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Gangster graphic novel makes move to iPhone

by Matthew Price Modified: April 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm •  Published: November 20, 2009

Award-winning graphic novelist Neil Kleid is taking his Jewish gangster graphic novel, “Brownsville,” to the iPhone.

“The process is definitely exciting,” Kleid said in a recent interview. “Each and every day another smart phone comes to market — be it iPhone, Pre, Droid or Blackberry — and the comic book industry is matching them stride for stride. The only thing, as a cartoonist or graphic novelist you really need to do is change your point of view, understand that this is the limitless new horizon and get on board.”

“Brownsville,” from publisher NBM, is the story of Murder, Incorporated, the Jewish hit operation of the 1920s and ’30s.

“It’s a true story, following the intertwined lives of Allie “Tick Tock” Tannenbaum and Abe “Kid Twist” Reles as they immerse themselves in the gang-infested streets of Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, work their way to the top and then rat everyone out,” Kleid said. “If you’re a sucker for a good mob movie, and you’d like to expand your Mafia horizons beyond Michael Corleone, ‘Goodfellas,’ Lucky Luciano and ‘The Sopranos,’ this is the book for you.”

Jake Allen is the artist for “Brownsville.” The graphic novel can be downloaded via the iPhone app Panelfly, found online at

Kleid’s second book for NBM is “The Big Kahn,” set in modern-day New Jersey, as, at the funeral of esteemed Rabbi David Kahn, his family discovers he was never Jewish, but an Irish con man.

“The book explores the aftermath of the revelation, focusing in on the late Rabbi’s wife and children who are forced to examine their lives in the wake of the bombshell,” Kleid said. “It asks questions of faith, religion, legacy and lies, shining its light on a family secret so well-hidden even the family didn’t know about it until it was too late.”

The artist of “The Big Kahn” is Nicolas Cinquegrani, a Chilean artist who Kleid found via the Internet.

“I was blown away by Nico’s delicate yet grounded imagery, the subtle, stark appeal to his characters and the possibilities of that art applied to my stark tale of human failings,” Kleid said. “I don’t regret e-mailing him one bit. Not one bit.”

Referencing the Bernie Madoff scandal, Kleid said “The Big Kahn” should be of interest to those interested in the societal implications of a world where everyone lies.

The theme of fighting for a second chance had parallels in Kleid’s own life, as while he was writing the book, he faced his own identity crisis.

“I’d moved to New York from Detroit, having left the isolated womb of my family home and the Jewish community surrounding it,” Kleid said. “Here I was, outside the ghetto and in the World, where anything could happen and I could be whoever I wanted. Unfortunately, several circumstances and scenarios brought me through trials of my own — professional, creative, financial, romantic — and the only comfort and grounding I could find was back in the ghetto, the protective womb of the Jewish community I was fighting to escape.

“I wanted to find out who I was — as a Jew, as an artist, as a writer, as a son, friend, brother, boyfriend, son of G-d — and this introspection and the questions that arose found their way into ‘The Big Kahn.’”

By Matthew Price
From Friday’s The Oklahoman

by Matthew Price
Features Editor
Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s...
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