Ghostvillage is launching Spring of Culture to celebrate the emerging scene of paranormal inspired creative arts. "The shows" — paranormal reality TV — often dominate the discussion in media culture. That is only a small part of the story! Off of the TV screen is a growing community of artists who engage paranormal themes (ghosts, paranormal investigation, and other supernatural elements) in web cartoons, comics, tarot card art, and in other distinctive outlets. Plus, some cast members from "the shows" are doing creative stuff in their free time. Consider Spring of Culture as an online Festive of the Haunted Arts — and only at Ghostvillage!
Our first artist profile is H.C. Noel, creator of Tara Normal, which is an "super-sci-fi-action-mystery love story." Tara, the lead character, is described as "a licensed paranormal investigator who solves the bizarre, otherworldly mysteries that haunt each episode using her inherited supernatural abilities." She is sexy, smart, tough, and snazzy.
Launched in 2009, Tara Normal was voted that year as the WCRCA People's Choice Best New Comic Award. Howie, as friends call him, has his work featured in TAPS Paramag. He is often seen drawing amazing caricatures at TAPS events, and he has been a guest on 30-Odd Minutes. Tara Normal is online where one can also purchase Tara Normal inspired merchandise. Author Deonna Kelli Sayed welcomes H.C. Noel as the inaugural Spring of Culture 2011 artist profile.
Who is H.C. Noel, the artist?
I think I'm happiest when I'm creating stories and coming up with ideas. I'm very determined and hard working and above all else, I'm my harshest critic. I push myself to improve every day.
How did you become interested in the paranormal and ghost hunting?
I've always been interested in the paranormal since I was little (big Ghost Busters fan) but my first paranormal experience happened when I was around 16 or 17. When I first saw Ghost Hunters, I learned about the ghost hunting techniques that the groups use and it just captured my imagination.
At what point did your art become paranormally inspired, so to speak?
My first graphic novel, Mr. Scootles, which is on sale at my store, deals with ghosts and the afterlife. I've always been influenced by the unknown.
You are known for Tara Normal, featured in TAPS Paramag. Tell us about Tara's germination, birth, and growth as a comic.
Tara Normal came to me in various forms. I knew her general look right away as well as her name. I knew I wanted her origin to be mysterious and I wanted this comic to represent my interests and humor completely, more than any other story I've done. Originally Tara was more of a standard comic book type of story but as I created the comic online it really became it's own creature. It's something unique to my sensibilities and I'm proud of that. Whatever I think of goes into the work. That is what I think keeps it fresh.
How did you hook up with TAPS? You are seen at many Beyond events, and at private Spalding Inn happenings. Is TAPS like a Tara Normal patron? (I say that since the show has influenced the growth of a reality TV genre, investigation, and now art).
I am a big Ghost Hunters and TAPS fan, and I sent a drawing I did of the Ghost Hunters crew to Jason Hawes on MySpace and he really liked it. He wrote me back and then I met Holly Griffith and Britt Griffith and I was invited to donate art to the charity auction at the Beyond Reality Event at Mt. Washington. The art poster I created brought in a great amount of money for the charity and it's one of my proudest moments. I've become good friends with everybody. Jason and Grant and everyone's support of me has been overwhelming and I'm so grateful of their help and their love of my art. Having Tara Normal investigate with TAPS in the pages of TAPS Paramagazine is the top for me in terms of having the character interact with real people. It's something I imagined and has actually come true.
I have found it reassuring to see such a strong female persona in Tara. Was this an organic manifestation (ha, what a pun)? Did you intend to offer commentary on the gendered nature of how paranormal investigation is depicted in the media?
I wanted Tara to be strong physically and mentally. That was something that was always important of me. I grew up with my mom and two sisters so I wanted to create a character that was realistic and smart and didn't need a guy to save the day for her. In the paranormal field, there are a lot of smart female investigators so I'm proud when they tell me they love how strong Tara is. I really want readers to admire what she does and realize her strengths.
Do you ever have moments in your day when you wonder, "What would Tara do?"
Yeah, she really does inspire me too. She's way stronger than I am! She also is patient with decisions so I do definitely wish I had more of her qualities (even though I'm her creator!).
What distinguishes Tara Normal from other emerging paranormal-themed comics and cartoons?
Tara Normal is unique in its storytelling and it's artwork. It's a paranormal comic that combines everything: drama, sci-fi, horror, mystery, action, comedy and romance. Anything can happen and yet it all ties together. Each update of the story brings something new and unexpected. For instance, this story features a Giant Teddy Roosevelt who carries a trident. Where else can you see that?
Who has influenced you as an artist?
My mother, Mort Drucker (Mad Artist), J. Scott Campbell, Norman Rockwell, Edvard Munch and Michaelangelo. There are many, many others. I'm very influenced by old horror comics like Tales From the Crypt, too.
Any future plans for you as an artist and for Tara Normal?
My plans for Tara Normal are to reveal the mysteries of her origin (which haven't been revealed yet), pump up the drama of the story and to continue to improve my art. I really just want to continue to spread the word about her and to help extend the Tara Normal brand. One dream of mine is to see Tara expand to other media such as TV and film. It would be so amazing to see that happen.
Do you (or Tara) have any inspiring last words?
Never give up and always keep believing. Being an artist and creative person, there are so many doubts as to whether to continue, whether you're on the right path. Every time I hear from a Tara Normal reader on Facebook or Twitter or email, it solidifies what I'm doing. It makes it so real. I'm so proud to have created a character that inspires people and entertains them.