GRAPHIC NYC: How ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ influenced BROWNSVILLE

Here’s a fun essay I wrote for Graphic NYC about the movie ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and how it influenced my book, BROWNSVILLE.

“Brownsville, the graphic novel I created for NBM Publishing with Jake Allen, counts influences from mafia films and novels, history and transcripts, and comic book creators ranging from Will Eisner and Jack Kirby to Alan Moore and Harvey Pekar. But Leone’s epic tale of friends, love, crime and time gets pride of place as the second great influence and inspiration behind the book, sharing the spot with Cohen’s book.”

Have a read and immerse yourself in one of the finest mob films ever made.

Read About Comics gives BIG KAHN a great review!

Greg McElhatton gives THE BIG KAHN a kickass review here.

“The Big Kahn is easily Kleid’s best work to date as a writer; it’s clever and gripping, and there are a couple of turns in the story as it heads towards the conclusion that genuinely surprised me even as they still made sense. This feels in many ways like a turning point in Kleid’s career, and I know I’m not the only one who is eager to see whatever Kleid’s next project is based off of the strength of this graphic novel. It’s a strong slice-of-life story that makes you think, and I’m happy with that. Highly recommended.”

Everywhere you go, people are talkin’ KAHN

It’s official, folks — the reviews are in, and THE BIG KAHN is the sleeper hit of the season. Aside from the great reviews we’ve already had, three new ones popped up today.

Before we even get to the reviews, head over to Comic Book Resources where Kiel Phegley interviews me up proper about THE BIG KAHN, my work and Jewish comix.

Publisher’s Weekly included the book in today’s book reviews saying that “The Big Kahn is not an easy book to read, especially given its underlying religious questions, but it is gripping”

Michael C Lorah reviews us for Newsarama’s Best Shots today, flattering us by saying “Kleid’s done some good comics work in the past, but The Big Kahn is his new gold standard”, “Cinquegrani’s visual storytelling is good. Sticking to clear grids, he clearly moves the narrative forward and does a good job with backgrounds and layouts” and that “it all adds up to something that resembles a great American novel.” He ends with “The Big Kahn is going to make some Best Of 2009 lists, and it deserves to do so… handles the complications of family with a caring and intelligent touch, giving closure without providing easy or pat answers. The Big Kahn is a good, good comic, and you should read it.”

Finally, retailer Ralph Mathieu at Alternate Reality Comics reviewed the book at his blog, Ich Liebe Comics, and got us thinking when he finished with “I’m sure that Hollywood option people will be calling in short order to try to secure the rights to film The Big Kahn.”

San Francisco Jewish Weekly Interview, Part 1

Hey, I was interviewed this past week for the San Francisco Jewish Weekly’s Comix Friday column and the first part went live HERE. Next week, we expand on THE BIG KAHN in detail.

“If you do know what you’re doing, art can be a little more tedious than writing. I can write a 200-page graphic novel in three months. That same graphic novel will take an artist three years to draw. Plus, as an artist, working with a writer, you’re really trying to get the writer’s vision out there. And I know for myself, I’m the worst writer to work with, because I know exactly what I want on the page.”

Neil appearing at Comic Book Club in NYC 7/14, Prepping for SDCC

Sometimes I wish I had more time to blog these days… but when I’m absent, you all know it’s because I’m doing the work, right? Right.

And, oh what work there is. To quickly update you, THE BIG KAHN has been sent to the printer and will be hitting your local comic stores at the end of the month—-we’re debuting the book at San Diego Comic Con in two weeks, and then it comes to Amazon and bookstores in September. I’ve got a few interviews about to pop in the next two weeks and I’ll keep you updated here. Apart from that, I’m working hard to have the first draft of AMERICAN CAESAR, my next NBM book, done before I fly to San Diego but it ain’t likely… too much excitement and prep for the con!

To promote THE BIG KAHN (which looks ay-mazing, by the by), I’ll be appearing as a guest on tomorrow night’s edition of the Comic Book Club, NYC’s long-running weekly comic book talk show featuring the best comedians in New York talking shop with industry professionals from all corners of the comic book world. Hosted by Justin Tyler, Pete LePage, and Alex Zalben, the show details are:

CBC, July 14th show
@ The People’s Improv Theatre
23rd Street between 6th and 7th Avenue
8pm – Tickets only 5 BUCKS
More information: http://www.popcultureshock.com/cbclub

And don’t forget I’ll be attending this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, showing up Thursday, July 23rd and leaving Sunday, July 26th. While I’m there, I’ll be promoting THE BIG KAHN, catching up with old pals and editors, drinking, and maybe actually seeing some of the city this time around. I’ll post my signing schedule here soon… but for now, just know I’ll be there ready to schmooze, sell, sign and sketch.

The fine people at Comic Book Resource’s Robot6 blog are doing a before/after interview thing with me about my upcoming trip to the San Diego Comic Con. Check it out for a bit about what I’m getting up to at the con and a bit of advice on how to approach editors.

Hope to see you tomorrow night!

Let Slip the Dogs of War

So, with THE BIG KAHN a month from dropping in your hot little hands, I thought I’d duck in here and tease my third NBM book a little, currently titled “AMERICAN CAESAR.”

It’s interesting; BIG KAHN was written before BROWNSVILLE, my first book, and CAESAR was actually penned even before that, but as both a stage play and graphic novel. At the time, I was involved in a local theatre troupe on the Upper East Side where we took the Bard’s more popular works (as well as a few Chekovs and Dickens…es) and reimagined them for various genres and time periods, much like many film versions of old Will’s plays and passages. We set “Midsummmer Night’s Dream” in Central Park, “Macbeth” in Peron’s Argentina, “Romeo and Juliet” in a trailer park, “Merchant of Venice” in 1945 Poland, and “Merry Wives of Windsor” in a seventies-Three’s Company style suburban sitcom. Oh, we also did a mafia version of “Julius Caesar,” my favorite Shakespearean play, in which I portrayed a Silvio Dantesque mob capo who survives the gunplay and helps icepick Cicero in a strip club. Classy.

But I’d always wanted to do Caesar a different way—to me, the intrigue, backstabbing, ambition and greed of the Roman Senate always set me in the mind of Gordon Gecko, Wall Street, the end of the 1980s/beginning of the Nineties and all that corporate America represents. Julius—I’m sorry, JULIAN—Caesar, captain of industry, backstabbed by the bloodthirsty young executives desperate to climb the corporate ladder. How could I resist?

But a play or a comic? Tread the boards or fill the panels? In the end, I wrote it both ways.

In 2005, I was fortunate to hook up with another production company that wanted to workshop the play and after three months of sets, planning, costumes and rehearsals, AMERICAN CAESAR ran for a week at the Second Stage theatre to good reviews.

But a lot of the play had to be edited for technical reasons: on stage, we could only shatter a window so many times. We couldn’t use the technical morays involved with the presentation of Caesar’s ghost. And truthfully, the director cut out alot of my story for her own vision, casting aside scenes and conversations that wouldn’t play on stage that might on paper.

And so, to Rome.

Presently, I’m working through my second redraft of the 128 page graphic novel and while we’re making offers to a few artists, we’re stilling casting about for my collaborator. We’re hoping to have this one out next year, but it truly depends on timing, schedules and the like… but here’s a quick peek at a page:

Page 44 (5 PANELS)

PANEL ONE
Caesar turns to the table, explaining his position.

CAESAR:    MALCOLM SILVER MISHANDLED DECIUS SOFTWARE; ROME LOST A FORTY-FIVE MILLION   DOLLAR COMPANY TO MICROSOFT AND THOUSANDS OF JOBS WITH IT.

CAESAR:    IT WAS A BUSINESS DECISION, MICHAEL, AND HAD TO BE MADE.

DAVIS (OP):    THE DEADLINE WAS TIGHT, JULIAN, AND THEIR BUDGET WAS –

PANEL TWO
Caesar turns to Davis and BREUER, who are pleading. He points a finger, adamant. Cassius has his head down, staring at his lap.

CAESAR:    NONE OF MY CONCERN. THAT’S SOMETHING HE SHOULD HAVE CONSIDERED.

CAESAR:    I WON’T BE SWAYED ON THIS. KEEP IT UP, MICHAEL, AND YOU’LL JOIN YOUR BROTHER AT THE UNEMPLOYMENT OFFICE.

PANEL THREE

Close on a pissed Silver, hands cleched, white-knuckled.
SILVER:    AND IS THAT THE SORT OF TYRANNY WE SHOULD EXPECT FROM NOW ON?

CAESAR (OP):    TYRANNY?

PANEL FOUR
Caesar leans in to Silver, getting in his face. Silver rises a little – they are facing off with one another.

CAESAR:    THAT’S LEADERSHIP! MAKING HARD DECISIONS IS NO EASY TASK, BUT I MAKE THEM FOR THE SAKE OF THE COMPANY. HOW ELSE WILL ROME SURVIVE?

SILVER:    SO LET’S BE CLEAR. THE POLICY IS ZERO TOLERANCE? FAIL, CHEAT, STEAL AND YOU’RE OUT?

PANEL FIVE
Caesar pulls away, collecting himself.

CAESAR:    ABSOLUTELY. EXCEPTIONS LEAD TO PRECEDENTS AND THAT LEADS TO ANARCHY. ROME WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY; YOU CAN BE DAMN SURE I WON’T LET IT FALL IN A WEEK.

DAVIS (OP):        BUT JULIAN, SURELY YOU –

CAESAR:        I SAID ENOUGH, DAVIS.

Gripping, no?

Neil Kleid’s AMERICAN CAESAR. Coming from NBM Publishing in the near future.

Cry havoc.

May PREVIEWS closing: Preorder THE BIG KAHN from your retailer today!

Just chiming in to remind you that the month of May is almost over and with retailers finalizing their orders, it’s time to get in your preorder for THE BIG KAHN, my new graphic novel for NBM Publishing using Diamond Order Code MAY090988

Rabbi David Kahn has lived a forty-year lie: he is not, nor has he ever been, Jewish. When at his funeral, the “rabbi’s” grifter brother reveals the truth, it forces the Kahn family to struggle with grief and betrayal as their congregation examines their every move and they question their very faith. Rabbi Avi Kahn, the heir apparent whose future is on the line, spirals into a tryst with his rebellious sister Lea’s non-Jewish roommate. Lea rethinks the religion she’s run from, religion strong enough to alter her father’s life, while Eli — the youngest Kahn — inherits his father’s long-forgotten legacy. Somehow, with the help of the uncle he never knew and his slowly re-awakening sister, Eli attempts to return faith and order to his family, community while reinstating his father’s good name. This July explore a family secret so well-hidden, even the family didn’t know about it until it was too late.

Illustrated by Nicolas Cinquegrani and hitting shelves in July, THE BIG KAHN, a 176 page black and white graphic novel, is currently available to preorder via Diamond Comics Distributors (Order Code; MAY090988) and through bookstores (ISBN 978-1-56163-561-0) at the low price of $13.95.

Click here for a ten page selection from the book, available at the NBM website

The Big COVER

Spent the day laying out the hardcover book jacket for THE BIG KAHN. Nico’s tying up the inks and tones for the interior over the next month and a half but I have to finish the cover and solicitation before February so that we can get it into catalogs and such.

I really enjoy designing my books, as it lets the graphic designer in me truly own my book from soup to nuts… I designed the BROWNSVILLE jacket and the non-sequential portions (title page, jacket, bio page, etc) and I’m doing the same with KAHN. Nico illustrated the front and back, sent along a high-resolution TIFF file and now I’m just wrapping up the layout and endflaps… but still going back and forth on the front cover title treatment. I really like the first one, because it’s different and really fits in the overall design, but the second one is the standard centered that usually works better on bookshelves or on endcaps. I’ll probably go with the first, but feel free to comment here and try to convince me otherwise: