July 18, 2018
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  • “Tara Normal” follows a paranormal investigator who has the ability not only to see and speak to ghosts but to fight them.
    Provided
    “Tara Normal” follows a paranormal investigator who has the ability not only to see and speak to ghosts but to fight them.
  • “The Walking Dead” actor Steven Yeun poses with one of Noel’s drawings.
    Provided
    “The Walking Dead” actor Steven Yeun poses with one of Noel’s drawings.
  • Howie Noel is best known for his “Tara Normal” comic, but he also draws caricatures of beloved television and movie characters.
    Provided
    Howie Noel is best known for his “Tara Normal” comic, but he also draws caricatures of beloved television and movie characters.

Howie Noel Introduces New Readers To The “Tara Normal”

Zach Sparks
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View Bio
October 19, 2016

Howie Noel has hand-drawn fictional icons — Heath Ledger’s Joker traipsing around in a nurse outfit with remote detonator in hand, the murderous Dexter and Sweeney Todd, and Darrell Dixon from “The Walking Dead” flying atop a dragon — but he is best known for his original comic “Tara Normal.”

“Tara Normal” started as a webcomic, but with the help of the crowdfunding site Kickstarter and a group of supporters, Noel was able to expand his comic book enterprise with print issues.

The story follows the eponymous heroine, a paranormal investigator who has the ability not only to see and speak to ghosts but also to fight them. After appearing in a novel and a graphic novel, Tara Normal is returning for her second graphic novel, “Season of Evil,” where she battles Charlton, a villain with abilities similar to Tara’s. Charlton’s character was inspired by a flamboyant Kickstarter backer from England. Noel regularly includes backers in his work as a nod to their support.

“I try to get to know the person and make a twisted version, and I’ll give them some say,” Noel explained. “I might ask if they want to be a serial killer or more like Loki [from “Thor”]. There’s a little playback.”

In the anthology, Tara also faces a yeti, the headless horseman and phony physics. “The paranormal shows we have — ‘Ghost Hunters’ and ‘Ghost Adventures’ — it’s a parody in this book and [the investigators] do things for money, whereas Tara does them for free,” Noel said. “This one new star, he’s a necromancer, he can raise ghosts. Tara has to expose him.”

While Tara has admirable intentions, Noel said she isn’t perfect. She never wants help, even though she sometimes needs it. But Noel wanted her to be an action star.

“I created Tara so she could be a hero who wasn’t afraid of anything,” Noel said. “I was always into scary stuff as a kid. I have done a lot of ghost hunting, and I wish I could be as brave [as Tara] entering an abandoned hospital. It’s sort of a throwback to ‘The Lost Boys’ and ‘The Goonies’ where I bring some fun into it.”

Known for his caricature style, reminiscent of MAD magazine, Noel interprets the world in a way that allows his work to stand out from most comic-book art. He agreed with a friend’s assessment that his work evokes a stylized realism.

“People mostly notice the coloring; it’s very cinematic,” he said. “I play with the lighting. It’s very much back to the style of ‘Tales from the Crypt.’”

Outside his work on “Tara Normal,” Noel has kept busy with commission pieces. One of his most common jobs involves scrawling “The Walking Dead” characters on blank covers, a practice that has elicited bizarre requests from fans purchasing Noel’s work at Walker Stalker Cons.

“People like how I draw [‘The Walking Dead’ actor] Norman Reedus,” Noel said. “There’s this once scene from the show where Norman Reedus is licking the face of the actress who plays Carol. I’ve had people come up to me with that request. The women want to be licked by him on the face.”

Those Walker Stalker Con appearances have introduced several of the show’s cast members to Noel’s drawings. He has brought his niece and sister to cons, and they have introduced themselves on Noel’s behalf.

“One of the fans gave a cover to Andrew Lincoln, the actor that plays Rick, and my niece really likes Steven Yeun, the actor that plays Glenn, so she got to meet him,” he said.

Noel’s work was also featured in the now-defunct WWE kids magazine, and his fan art for SummerSlam appeared on “Monday Night Raw” last year. CM Punk and John Cena have both praised Noel’s work.

“I have a mutual friend who knows CM Punk … and I met John Cena at a sighting in Washington, D.C., where I gave him art,” Noel said. “I always try to give the stars I meet custom artwork as a thank-you.”

As a thank-you to his fans, Noel is planning to release “Tara Normal: Season of Evil” at SPX 2017, a festival in Bethesda that promotes artists and publishers who produce independent comics. Several issues of “Tara Normal” are available for $0.99 on ComiXology and on Amazon, and “Season of Evil” will available on those platforms by November.

He is currently working on the third “Tara Normal” graphic novel, which he will promote with a Kickstarter campaign next Halloween.

More information about Noel and samples of his work can be viewed at www.hcnoel.com or www.taranormal.com. As he progresses with “Tara Normal,” Noel said he will continue to explore the supernatural in a way that is amusing, spooky and fun.

“I try to create a book that will appeal to skeptics and fans,” Noel said. “It pokes fun without making anyone feel like their beliefs aren’t valid.”


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