Category Archives: Books and comics

A Foolish Mortal’s Haunted Mansion Reading List

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Find a comfy reading spot, and peruse through some of the newest books for all ages inspired by Disney Parks’ Haunted Mansion. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

Originally ran in GeekMom Aug. 26. 2016.

Disney Parks’ Haunted Mansion has already been giving fans of this classic attraction a wealth recently-released books and comics based on the mansion’s legends, lore, and 999 happy haunts.

These include the start of a young readers’ novel series, a five-issue comic book story arc, and beginning readers’ picture book. For those building their spooky book collections, here’s the some of the latest in this famous residence’s tomes:

Tales from the Haunted Mansion Volume 1: The Fearsome Foursome by the ghostly librarian Amicus Arcane (as transcribed by John Esposito and illustrated by Kelley Jones). This beautifully-designed book tells the tale of four horror story-loving middle schoolers who lose their clubhouse to a freak storm (Arcane may or may not have taken credit for) and just happen to come across invites to an even creepier venue. Once there, they learn they might be the subjects of some new tales. The recommended age range is 8 to 12, so the story and writing level are geared toward that group. It also doesn’t focus on any well-known mansion residents. Older readers may find this an easy afternoon escape, but it would really be nice to see a Haunted Mansion novel geared towards older teens and adults. Those tales could be gothic and potentially terrifying.

Disney Parks Presents The Haunted Mansion picture book is illustrated by James Gilleard, based on both the ride and its well-loved “Grim Grinning Ghosts” theme song with lyrics by Xavier “X” Atencio and music by Buddy Baker. This simple book, accompanied by a CD of the song, is the first of Disney Parks Presents series of attraction-based books. The book gives families with beginning readers a chance to relive the ride and enjoy Gilleard’s eerily adorable drawings. Not only is this a wonderful gift for Haunted Mansion fans, but if upcoming books in this series are as well done as this one, this will be a series worth collecting, whether or not you have young readers at home.

Marvel’s Disney Kingdoms: The Haunted Mansion by Joshua Williamson and Jorge Coelho. This comic book’s story is a pretty familiar scenario, with a young boy being lured into a seemingly abandoned old mansion to help lift a curse on its ghostly residents. The story is a good read for tweens and up, with Easter egg-filled illustrations. Better than the story, however, are some of the variant covers, especially the one by Skottie Young, for those lucky enough to find it.

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Skottie Young, Katie Cook and Brian Crosby are among the talents found on variant covers of Marvel’s Haunted Mansion comic series. Covers © Marvel.

For those who want a couple of different comic looks at the Haunted Mansion, there are two other comic series inspired by the attraction.

The first, also a Disney Kingdoms series, is Seekers of the Weird by Brandon Seifert, with illustrations by Karl Moline and Filipe Andrade. The story follows a brother and sister trying to uncover the disappearance of their parents in the setting of a strange, perilous museum. The story itself isn’t that memorable, but the incorporation of some of Disney imagineer Rolly Crump’s original ideas for a never-created attraction Museum of the Weird, precursor to the Haunted Mansion, is worth a look.

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The Haunted Mansion has been a favorite topic for artists and writers well before this latest wave of books. However, you might have to raid a few catacombs to find a couple of these.

Slave Labor Graphics released eight issues of its Haunted Mansion comic book series starting in 2005, featuring individual short stories by various artists based on the mansion’s most famous “happy haunts.” A lot edgier than the Disney Kingdoms series, these tales range from the downright spooky to a witty appearance by Roman Dirge’s Lenore: The Cute Little Dead Girl and a sweet tale of why the cowardly groundskeeper and his pup continue to visit the mansion nightly. The first six issues can be found in a collected edition, Haunted Mansion Vol. 1, Welcome Foolish Mortals, but the final issues might be harder to come by. These are some of my favorite Haunted Mansion stories, and some of the most imaginative. This one is more than worth hunting down.

Finally, for those wanting a behind-the-scenes guide, author and imagineer Jason Surrell’s books include The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic released in 2015. This is actually the 3rd edition of his The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies, originally published in 2003. I recommend the latest edition, as there are plenty of updates.

There is also the rarer The Art of the Haunted Mansion version by Surrell in 2003, the same year the forgettable Eddie Murphy movie hit the screens. I’ve even seen prices for this hardback edition range from just over $100 to $700. The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic, on the other hand, is about $15 on Amazon.

One non-Disney publication, The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion by Jeff Baham, is available, but it does get a ghostly hitchhiker-worthy thumbs up from imagineer Rolly Crump, who provided the forward for this book.

Hopefully, there will be more to come of Haunted Mansion reading material in the near future, so be sure to clear out a shelf in the library.  This shouldn’t be a problem, as book lovers and Haunted Mansion permanent residents agree: “There’s always room for one more.”

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Image © Marvel.

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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.