My wife and I visited Portland earlier this month. Less than 3 miles from our hotel was the world’s biggest store that sells used and new books. Powell’s was heaven for a bookworm such as myself! I could have spent hours days in there. There are 3 locations in Oregon and of course I had to hit up all 3. I picked up a handful of graphic novels (the comic medium is my favorite these days), and can’t think of a better time than to launch part 2 of my “It Came From The Book Store” series (the first one was written almost 8 months ago). But rather than just show you the 14 books I picked up, I’ll share some of the sights we saw in Portland along the way as well.
The Powell’s location in Burnside covers an entire city block! Incredibly insane. Walking down the first flight of stairs, I immediately ran into the graphic novel section for kids and young adults. As much as I love and appreciate manga, there might be a (big) part of me that enjoys graphic novels even more. I love their bright colors, beautiful artwork, and awesome sturdy design (flip through one and admire the craftmanship and even the smell of the ink). So at Powell’s, some of the books are new while some are used which can be as much as 50% off the cover price. It’s oddly addictive to flip a book over hoping to find a gently used copy for half off or so. It felt like a mini treasure hunt. If I didn’t already own it and it was marked used at 30-50% off, in the basket it went!
For example, this hardcover graphic novel retails for $22.99. Luckily I found a used copy nearly half off for $11.98. I love how they list the date of the item’s arrival. It’s neat to see how long it’s been sitting in the store. Or conversely, how recently it came in. The latter is always satisfying because you feel like right place, right time! Or maybe that’s just me
I love reading these little staff pick cards. Coincidentally, I recently bought Odessa online prior to this Portland trip. I had no idea Jonathan Hill lives in Portland. Nice to see the hometown support. Haven’t read Odessa yet but it looks like a compelling post-apocalyptic adventure.
His latest work was just published, Tales of a Seventh Grade Lizard Boy. Looks like a fun read for anyone who has ever felt they don’t quite fit in.
We visited Cosmic Monkey Comics next. Mad respect to them for displaying this shrine, devoted entirely to iconic mangaka (manga artists) such as Osamu Tezuka, Junji Ito and Naoki Urasawa just to name a few. Extra brownie points for including Taiyō Matsumoto!
For lunch we found ourselves at a quaint spot with 3 restaurant choices. My wife had chicken and rice from Nong’s Khao Man Gai, and me being a sandwich lover I went with Snappy’s, supposedly a local favorite. Their decor adds such a nostalgic flare to the cozy deli store. It felt like I was transported back to the mid ’90s!
We visited St. Helens (about 45 minutes from our hotel) to see their Halloween Town display. This is the exact location where the 1998 movie was filmed.
Speaking of ghosts, I bought the collected edition of Brody’s Ghost which collects all 6 volumes in a 600 page tome. It’s one of those harder to find Dark Horse graphic novels so it can go for $50 online. Powell’s had a slightly beat up copy for $35 (no tax in Oregon) so I bit the bullet. But that same day I found it on eBay for $14.99 Buy It Now. I’d planned to buy it later that night but then the seller sent me a $9.99 offer. Talk about patience being a virtue!
“Mix in a pinch of The Sixth Sense with a dash of The Karate Kid and a bit of The Crow, and you’ll start to get a feel for Brody’s Ghost.” Mighty fine (and tantalizing) blurb from Wired on the back cover.
So after Halloween Town, I told my wife I’d like to return Brody’s Ghost and that it might be fun to watch Smile. If so, it would be our first movie in a theater since September 2021 when we saw Shang Chi over a year ago! So I Googled Powell’s and found a location in Beaverton where magically there happened to be the only late night showing of Smile. Our trip was winding down and we had wanted to try Killer Burger before leaving Oregon. Luckily, there also happened to be a Killer Burger in the same plaza as Powell’s! The book store, burger joint and movie theater were all within a half mile of one another. Serendipity!
The Powell’s location in Beaverton is tucked away in a small mall. I remember seeing the store sign looming in the horizon and getting all excited, ha!
During the return I was chatting it up with the cashier. I found out he grew up in the same area as I did. It was pretty random but super cool. As mentioned earlier, I returned Brody’s Ghost because an eBay user sold it to me for under $15.
After returning the book and enjoying our greasy burgers, we caught Smile in the nearby theater. We both liked it a lot. It felt a bit like It Follows but even better. I highly recommend it. It was way better than that piece of crap Halloween Ends.
On a random note, we saw a screening of this film a few days in advance. I was so disappointed. They did Halloween fans dirty. Go watch Smile instead…
In total, I bought 14 books from the 3 Powell’s locations. Let me share quickly each book and a sample page
We had a great time in Portland. We ate at a ton of food carts. I had a blast at my book stores. We video chatted with my parents multiple times a day so that we could see our almost 5 month old son, Owen. Portland was a lovely little getaway but we were ready to go home and be with Owen again. I hope to take him when he’s around 6 or 7 years old. I have a feeling he’ll grow up liking books, ha! And that he would feel like a kid in a candy store at Powell’s, where the aisles stretch on as far as the eye can see. My wife also wants to see the leaves change colors, which unfortunately we went too early to be able to see. So anyway, hope you enjoyed this little trip to Portland with me. Until next time!
Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s I was an avid reader. I loved the wild ride a great book would take me on. Getting swept up in a grand adventure from the coziness of my bed was largely appealing. Whenever I wasn’t gaming or hanging out with my childhood best friend, my nose was most likely buried in a (scary) book. In 2019, after years — nay, DECADES — of not caring much for books, I got back into reading in a big way. I started off collecting all my favorite childhood books, as well as the ones I never read but had always wanted to. It was eerily similar to my SNES resurrection from 2006. History was indeed repeating itself. But then I started branching out from simple chapter books. I got into collecting pulpy horror paperbacks, sci-fi, and eventually the odd graphic novel here and there. Outside of a few comics back in the day, I never really delved into the comic medium. My wife used to joke, “Please don’t ever get into manga or comics.” Exactly one year ago, I somehow did. This article will highlight my descent into manga madness over the past 365 days. But first we have to start from the very beginning. Let’s see now… ahhhh, it all started when…
Although I loved illustrations growing up, I actually didn’t read much comics outside of Garfield as a kid. That and an old Chinese comic series by the name of Old Master Q. I didn’t know how to read the language, but my uncle was more than eager to turn those comics into story time. I fondly remember many Saturday nights in the late ’80s chilling in the backyard on a cool crisp night as my uncle would read the comics to my brother and me.
Old Master Q was created by Alfonso Wong (1925-2017) and is considered a legendary Chinese comic for its long running history. These simple comics often consisted of single page six panels, with limited text. A lot of it was pretty universal so that even a little kid who didn’t understand a lick of Chinese could enjoy. I’m not even sure if my uncle could read it; he might have just used his imagination to fill in the blanks. Regardless of his method, my brother and I ate it up. It was a wonderful way to spend a lazy Saturday night back in those good old days of late 1980s suburban life.
Old Master Q comics were sold at lots of random little places. We always bought them at a local Asian grocery store. I remember the ducks hanging in the window right as you walked by. Believe it or not, it still exists to this day — that picture was taken just last week and brought back a wave of nostalgic memories! I hadn’t been back to that plaza in at least 25 years.
Of course back then there were no translations. Apparently “scanlations” (as they call it) now exist. But as I said, the illustrations usually spoke for itself, so the language barrier did not matter as much. And with a crazy uncle dramatically filling in the blanks, it was almost better than movie night. Old Master Q was just really fun. I loved it whenever they featured supernatural elements. Some of those ghostly images are burned into my brain 35+ years later!
This is where one might think I fell in love with comics and became a lifelong fan. Actually, I mainly stuck to chapter books and somehow never got into the comic or manga scene. But Old Master Q definitely made me appreciate the comic medium, and I’m sure somewhere deep down it became a dormant love that would one day naturally sprout. And sprout it did…
Saturday, August 21, 2021. I just completed my first teaching week back at school for the first time since that fateful day of March 13, 2020 (coincidentally a Friday the 13th) when news broke that we would be shutting down (as did all schools across the country) due to the lethal wide spread of COVID-19. As luck would have it, my class had a case that first Thursday, so on Friday August 20th my class was shut down for the day. I had to do contact tracing with my principal. It was weird and a difficult time. The following day, my wife and I decided to get out of town for a little bit. We drove out an hour to grab some lunch and visit a board game store she had been meaning to check out. There was a Half Price Books nearby, so I dragged her along reluctantly. Normally I never bother to browse the manga section, but for whatever reason my feet led me there that day. It was a decision that proved to be a game changer, for better or for worse. There on the shelf I spotted a beautiful thick spine (I’m a sucker for such things, you see). It was omnibus volume 1 of Samurai Executioner by Kazuo Koike.
I quickly pulled it off the shelf to further inspect it. It was a 750+ page monstrosity. It looked so badass and immediately piqued my interest. It was like one of those “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!”moments. I marveled at all the amazing black and white illustrated panels. Other than Garfield, I had never read any comic books or manga in my entire life. For whatever reason, I just never dipped my toe into that ocean. It was as though comics and I were two ships passing in the night. Maybe now it was time to change that. Still, I remained hesitant. Mainly because it had a sticker price of $29.99. Even after my 10% teacher discount, that would be $30 for a book that originally retailed for $19.99.
I was at a loss for words. I had neverseen a book at Half Price Books priced as anything more than half the cover price. Hence the store name of Half Price! So this told me right off the bat that Samurai Executioner was a different kind of breed. I stood there holding the book for what felt like 20 minutes, talking myself into it and then out back and forth. In the end, I found myself placing the omnibus back on the shelf. I just couldn’t justify the $30 price tag. I couldn’t pull the trigger.
But I did pull the proverbial trigger on Infinite Kung Fu, which was an oversized graphic novel by Kagan McLeod. It was only $12 and that was a bullet I was more than willing to bite. I saw Infinite Kung Fu as sort of compensation for not buying Samurai Executioner.
Of course, over the next few days my decision not to buy it dominated my every waking moment. By Monday night I had decided I had made a mistake. To rectify that, I was going to drive the long two hour journey (both ways) to pick it up. Tuesday evening, August 24, 2021. After getting out of work late due to a staff meeting and getting my classroom in order for the following day, I arrived at Half Price Books a little after 7 PM. I eagerly ran to the manga section to pluck Samurai Executioner off the shelf. This time I would not blink. (It also turned out that $30 at that time was actually a decent price for it compared to the going rate online). But a pit in my stomach swelled as I glanced at the shelf and saw it was no longer there *insert dramatic gasp*
I looked up and down the shelves three times, going through the five stages of grief in my typical overly dramatic fashion. It was worse than a gut punch. It felt like I had been decapitated. (Sorry, as stated I tend to have a super dramatic mindset from time to time). In the end, I realized I was simply too late. I regretted not biting the bullet the previous Sunday. Should have known once I left the store that day that it wouldn’t still be there a few short days later. That’s just how these things go. I started to browse other aisles when I saw a guy (probably in his early 40s) carrying a basket. And in that basket — sure enough, because the manga gods have a cruel sense of humor — was that very $30 Samurai Executioner copy! And that’s when I went through the five stages of grief AGAIN for a second time all within 10 minutes. Adding insult to injury, now I knew on top of being too late that I was late by no more than probably 10 minutes! If ONLYI had gotten to the store EVEN JUST a measly 30 minutes earlier… UGH! I was really kicking myself then and there.
Things got bleak and almost took a dark turn. I got so desperate that the thought of tailing him around the store, hoping to see if he might remove the copy from his basket due to a change of heart, crossed my mind. In another scene, I envisioned myself snatching it from his basket once he put it down and got distracted browsing for more books to buy. That’s when I knew I had to go home. Just the thought of that made me feel disgusted with myself. I cannot and would never sink so low. I made the long hour drive back in defeat and disappointment.
It was a hard lesson learned: sometimes you just gotta pull the trigger because you might not get a second shot. At least in the wild. Thankfully, with the internet, unless a book is out of print and super rare, odds are you can buy almost anything your heart desires. Sometimes you need a little patience and a lot of money of course, but life is what you make of it. I eventually bought all four omnibus volumes of Samurai Executioner within the month and my little Half Price episode became a distant memory.
MY FIRST MANGA
Samurai Executioner wasn’t my first manga purchase, however. Back in 2019 when I was going on my crazy Sunday Goodwill runs with my girlfriend (now my wife), I came across The Gods Lie. At the time I didn’t care for manga whatsoever but it was in great condition and at $1.99 it was hard to pass up on. That and it looked like something I would enjoy reading one day if I ever made time for it.
On another Goodwill run, I ran across Triton of the Sea omnibus volume 1. There was a considerable blemish affecting the cover and the first few pages but the rest of it was unmarred. The back cover revealed that it was a Kickstarter project retailing for $19.99. At $1.99 it was a no-brainer buy, even though my interest in manga was very minimal. I picked it up with the idea that it would be fun to read one day and who knows, maybe I will get into manga at some point. And if not, it was only 2 bucks. The back cover also boasted that Triton was created by Osamu Tezuka, the legendary mangaka of Astro Boy. I heard of Astro Boy over the years and had some faint understanding that Tezuka was sort of the grandfather of manga. That’s good enough for my $2.
In a moment of sheer serendipity, after developing a passion for manga in August of 2021, about a month later I ran across a copy of Astro Boy omnibus 1. I did some Googling and found out that the entire series was published over 7 thick omnibus volumes from Dark Horse. I bought all 7 volumes in my first transaction off Mercari.
Osamu Tezuka created many classic manga series, such as Phoenix, Black Jack and the aforementioned Astro Boy. I’ve read a few of his works already; they truly are time machines to a bygone era. His work can feel a bit archaic at times, but they are also timeless in many ways. Ah, so many great manga waiting to be read and so little time!
THE THRILL OF THE HUNT
The internet can definitely be awesome. Over the past year I’ve gotten so many good deals on manga. Early on, particularly those first five months from August to December of 2021, endless packages were arriving nonstop. Things were getting crazy. I was brand new to the hobby and there was so much I wanted that it was easy to find something new I wanted. A slow day would consist of receiving three packages! I suddenly became very familiar with the mailman just like during my Sega Saturn and Super Nintendo days when I was buying them left and right. Few things are as satisfying as waiting on some big packages and seeing that FedEx truck pull up in your neighborhood. It’s a glorious sight, indeed. But buying online will never match the thrill of finding things for cheap in the wild. Whether it’s at Half Price Books, Goodwill or local used book stores, finding a (rare) manga series on the cheap can’t be beat! Here are just some of my more memorable finds…
Almost found a full set of Hana-Kimi at Goodwill for only $1.99 each! They were in amazing condition as well. I was a little disappointed it didn’t include volumes 1-3 but that very same day just mere hours later…
Love visiting Half Price because you never know what you might find in the manga section. Some series can be seriously scalped online for ridiculous prices, but Half Price usually sells them for half off. That’s how I was able to find many of the beautiful Shaman King singles for cheap.
I say usually because some Half Price locations can be shady and scalp their manga at ridiculous prices, sometimes even higher than what they go for online. I always chuckle when I see such crazy prices. It all depends on the manager and the person pricing the manga. Most are cool but some can be very greedy. As a general rule of thumb, be patient and don’t spend more than you’re willing. Most manga will eventually be available for a more reasonable price.
Definitely not rare by any means, but picked up Bakuman 11-20 for $4.50 each. I love that instant collection feeling when you find half (or more) of a series in one go.
There are currently 27 volumes of D. Gray-Man. Was so lucky to run into these for cheap. Like I said, there’s nothing like the thrill of the hunt. You never know what you might find any given time you enter a book store. And it’s all about being at the right place at the right time.
Occasionally I’ll run into a random series that I might not be interested in buying online, especially at some of those insane prices, but if I see it for cheap in the wild I’m more willing to give it a shot! See Kitchen Princess. Besides, you know I’m just a sucker for those thick spines and omnibus editions! As a fun aside, did you know that Squid Games was based off Kaiji: Gambling Apocalypse?
I’ll buy manga once in a while from Barnes and Noble as well. I love that educators get a 20% discount. Twice a year during teacher appreciation week we even get 25% off. Man, did I pick the right profession or what? Earlier this month I discovered a new series (actually an old series finally translated to English) by the name of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. It’s supposedly one of the most beloved manga series ever created, ranking in the top 50 currently on the website MyAnimeList. I cannot wait to delve into it!
I also shop on RightStufAnime, which is a famous website for manga lovers. They used to sell manga at a 25% discount rate with free shipping and no tax. Sadly, over the past year the site kept going downhill with some unfavorable changes. 25% discount got reduced to 20% and now tax is charged depending on the state you live in. Bummer. It hasn’t been the same since.
I have fond memories of hunting down all 18 volumes of Inuyasha the VizBig editions back in late 2021. The hardest to find volumes were numbers 8, 14 and 16. I drove 2 hours and 15 minutes to a Barnes and Noble to buy those 3 harder to find volumes right around Christmas time. It was well worth the drive.
On that same trip I picked up Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service omnibus volume 4. It was the last copy within a 250 mile radius and the first 3 omnibus volumes were already costing an arm and leg online. So I didn’t want to miss out on volume 4! Volume 5 is finally being released later this month on August 30, 2022, so it’s been a good while between releases. Once again, I’m a sucker for thick spines and omnibuses.
Barnes has these little blurbs on certain manga series. I always love reading them and admiring the love and passion the staff members put into making them. Dorohedoro is a series I can’t wait to jump into!
This was my best find so far. Mushishi volumes 8, 9 and 10 for under $15. This copy sells for north of $200. Like I said, you never know what you might find walking into a book store. And right place, right time. Timing is everything in life.
SOME COLLECTION PHOTOS
I don’t always display my manga by alphabetical order. Sometimes it’s based on fit. Ranma ½ is another classic that I’m excited to eventually read one day. Cross Game is slice-of-life and based around baseball, so I know I am going to love that. Heard a lot of good things about it!
Love when a series fits a shelf perfectly, as seen here with all 37 volumes of Magi. Found Magus of the Library for half off at Half Price and Made in Abyss for cheap online. I rarely pay retail for manga. Great deals are out there if one is willing to exercise a little patience! Heard a lot of praise for these 3 series. Definitely eager to jump into them one day…
This was my first manga shelf that I ever put up, so this one holds a lot of sentimental value for me. I love the way Barefoot Gen (what a beautiful little series that is) fits in perfectly with the first volume of 20th Century Boys (a fun and wild story)! I’ve since acquired Children of the Sea volume 4, however, and bought more volumes of Maison Ikkoku as they were released, so the shelf no longer looks like this. Love the sturdiness of most manga and how lovingly well crafted they are. The stories inside are usually pretty fantastic, too! The good ones have this incredible way of making me feel like a little kid on the inside all over again. Almost as if I’m hanging out in the backyard with Uncle Jimmy reading Old Master Q on a lazy Saturday night back in the late ’80s. A very satisfying hobby!
Getting into the manga scene over the past year has been super fulfilling and enjoyable. I can’t believe how I went from never really caring about it for most of my life to it now being my biggest hobby. It seems as though my young son is a fan in the making as well! The little guy is absolutely enthralled by all the illustrations and daddy’s voice reading the dialogue. Thanks for joining me on this very nostalgic trip down memory lane of my manga journey over the past 365 days. I acquired a ton over the past year, so for year number 2 I wish to spend more time reading instead of shopping. My wife certainly shares the same wish! But yeah, in a nutshell that’s been my descent into manga madness over the past year. Thanks a lot, Samurai Executioner! From should I buy it to… all this. What a rabbit hole ride it has been! Looking forward to reading all the amazing stories just waiting to be read and discovered
Apologies for the lack of updates — this is RVGFanatic’s first update in a little over 2 months. In late May, my wife gave birth to our first child! So as you can imagine, we’ve been pretty busy with Owen. It’s amazing to be a father after 38 years on this earth. We’re enjoying our time off work to take care of our little one. During my downtime, I’m still reading and visiting the odd book store here and there. Last week, at Half Price Books, I came across a set of comic books known as The Adventures of Tintin. Now I didn’t grow up reading comics much, and I knew of Tintin but never read one. However, I know they’re one of the most beloved and nostalgic comics for people the world over, especially for those who grew up outside the US, where this series was mega popular and adored.
Unfortunately, whoever sold this set to Half Price did not have the 8th and final volume. That one in particular is a lot harder to find, and much more expensive. But I was lucky enough to find this lovely compact hardcover set for such a great deal. One of my favorite reasons visiting a used book store is you never know when you might be at the right place at the right time. Sometimes you walk away with an amazing haul of treasured goodies!
According to the stickers, this set came in a week earlier. I almost walked out of the store and missed it too! But I decided to glance at the beginning of the graphic novel and comic section and lo and behold, there she was. Flipping through some of the pages, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of awe and nostalgia, even though, as stated previously, I had no childhood connection to these books really. It’s just something about the fantastic art style that harkens one back automatically to childhood and simpler times. A time in your life when your most pressing task was to make your bed and do your homework. This article is not a review of the series but rather an overview. I haven’t read any of the books yet, but I look forward to doing so in the years to come. And I can’t wait to read them to my son!
This particular hardback edition contains mostly 3 stories in 1, with the two exceptions being volumes 1 and 8. The first volume contains 2 stories while volume 8 contains 4 3.5 stories — the last 3 Tintin adventures number 21-23 and the 24th story which was never finished but released posthumously. The original paperback covers are shown to the side of each front cover.
The back of each book is simplistic with an overview of each title contained within each volume. Nothing fancy, but it works.
The Adventures of Tintin was first published in 1929 by the artist Hergé, whose real name was Georges Prosper Remi. He was born on May 22, 1907. That’s crazy because my son Owen was born exactly 115 years later! Hergé’s first story, Tintin in the Land of Soviets, was published in black and white.
My man is pretty far down the list of famous people born on May 22, so I had to do my part and give him an upvote.
His second story, Tintin in the Congo, carries a bit of controversy. The African natives were depicted in a way that can be offensive to some. It’s often stated that similar to other artists of long ago, he was portraying them in a way that was “according to the time period.” As a result of such outdated depictions, Tintin in the Congo is often excluded from his various collection box sets. This set, however, includes it.
Many people often agree that Hergé’s first two works are his weakest ones. The later entries supposedly get drastically better. Here’s a fun little scene between Tintin and one of the recurring allies, Captain Haddock. Thundering typhoons indeed! Love this page. Makes you just want to curl up under a warm blanket and lose yourself in Tintin’s madcap world for an hour or two.
The Adventures of Tintin involves a little bit of everything: action, humor, mystery and even the slightest hint of the supernatural. Tintin is an upstanding character that appeals to many kids and even (young) adults.
My son is gonna love this stuff. Wish I read it as a kid; I would have ate it up.
Hergé’s art never fails to impress. His style has long since been imitated (but never quite duplicated).
Tintin’s adventures take him all over the world. The various locales presented in each unique story ensure that readers will take delight in embarking on a special voyage to many magical lands.
There are a plethora of intriguing panels within each of the 23 stories. So many moments full of wonder, imagination, mystery, excitement and peril. It’s no wonder that these tales are cherished the world over.
Tintin is a young reporter who spans the globe thwarting bad guys and righting various wrongs the best he can. The stories sometimes even have a slight historical slant, which only adds to the overall package.
It can get a little creepy at times as well! By the way, is it just me or does that look a lot like Doug Funnie and Porkchop there? Hmm.
More stunning artwork from Hergé. It’s simple yet extremely striking. My man Tintin rocking the rickshaw like an absolute boss there, yes sir!
The mood and atmosphere that Hergé creates through his dialogue and art is truly terrific. Although I haven’t delved in entirely just yet, already it’s clear to see what a master he was at crafting mood and a sense of palpable danger just around the corner that drives both the story and reader forward.
More absolutely amazing art by the man, the myth and the legend. This stuff is simply phenomenal.
Tintin definitely wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He threw down when he had to!
Like watching a mini movie unfold before your very eyes.
I love his bigger panel shots because of the insane amount of intricate details found within them. This is such a great series for reluctant readers.
Throughout Tintin’s wild escapades we find some recurring villains who are wicked to the core. After all, what’s a great hero without some diabolical bad guys to thwart?
Explorers on the Moon, published in the early-mid 1950’s, saw Tintin roaming around on the moon — a decade and a half ahead of famous astronaut Neil Armstrong who would go on to accomplish that feat in 1969. Pretty dope.
Why am I suddenly getting strong Yuri Stranger Things Season 4 vibes here?
WATCH OUT FOR THE DEMOGORGON!!! Er… or the Abominable Snowman at least.
I could post more of his stellar artwork for days, but I think — pardon the poor pun — you get the picture by now. Hergé undoubtedly created an epic series that deserves to be seek out and read by anyone remotely intrigued by these shots. I can’t wait to dive in, myself!
The Adventures of Tintin has been translated in over 70 languages and has sold more than 230 million copies. Its legacy is no doubt one of the most beloved comics ever created. The stories are almost 100 years old, but countless readers remember them fondly and reread them to this very day. There is a timeless appeal to this series that I can’t wait to personally experience for myself. And in about 5 or 6 years from now, I’ll be ecstatic to introduce them to my son. I have a feeling Owen will love Tintin, his zany companions and his outrageous globe-trotting adventures. For those of you who have read this series — perhaps you even read them growing up — I would love to hear some of your personal memories and thoughts down below! I’m so thankful that I was lucky enough to run across these copies because I’m sure someone else would have snatched them up not long after. Now, if I can only find that elusive 8th and final volume for a decent price… “Thundering typhoons!” as the good captain might say
Browsing my local Barnes and Noble one random day this past November, I spotted a new graphic novel on the shelf that immediately caught my eye. From the simple title to the creepy art cover, I knew it was right up my alley. I got back into reading books in 2019, and only in the past year or so have become enthralled with the graphic novel medium. Man, if only these bad boys were around back in 1993 when I was 10 years old! Sure we had comic books but nothing like the high quality today’s graphic novels pack, in terms of color and page quality. But I digress. Speaking of 1993, that’s the year The Sleepover takes place, and Michael Regina was not shy about early-mid ’90s references. But unlike some other entities, he didn’t go overboard so it wasn’t super in your face, which I appreciate because some of these throwback nostalgic stories can be too much when it comes to that sort of fan service.
The story focuses on Matt Russo and his younger sister, Judy. For years their nanny, Ruby, has taken good care of them while their mom toils away at work. One day Ruby dies. The mom scrambles to find a new nanny. Miss Swan is sus to say the very least. Matt is stricken with emotional grief as he laments the loss of his nanny, whom he shared a close bond with. His friends come over for a sleepover in an effort to cheer him up and fuel his mind with horror movies and video games galore, while fueling his stomach with pizza and soda. Sounds like an epic sleepover from the ’90s eh? I know I sure had my share of those!
But of course, what good is a story if there’s no conflict? The boys’ plan to have the perfect sleepover is soon thwarted when they come face to face with a local urban legend that is beyond anything they have ever encountered before…
I really like the art. It’s clean, simple and pleasant to look at. The Sleepover opens up with Matt and his 3 friends watching The X-Files. The first episode aired on September 10, 1993, which is perfect since this story takes place in the fall of ’93. I remember reading this first page at Barnes and Noble and thinking, “Oh yeah, this is an instant buy.” Thank God for their 20% off teacher discount!
Matt and Judy’s nanny, Ruby, is introduced early on, and throughout the story we get occasional flashbacks to see through Matt’s eyes why Ruby means so much to him and his family. It’s a wild and crazy stormy night, making it perfect for a ghost story to be told…
One of Matt’s friends regales the group with a local urban legend of a horrible witch that lives in the woods nearby. Judy, being a lot younger, seeks Ruby’s reassurance. You can tell that Matt’s got the heebie-jeebies!
You keep saying that, four eyes. You keep saying that.
Every group in the ’90s had a kid like this. The one always sprouting off about ghouls and ghosts, trying to convince everyone else that something sinister is afoot…
Hell, maybe YOU were that kid. Hmm, maybe Iwas in mine…
I love the full page chapter breaks! There is something so simple yet alluring about a classic nice little house set clearly somewhere in the suburbs. Probably because that’s where I grew up and had all of my childhood memories. Whether it was my house or one of my friends’ giant two story homes, they were always the backdrop of a fun Saturday night staying up late watching scary movies and playing SNES games until the cows came home.
Sadly, Ruby the nanny passes away. The Russos attend her funeral, but life marches on. As soon as they get back home, the mom has to go back to work and she needs to find a new nanny pronto. No rest for the weary, eh?
The help wanted ad dubiously finds it way into the woods. No harm no foul though, right? Sure.
Ah, it plays out like a classic scene from a thriller or horror movie. The bad guy (or gal) is introduced with an ominous back of the head shot. To make matters worse, the parent has already met them and is none the wiser! Looks like the poor kids will have to fend for themselves…
Whoa, major creep vibes! Ms. Russo approved of this nutjob?! Talk about not winning the Mother of the Year award.
Cheese and rice, man. Miss Swan is so unsettling.
I love how all those parents approved of their kid to have a sleepover with a random new nanny that they haven’t met yet. But I suppose they trust Ms. Russo’s judgment. Ha! Little do they know.
Scary movies and a sleepover. As timeless a combination as any other imaginable 1-2 combo.
The ’90s stylized S in “Best Sleepover” popped me. Hard. My wife teases me that I used to write my name Steve with that S back in the ’90s. Hey, we really thought it was cool back then! Major props to Regina for that subtle nostalgic callback.
What else made for an epic sleepover back in the ’90s? Why, chugging, of course.
Ah, the prank call. When you were 10, and with your friends, these unethical acts were undoubtedly a crowd pleaser. I can still hear the stifled laughter to this day.
Whether it was Halloween, Friday the 13th, Child’s Play or even Leprechaun, horror movies were a staple of my childhood sleepovers. I like how Regina threw in Vampire Hunter D. I’ll never forget the first anime my old best friend Nelson and I ever watched: Devil Hunter. The unexpected (and excessive) nudity, to my 10 year old eyes back then, was wild.
But the definite MVP of my childhood sleepovers: video games. Just being in a room with 3 (or 10) friends all cheering and yelling, playing late into the early mornings… those were some badass times. Love the nods to Mortal Kombat here.
Last (and possibly least), the random talks we had about girls and crushes. These were always fun 10 minute breaks but I always wanted to get back to my slasher movies and 16-bit video games!
Miss Swan’s evil eyes jump off the page with a very otherworldly glow…
Have I mentioned how much I love the simple effectiveness of these full page chapter breaks?
We come to find out more about the witch’s backstory in a flashback and some exposition.
Love this scene! Plays like how it would in a horror movie. Very cinematic.
Miss Swan’s true form is creepy and demonic. She would be a badass horror movie villain.
Gotta appreciate the Super Soaker shoutout! If you grew up in the early-mid ’90s, you know all about that Super Soaker life!
MORE SHOUT OUTS
So I won’t reveal more of the story — you’ll have to read the rest to find out what happens. But I can’t resist sharing this callback. Gamers from the ’90s will know those infamous four words:“RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE!”
I remember seeing Altered Beast for the first time circa 1989 at my friend’s house. Tommy and Denny were those two brothers who always got the coolest and latest games first in your gaming group. I was blown away by the graphics and sound.
“POWER UP!” Two of the most iconic words in gaming history.
Michael Regina did an excellent job capturing what being a 10 year old boy in 1993 was like. Absolutely nailed it.
In a YouTube video he posted, Michael Regina shares some background info on his graphic novel, The Sleepover. It’s an interesting watch for anyone intrigued by the book.
Regina based a lot of his graphic novel off his very own childhood. They grew up with a nanny also named Ruby who took care of him growing up. Ruby was a huge part of the family.
The Sleepover is dedicated to Ruby. Pretty cool how much of his own childhood experiences were incorporated in the book.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
The Sleepover has garnered some high praise, and deservedly so!
Looking for a spooky middle grade graphic novel? Look no further. The premise is simple and straight forward. A group of 10 year old boys face off with a witch demon in an American suburb. They’ll need to rely on their wits, and each other, to survive the night(mare). Michael Regina knocked it out of the park with this one! While a little basic (don’t expect any crazy twists or plot development), it’s just a fun ride from beginning to end, with some genuinely creepy moments sprinkled here and there. If The Sleepover came out when I was 10, I probably would have read it 50 times. I could easily see this being adapted into a NetFlix movie one day. It’s got that sweet early-mid ’90s vibe going for it, as well as being rather Stranger Things-esque. Hard to go wrong with this sucker. I’ll never look at a raven the same way ever again.
When I got back into reading in 2019, I didn’t care at all about graphic novels or comic books. It just wasn’t a medium that interested me. The few graphic novels I did pick up here and there were all in full color, such as Jeff Smith’s Bone series. I had zero interest in black and white comics. Since then, however, I have developed a deep appreciation for black and white comics. There’s something about them that can be very stark and striking, in a way that full color would actually detract from. I recently discovered Basewood, a giant comic book that measures in at a whopping 9×12. I got a free copy last week and devoured it in one sitting!
ALL YOUR BASEWOOD ARE BELONG TO US
I love the full 9×12 pages devoted to each chapter. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous. One of those imaginative worlds you can’t help but dive into and want to stay for a spell or two.
The story revolves around Ben, a man who finds himself mysteriously in the land of Basewood. He has no clue how he got there, and he seems to be the only one inhabiting the land. Having lost memory due to a severe head injury, Ben sets out to fit the pieces of the puzzle together.
It isn’t long before he finds a furry friend. The late evening and heavy downpour creates a very atmospheric opening.
Alec Longstreth’s drawings are simple but detailed and beautiful. It’s a shame he didn’t publish more comics.
This panel gives the reader an idea of just how big Basewood really is, and how daunting it would be to navigate one’s way out. Good luck with that, Ben!
Although Ben can’t remember how he ended up in this isolated place, he hasn’t forgotten his boy scout skills. Unfortunately for him, the fire attracts the local wild life…
It’s a terrible, ravenous wolf dragon!
I love Alec’s decision to add in a little fantasy element. This fantastical antagonist adds a lot of tension and extra depth to the story. Not only is the journey over the cliffs long and arduous, but the wolf dragon is a constant major threat lurking in the background.
We’re soon introduced to the lovable Argus, a hermit who lives deep in the woods with his trusty mutt. He’s a wise old man who knows the land like the back of his hand. He also gives our protagonist someone to converse with to move the story along.
I just love how grizzled and haggard Alec made Argus out to be. If you look closely, his right hand seems to be skeletal. A neat little touch to show that Argus has been through some real shit…
As it turns out, Argus has seen some shit all right as he has history with the terrible beast. He also possesses a heart of gold, gladly offering shelter and companionship to Ben.
Another amazing full page chapter shot. Love it!
Basewood is the kind of comic book that begs to be marveled at. At times I found myself staring at the panels in awe for an extra moment or two. The amount of tiny details that Alec put into it is mind-blowing! I love Argus’ badass treehouse
It’s no luxurious 5 star hotel but beggars can’t be choosers. Actually, Argus didn’t do too bad for himself.
Cue the classic flashback expositional scene. One can almost feel the cozy heat of the fire rising out of the panel and seeping into your bones.
Basewood features a few flashback scenes to add depth to each character. This is Argus’ backstory and origin story, if you will.
There is almost a nostalgic quality to Alec’s art. Very cool and pleasing.
You get a strong sense of the small, tight-knit community that Argus and his wife grew up in. A place where no one bothers to lock their doors and lends a helping hand to one and all.
Argus and Violet soon have a baby boy, and all is well.
But naturally, in most stories peace never lasts for long…
You can feel Violet’s terror bleeding off the page. How utterly frightening and hopeless she must have felt
Basewood is shockingly more gruesome and disturbing than I ever thought it could or would be. But that only serves to intensify the story as well as build up empathy for our main characters.
I love how not all the pages are uniform in terms of how the panels are arranged. Some of them feature wild back to back shots, like this striking one here. It really amplifies the intensity of the moment and is an absolute marvel to gawk at!
I’m not going to reveal further details of Basewood. I would hate to spoil the rest of the story for anyone, as it’s one of those books that you really should go in blind and enjoy. When I first saw this book, I was hoping it would be something of a hidden gem. I didn’t realize how truly brilliant it would turn out to be!
I relished every single second I spent in the world of Basewood. The art is phenomenal, I love the variety of the panels and the story is so good. It’s a simple story filled with tropes. But you care so much for the characters and the artwork is so stunning that you overlook this. Not every story needs to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a really well told story, even if the framework of it is something you might have seen or read a hundred times before. Basewood is an immersive world full of heart, love, courage, sacrifice, danger and friendship. There isn’t a whole lot of text and the 216 pages can probably be read in around an hour or so, but the time will be well spent. If you have any interest in comic books at all, or if these picture intrigued you in the least, I cannot recommend Basewood highly enough. The ending does feel a little rushed but again, I’m willing to look past that. The journey is so damn fascinating and a wild roller coaster ride, even if Alec didn’t completely stick the landing. At the end of the day, it’s all about how a book makes me feel. And Basewood left an indelible mark on me. It’s one I’m excited to reread over and over in the years to come.
Since getting back into reading 3 years ago (2019 feels like AGES ago), I’ve been to my fair share of book stores in the surrounding 150 miles or so of my home. I’ve unearthed some amazing gems, ran into nostalgic childhood favorites and discovered some bizarre oddities and fascinating obscurities. Rather than wait to read the whole book and then do a review, I’ve been long meaning to share my random finds in a series of shorter articles entitled IT CAME FROM THE BOOK STORE. I always loved that cheesy old line “It came from so and so,” so I can’t think of a better title for this new series than that! I have thousands of titles to select from, but for my first entry into this brand new series I have to highlight the amazing find I made this past October of 2021. Come with me as I take you back to that fateful day…
PAPERBACKS FROM HELL
In October of 2018, I began dating the woman that would eventually become my wife. We lived 2 hours apart. We alternated weekends driving to each other’s place. Her town had way better book stores than where I live, and that’s how I got back into reading. Fast forward 3 years. October 2021. I visited the Half Price Books in that town and could not believe my eyes when I made my way to their horror section. It was jammed to the gills, packed to the rafters with paperbacks from Hell galore! Someone had apparently unloaded their ENTIRE horror book collection, as upon further examination most of the books had the same old book store stamps from a bygone era. Whoever sold these books to Half Price must have had them stored in the attic or something for the past 30+ years!
Here’s The Midnight Hour by Donald Bacon. Didn’t buy this one because the plot didn’t appeal to me, nor did the many negative reviews. BUT… that gawd damn glorious cover, with the die cut and everything… it’s an all-time classic in terms of horror paperback covers!
Richard Laymon is one of my favorite horror writers to have ever lived. Always a blast to run across one of his cooler covers that does not belong to the lame generic Leisure lineup. Here’s Funland, one of his many kooky and crazy horror stories set in a dilapidated rundown amusement park in some podunk beach town.
Fun fact: Funland was my first 500+ page read of my life. The first of many. Thanks for the memories, Uncle Dicky, and rest in power my man!
J.N. Williamson was another prolific horror writer of the 1980s. I have yet to read any of his work, and word is they’re quite trashy and typically of a lower quality, but it’s hard to talk about “Paperbacks From Hell” without at least giving him a blurb. Just look at those covers. You won’t see anything like that in today’s new horror books. The covers of these old nasties always felt like you were looking at something you shouldn’t be looking at. Very akin to gawking at horror VHS boxes back in the ’80s and early ’90s!
And much like cool horror movie boxes, a lot of the times the actual content failed massively to live up to the cover’s awesomeness. Still, there’s no denying that there’s a certain charm behind it all that is now nearly non-existent in today’s world. You might even say… such old relics are Dead to the World…
Speaking of horror writers from the ’80s, another big one was William W. Johnstone. I haven’t read one of his books yet but I hear this guy is batshit crazy! His books are very lewd and offensive. And I found a good bunch of them, including his infamous DEVIL series, that fateful day at Half Price.
One of the cool things about Half Price is that most of their used books are marked half off. Some aren’t, but these books were still a steal at these prices because the old horror paperbacks can command a pretty penny on the open market. Another nice thing is that Half Price shows the date books were processed into the store’s inventory. I was lucky to visit this location not long after they JUST put these vintage babies on the shelf. The more popular items fly off the shelf fast, so a lot of it comes down to being at the right place at the right time! And on that fateful day, I definitely was.
I’m super ecstatic to kick off this brand new IT CAME FROM THE BOOK STORE series with this amazing haul. Some days I go book shopping and come away empty handed. Other days I find a few goodies. But legendary finds like this only come around once in a blue moon! I walked away with so many infamous and beloved horror paperbacks from the ’80s. I’m sure there’s a fair share of stinkers in here, but I got most of them for $3 or so, and it’s hard to beat that! And what a joy to finally write something under 1,000 words and took me less than an hour to produce! You know, I think I’m going to like this series a whole lot. I hope you will, too. Until next time, take good care!
It’s often been argued whether or not Die Hard is truly a Christmas movie. It’s been debated and bandied about almost as much as “is a hot dog a sandwich?” If you wanna know my personal opinion, yes to the former and no to the latter. Die Hard is one of the most badass and coolest movies to ever come around. For me, it’s right up there with The Terminator, Predator, Aliens and Back to the Future in terms of epic movies from the 1980s. So when I found out that Die Hard originated as a novel under the title of Nothing Lasts Forever, I had to get my hands on a copy pronto. Of course, you gotta go with the classic movie tie-in edition. I knew it would be next to impossible for the novel to be as awesome as the movie, so the question for me going into reading it was moreso along the lines of “is it in any way, shape or form a decent companion to the movie?” With that in mind, let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane…
Die Hard roared into theaters on July 15, 1988. The film followed the exploits of John McClane, a one man wrecking crew, as he fights to save his separated wife and countless hostages from the vile clutches of some East German terrorists. Taking place over the course of one wild night (Christmas Eve) and one highly memorable set piece (the fictional Nakatomi Plaza), Die Hard was an action movie for the ages. It launched Bruce Willis into superstardom and had one critic call it “a perfect action movie in every detail, the kind of movie that makes your summer memorable.”
Die Hard was filmed at Fox Plaza in Los Angeles and completed in 1987. Fox Plaza is 35 stories tall (493 feet) and served as the film’s memorable backdrop. Made on a budget of 28 million, Die Hard went on to gross that number five times over for a whopping 128.1 million. It’s crazy to think that the film is close to celebrating its 35th anniversary.
The film worked on so many levels. One of the biggest reasons was the pinpoint portrayal of villainous mastermind, Hans Gruber (one of the best movie villains of all time, up there with the likes of Darth Vader and Michael Myers). Played by Alan Rickman, Gruber’s accent and wicked ways were masterfully memorable.
GET TOGETHER, HAVE A FEW LAUGHS
The first thing readers will discover, sadly, is that there is no John McClane in this book. Well, there is, but NOT John McClane, if that makes sense. McClane actually goes by Joseph Leland in this book. Not quite the badass name but I digress.
Another difference is Leland and the flight attendant develop a relationship whereas in the movie he remains committed to reconciling with his partner.
I love this description of Los Angeles. It simultaneously captures L.A.’s grime and beauty. “Dirty yellow soup lying heavily in the valleys” is an exceptional line. “At night he felt something eerie in the way the palm trees were silhouetted against the baleful yellow sky” really brings to mind L.A. at night time. It’s too bad then Thorp didn’t have more of these gems as his writing in this book, at times, is a tad clunky.
Stop it, he’s dead. My God. What a scathing diatribe. You can’t help but feel bad for Joe. It’s realistic too, as it’s often been said how being involved in law enforcement is often times difficult on relationships. Sometimes it’s just too hard for the other partner…
Another big difference between the film and the book is the age. McClane is in his 30s whereas Leland is significantly older. That might explain why Frank Sinatr, in his ’70s at that point, originally received the role. And for a book written in 1979, surprisingly there are a few parts that have aged like fine wine. Leland’s perspective on technology and consumerism, for example, is harrowing and quite accurate even when viewed from today’s landscape, well over 40 years later. What that says about society I will leave that up to you to ponder…
I’m glad the part about walking around barefoot was faithfully translated to the big screen. Hollywood definitely didn’t alter that one. It’s such a small moment, but it’s one in which I instantly associate Die Hard with.
The 9:11 part made me feel some kind of way
Whether you call him Leland or McClane, he’s still a badass mutha.
Leland tearing this guy a new ass hole is my favorite part of the book. You can just feel the intensity and machismo dripping off the pages.
Just like McClane, Leland does have a bit of a sense of humor. Of course, Bruce Willis took it to the next level. It was good to read the interplay between Leland and Sergeant Powell (AKA Carl Winslow from Family Matters).
As stated earlier, some of Thorp’s writing is a bit clunky. Take for example the passage above. I know this was written in 1979 but that’s just poor writing in ANY era. My reaction to reading the flight attendant’s comments matched exactly that of the reporter at the end there. “Uh, thank you?”
I came into reading Die Hard with tempered expectations. Rather than being a movie novelization, I knew it was written nearly a decade before Die Hard launched in theaters. Therefore, I knew I would have to adjust to McClane, er, Leland, not being as brilliant as Bruce Willis. Turns out the same should be said for Hans Gruber. He plays a much smaller role in the novel. In the movie however, Alan Rickman really elevated the Gruber character to legendary villain status. Die Hard is definitely a shining example of the movie being a thousand times better than the novel it was based upon. That’s not to say that it was a bad read. It was just OK. I liked it enough for the good parts. And there are some extremely violent descriptions about how Leland takes out the terrorists (some of whom are female by the way). But some parts were way too dull and/or written poorly. At certain points, part of me just wanted to throw the movie on and throw the book out. But I persisted to the end. It was a very uneven reading experience. Some good parts mixed in with some bad ones. Now I hesitate to read the two sequels, but I digress. A belated merry Christmas and happy new year! Let’s hope 2022 will be good to us all.
Ah, the mid ’90s. Goosebumps was king — just ask any kid on the playground back then. Pretty soon you had clones appearing left and right. Whether it was J.R. Black’s Shadow Zone or Tom B. Stone’s Graveyard School series, everyone wanted a piece of the pie. Although I enjoyed those series, I always had a thing for Betsy Haynes’ Bone Chillers. I found them to be well written and fun. The first one I ever read was #4 in the series: Frankenturkey. Now, with a cheesy name like that, akin to something you might find on a trashy horror VHS box back in the ’80s, how can you not instantly be intrigued? Seeing as how I am writing this just after midnight on Thanksgiving morning, there’s no better time than now to revisit this relic.
Kyle and Annie Duggan are uprooted from Florida as their family relocates to Massachusetts. Kyle had it made in Florida. He resented the move but what could he do? As was often times the case with these middle grade horror books, it begins with the main character relocating to a new town. And that’s when trouble stirs…
WHO’S THE COPYCATBIRD NOW?
Even without the internet (readily available) back in 1994, we all knew that Bone Chillers was yet another in a long line of Goosebumps knockoffs. Now that doesn’t automatically mean it’s not any good — Bone Chillers was actually quite a fun series — but there’s no denying where the inspiration came from. However, as that old saying goes, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” R.L. Stine might have drawn some inspiration from Frankenturkey when Chicken Chicken was published in March of 1997. But whereas Frankenturkey is one of the highlights of the Bone Chillers series, Chicken Chicken is, quite frankly, chicken shit. Easily one of the bottom 10 Goosebumps stories. Go figure. But I digress.
Not only did the Duggans move to a new house, but it’s a farmhouse. Already we’ve established a good setting with lots of creepy potential. By the way, I’ve always been a big fan of the font that this series used.
Back in the ’90s, many parents in middle grade fiction were written to be a bit dopey, especially for middle grade horror. And Mr. and Mrs. Duggan are the epitome of such. Not only do they want their kids to raise a turkey (fattening it up before killing and eating it for Thanksgiving dinner), but they want the turkey to be the star in their school play, which Mrs. Duggan directs. And they genuinely believe all this to be good ideas. Oh dear…
Annie was a cute little sister. Her line of “You mean he’s from Florida?” after Kyle says “Maybe he’s like us” gave me a good grin. Spoken just like a kid! I also like how Kyle made a connection with the turkey he wanted to purchase. It shows the reader that he’s compassionate and empathetic.
The line to end this particular chapter actually gave me a bit of the willies. “The little turkey was pressed against the chicken wire, and he was staring longingly back at Kyle.” Not bad, Ms. Betsy Haynes. Not bad at all. You know at some point the turkey is going to go bonkers. It’s just a matter of when and how…
Jeez, Mr. Duggan. Lay off the theatrics a bit, will ya? But it does make for some good visual scenes!
We didn’t read middle grade horror back in the mid ’90s for their expertly crafted prose, but DAMN if every once in a while there wasn’t a solid gem produced here and there. The above paragraph is one example of such. I can picture it super vividly and there’s something satisfying about the way it was worded.
The last line there is so impactful! You can’t help but like Kyle and feel for him as he’s caught in quite the pickle.
What a perfectly dramatic way to conclude this chapter and introduce the terror that is… FRANKENTURKEY!So we come to find out, the kids grow so attached to their turkey that they decided to fashion a crude bogus replacement, using a frozen whole turkey purchased from their local grocery store, some coat wires and Kyle’s Halloween mask from last month. Lightning strikes the abomination and the rest is history. What befalls the poor Duggans next you’ll just have to read to find out!
Apparently, it was so popular that it received a sequel the following year. And of the 23 Bone Chillers books, Frankenturkey was the only entry to receive a sequel. We’ll have to examine part II next Thanksgiving, won’t we?
Bone Chillers has a special place in my heart. It was just so incredibly ’90s. The embossed cover, the alternating color schemes used from month to month, and that sinister entity tearing up the page of each cover to reveal the monster of the month — all gloriously embossed in classic ’90s fashion. I haven’t read as many of the 23 entries as I’d like, but so far Frankenturkey definitely ranks right up there as one of my BC favorites. The book has held up pretty well. Sure it’s cheesy as all hell and there are tropes a-plenty, but this is comfort food 101. Reading it brings me back to a simpler time when life was all about hanging out with your best bud playing video games and reading the latest monthly monster mashup. Those were some damn good times. And this is one fun relic I will definitely be passing on to my future kid!
After being delayed a year due to COVID-19, Halloween Kills finally dropped on October 15, 2021 (a month ago today). I was so hyped and ready for it. I happened to have the week off work too, so Friday morning at 12 midnight I plopped on the couch and turned on the Peacock to stream the movie. What started out as a massive smile slowly turned into a feeling of meh as I saw obnoxious plot holes and tropes one after another. I don’t think it’s a bad sequel, but it was disappointing. For all the cool scenes they had, the rest of the movie was muddled by terrible character choices and unrealistic behavior. I even forgot about the movie novelization. But when I finally remembered it a couple weeks ago, I bought a copy and ended up finishing it in 2 days. It was an immensely satisfying experience, something I wish I could say about the film.
I loved the first 30 or so minutes of the movie. The flashback scenes were amazing! They replicated the look and feel of the 1978 original so well in those scenes. Even the replica mask was spot on! Everything was clicking but it soon went downhill pretty fast. While Halloween 2018 was far from perfect, I like the tone and style they set in that one. Halloween Kills was a mess of a movie. The novelization is based off the script, but author Tim Waggoner filled in some blanks with his own research and imagination. Those added details made a big difference for me in terms of enjoying the product. On a final note, I wish I could have gone to the midnight showing at my local theater. But COVID and my wife is currently pregnant. She also had work the next day so there was zero chance of that happening. Thus, I settled for the couch. It kind of blows my mind when I think about major movies like this and Godzilla vs. Kong streaming from the comfort of your living room. I do miss the communal theater experience, but I don’t miss the annoying teenagers! It’s a tradeoff, I suppose. I was just happy to be able to watch the movie! I only wish that it were better
There were 3 copies at my Barnes and Noble. I wanted the best condition copy, but they all looked like that. It took me a second to realize that this cosmetic imperfection was purposefully done, most likely to evoke a sense of nostalgia from reading horror paperbacks in the ’80s and early ’90s. Those novels had a tendency to get roughed up a bit. An interesting choice by Titan Books, indeed.
Similar to the original Halloween II (1981, not Rob Zombie’s crappy 2009 movie by the same title), Halloween Kills immediately picks up where the previous movie ended. Of course, Michael escapes the burning fire and is now stalking the dark alleys and windswept streets of…
Remember Allyson’s asshole boyfriend Cameron from the 2018 movie? It opens with him wandering through the town. I like that his character had a slight bit of a redemption arc in the sequel. Not much, but enough to make you kind of like him a bit, whereas in the previous movie he was just a total dick.
In the 2018 movie, Officer Frank Hawkins was pretty much killed. They retconned this so that he could play a role in this sequel and the following movie yet to come, Halloween Ends. They even fleshed out Hawkins’ character, giving him a pivotal role on that fateful night where Michael Myers terrorized Haddonfield 40 years ago.
Oh God, I almost fell over when I first saw this 1978 flashback. They captured the look perfectly! Never before have we seen a flawless replica of the 1978 mask. This scene gave me goosebumps, and totally put me in the Halloween mood!
Tim Waggoner is a pretty talented writer, as you can see here. Instead of phoning it in and relying on the brand name (which practically sells itself), Waggoner flexed some writing chops. The way he wrote Michael sent some chills up and down my spine. He made Michael creepy again. Just read the caption below!
See, stuff like this you just can’t get from a movie. It’s this narration that fills in the gaps… or the cracks, if you will. Waggoner takes you inside the minds and souls of these hapless Haddonfield denizens. I really like the way he described the crooked and twisted tree branches here. Very effective at stirring that autumnal feeling!
Love the callback here of Lonnie running like hell just like when he did after hearing Dr. Loomis shoo him away from the Myers place. And you gotta love the robotic shark-like mentality with which Waggoner depicts Michael Myers. He is an apex pred — [SNIP! STFU Tommy Doyle -Ed]
Everything about that small scene was perfect. It captured Haddonfield on Halloween night to a tee. I loved the way the actor said “The Boogeyman.” And how he quickly turned around and ran away as one of the Halloween themes kicked in. I remember feeling the flesh rise a little and thinking, “AW HELL YEAH, THIS FEELS LIKE HALLOWEEN ALL RIGHT!” That feeling did not last very long…
At first I thought this was CGI Loomis. Come to find out one of their very own crew members, Tom Jones Jr., bears a slight resemblance to the late Donald Pleasance. Makeup was added to complete the transformation. Talk about a stroke of luck! The voice needed a little work but as far as body doubles go, it was a major coup.
Of course we find out in the movie that Hawkins accidentally shot his own partner in the throat while aiming for Michael. So they totally retconned the original ending where Loomis shot Michael 6 7 times before he fell off the balcony. This was the first moment to make me raise an eyebrow…
Smoking Lady = Nurse Marion Chambers, played by Nancy Stephens.
Champagne Man = Lonnie Elam, played by Robert Longstreet.
And of course, the two kids Laurie Strode babysat way back 40 years ago during the original 1978 Boogeyman attacks, Lindsey Wallace (played by Kyle Richards) and Tommy Doyle (played by Anthony Michael Hall).
I really enjoyed how the novelization breathes more light on the characters. Even the minor characters, like the doctor and nurse couple, are given a smidge more acknowledgment and background detail.
I know many fans didn’t like this scene because the movie yet again dumps even more exposition at our feet that we already know and have heard during the first 10 minutes of the movie. But I actually liked it a lot. And although I’m not a fan of how Tommy Doyle was portrayed in this film (I really wish Paul Rudd could have reprised the Tommy role since he played Tommy in 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers), I did relish the way in which he described the babysitter murders from that fateful Halloween night 40 years ago. My favorite line being “They had sightings of a ghostly figure creeping through the town.” Ooh!
A gay couple who moved into the Myers home, Big John and Little John are about to have the Halloween of a lifetime…
If you took a shot for every time you hear “EVIL DIES TONIGHT!” while watching Halloween Kills, the movie title will prove apt. They really overdid it with that one.
In the movie if you don’t blink you may catch a bench advertising Big John and Little John as realtors. It’s kind of neat how the real Michael Myers house is currently a real estate office and that the couple who lives in the Myers house are realtors themselves. Good one there, guys.
Like I said earlier, I dig how this book digs deeper into the character whether major or minor. The movie never once hints that Lonnie Elam wrote a book about the Boogeyman and his experiences surrounding Haddonfield’s most notorious mad man. Here we also see that Laurie has dreams of becoming a teacher, which she actually was in Halloween: H20. I love when these connections are made. Fan service? Maybe so, but all the merrier.
Even though Halloween Kills was a bit disappointing to me, I was excited to read the novelization to see where they might have filled in the gaps. I’m happy to say that Tim Waggoner did a tremendous job. It’s funny how much I enjoyed the novel (I blew through it over the course of 2 days and it had a one more chapter sort of feel to it) in comparison to how disappointing I found the film to be. Maybe it was those little background details that helped me to connect better with the characters and the story. Oh and the ending in the book is the original ending that they should have shown in theaters. I get why the director chose to go in a different direction, but the book ends in a fist pump sort of way that makes you say “Alright, bring on the next one now, please!” Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait about 11 more months until then. Hopefully they’ll get it right in the final film of the trilogy. Regardless of what happens, I look forward to both the movie and the novelization. Counting on Halloween Ends to feature less tropes and less dumb character choices. One can only hope. In the meantime, check out this book if you get a chance. I think it does Halloween fans proud.
It’s now November but it’s never too late (or early) to talk about my favorite horror movie franchise of all time, Halloween. Back in 2019, I had the honor of interviewing John Passarella, the author who wrote the official movie novelization for Halloween (2018). And with Halloween Kills debuting earlier last month, I figure now would be a good time to examine the movie novelizations for both films, starting with the 2018 version.
Halloween 2018 was a landmark film for horror fans. Not only did it mark the return of the Boogeyman (and not that crap Rob Zombie version we saw in 2009’s Halloween II), but it also brought back Jamie Lee Curtis to the franchise, reprising her role as beloved final girl, Laurie Strode. I was so ready for this film. I even attended the 40th anniversary convention in October of 2018 in South Pasadena, where the original 1978 movie was filmed. I also hold extra special nostalgia because the movie was my second date with the woman I eventually married. And as it was the case 30 years ago in 1988 for Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers, the grand occasion called for a novelization. John Passarella was bestowed with the honor.
By the way, some of you may recall that I originally posted my interview with John Passarella at the end of my Halloween Books review. However, that article was so long that I’ve been meaning to break it up. Just like WrestleMania being split up over 2 nights. It also allows me to shamelessly segue into my Halloween Kills novelization review, but I digress. Let’s jump right into it. Enjoy the Q&A!
When were you first exposed to Halloween (1978), and what were your thoughts?
JP: I don’t recall the first time I watched it, but it wasn’t in the theater. My guess is that I first saw it at home, probably a video rental. My mother was a big fan of horror movies at the time, while I was more of a science fiction/fantasy fan. She always had horror movies on the TV while I spent most of my free time reading. When I first saw it, I thought it was stark and effective, with a understated supernatural quality to it, while other “slasher” movies that followed seemed more interested in violence/gore for its own sake. Even then it felt unique.
Top 5 favorite Halloween films?
JP: I am so bad at picking favorite things, let alone ranking them. The original stands alone at the top. I enjoyed H20 when it first came out. For the Halloween (2018) novelization, since I was pressed for time (less than 2 months to write it) and was told that the movie would ignore all the sequels, I didn’t take any time to re-watch any of those films. My wife watches the original movie every Halloween season, so I watched that again this year, but I definitely need to reacquaint myself with all the sequels.
How did you get involved in the process of penning Halloween? Did you have to make some sort of pitch or did Titan Books reach out to you?
JP: Titan Books approached me. Probably the best early email I’ve ever received! I had done several original Supernatural tie-in novels for them, plus an original Grimm novelization. And I had worked with several editors there. The editor for the Halloween novelization thought it would be a perfect fit for me.
How long did it take for you to write the book? When did you first start drafting it? How many copies have been sold as of November 2019?
JP: I’d have to check my first contact emails, but I think it was either late March or early April of 2018. After I agreed to write the novelization and the studio approved me, I had to wait for the script to get started. I think that came in the first week of April. The novel was due by the end of May, so it was a compressed time frame. I received access to the daily film photo archive after I had already started writing the first draft. I had to backtrack and rewrite some scenes after I saw the photos of those sets/scenes. They reshot the ending and added some other scenes, mostly flashbacks and some of those still didn’t make it into the final film, but I was fortunate in that I hadn’t gotten to the ending before it was changed. I only had to write the ending once. As far as sales, I have no idea how well it did overall. It has gone into a second edition. For these work-for-hire projects, writers don’t get royalties, so we don’t get royalty statements which would show sales to-date.
How did you feel watching the movie for the first time? Was it surreal to see your (novelization) words (more or less) being played out in front of your eyes in a capacity-filled theater?
JP: Surreal is a good word for it. I did not see the film until the premiere. At the time, I had three versions of the story bouncing around in my head. The script and revision, my novelization, and then what actually made it into the final film. There were things that were in the script, but didn’t make it into the film. Other things, mostly additional dialogue made it into the film, but wasn’t in the script at all. I made a point of including all the script dialogue, while adding a bunch of my own. Whole scenes were cut from the final film. Other scenes were really truncated. A few played out differently than they had in the script. They added a lot more humor via dialogue. And the editing of the movie had a thriller feel to it, rather than a horror/suspense film.
There were obviously some cuts made from the movie (script) as compared to your book. Was there any part or scene omitted from your writing where you wish made it on the big screen? For me, the book definitely made me care more about Dana and Aaron. They were fleshed out a lot more (naturally) in your book than they were in the film. Understandable, but unfortunate nevertheless.
JP: I think the filmmakers made a choice to make the film mostly Laurie’s story, so a lot of the character development and scenes involving other characters were trimmed. Reading the script, I had this idea that Allyson was the star, so to speak, and it would be a passing of the torch from Laurie to her granddaughter. But the film leans more on Laurie vs Michael, so a lot of Allyson stuff, early on and at/after the dance, got cut to keep a reasonable running time. And, yes, Dana and Aaron had more “screen” time on the page, more scenes, more character development. That’s one thing that helps give the novelization some life and purpose outside the film. Fans can delve a bit deeper into the story and the characters.
In the restroom scene, Dana reads a message scrawled on the side that recites Budd’s infamous “amazing grace come sit on my face” line from Halloween II (1981). Was that in the original movie script or did you add that in? I couldn’t help but smile when I read that, and was a little saddened realizing it didn’t show up in the movie.
JP: I can’t take credit for that line. It was in the final script.
It’s been a year since your novel came out. How do you feel about the book overall? Is there anything you wish you could have written differently?
JP: I don’t know if I would have written it differently if I had seen the movie (a rough cut maybe) before I finished, but maybe. What I enjoy the most in books is suspense, so I naturally tried to create as much suspense as possible. The original film relies heavily on suspense and I took that as my model (since I knew I wouldn’t see the finished movie until its release). A couple scenes (conversations) changed a good bit from script to screen and I would have liked the book version to be closer to the finished film versions but that was out of my control. I didn’t have time to stray too far from the script’s plot, to explore any side roads or backstory, so I may always wonder about that. And in a couple places, I probably described a set in too much detail. Usually the “sets” are only in my head. This was the first time I had actual photos to describe to the reader!
Have you been signed on to write the movie novelization for Halloween Kills and/or Halloween Ends?
JP: I’d certainly be interested in writing those novelizations, but I haven’t heard anything about them yet. The second film has finished filming but won’t be out for an entire year. The first film came out several months after filming wrapped and everything on the novelization side moved quickly so that it could come out the same time as the movie. Right now, we still have a long window, so I’m not surprised I haven’t heard anything yet. If Titan Books is planning a novelization for the second movie, I may not know until a few months into the new year.
What do you think it is about Halloween and Michael Myers that has endured with so many fans 40+ years later and counting?
JP: The primal nature of the fear that Michael Myers represents, an unstoppable, merciless, and unknowable evil, represented by the unchanging, unflinching mask. He seems to be so much more than what we see on the surface. Loomis decides after years of examining him that he is simply evil, possibly evil incarnate.
Advice for aspiring authors?
JP: Finish what you write. Once you finish, you have something you can use to get representation, to sell to a magazine or book publisher. And if it doesn’t sell or work for you, finish the next thing, and the next. I started writing at the age of 11, but didn’t publish my first novel until I was 37! I like to think it wouldn’t take so long if I started writing today. When I started, I relied on Writers Digest and Writer magazines, a dictionary and a set of encyclopedias (and my local library) for research, and a manual typewriter (I taught myself to type before they offered a course in school) with actual carbon copies as my only backups. These days, you have webzines, online writers groups, self-publishing tools, social media for marketing and networking, etc.
Have you, by chance, read any of the other Halloween movie novelizations by Dennis Etchison or Nicholas Grabowsky?
JP: No, though I’d like to hunt down a copy of the original movie novelization. It seems they are hard to come by these days.
What’s next for John Passarella?
JP: Thanks for your interest in my writing and the Halloween novelization. I’m working on a fourth novel in my Wendy Ward (Wither) series right now, but it’s not under contract, which means I don’t have deadline pressure pushing me to the finish line. I don’t suffer from writer’s block, per se, but procrastination is a real hurdle. I work much better and faster when there is a looming deadline!
Thanks again John for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk about all things Halloween! Click on the link there to buy the book on Amazon if you want. As of this writing, the paperback edition is currently 33% off and selling for $5.98.
Although it can be a bit wordy and long-winded at times, I think John Passarella did a very admirable job with this novelization. Characters are better fleshed out than how they were presented in the movie, such as the podcasters Dana and Aaron. You naturally get a little more background information here because a 371 page text can convey more details than what can be portrayed in a 100 minute horror movie. If you’re a big fan of the 2018 Halloween movie, and you’re looking to dig a little more in-depth, then I would definitely recommend this book. Next up, Halloween Kills by Tim Waggoner. Until next time, avoid dark corners and watch out for the Boogeyman…