Category Archives: Books and comics

Five Offbeat Books To Help Readers Discover The Bard

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Battle of the Jungle Books

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Originally ran in GeekMom Jan. 13, 2016.

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Image: ©Walt Disney Studios, 2016.

Rudyard Kipling’s beloved short story collection, The Jungle Book, was written in the 1890s, but is still the inspiration for big screen interpretations today. Currently, there are two notable versions coming in the next two years, including the much-anticipated Disney production this month.

The new Disney project is actually the second live action Jungle Book film Walt Disney Studios has done in recent years. Brandon Lee starred in the 1994 live action version, but the best known is still the original 1967 animated masterpiece. The 2003 animated sequel Jungle Book 2, was pretty forgettable.

This latest Disney version comes out April 15, keeping with their trend of large-scale live-action reimaginings and reboots of their own animated classics, from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland to Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella.

Following in October of 2017 is the Warner Bros. film Jungle Book: Origins, which also promises to be a larger-than-life effort, judging from the cast list.

As far as the story, which is really the important part when taking on the work of Kipling, the Disney version will remain true to its own earlier adaptation, based loosely on The Jungle Book chapter known as “Mowgli’s Brothers.” Although there has been no official announcement on the story’s plot, the Warner Bros. looks to follow a similar story.

Here are some interesting things that should make both of these versions worth seeing on the big screen:

John Favreau and Andy Serkis. Images: ©Disney (left), and Gage Skidmore.

The Directors. This pair of directors is enough to make any movie fan want to see both of these versions. Actor and director Jon Favreau helms the latest Disney film, as well as serves as a producer. He already has some experience under his belt as not only the director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2, but for portraying Happy Hogan in all three Iron Man films.

Jungle Book: Origins serves as Serkis’s directorial debut, but he will also voice and perform as fan favorite bear Baloo, who will be portrayed in the Disney version by fan favorite actor Bill Murray.

Who has the edge: Favreau. Serkis has proven himself an incredible actor and comedian, and  was able to handle secondary directing duties in The Hobbit trilogy, but it’s his first time in the main director chair. Favreau has some great successes to draw from.

There is one element that Serkis has over Favreau. Not only is Serkis himself master of performance capture work, as demonstrated with his portrayals as Gollum (Lord of the Rings), Caesar (Planet of the Apes) and Supreme Leader Snoke (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), but The Imaginarium, Europe’s leading Performance Capture studio co-founded by Serkis, will partner with Warner Bros. on their film.

The Female Kaas. In the original Kipling book, Kaa is a male 100-year-old python, but even more interesting Kaa is one of Mowgli’s friends and mentors. In the original animated Disney film Kaa is a manipulative side-villain voiced by Disney regular Sterling Holloway (Winnie The Pooh, Cheshire Cat).

Both new Jungle Book projects will feature a female-voiced Kaa. Disney’s will be portrayed by Scarlett Johansson and Warner Bros.’s will feature Cate Blanchett.

Based on Disney’s trailer and description of the new film, Kaa is “a python whose seductive voice and gazes hypnotizes the man-cub,” but is one of the creatures who don’t “have his best interests at heart.” It looks like Kaa will still be a bit of an antagonist in the new Disney version. No news on how Kaa will be portrayed in the 2017 story.

Who has the edge: Blanchett. As popular as Johansson is right now, and as sultry as her voice can be, Blanchett will add a touch of sophistication to this character that will go far beyond just a femme fatale.

A fantastically-cast Shere Khan. The story’s primary villain, the large, man-fearing tiger, Shere Khan, will be voiced by two of Great Britain’s most formidable voices: Idris Elba for Disney and Benedict Cumberbatch for Warner Bros. Elba and Cumberbatch are responsible for two of the BBC’s most popular detectives, Luther (Elba) and Sherlock (Cumberbatch).

In addition, both Elba and Cumberbatch share the honors of portraying major villains in the new Star Trek movie series, with Elba in the role of Krall in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond and Cumberbatch as, well, Khan, in Star Trek: Into The Darkness.

Who has the edge: This one is a draw, as both these actors have incredible, deep and imposing tones perfect for the intimidating tiger villain. Please, oh, please don’t make us choose.

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Lupita Nyong’o and Naomi Harris. Images: ©Disney (left), and ShareAlike.

An equally wonderfully cast for Mother Wolf. Mother Wolf has always been an important, yet underrated character in the Jungle Book movies, although she is the primary reason Mowgli survived past his infancy in the jungle. In the Disney version, Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o will play the Mother Wolf, known as “Raksha.” This character in the Warner Bros. version will go by the name “Nisha,” with James Bond’s current Moneypenny, Naomi Harris, as her voice.

Who has the edge: Nyong’o. Naomi Harris a great actress, and is no stranger to Disney fans (Tia Dalma in Pirates of the Caribbean series), but if Nyong’o’s voice work in The Force Awakens is any indication, her Mother Wolf will be simply outstanding.

Other voice notables will be Sir Ben Kingsley as Bagheera in the Disney version, and Christian Bale in the Warner Bros. version, and Christopher Walken should be a hilarious King Louie. King Louie is a Disney creation, which was not part of Kipling’s original tale, so there will be no King Louie in the Warner Bros. version.

Young actors Neel Sethi and Rohan Chand, both natives of a different “jungle,” New York City, will portray Mowgli in the Disney and Warner Bros. films respectively.

The big question is, which version will do better with fans and in the box office? Disney is certainly on a roll with their new live action storybook tales, but the Serkis production stands to properly capture the sensibilities of fans of the India-born British favorite Kipling.

No matter what the box office ultimately decides, as long as they both stay true to the exotic lure of adventure Kipling always envisioned, there should easily be reason to return to the jungle more than once in the near future.

Titan brings English Language Sherlock to U.S, U.K. Readers…At Last!

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Finally, there’s an English language BBC series-based Sherlock Manga in the works.

This original Japanese language Manga version of BBC’s Sherlock will get an English version for US and UK readers this summer. Image: Young Ace!

This original Japanese language Manga version of BBC’s Sherlock will get an English version for US and UK readers this summer. Image: Young Ace!

After unsuccessfully searching for the book at local venues, we went online to find this beautifully-illustrated piece by Manga artist Jay was only available in Japanese. Despite my daughter still wanting it for the artwork and the hopeful optimism that she will learn Japanese (a goal she still maintains), I balked.

Somehow, I felt, a story this originally interpreted will make it’s way into the hands of English-speaking readers.

As a fellow lover of all Sherlock Holmes stories (modern and classic), I really kind of wanted to get my hands on  this as well, but eventually forgot about it among the busy misadventures of my everyday life.

Thanks be to Titan Comics, this Manga will be released this June in the United States and United Kingdom in an English language version. The original artwork

Artist Alice X. will give her well-loved images to Titan’s Manga Sherlock English Language version. Images: Titan Comics

Artist Alice X. will give her well-loved images to Titan’s Manga Sherlock English Language version. Images: Titan Comics

by Jay will still be part of this adaptation with script by Sherlock series writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, but there will also be more content exclusive to this new version. This includes covers and art by artist Alice X Zhang, and if her absolutely gorgeous covers with Titan’s Doctor Who comics line are any indication, these should be spectacular.

The comic has offered in a limited edition “English/Japanese” bilingual version, with the help of Gatiss and Moffat, by the English Agency in Japan, but it isn’t an easy find for UK and US readers.

Even though Series 4 of television’s Sherlock isn’t scheduled until 2017, at least Sherlock fans can be treated to a new look for a familiar adventure this summer.

Keep Reading:

mangarecommendationsWhile we’re still waiting for this much-anticipated volume to hit the book shelves, here are four other Mangas I recommend that even non-Manga readers should love:

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga (DC Comics) These retro-style stories date back to the 1960s when Kuwata wrote a 53-chapter serial for a manga magazine. Now, these stories are available in three beautiful paperback volumes for Batman fans of all generations.

Star Wars Manga (Dark Horse). In 2015, Hisao Tamaki put out a Manga interpretation of Star Wars A New Hope, based directly on George Lucas’s script. There have since been Manga interpretations of all the first Star Wars episodes by a variety of artists like Toshiki Kudo, Kia Asamiya, and others. Like everything else Star Wars, chasing down and collecting this entire series is half the fun.

Big Hero 6 (Marvel). Anyone who saw Stan Lee’s “cameo” in the Disney animated film Big Hero 6, should realize the hit movie is Marvel. The movie is based on a 1998 Manga-style, relaunched via Marvel in 2008 by David Nakayama and Chris Claremont. This original Tokyo-based story will give readers a closer look at the edgy adventure that spawned one of Disney’s cuddliest characters, Baymax. Although Marvel doesn’t plan on creating any new comics featuring the Big Hero 6 team, there are newer film-based Manga adaptations by Haruki Ueno from Yen Press.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (Disney Press). In 2005, The Tim Burton cult classic film got some Manga treatment, suitable for younger readers. Although this one-shot is only a simple interpretation of the film, the Manga style images are a wonderful tribute the imagination and characters created by Burton, including Jack Skellington, Sally and Oogie Boogie. Perfect for any Burton fans in need of drawing and sketching inspiration.

— Lisa Kay Tate

Finding Walking Dead’s Daryl Poncho

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The Prop: Daryl’s Redneck Poncho

ponchomain“If Daryl Dies We Riot.”

Rick Grimes may be the leader of the pack, and a worthy one at that, but Daryl Dixon (portrayed by Norman Reedus) is the breakaway character everyone wants to be…or be with…during a zombie outbreak. The likeable, resourceful, hard-edged, cross-bow wielding Daryl has become the one to watch, and created not just a legion of fans, but an Internet full of Chuck Norris-style memes.His look is the quintessential “redneck biker,” who understands that ponchos are practical means for keeping warm, repelling raindrops and looking cool. Giving credit where credit is due, Daryl’s look is reminiscent of the classic Spaghetti Western movie poncho, similar to the one worn by Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The pattern on Daryl’s poncho is a red, tan and black “Yavapai” Indian pattern not uncommon to western blankets and throws.

memesWhere to Find It:

If you live anywhere in the Southewestern United States, particularly near the Mexican border where serape material and ponchos are common items to attract tourists and use as colorful regional decor, this pattern is easy to run across. The Southwest decor site Mission Del Rey has some clintpixgreat examples, and El Paso Saddleblanket has similar designs — although rumor has it this is the shop where the actual poncho used in the show was purchased.

It is easy to find this poncho design as well as pillow, tapestries, bedspreads and other items with the pattern at several southwest or import stores. Anyone taking at trip up I-10 should hit as much roadside curio shops for this blanket pattern.There’s a good chance they will happen upon exactly what the are looking for.

For officially licensed products, there was a distressed costume poncho available at stores like Spirit, but it is very much a cheesy costume product and bore an unappealing “Walking Dead” logo right smack in the center.

For a while, the Her Universe collection made a beautiful Daryl Infinity Scarf with the poncho pattern, that sold for $30, but it is currently out of stock. From the look of customer response, however, there are many hoping for it to be available once more. Those who weren’t lucky enough to grab this item the first time around should keep watch. It might be available again soon, but there are no promises.

amcponcho-300x248There are also officially licensed messenger bags in both Daryl’s poncho and his angel wings vest designs. This is one of the classier items available, and runs around $89.95. It often sells out from the AMC shop, but this bag can be found all over eBay for about the same price.

As always, the Etsy artists are ready to take care of shoppers with custom made ponchos, as well as items and art prints bearing the poncho design. Displate also has a metal sign with the pattern for $44.artisanponcho-e1430855461522

For those who actually want the man inside the poncho, the AMC Official shop offers an “I love Daryl” bundle for $69.99 with three t-shirts a poster and paper mask. None of these, however, seem to feature him in his poncho, but it’s still a cute gift idea for Reedus lovers.

For a good depiction of Daryl in his poncho, Gentle Giant has created a 1:4 scale Daryl Dixon statue with wingitems-292x300crossbow and removable poncho if you want a good look at the winged vest. This is incredibly detailed at 18 inches high, but not cheap, as it runs easily more than $400 on sites like Entertainment Earth.

There’s a much cheaper little plush Funko plush version of Daryl in his poncho that reatails for $9.99, but that is sold out at the AMC online shop, and sites like Hot Topic. Shoppers might still run across it in stores in the bargain bins.

There are also several t-shirts (including a pet t-shirt) and accessories featuring Daryl’s famous “Angel Wings” vest, including a really nice metal pendant, and an actual replica faux vest for $89.99 or genuine leather for $259.99.

Now Daryl isn’t the only one who can rid the world of zombies and look fashionable doing it. Now you (and your dog or couch) can as well.

Pick Up a Book, Pick Up a Pen: Reading and Doodling

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The Geeklings and our Library

The Geeklings and our Library

This summer, my family did our part in trying to make the world more literate by building a Little Free Library. You can read about our “library adventures” at geekmom.com/2013/08/free-library-adventure/.

In the meantime, here are some of favorite reading events for book and comic lovers to relish, along with a couple of changes to just doodle:

Some Favorite Reading Events

book eventsFree Comic Book Day and Halloween ComicFest: We geek parents know Free Comic Book Day, the first Saturday in May, like we know our kids’ birthdays. This is the day that participating comic book sellers offer selected free comics for anyone and everyone of all ages. Since the first Free Comic Book Day in 2002, thousands of shops worldwide have joined in on the fun, exposing more and more people to the literary and visual art amalgam of the comic book.

Its popularity has spawned a companion fall event, Halloween ComicFest, held in late October. In addition to free comics, most with a dark or spooky edge, it’s also one of the best online costume and cosplay contests for both youth and adults, which they humbly call The Greatest Halloween Costume Contest Ever. I’m not too proud to admit that my own daughter came a close second to winning her age category for her original Lord of the Rings: War in the North video game-inspired costume of warrior elf, Andriel. This Halloween event isn’t quite as big as its spring counterpart, but if the rising appeal of both comics and Halloween continues, it may soon well be.

All Hallows Read: This has been Halloween tradition since 2010, with some pretty big names in eerie literature  wholeheartedly endorsing it, most notably Neil Gaiman, who started it all on his blog by asking followers to give each other scary books.

“Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle,” Gaiman proposed. “Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy…Give someone a scary book for Halloween. Make their flesh creep…”

That was all there was to that, and All Hallows Read continues. People can hand out scary age-appropriate books (new or second-hand) as trick-or-treat and carnival prizes or gifts, or just leave them lying around public areas. The official site often includes printable All Hallows Read labels, encouraging people to “Take This Book.” There is no easier way to share books and comics than just leaving them in high-traffic areas where people can find them. I inadvertently do this year-round, and now I have a perfectly sound excuse.

World Book Day: This largely European-based reading awareness event is known in some countries as International Day of the Book or World Book and Copyright Day. It was created in 1995 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) to promote reading and publishing. Celebrations and observances are held on or around April 23 to mark the date both celebrated writers Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare died. Different countries mark this occasion in their own way, including giving reading vouchers to school-aged youth as they do in the United Kingdom.

Similar international celebrations, with many in the United States, include World Book Night, also on April 23; International Children’s Book Day, observed on or around Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday in early April; and El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Day of the Children/Day of the Books). The later, El día de los niños, was born in Mexico, and is a popular community event in several United States/Mexico border cities, including my hometown of El Paso, Texas. This day features community celebrations of family marked with book giveaways and entertainment.

Star Wars Reads Day: Has there actually been a day created promoting both reading and Star Wars? Yes, there has! Be still my heart. This is one of the newer reading adventures for families, as Lucasfilm and their many publishing partners created it in 2012 for the sole purpose of celebrating reading. Held the first Saturday in October, the inaugural event was immediately embraced by more than 1,200 bookstores, schools, and libraries.

Just how and where the event is celebrated is up to the hosting venue, and Lucasfilm provides downloadable trivia kits, crafts, and activity suggestions online. Many venues opt for activities like storytelling, book and prize giveaways and, of course, cosplay…it is Star Wars, after all. What’s the fun without some 501st Legion members helping out?

Read Across America: This NEA (National Education Association) project is probably the most well-known in American schools and is especially popular among students and teachers. Held on the school day closest to Dr. Seuss’s birthday—March 2—the party encourages reading and storytelling events, some with celebrity readers who might don a jaunty red and white striped hat in celebration of Seuss’s iconic literary cat.

Through Read Across America, NEA also works closely with the group First Book, which has distributed more than 100 million books to children in need in more than 50,000 schools and programs. That is a bunch of books and a bunch of happy young readers. What could be better?

Now a Word About Doodles…IMG_1066

Doodling. Everyone has done it at least once.

I doodle constantly. I scribble cobwebs and steampunk tentacles on the edge of cocktail napkins. I draw floating feathers and concentric Burton curls on the borders of my notebooks when a phone interviewee gets too chatty. I’ve graced the note cards at Five Guys Burgers with a TARDIS and killer zombie bunnies, and I continually fight the urge to take a Sharpie to the toe of my Chucks.

Unlike painstakingly detailed paintings, or over-worked digital art, the doodle is drawing at its purist form; straight from the head to the tip of the fingers to the page. Plus, anyone can do it.

No matter how elaborate or simple, big or small, a doodle is a great equalizer in the world of illustration. Set something to write with and something to write on in front of anyone and, given enough time, most are going to jot something down; be it random lines, decorative ways of dressing up their own or someone else’s name, random curly borders on the edge, happy faces, or X-Wings.

But, why doodle?

According to professional graphologist (AKA handwriting analyst) Ruth Rostron’s essay on doodling, from the National Doodle Day site: doodling relieves boredom, eases stress and frustrations, and acts as a “safety valve that allows pressure to be dispelled in a playful and creative way.”

Doodling has even been put to good use in nationwide charitable events in both the United States and United Kingdom. The UK’s National Doodle Day has helped raise more than £250,000 for people with epilepsy in its 10 years of existence. Held in early spring, the event offers doodle contests for all ages as well as auctions featuring works of celebrity “artists.” Similarly, the Neurofibromatosis Network collects celebrity doodles year-round for its annual Doodle 4 NF event each May.

Not only have both of these events been successful fundraisers for their causes, they’ve showcased hidden talents of many actors, musicians, authors, and comedians, as well as the not-so-hidden abilities of both amateur and professional artists. Some of these celebrity doodlers have included Sir Ian McKellen, Matt Lucas, James Nesbitt, and Jeremy Bulloch for 2013’s National Doodle Day. John Barrowman, Nathan Fillion, Tom Kane, Melissa Rauch, Brent Spiner, Burt Ward, and Stan Lee have already contributed their doodles for 2014’s Doodle 4 NF. Some of these illustrations are rather impressive, and others, well, are a great way for others to feel secure in their own artistic ability.

As far as what we doodle, Rostron indicated these seemingly aimless images could act as “fragments of a map” to whatever is on one’s mind.

“When you are on automatic pilot and only half attending to what you are doing, you may find yourself thinking of something that has been at the back of your mind. Underlying preoccupations surface and, before you know it, take shape as doodles,” she writes. “Doodling maps the wandering of your mind as you plan a new venture, worry about money, or dream of a lover or holiday. At an unconscious level this seemingly aimless pastime may actually be helping people sort out their problems.”

IMG_1065Different personality types may doodle in different styles. Emotional types like rounded, fluffier shapes like clouds, hearts, happy faces or flowers. Practical people draw images with straight lines or flat surfaces. Determined people draw more “pointy” images like arrows, zigzags, planes, or mountains. No matter the subject, Roston said everything in a doodle relates in some way to the person who has drawn it.

Whether for charity, stress relief, or just an outlet for artistic silliness; doodling is not only something I do myself, but encourage my own children to do as well. I’ve had to stuff many a greasy paper restaurant place mat bearing crayon masterpieces in my purse as proof of this. I’ve looked back on some of my quickly penned images and learned quite a bit about myself. This is not always a good thing, I’ve discovered, but always insightful.

I encourage it in you as well. That is, if you aren’t already doing it, and I have a pretty good feeling many of you are.

To see some celebrity doodles or to learn more about charitable doodling events, visit nationaldoodleday.org.uk or doodle4nf.org.