My name is Martha Thomases. That’s ‘Thomases’ with an e-s on the end. Like it’s plural.” She said this as if it was something she had said a million times before.

“My story. I can’t find it anywhere. I think it’s stolen.”

“Can you give me a description,” I said, taking out my notebook.

“It’s been with me since I was a child,” she said, as if that give me any idea what she was talking about. “I really must have it back.”

I looked at her with the pen in my hand. “A description,” I said. “What is it like? When did you last see it?”

“Well,” she said. “I don’t know that it has value to anyone but myself. It’s a story about a girl who grows up, her relationships with other people, the things she has to do to get ahead.”

“That’s describes a lot of people’s stories,” I said, still not writing anything down. “How would I recognize yours?”

“It’s mine,” she said, as if that gave me any clues. She saw my stare, and stammered, “Usually there is something about fathers in it.”

“That gives me something. Anything else?”

“And there’s super-powers,” she said. “Someone will be able to fly or read minds or something. And there will be capes. Dark blue capes.” She tried to repress a shudder of pleasure at the memory, but couldn’t keep the smile from her lips.

Why hadn’t she told me that first. “Now we’re getting somewhere,” I said. “When did you last see it?”

“Just the other night,” she said, crossing her legs. It might have been a sexy movie if she hadn’t been wearing sneakers. “We stayed up late with a bottle of wine. In the morning, there was no trace.”

“Perhaps your story left?” I said, trying to be diplomatic.

“No, never,” she said. “We’ve been together more than 55 years. Someone must have stolen my story.”

“Who would do that?” I said. “Do you have a list?”

“There’s a lot of writers out there who need stories,” she said. “I just don’t know who would take mine. What good would that do them? It’s my story.”

I stood and put out my hand for her to shake. “Let me make some calls,” I said. “I’ll get back to you with an estimate, and we can proceed from there.

She walked away, and I watched her go. Not a bad caboose, but she was old enough to be my mother. What did a woman her age need with a story, anyway?

Still, a job is a job. I made a few calls that afternoon, but they didn’t tell me much. I was going to have to go out on the street. I put on my coat and headed for the bookstore. They’ve got a lot of stories there. Maybe someone heard something.

I went up to the clerk at the information desk. “I’m looking for a story,” I said. “Something with capes. Flying. Maybe a father.” I didn’t want to give away too much.

The clerk pushed a few buttons, and a long list appeared on her monitor. “You want the graphic novel section,” she said to me, pointing to an aisle at the back of the store.

I walked back, looking over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t followed. I wasn’t prepared for what I found. Shelves reaching to the ceiling, filled with books that had spandex-clad characters with capes on the cover. I picked up a few that had dames on the cover, but there were so many I couldn’t tell if any of them came from my client.

I went back to the clerk. “These are all the same story,” I said. “How am I supposed to tell them apart?”

“Not at all,” she said. “All of the stories are different. Every writer takes the elements and makes them his or her own. It’s like meatloaf. Everybody makes it differently, and everybody makes it the best.”

I went back to my office, no closer to the truth than when I left. As I unlocked my door, I saw a package on the floor. I took it to my desk and unwrapped it. It was a statue of some stupid black bird from the Thomases dame. I picked it up, and saw an envelope underneath. Inside was a check and a note. “Dear Mr. Spade,” it said. “I’m sorry to have wasted your time. I just needed a walk to clear my head and my story came back to me. It is the stuff that dreams are made of. So easy to misplace. Thank you so much for your time.”

I’ll say you’re welcome when the check clears.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


Dennis O’Neil: Men of their Hour

oneil-art-131128-121x225-7575123Is Hourman Lance Armstrong’s patron superhero? Does Jose Conseco cherish his copy of All-Star Comics #1, featuring Hourman? Did Alex Rodriguez have his own special version of the Miraclo pill, Hourman’s after dinner mint of choice?

Ah yes, Hourman: one of the second (or third) string superheroes created just as the nation was edging into World War Two and decades before the athletes named above and other sports stars were accused of using steroids to enhance performance.

Hourman is not a character who has ever occupied much of my attention. I’ve been aware of him for a long time, and that could mean that I encountered him when I was very, very young, or that I came across him when I was working for DC Comics. I may have even considered reviving him. I wouldn’t put it past me, the editor who, quite briefly, resurrected the original Vigilante, because I remembered liking him when, again, I was very, very young, and Air Wave because I thought I could give him a quirky spin. (These were not my most glorious moments as a DC employee, these flings with yesteryear.) But now, there he is, camping in my psyche – Hourman is back (should we rejoice?) thanks to our brethren in videoland, who are planning an Hourman television show. If the news item I read was accurate, they have ideas for a fresh take on the man of the hour.

The original Hour-Man (he later lost the hyphen) was Rex Tyler who, while working as a research scientist, discovered a drug that would give him super strength and super speed but only, darn it, for an hour. He made two decisions: he would limit trials of the drug, dubbed Miraclo, to himself, presumably to spare innocents possible side-effects, and he would use his awesome but temporary powers for good. As origin gimmicks go, this isn’t bad: it’s novel, and it builds into the premise the venerable ticking clock plot trope. And in the innocent forties, readers probably weren’t bothered by the notion that problems could be solved by swallowing something; anyone who’s ever struggled with addiction knows that the notion is dangerous. To their credit, later writers acknowledged this danger and gave Hourman a druggie’s woes.

The television Hourman’s power will be a form of prophecy. He will be able to see into the future – but, alas, only a single hour into the future. Extremely useful at the race track, but not much good at questions of geopolitics. But it might facilitate some interesting storytelling, especially if the writers are allowed to do heavy character stuff. How would being able to glimpse the future twist a man’s psyche? Would the man become addicted to the facilitating drug and/or the powers it gives him? In popular fiction, it’s always the recipe that matters most, not the ingredients. The Hourman show, if it ever gets onto a television screen near you, might be worth – yes! – an hour of your time.

Meanwhile, you can watch a game.


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases



Mike Gold: Thor Than The Greatest Fun The World Has Known

Gold Art 131113I saw Thor: The Dark World last week with my usual bunch of hyper-critical Fairfield County buddies. Most of us (oddly) agreed the movie was great fun.

This is not a review of the Thor movie. A review should be more in-depth than four words, although in this Twitter-Totter world I realize this is akin to shouting “Hey, kids, get off of my lawn.”

The movie put on the big screen the type of energy and enthusiasm with which I associate the classic Marvel Comics in general – and with Jack Kirby in particular. Of all the superhero movies that have come down the pike over the past decade, Thor: The Dark World was less consumed with the Greek Angst Chorus than any other I can recall. Admittedly, I haven’t seen them all but, c’mon; did anybody actually pay money to see Catwoman?

I’m all for social commentary and significant subtext. I get the allegorical nature of The X-Men franchise. I appreciate Peter Parker’s sundry traumas. I totally understand that Bruce Wayne is in desperate need of some Xanax and a really good shrink. And I could have a swell time doing a Marxist analysis of Tony Stark. But every once in a while, it’s nice to pull the stick out of the nether-region and settle down for a good ol’ time.

It’s the same reason why I watch Robot Chicken and my favorite DC title is Tiny Titans. Well, that and the fact that Tiny Titans is one of the few DC Comics that actually makes any sense.

I realize that, as a comic book editor (let alone as a writer, broadcaster and professional fussbudget) my name has appeared in a lot more than a handful of Important Message Stories. And it will continue to be. Wait until we start telling you about the Hello Herman graphic novel. But an endless stream of Important Message Stories undermines their significance – concepts drown in the endless seas of moral dilemma.

Moreover, I advocate that we deserve Great Fun. The day-to-day slog through the shitstorm of life is tough enough. Let’s sit back for two hours and watch a bunch of talented actors chomp up the scenery without getting all hung up about reality.

Besides, reality is overrated.



FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases!



2-Guns-DVD-CoverThe buddy picture was a staple of the 1970s and 1980s, possibly dating back to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid but it’s been largely missing from more recent Hollywood fare. As a result, you have to given Universal Studios credit for recognizing the somewhat fresh approach in the Boom! Studios graphic novel 2Guns. Steve Grant paired two men in a drug story that felt familiar but with every action, things were never what they appeared, freshening the entire concept. Add in the charismatic Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, stir, and you have a crime story worth taking a look.

Out now on Blu-ray from Universal Home Entertainment, the film starts off with a robbery and never really slows down. Washington is Robert Trench, Bobby T, and Wahlberg is Michael Stigman, Stig, paired up to rob Mexican criminal drug lord  Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos) of $3 million in cash. Neither is ware that both men are phonies with Bobby working undercover for the DEA while Stig is a member of Naval Intelligence, hoping to obtain the money to fund their cover operations.

Instead, they wind up robbing a bank in Tres Cruces, New Mexico and walking away with over $40 million in kickbacks paid by the drug lords to the CIA. The agency dispatches Earl (Bill Paxton) to recover the money and he cuts a bloody swath as he nears the truth and the cash. Along the way, the friends discover the truth about one another but then the revelations keep on coming as Bobby realizes he’s been set up by his sometime lover Deb (Paula Patton) and Stig discovers the Navy would rather sweep the scandal under the rug than do the honorable thing.

And chasing them all is Papi, who wants revenge for being robbed and humiliated by the pair. Olmos looks like he’s having the most fun although the two lead performers also banter nicely. The problem with the film is that Blake Masters’ screenplay never properly develops a single character so they feel sketchy. We don’t know what drives Bobby to spend three years undercover and what he’s had to give up or why Stig thinks it’s okay to use drug money for government purposes.

Under Baltasar Kormakur’s direction, we get lots of nice scenes set in New Orleans, and New Mexico and some inventive action sequences but everything feels like it’s on the surface. It’s a cleverly constructed plot and no one seems interested in exploring the larger themes or motivations. Maybe this is why it was aimed at late summer, when most audiences stop thinking and accept whatever’s on the screen.

Watching at home, you stop and realize how little of the story holds up under scrutiny, especially the whole Deb betrays Bobby sub-plot. The disc includes several extended and deleted scenes, none of which add anything to a deeper understanding of the story. Koramakur and producer Adam Siegel provide a standard commentary that shows no one seemed interested in making this a more complex tale. The movie comes with “Undercover and into Action”,  a fairly by the number Making Of featurette.

REVIEW: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition

Hobbit Unexpected Joruney ExtendedJ.R.R. Tolkien wrote a children’s book about a creature called a Hobbit and people in England seemed to like it. His publisher asked for a sequel, expecting something within a year or two, and instead it took fare longer and he received something far bigger and darker. It was worth the wait because the saga is engrossing and enduring. Thankfully, a series of events meant it wasn’t until the last decade or so before Hollywood could serve the words with fidelity. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was groundbreaking in sweep and production, an investment that could have bankrupted New Line Cinema and instead brought it untold millions in profit.

The original tale, though, took a lot longer to come to the screen and Jackson found himself back behind the director’s chair, turning collaboration with Guillermo del Toro into an encore performance. Eyes were raised when we heard this slighter tale was being turned into two films and then fans grew worried when that morphed into a trilogy.

Last December, we cautiously filed into the theater to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which appeared to be only 60% an adaptation of the novel with lots of filler. Jackson indicated all along he intended to bridge the two storylines, hence expanding to multiple films, but did it need the same sweep and grandeur as the Lord of the Rings? Probably not, but he made the creative choice to tonally link the two and as a chapter in a film series, it mostly works.

Now, mere weeks before the second installment, The Desolation of Smaug, arrives, we get to revisit chapter one, in a just-released Extended Edition from Warner Home Video. The 183-minute extended cut has more of the things you like or loathe about the films. Since diehard fans and casual audiences alike are divided between whether this version works or not, the debate continues with thirteen more minutes of evidence to work with. While the previous extended versions added plot, character and more of Howard Shore’s terrific score, this one just adds….more.

the-hobbit-bilbo-bagginsThere’s no question Martin Freeman’s casting as Bilbo Baggins, the reluctant adventurer was excellent. Paired with Ian McKellan’s Gandalf the Gray, they work well together, keeping to closer to the novel. It’s the baker’s dozen of dwarves that hew closer to the Rings trilogy and are far less defined, understandable given the size of the cast. On the other hand, with three films to work with, more should have been done beyond Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage).

Instead, cameos from other players are shoe-horned in so we revisit Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman the White (Christopher Lee). What is welcome is the framing sequence to put this into perspective for the masses, wisely bringing back Ian Holm as the elder Bilbo and Elijah Wood as his cousin Frodo.

For me, it was entertaining but somewhat disappointing because I was not transported in the same way I was when I first visited Middle Earth. I was entertained but it was milder than enthralling.

The film fortunately is fit onto a single disc so you can enjoy it in a single sitting. For those who can’t get enough background material, there are two other discs chockfull of features. These are sumptuous for those who indulge and its interesting listening to Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens’ audio commentary, as they discussed the creative choices, pulling material from the Appendices to flesh out the novel.

imagesOne unconnected featurette is New Zealand: Home to Middle-Earth (6:53) which is Jackson and company extolling the virtues of their homeland.

The bulk of the extras are The Appendices Part 7: A Long Expected Journey and The Appendices Part 8: Return to Middle-Earth. The previous parts can only be found on the standard edition of the film. Part 7 takes up about four and a half hours comprising Introduction by Peter Jackson (1:54), The Journey Back to Middle-Earth (48:19); Riddles in the Dark (17:00); An Unexpected Party (25:28); Roast Mutton (17:12); Bastion of the Greenwood (10:41); A Short Rest (29:12); Over Hill (13:40); Under Hill (19:15); Out of the Frying Pan (16:07); Return to Hobbiton (18:35); The Epic of Scene 88 (8:28); The Battle of Moria (10:57); Edge of the Wilderland (22:37). Along the way we learn how the delays in financing and the near collapse of MGM led to del Toro’s departure than a hasty ramp up to get filming done to make international release schedules. We watch with exhaustive detail how scenes were shot, how cast and crew had to scurry across the island to get certain sequences completed and how Andy Serkis came back as Gollum to perform in what was essentially a one-act play set within the grander tale.

Part 8 is comprised of  The Company of Thorin (1:02:41), a six-part documentary including  “Assembling the Dwarves,” “Thorin, Fili & Kili,” “Balin & Dwalin,” “Oin & Gloin” and “Bifur, Bofur & Bombur”; Mr. Baggins: The 14th Member (16:10); Durin’s Folk: Creating the Dwarves (57:25); The People and Denizens of Middle-Earth (58:09); Realms of the Third Age: From Bag End to Goblin Town (58:59); and, The Songs of The Hobbit (32:32). Here, we learn more about how the cast viewed their dwarf selves and we see more character than is revealed in the final cut and the segment on the music is fascinating.

Ultimately, you have to decide if you love extras or thirteen extra minutes will be worth the investment. The film stands on its own in its first form and this is really for the devotees of Tolkien and all things Middle Earth.

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: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hcnoel/tara-normal. Howie’s website is at http://www.taranormal.com and his twitter is @hcnoel.

Gaiman’s Neverwhere Nevermore?

cbldfAccording to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Alamogordo Public Schools banned Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere last week after one parent filed a complaint over the book, claiming the content was “rated R” and inappropriate for her 15-year-old daughter.

Gaiman’s classic work has been on the school’s reading list for nine years and this is the first complaint that’s been received. Evidently, the parent did not take issue with the entire novel, just the word “fuck” found twice on page 86. It is not known if the same parent took umbrage with J.D. Salinger’s award-winning 1951 novel Catcher In The Rye, which was assigned reading in this writer’s high school back in 1966. It, too, offers the same word.

The CBLDF has taken on the cause of freeing Neverwhere for 15 year-olds in New Mexico, and Gaiman issued the following response:

I’m obviously disappointed that the parent in question didn’t talk to the teacher or accept the teacher’s offer of an alternative book for her daughter, and has instead worked to stop anyone else’s children reading a book that’s been in the school system successfully for almost a decade. On the other hand I’m impressed that this parent has managed to find sex and violence in Neverwhere that everyone else had somehow missed – including the entire city of Chicago, when they made Neverwhere the book that was read by adults and children alike all through the city Spring 2011’s One Book One Chicago program.

But mostly I feel sorry for anyone excited enough by the banning to go to Neverwhere in search of “R-Rated” action. It’s a fine adventure, I think, with some sensible social points, and perhaps some good jokes and characters — but it’s very gentle stuff.

For more information, check out the CBLDF’s website.