DC Comics dons a novel Young Adult cape.

batman__wonder_woman_and_superman_by_y2kevin-d6i6jgqDC Comics recently announced a new series of young adult novels, penned by four top names in young adult literature. The novels will feature four of the comics giant’s leading characters: Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman and Catwoman.  No doubt the company hopes to create some synergy between the ongoing wave of YA publications and the current, well-received TV comics characters TV series like The Flash and Supergirl. While translating superhero fiction out of visual media is always tricky, they no doubt have assembled a top-notch writing team.  I am personally looking forward to Matt de la Pena’s Superman.  And of course, Harry Potter is like a superhero in many ways,

These books won’t appear until 2017, so there is plenty of time left for anticipation.  In the meantime, here is a recommended list of Matt de la Pena novels to read in the meantime.  Note that The Living. previously discussed here on Hogpro, tops the list.  And I need to figure out a way to get the Superfriends theme song out of my head.

J.K. Rowling and the Phantoms in the Brain

BrainsAs best I can recall, brains only came up once in the Harry Potter series. There was a “Brain Room” in the Department of Mysteries in Order of the Phoenix, that contained a tank with green liquid and a number of “pearly white” brains floating in it. When a mentally-addled Ron foolishly Accio-ed one out, it flew through the air, attacked him with tentacles that “looked like ribbons of moving images” and left scars on Ron’s arms that even Madame Pomfrey was hard-pressed to remove. But the message is clear: in the wizarding world the study of the brain, and, by extension, the mind, is relegated to the Unspeakables, and considered an area of scholarship too dangerous to be shared with the general public, putting it in the same realm as other mysterious forces of the universe such as love, space, death and time. Thoughts, according to Madam Pomfrey, “leave deeper scarring that almost anything else.”

career_of_evilIn the Cormoran Strike series, Rowling moves the study of the human mind into the scientific realm, by making its female protagonist, Robin Ellacott, an ex-psychology student, intent on a career in forensic psychology before a sexual assault interrupted her university studies. As a professor of psychology and neuroscience, I have already documented through Harry Potter that Rowling seems familiar with the diagnostic criteria of multiple Muggle psychiatric conditions.  She also seems to have provided a realistic account of Robin’s mental breakdown after her assault and the way she overcame it.

VSRamachandran_zps47ada994As we know, Rowling does not write anything without doing a “ridiculous amount” of research, so it is hardly likely that she would write an entire series of novels about an amputee without educating herself about the medical facts regarding such an injury. After reading the first three books of the series, I am now convinced she consulted one of my favorite neuroscience writers, Dr. V.S. Ramachandran, author of Phantoms in the Brain (1998), A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness (2004) and The Tell-Tale Brain (2011). Ramachandran’s books present fascinating case studies about people with seemingly bizarre neurological conditions. So far, three of the conditions he describes have turned up in the Comoran Strike series. [Read more…]

Rowling’s Gift of Expecto Patronum

200_sJoanne Rowling is well-known for reaching out to fans in need, often through social media.  So it probably shouldn’t surprise us that, when a depressed young Brazilian fan tweeted her asking for help in banishing his own dementors, she responded with encouragement, as did many other Potterphiles.
tumblr_o0t5oj36ed1qkvbwso1_500Rowling has always been open about creating the dementors from her own experience with clinical depression. The two major effects of depression, intense despair and the inability to feel happiness, correspond to the first two symptoms listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s official guide, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.  But, the dementors also induce the rest of the nine symptoms.  Harry is often confused or unable to concentrate cntped0713_Feature-2_Table-1when confronted with dementors, and Sirus tells us that Azkaban prisoners stop eating, have sleep disturbances and “go quiet after a while,” representing the symptoms of loss of appetite, insomnia and psychomotor retardation. Dementors sap the prisoners’ mental and physical energy, so that they lose the will to escape.  As Lupin tells Harry, “They don’t need walls or water to keep the prisoners in, not when they’re trapped inside their own heads.”  Harry guiltily relives his parents’ deaths under dementor influence and, during the Battle of Hogwarts, comes close to a type of suicide.

Fred was gone, and Hagrid was surely dying or already dead… How many more lay dead that he did not yet know about; he felt as though his soul had already half left his body…A hundred dementors were advancing, gliding toward him, sucking their way towards Harry’s despair… his own wand trembled in his hand, and he almost welcomed the oncoming oblivion, the promise of nothing, of no feeling…

[Read more…]

Shared Text: Donald Trump called Voldemort?

AngryTrumpThe Muggle World Daily Prophets are today abuzz over the supposed latest step in the Megyn Kelly/Donald Trump duel, where Ms. Kelly allegedly compared the Presidential candidate to the Dark Lord Himself, Voldemort.  However, the headlines seem to me to be a bit misleading, and the writer of this article seems to have missed the point when she concluded, “so the revelation that she referred to him as such an evil character will probably only worsen their feud.”

Voldemort_angryThe actual quote was from Iowa Caucus winner Ted Cruz, who said to Ms. Kelly, “Well, you know, you were joking just before we went on air that it was sort of like Voldemort, He Who Must Not Be Named.”  In that context, it seems that what Ms. Kelly was noting was not Trump’s villainy, but the reluctance of the other candidates to mention him in the last debate. In which case, her remark would have been not so much a dig at Trump, but a jab at the rest of the candidates for their timidity in the face of Trump’s bluster.

Donald-Trump-1I guess it depends on how much of a Potterphile Ms. Kelly is.  And I’ll leave it to John to remark on what it means for a staunch Evangelical candidate to acknowledge familiarity with Harry Potter; I suspect there was a time when that would not have happened.

gilde smileBut anyway, I think the Donald’s trademark coiffure is too much a part of his image for him  to be a truly convincing Voldemort.  Perhaps more of a Gilderoy Lockhart, with his own line of hair care products.

Hat tip to John!

Matt de la Pena wins Newbery

Last Stop on Market St.Matt de la Pena, whose YA novel The Living was discussed on Hogpro previously, as been awarded the Newbery Medal for his picture book, Last Stop on Market Street. He is the first Hispanic author so honored.  I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ll have to put in on my list.

As well as getting around to reviewing The Living‘s sequel, The Hunted.

Congratulations, Matt!  Score another for the psych majors!