Author Archives: Todd

And Then I Read: TUNNELS by Gordon & Williams

TunnelsCover illustration © David Wyatt.

The Burrows family (get it?) has a father and son who share a similar obsession: digging holes and tunnels. Dr. Burrows is the curator of a small museum, and always looking for artifacts and lost bits of history, while his fourteen-year-old son Will simply enjoys the process of digging into the earth. Will’s mother seems to be addicted to watching television and does little else, and his sister Rebecca, the most practical member of the family, is stuck with the cooking, cleaning and scheduling, which she’s not happy about. Will and his father make a dig into some remarkable ruins, but their progress seems to be constantly thwarted by someone or some group that keeps filling up their tunnels. Meanwhile, Dr. Burrows is on the trail of mysterious characters lurking in their neighborhood who might be connected to their findings.

One morning the family awakes to find that Dr. Burrows has disappeared from his own basement study. Will and his friend Chester begin to investigate, and Will is determined to find out what happened. They discover a hidden tunnel entrance in the room, but it’s again filled in. Undaunted, Will and Chester re-dig the tunnel until it opens out into an underground world they can barely believe. That’s only the beginning of their troubles. Soon, they’re caught and imprisoned in a secret underground city that has been cut off from the surface world for many decades. Most curious of all, some of the citizens there declare that Will is their long-lost relative!

I enjoyed this book in general, but there were two areas that I had problems with. First, the scope of the underground world beneath modern London is so vast and complex it strained belief. Fortunately the characters and story line otherwise were engaging enough to overcome that for me. It’s a long thrill ride through inventive creations and underground perils of all kinds, and in that way, a good read. The other problem is there’s no satisfying resolution at the end of the 472 pages, just unresolved problems that are “to be continued” in the next book. That’s okay for a 22 page comic, but I expect more from a novel, especially one this long. Because of that, I can only mildly recommend the book, but if it sounds appealing to you, and you’re willing to sign on for the entire series, go for it.

Incoming: MISS FINCH REPRINTED

MissFinchHC

Image © Michael Zulli and Dark Horse Books.

Here’s something I wasn’t expecting, a reprint of “Miss Finch,” the graphic adaptation of the Neil Gaiman story with art by Michael Zulli. I’m credited as “script adaptation and lettering.” How did that come about? This project was in the works for a few years. About once a year editor Diana Schutz would call me and talk about it, making sure I still wanted to letter it. Michael is a wonderful artist, but meticulous and pretty slow. Once he was done, a friend of Neil’s, Olga Nunes, did a lettering script, but Diana was not happy with it. Eventually she called me to say, “I don’t know what to do about this script.” I offered to take a look and see if I could come up with something she liked better. I rewrote the lettering script based on what Olga had done, but avoiding problems like describing what the art showed, things like that. Olga had the right idea, just not the experience of working in graphic storytelling. Diana was happy, so was Neil, and I was able to letter the book so it could be finished up and published. In the first printing, there’s a credit that reads, “with special thanks to Olga Nunes.” I’m sorry it’s not in the new version, she deserves mention. Some of her work definitely made it onto the pages, though I’m no longer sure how much. Both of us drew from the Gaiman story as much as possible.

Really like the new cover design by Rick DeLucco. Great type design, and it shows off the cover art beautifully.

And Then I Read: JACKED #5

Jacked5Image © DC Comics.

Josh, the middle-aged man who tried to solve his problems with the wonder-pill called “Jacked” keeps getting in deeper with every issue. Now he’s hallucinating about being a super-hero. It’s true he does have drug-enhanced strength and resilience, but he hardly knows who he’s really up against, can’t tell the real attackers from the fantasy ones. Only his “sidekick,” the dangerous girl-next-door, knows what’s really going on, and who they have to kill to survive. Meanwhile, Josh is longing for his family, who are with his wife’s sister. Too bad he’s not the only person who knows that…

I enjoyed this issue more than the last one. The fantasy element makes it more entertaining and less depressing, though it’s hard to see how Josh’s life can turn around from the hole he’s dug himself.

Recommended.

The World Series of Birding 2016, an earnest request for your help

AvalonBeach

Three weeks from yesterday, Saturday May 14th, is the annual outdoor escapade and fundraiser known as The World Series of Birding. I’ve signed up with the Cape May Bird Observatory Century Run team as I have many times in the past. It’s the only fundraiser I participate in. Along with lots of other teams we will attempt to spot as many bird species as possible on that day. The top teams will go from midnight to midnight, and cover the entire state of New Jersey. Our Century Run team’s goals are a little more relaxed: we go from 5 AM to about 9 PM and stay within Cape May County. It’s still an exhausting marathon to test one’s determination and stamina, but usually a lot of fun, too. Each participant pledges a minimum of $1 per species seen, which one can supplement with pledges from friends and family. And that, gentle readers, is where you can participate!

As in the past, I’m encouraging you to make a pledge for my WSB big day, to help me raise funds for the Cape May Bird Observatory, part of New Jersey Audubon, and their valuable mission of conservation, education and research. You can pledge any amount, but the usual method is to pledge per species seen. Last year our total was 119 species, not our best effort due to foggy weather. A more typical total is 130 species. If we tally 130 species, a pledge of 50 cents per would result in a monetary gift of $65. A pledge of $1 per species would mean a gift of $130. As a bonus, I’m offering any of my Signed Prints as incentives: for a pledge of 50 cents per species, the print of your choice, for $1 per species, any two! Higher pledges are welcome and will garner more prints in the same ratio. Pledges lower than 50 cents will get you a signed comic or two that I lettered, my choice, if you would like that. Pledges of any amount down to 10 cents per species are welcome, or if you’d rather make a flat rate donation, that’s fine, too. All pledges will support education about and preservation of New Jersey wildlife and natural resources, as well as garner my enduring gratitude!

Here’s a LINK to my blog about last year’s WSB Century Run, if you’d care to read it. And if you’d like to pledge, click the CONTACT ME link here or in the right column of this page and let me know by email. I’ll be collecting pledges until May 13th. Our team will be out there tallying on the 14th, rain or shine, hoping for good weather and lots of migrating birds. Who knows, maybe this year we’ll hit the ever elusive goal of 150 species. That would be fabulous!

Snake and Turtle

BlackRatSnake1

While out for a walk this morning I came upon a 4-foot Black Rat Snake stretched out on the trail. It was very rippled, as if flexing muscles, but did not move when I got close for the first picture. Was it dead? Asleep?

BlackRatSnake2

I nudged its tail, and it quickly coiled into defensive position. Not dead. Should have left it alone! I’ve never seen a snake do that rippled look before.

Later, searching online, I found this explanation: one unusual characteristic of the Black Rat Snake is that when it senses danger, it freezes and takes on a rippled posture. The first photo clearly shows that posture, it must have thought I was some sort of threat to it. Like most big and scary animals, they’re usually more afraid of you than you are of it!

EasternBoxTurtle

I also saw my first Eastern Box Turtle of the year. One creature that has no fear of snakes. If threatened, it closes up, of course.