Neil Gaiman

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<name>Neil (Richard) Gaiman</name> <name>Neil (Richard) Gaiman</name>
<lifespan>Born November 10, 1960, in Portchester, England</lifespan> <lifespan>Born November 10, 1960, in Portchester, England</lifespan>
 + <education>Attended Ardingly College, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77</education>
 + <memberships>Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (board of directors), International Museum of Cartoon Art (advisory board), Science Fiction Foundation (committee member), Society of Strip Illustrators (chair, 1988-90), British Fantasy Society.</memberships>
<biography>An English author of comic books, graphic novels (text and pictures in a comic-book format published in book form), prose novels, children's books, short fiction, nonfiction, and screenplays, Neil Gaiman is a best-selling writer who is considered perhaps the most accomplished and influential figure in modern comics as well as one of the most gifted of contemporary fantasists. <biography>An English author of comic books, graphic novels (text and pictures in a comic-book format published in book form), prose novels, children's books, short fiction, nonfiction, and screenplays, Neil Gaiman is a best-selling writer who is considered perhaps the most accomplished and influential figure in modern comics as well as one of the most gifted of contemporary fantasists.
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As a writer for children, Gaiman has been the subject of controversy for creating [[Coraline]], a fantasy for middle-graders about a young girl who enters a bizarre alternate world that eerily mimics her own. Compared to Lewis Carroll's nineteenth-century fantasy ''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' for its imaginative depiction of a surreal adventure, [[Coraline]] has been questioned as an appropriate story for children because it may be too frightening for its intended audience. Gaiman also is the creator of two picture books for children, [[The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish]], a comic-book-style fantasy about a boy who trades his dad for two attractive goldfish, and [[The Wolves in the Walls]], which features a brave girl who faces the wolves that have taken over her house. As a writer for children, Gaiman has been the subject of controversy for creating [[Coraline]], a fantasy for middle-graders about a young girl who enters a bizarre alternate world that eerily mimics her own. Compared to Lewis Carroll's nineteenth-century fantasy ''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' for its imaginative depiction of a surreal adventure, [[Coraline]] has been questioned as an appropriate story for children because it may be too frightening for its intended audience. Gaiman also is the creator of two picture books for children, [[The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish]], a comic-book-style fantasy about a boy who trades his dad for two attractive goldfish, and [[The Wolves in the Walls]], which features a brave girl who faces the wolves that have taken over her house.
-The author's adult novels include [[Good Omens]], a satiric fantasy about the end of the world with English novelist [[Terry Pratchett]], [[Neverwhere]], where an office worker rescues a young woman who is bleeding from a switchblade wound and is transported with her to London Below, a mysterious and dangerous world underneath the streets of England's largest city, [[Stardust]], set both in the English town of Wall and in Faery, where a young man sets off to catch a falling star for the woman he desires and instead ends up discovering (and fighting for) love; [[American Gods]], the tale of a young drifter who becomes involved with what appears to be a magical war, and [[Anansi Boys]], in which the following the death of the trickster god, his son has his life stolen by his brother, and then regains what is his and more.+The author's adult novels include [[Good Omens]], a satiric fantasy about the end of the world with English novelist [[Terry Pratchett]]; [[Neverwhere]], where an office worker rescues a young woman who is bleeding from a switchblade wound and is transported with her to London Below, a mysterious and dangerous world underneath the streets of England's largest city; [[Stardust]], which originally was a novel illustrated by [[Charles Vess]], set both in the English town of Wall and in Faery, where a young man sets off to catch a falling star for the woman he desires and instead ends up discovering (and fighting for) love; [[American Gods]], the tale of a young drifter who becomes involved with what appears to be a magical war, and [[Anansi Boys]], in which the following the death of the trickster god, his son has his life stolen by his brother, and then regains what is his and more.
-Gaiman wrote the English-language script for Hayao Miyazaki's film [[Princess Mononoke]]; the script of the episode [[Day of the Dead]] for the television series ''Babylon 5''; the original television script for [[Neverwhere]] and a film adaption of [[Beowulf]] with Roger Avary. He is also working on an adaption of [[Charles Burns]]' graphic novel [[Black Hole]].+Gaiman wrote the English-language script for Hayao Miyazaki's film [[Princess Mononoke]]; the script of the episode [[Day of the Dead]] for the television series ''Babylon 5''; the original television script for [[Neverwhere]] and a film adaption of [[Beowulf]] with Roger Avary. In addition, he wrote the script and associated books for [[Mirrormask]], directed by [[Dave McKean]], and [[A Short Film About John Bolton]] which was also his directorial debut. He is also working on an adaption of [[Charles Burns]]' graphic novel [[Black Hole]].
Throughout his career, Gaiman has worked with a number of talented artists in the fields of comic books and fantasy, including [[John Bolton]], [[Michael Zulli]], [[Yoshitaka Amaro]], [[Charles Vess]], and longtime collaborator [[Dave McKean]]. Throughout his career, Gaiman has worked with a number of talented artists in the fields of comic books and fantasy, including [[John Bolton]], [[Michael Zulli]], [[Yoshitaka Amaro]], [[Charles Vess]], and longtime collaborator [[Dave McKean]].
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Although Gaiman occasionally has been accused of being ponderous and self-indulgent, he generally is considered a phenomenon, a brilliant writer and storyteller whose works reflect his inventiveness, originality, and wisdom. Although Gaiman occasionally has been accused of being ponderous and self-indulgent, he generally is considered a phenomenon, a brilliant writer and storyteller whose works reflect his inventiveness, originality, and wisdom.
 +
 +Born in Portchester, England, Gaiman was brought up in an upper-middle-class home. As a boy, Gaiman was "a completely omnivorous and cheerfully undiscerning reader," as he told Pamela Shelton in an interview for [http://www.gale.com/servlet/BrowseSeriesServlet?region=9&imprint=000&titleCode=A%26A&edition= Authors and Artists for Young Adults (AAYA)] In an interview with Ray Olson of [http://www.booklistonline.com/ Booklist], Gaiman recalled that he first read ''Alice in Wonderland'' "when I was five, maybe, and always kept it around as default reading between the ages of five and twelve, and occasionally picked up and reread since. There are things Lewis Carroll did in Alice that are etched onto my circuitry."
 +
 +Gaiman was a voracious reader of comic books until the age of sixteen, when he felt that he outgrew the genre as it existed at the time. At his grammar school, Ardingly College, Gaiman would get "very grumpy . . . when they'd tell us that we couldn't read comics, because 'if you read comics you will not read OTHER THINGS.'" He asked himself, "Why are comics going to stop me reading?" Gaiman proved that his teachers were misguided in their theory: he read the entire children's library in Portchester in two or three years and then started on the adult library. He told Shelton, "I don't think I ever got to 'Z' but I got up to about 'L'."
 +
 +When he was about fourteen, Gaiman began his secondary education at Whitgift School. When he was fifteen, Gaiman and his fellow students took a series of vocational tests that were followed by interviews with career advisors. Gaiman told Shelton that these advisors "would look at our tests and say, 'Well, maybe you'd be interested in accountancy,' or whatever. When I went for my interview, the guy said, 'What do you want to do?' and I said, 'Well, I'd really like to write American comics.' And it was obvious that this was the first time he'd ever heard that. He just sort of stared at me for a bit and then said, 'Well, how do you go about doing that, then?' I said, 'I have no idea--you're the career advisor. Advise.' And he looked like I'd slapped him in the face with a wet herring; he sort of stared at me and there was this pause and I went on for a while and then he said, 'Have you ever thought about accountancy?'"
 +
 +Undeterred, Gaiman kept on writing. He also was interested in music. At sixteen, Gaiman played in a punk band that was about to be signed by a record company. Gaiman brought in an attorney who, after reading the contract being offered to the band, discovered that the deal would exploit them; consequently, Gaiman refused to sign the contract. By 1977, he felt that he was ready to become a professional writer. That same year, Gaiman left Whitgift School.
 +
 +After receiving some rejections for short stories that he had written, Gaiman decided to become a freelance journalist so that he could learn about the world of publishing from the inside. He wrote informational articles for British men's magazines with titles like ''Knave''. Gaiman told Shelton that being a journalist "was terrific in giving me an idea of how the world worked. I was the kind of journalist who would go out and do interviews with people and then write them up for magazines. I learned economy and I learned about dialogue."
 +
 +In 1983, he discovered the work of English comic-strip writer Alan Moore, whose ''Swamp Thing'' became a special favorite. Gaiman told Shelton, "Moore's work convinced me that you really could do work in comics that had the same amount of intelligence, the same amount of passion, the same amount of quality that you could put in any other medium."
 +
 +In 1984, Gaiman produced his first book, [[Duran Duran: The First Four Years of the Fab Five]]. Once he had established his credibility as a writer, Gaiman was able to sell the short stories that he had done earlier in his career.
 +
 +In 1985, Gaiman married [[Mary Gaiman | Mary Therese McGrath]], with whom he has three children: [[Michael Gaiman | Michael]], [[Holly Gaiman | Holly]], and [[Maddy Gaiman | Madeleine (Maddy)]]. At around this time, Gaiman decided that he was ready to concentrate on fiction. In addition, the comics industry was experiencing a new influx of talent, which inspired Gaiman to consider becoming a contributor to that medium.
 +
 +In 1986, Gaiman met art student [[Dave McKean]], and the two decided to collaborate. Their first work together was the comic book [[Violent Cases]]. Serialized initially in ''Escape'', a British comic that showcased new strips, [[Violent Cases]] was published in book form in 1987. The story recounts the memories of an adult narrator--pictured by McKean as a dark-haired young man who bears a striking resemblance to Gaiman--who recalls his memories of hearing about notorious Chicago gangland leader Al Capone from an elderly osteopath who was the mobster's chiropractor. As a boy of four, the narrator had his arm broken accidentally by his father. In the office of the osteopath, the boy was transfixed by lurid stories about Chicago of the 1920s but, in the evenings, he had nightmares in which his own world and that of Capone's would intersect. As the story begins, the adult narrator is trying to make sense of the experience.
 +According to Joe Sanders of the [http://www.gale.com/servlet/BrowseSeriesServlet?region=9&imprint=000&titleCode=DLB&edition= Dictionary of Literary Biography], the narrator "discover[s] that grownups are as prone to uncertainty, emotional outbursts, and naïve rationalization as children. The boy is delighted, the grownup narrator perplexed, to see how 'facts' change to fit an interpreter's needs." Cindy Lynn Speer, writing in an essay on the [http://www.neilgaiman.com author's Web site], dubbed it "a brilliant tale of childhood and memory."
 +
 +At around the same time that [[Violent Cases]] was published in book form, Gaiman produced the comic book [[Outrageous Tales from the Old Testament]], which is credited with giving him almost instant notoriety in the comic-book community.
 +
 +Gaiman teamed with McKean again to do a limited-run comic series, [[Black Orchid]], the first of the author's works to be released by D.C. Comics, the publisher of the original ''Superman'' and ''Batman'' series. A three-part comic book, [[Black Orchid]] features an essentially nonviolent female heroine who fights villains that she hardly can remember. Gaiman then was offered his choice of inactive D.C. characters to rework from the Golden Age of Comics (the 1930s and 1940s). He chose the [[Sandman]]
 +
 +Originally, the character was millionaire Wesley Dodds who hunted criminals by night wearing a fedora, cape, and gas mask. Dodds would zap the crooks with his gas gun and leave them sleeping until the police got to them. When Gaiman began the series in 1988, he changed the whole scope of the character. The [[Sandman]], who is also called [[Dream]], Morpheus, Oneiros, Lord Shaper, Master of Story, and God of Sleep, became a thin, enigmatic figure with a pale face, dark eyes, and a shock of black hair. The Sandman is one of the [[Endless]], immortals in charge of individual realms of the human psyche. The Sandman's brothers and sisters in the Endless are (in birth order) ''Destiny'', [[Death]], [[Destruction]], the twins [[Desire]] and [[Despair]], and [[Delirium]] (formerly Delight); [[Dream]] (the Sandman) falls between [[Death]] and [[Destruction]].
 +
 +In the Sandman book [[Preludes and Nocturnes]], Gaiman introduces the title character, the ageless lord of dreams, who has just returned home after being captured by a coven of wizards and held in an asylum for the criminally insane for seventy-two years. [[Dream]] finds that his home is in ruins, that his powers are diminished, and that his three tools--a helmet, a pouch of sand, and a ruby stone--have been stolen. He finds his missing helpers and the young girl who has become addicted to the sand from his pouch; he also visits Hell to find the demon who stole his helmet and battles an evil doctor who has unleashed the power of dreams on the unsuspecting people of Earth. [[Dream]] comes to realize that his captivity has affected him: he has become humanized, and he understands that he eventually will have to die.
 +
 +In [[The Doll's House]], [[Dream]] travels across the United States searching for the Arcana, the stray dreams and nightmares of the twentieth century that have taken on human form; the story is interwoven with a subplot about a young woman, [[Rose Walker]], who has lost her little brother.
 +
 +In [[Dream Country]], Gaiman features [[Calliope]], a muse and the mother of Dream's son, [[Orpheus]]; the story also brings in a real character, actor/playwright [[William Shakespeare]].
 +
 +In [[Season of Mists]], [[Dream]] meets [[Lucifer]], who has left his position as ruler of Hell and has left the choice of his successor to [[Dream]].
 +
 +[[A Game of You]] features Barbara (nicknamed [[Barbie]]), a character who had appeared in [[The Doll's House]]. [[Barbie]] is drawn back into the dream realm that she ruled as a child in order to save it from the evil [[Cuckoo]], who plans to destroy it.
 +
 +[[Fables and Reflections]] is a collection of stories featuring the characters from the series and includes Gaiman's retelling of the Greek myth of [[Orpheus]].
 +
 +In [[Brief Lives]], [[Dream]] and [[Delirium]] embark on a quest to find their little brother [[Destruction]], who exiled himself to Earth three hundred years before.
 +
 +[[World's End]] includes a collection of tales told by a group of travelers who are waiting out a storm in an inn.
 +
 +[[The Kindly Ones]] brings the series to its conclusion as Hippolyta ([[Lyta]]) Hall takes revenge upon Dream for the disappearance of her son. [[Lyta]], who has been driven mad by anger and grief, asks the help of the title characters, mythological beings also known as the [[Furies]]. [[The Kindly Ones]] take out [[Lyta]]'s revenge on [[Dream]], who succumbs to their attack. The tale comes full cycle, and [[Dream]]'s destiny is joined with that of humans in death.
 +
 +In the final chapter of the series, [[The Wake]], a funeral is held for [[Dream]]; however, as Gaiman notes thematically, dreams really never die, and [[Dream]]'s role in the Endless is taken on in a new incarnation, [[Daniel]].
 +
 +The Sandman also appears in a more peripheral role in the graphic novel, [[The Dream Hunters]], and short stories featuring each of the [[Endless]] are included in the graphic novel [[Endless Nights]].
 +
 +Next to the [[Dream | Sandman]], [[Death]], [[Dream]]'s older sister, is the most frequently featured and popular character in the series. [[Death]] is charged with shepherding humans who are about to die through their transitions. Once a century, she must come to Earth as a sixteen-year-old girl in order to remind herself what mortality feels like. In contrast to [[Dream]], who characteristically is isolated, brooding, and serious, [[Death]], who is depicted as a spike-haired young woman who dresses like a punk rocker or Goth girl, has a more open and kindly nature.
 +
 +Death is featured in two books of her own, [[Death: The High Cost of Living]] and [[Death: The Time of Your Life]]. In the first story, she helps [[Sexton]], a teen who is contemplating suicide, rediscover the joys in being alive as they journey through New York City and, in the second, she helps [[Foxglove]], a newly successful musician, to reveal her true sexual orientation as her companion [[Hazel]] prepares to die.
 +
 +In 1996, D.C. Comics surprised the fans of [[Sandman]] by announcing the cancellation of the series while it was still the company's best-seller; however, D.C. had made this arrangement with Gaiman at the beginning of the series. [[Sandman]] has sold more than seven million copies; individual copies of the stories also have sold in the millions or in the hundreds of thousands. ''A Midsummer's Night's Dream'', a story from [[Dream Country]], won the World Fantasy Award for the best short story of 1991. This was the first time that a comic book had won an award that was not related to its own medium, and the event caused an uproar among some fantasy devotees.
 +
 +In 2003, Gaiman wrote an introduction to [[The Sandman: King of Dreams]], a collection of text and art from the series with commentary by Alisa Kwitney. He commented, "If I have a concern over [[Sandman | The Sandman]], the 2,000-page story I was able to tell between 1988 and 1996, it is that the things that have come after it, the toys (whether plastic and articulated or soft and cuddly), the posters, the clothes, the calendars and candles, the companion volume, and even the slim book of quotations, along with the various spin-offs and such--will try people's patience and goodwill, and that a book like this will be perceived, not unreasonably, as something that's being used to flog the greasy patch in the driveway where once, long ago, a dead horse used to lie. The ten volumes of [[Sandman | The Sandman]] are what they are, and that's the end of it."
 +
 +Throughout his career, Gaiman has included young people as main characters in his works. For example, [[Books of Magic | The Books of Magic]], a collection of four comics published in 1993, predates J. K. Rowling's ''Harry Potter'' series by featuring a thirteen-year-old boy, [[Tim Hunter]], who is told that he has the capabilities to be the greatest wizard in the world. Tim, a boy from urban London who wears oversized glasses, is taken by the [[Trenchcoat Brigade]]--sorcerers with names like [[The Mysterious Phantom Stranger]], the [[Incorrigible Hellblazer]], and the [[Enigmatic Dr. Occult]]--on a tour of the universe to learn its magical history. Tim travels to Hell, to the land of Faerie, and to America, among other places, each of them showing him a different aspect of the world of magic. He also searches for his girlfriend, Molly, who has been abducted into the fantasy realms; after he finds her, the two of them face a series of dangers as they struggle to return to their own world. At the end of the story, Tim must make a decision to embrace or reject his talents as a wizard. [[Books of Magic | The Books of Magic]] also includes cameos by the [[Dream | Sandman]] and his sister [[Death]].
 +
 +Writing in [http://www.locusmag.com/ Locus], Carolyn Cushman said, "It's a fascinating look at magic, its benefits and burdens, all dramatically illustrated [by [[John Bolton]], [[Scott Hampton]], [[Charles Vess]], and [[Paul Johnson]]], and with a healthy helping of humor." Speaking of the format of [[Books of Magic | The Books of Magic]], Michael Swanwick of [http://www.washingtonpost.com/books/?nid=roll_books Book World] noted, "The graphic novel has come of age. This series is worth any number of movies."
Excerpted from '''Contemporary Authors Online''', Gale, 2004. Excerpted from '''Contemporary Authors Online''', Gale, 2004.

Revision as of 03:34, 26 April 2007

(Born November 10, 1960, in Portchester, England)
An English author of comic books, graphic novels (text and pictures in a comic-book format published in book form), prose novels, children's books, short fiction, nonfiction, and screenplays, Neil Gaiman is a best-selling writer who is considered perhaps the most accomplished and influential figure in modern comics as well as one of the most gifted of contemporary fantasists.


Characteristically drawing from mythology, history, literature, and popular culture to create his works, Gaiman blends the everyday, the fantastic, the frightening, and the humorous to present his stories, which reveal the mysteries that lie just outside of reality as well as the insights that come from experiencing these mysteries. He refers to the plots and characters of classical literature and myth--most notably fairy tales, horror stories, science fiction, and traditional romances--while adding fresh, modern dimensions.

In fact, Gaiman is credited with developing a new mythology with his works, which address themes such as what it means to be human; the importance of the relationship between humanity and art; humanity's desire for dreams and for attaining what they show; and the passage from childish ways of thinking to more mature understanding.

Although most of the author's works are not addressed to children, Gaiman often features child and young adult characters in his books, and young people are among Gaiman's greatest and most loyal fans. The author has become extremely popular, developing a huge cult-like following as well as a celebrity status.

The author perhaps is best known as the creator of the comic-book and graphic-novel series about the Sandman. This character, which is based loosely on a crime-fighting superhero that first appeared in D.C. Comics in the 1930s and 40s, is the protagonist of an epic series of dark fantasies that spanned eight years and ran for seventy-five monthly issues. Gaiman introduces the Sandman as an immortal being who rules the Dreaming, a surreal world to which humans go when they fall asleep. As the series progresses, the Sandman discovers that he is involved with the fate of human beings on an intimate basis and that his life is tied intrinsically to this relationship. The Sandman series has sold millions of copies in both comic book and graphic novel formats and has inspired companion literature and a variety of related merchandise.

As a writer for children, Gaiman has been the subject of controversy for creating Coraline, a fantasy for middle-graders about a young girl who enters a bizarre alternate world that eerily mimics her own. Compared to Lewis Carroll's nineteenth-century fantasy Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for its imaginative depiction of a surreal adventure, Coraline has been questioned as an appropriate story for children because it may be too frightening for its intended audience. Gaiman also is the creator of two picture books for children, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, a comic-book-style fantasy about a boy who trades his dad for two attractive goldfish, and The Wolves in the Walls, which features a brave girl who faces the wolves that have taken over her house.

The author's adult novels include Good Omens, a satiric fantasy about the end of the world with English novelist Terry Pratchett; Neverwhere, where an office worker rescues a young woman who is bleeding from a switchblade wound and is transported with her to London Below, a mysterious and dangerous world underneath the streets of England's largest city; Stardust, which originally was a novel illustrated by Charles Vess, set both in the English town of Wall and in Faery, where a young man sets off to catch a falling star for the woman he desires and instead ends up discovering (and fighting for) love; American Gods, the tale of a young drifter who becomes involved with what appears to be a magical war, and Anansi Boys, in which the following the death of the trickster god, his son has his life stolen by his brother, and then regains what is his and more.

Gaiman wrote the English-language script for Hayao Miyazaki's film Princess Mononoke; the script of the episode Day of the Dead for the television series Babylon 5; the original television script for Neverwhere and a film adaption of Beowulf with Roger Avary. In addition, he wrote the script and associated books for Mirrormask, directed by Dave McKean, and A Short Film About John Bolton which was also his directorial debut. He is also working on an adaption of Charles Burns' graphic novel Black Hole.

Throughout his career, Gaiman has worked with a number of talented artists in the fields of comic books and fantasy, including John Bolton, Michael Zulli, Yoshitaka Amaro, Charles Vess, and longtime collaborator Dave McKean.

As a prose stylist, Gaiman is known for writing clearly and strongly, using memorable characters and striking images to build his dreamlike worlds. Although his books and screenplays can range from somber to creepy to horrifying, Gaiman is commended for underscoring them with optimism and sensitivity and for balancing their darkness with humor and wit. Reviewers have praised Gaiman for setting new standards for comic books as literature and for helping to bring increased popularity to both them and graphic novels. In addition, observers have claimed that several of the author's works transcend the genres in which they are written and explore deeper issues than those usually addressed in these works.

Although Gaiman occasionally has been accused of being ponderous and self-indulgent, he generally is considered a phenomenon, a brilliant writer and storyteller whose works reflect his inventiveness, originality, and wisdom.

Born in Portchester, England, Gaiman was brought up in an upper-middle-class home. As a boy, Gaiman was "a completely omnivorous and cheerfully undiscerning reader," as he told Pamela Shelton in an interview for Authors and Artists for Young Adults (AAYA) In an interview with Ray Olson of Booklist, Gaiman recalled that he first read Alice in Wonderland "when I was five, maybe, and always kept it around as default reading between the ages of five and twelve, and occasionally picked up and reread since. There are things Lewis Carroll did in Alice that are etched onto my circuitry."

Gaiman was a voracious reader of comic books until the age of sixteen, when he felt that he outgrew the genre as it existed at the time. At his grammar school, Ardingly College, Gaiman would get "very grumpy . . . when they'd tell us that we couldn't read comics, because 'if you read comics you will not read OTHER THINGS.'" He asked himself, "Why are comics going to stop me reading?" Gaiman proved that his teachers were misguided in their theory: he read the entire children's library in Portchester in two or three years and then started on the adult library. He told Shelton, "I don't think I ever got to 'Z' but I got up to about 'L'."

When he was about fourteen, Gaiman began his secondary education at Whitgift School. When he was fifteen, Gaiman and his fellow students took a series of vocational tests that were followed by interviews with career advisors. Gaiman told Shelton that these advisors "would look at our tests and say, 'Well, maybe you'd be interested in accountancy,' or whatever. When I went for my interview, the guy said, 'What do you want to do?' and I said, 'Well, I'd really like to write American comics.' And it was obvious that this was the first time he'd ever heard that. He just sort of stared at me for a bit and then said, 'Well, how do you go about doing that, then?' I said, 'I have no idea--you're the career advisor. Advise.' And he looked like I'd slapped him in the face with a wet herring; he sort of stared at me and there was this pause and I went on for a while and then he said, 'Have you ever thought about accountancy?'"

Undeterred, Gaiman kept on writing. He also was interested in music. At sixteen, Gaiman played in a punk band that was about to be signed by a record company. Gaiman brought in an attorney who, after reading the contract being offered to the band, discovered that the deal would exploit them; consequently, Gaiman refused to sign the contract. By 1977, he felt that he was ready to become a professional writer. That same year, Gaiman left Whitgift School.

After receiving some rejections for short stories that he had written, Gaiman decided to become a freelance journalist so that he could learn about the world of publishing from the inside. He wrote informational articles for British men's magazines with titles like Knave. Gaiman told Shelton that being a journalist "was terrific in giving me an idea of how the world worked. I was the kind of journalist who would go out and do interviews with people and then write them up for magazines. I learned economy and I learned about dialogue."

In 1983, he discovered the work of English comic-strip writer Alan Moore, whose Swamp Thing became a special favorite. Gaiman told Shelton, "Moore's work convinced me that you really could do work in comics that had the same amount of intelligence, the same amount of passion, the same amount of quality that you could put in any other medium."

In 1984, Gaiman produced his first book, Duran Duran: The First Four Years of the Fab Five. Once he had established his credibility as a writer, Gaiman was able to sell the short stories that he had done earlier in his career.

In 1985, Gaiman married Mary Therese McGrath, with whom he has three children: Michael, Holly, and Madeleine (Maddy). At around this time, Gaiman decided that he was ready to concentrate on fiction. In addition, the comics industry was experiencing a new influx of talent, which inspired Gaiman to consider becoming a contributor to that medium.

In 1986, Gaiman met art student Dave McKean, and the two decided to collaborate. Their first work together was the comic book Violent Cases. Serialized initially in Escape, a British comic that showcased new strips, Violent Cases was published in book form in 1987. The story recounts the memories of an adult narrator--pictured by McKean as a dark-haired young man who bears a striking resemblance to Gaiman--who recalls his memories of hearing about notorious Chicago gangland leader Al Capone from an elderly osteopath who was the mobster's chiropractor. As a boy of four, the narrator had his arm broken accidentally by his father. In the office of the osteopath, the boy was transfixed by lurid stories about Chicago of the 1920s but, in the evenings, he had nightmares in which his own world and that of Capone's would intersect. As the story begins, the adult narrator is trying to make sense of the experience.
According to Joe Sanders of the Dictionary of Literary Biography, the narrator "discover[s] that grownups are as prone to uncertainty, emotional outbursts, and naïve rationalization as children. The boy is delighted, the grownup narrator perplexed, to see how 'facts' change to fit an interpreter's needs." Cindy Lynn Speer, writing in an essay on the author's Web site, dubbed it "a brilliant tale of childhood and memory."

At around the same time that Violent Cases was published in book form, Gaiman produced the comic book Outrageous Tales from the Old Testament, which is credited with giving him almost instant notoriety in the comic-book community.

Gaiman teamed with McKean again to do a limited-run comic series, Black Orchid, the first of the author's works to be released by D.C. Comics, the publisher of the original Superman and Batman series. A three-part comic book, Black Orchid features an essentially nonviolent female heroine who fights villains that she hardly can remember. Gaiman then was offered his choice of inactive D.C. characters to rework from the Golden Age of Comics (the 1930s and 1940s). He chose the Sandman

Originally, the character was millionaire Wesley Dodds who hunted criminals by night wearing a fedora, cape, and gas mask. Dodds would zap the crooks with his gas gun and leave them sleeping until the police got to them. When Gaiman began the series in 1988, he changed the whole scope of the character. The Sandman, who is also called Dream, Morpheus, Oneiros, Lord Shaper, Master of Story, and God of Sleep, became a thin, enigmatic figure with a pale face, dark eyes, and a shock of black hair. The Sandman is one of the Endless, immortals in charge of individual realms of the human psyche. The Sandman's brothers and sisters in the Endless are (in birth order) Destiny, Death, Destruction, the twins Desire and Despair, and Delirium (formerly Delight); Dream (the Sandman) falls between Death and Destruction.

In the Sandman book Preludes and Nocturnes, Gaiman introduces the title character, the ageless lord of dreams, who has just returned home after being captured by a coven of wizards and held in an asylum for the criminally insane for seventy-two years. Dream finds that his home is in ruins, that his powers are diminished, and that his three tools--a helmet, a pouch of sand, and a ruby stone--have been stolen. He finds his missing helpers and the young girl who has become addicted to the sand from his pouch; he also visits Hell to find the demon who stole his helmet and battles an evil doctor who has unleashed the power of dreams on the unsuspecting people of Earth. Dream comes to realize that his captivity has affected him: he has become humanized, and he understands that he eventually will have to die.

In The Doll's House, Dream travels across the United States searching for the Arcana, the stray dreams and nightmares of the twentieth century that have taken on human form; the story is interwoven with a subplot about a young woman, Rose Walker, who has lost her little brother.

In Dream Country, Gaiman features Calliope, a muse and the mother of Dream's son, Orpheus; the story also brings in a real character, actor/playwright William Shakespeare.

In Season of Mists, Dream meets Lucifer, who has left his position as ruler of Hell and has left the choice of his successor to Dream.

A Game of You features Barbara (nicknamed Barbie), a character who had appeared in The Doll's House. Barbie is drawn back into the dream realm that she ruled as a child in order to save it from the evil Cuckoo, who plans to destroy it.

Fables and Reflections is a collection of stories featuring the characters from the series and includes Gaiman's retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus.

In Brief Lives, Dream and Delirium embark on a quest to find their little brother Destruction, who exiled himself to Earth three hundred years before.

World's End includes a collection of tales told by a group of travelers who are waiting out a storm in an inn.

The Kindly Ones brings the series to its conclusion as Hippolyta (Lyta) Hall takes revenge upon Dream for the disappearance of her son. Lyta, who has been driven mad by anger and grief, asks the help of the title characters, mythological beings also known as the Furies. The Kindly Ones take out Lyta's revenge on Dream, who succumbs to their attack. The tale comes full cycle, and Dream's destiny is joined with that of humans in death.

In the final chapter of the series, The Wake, a funeral is held for Dream; however, as Gaiman notes thematically, dreams really never die, and Dream's role in the Endless is taken on in a new incarnation, Daniel.

The Sandman also appears in a more peripheral role in the graphic novel, The Dream Hunters, and short stories featuring each of the Endless are included in the graphic novel Endless Nights.

Next to the Sandman, Death, Dream's older sister, is the most frequently featured and popular character in the series. Death is charged with shepherding humans who are about to die through their transitions. Once a century, she must come to Earth as a sixteen-year-old girl in order to remind herself what mortality feels like. In contrast to Dream, who characteristically is isolated, brooding, and serious, Death, who is depicted as a spike-haired young woman who dresses like a punk rocker or Goth girl, has a more open and kindly nature.

Death is featured in two books of her own, Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life. In the first story, she helps Sexton, a teen who is contemplating suicide, rediscover the joys in being alive as they journey through New York City and, in the second, she helps Foxglove, a newly successful musician, to reveal her true sexual orientation as her companion Hazel prepares to die.

In 1996, D.C. Comics surprised the fans of Sandman by announcing the cancellation of the series while it was still the company's best-seller; however, D.C. had made this arrangement with Gaiman at the beginning of the series. Sandman has sold more than seven million copies; individual copies of the stories also have sold in the millions or in the hundreds of thousands. A Midsummer's Night's Dream, a story from Dream Country, won the World Fantasy Award for the best short story of 1991. This was the first time that a comic book had won an award that was not related to its own medium, and the event caused an uproar among some fantasy devotees.

In 2003, Gaiman wrote an introduction to The Sandman: King of Dreams, a collection of text and art from the series with commentary by Alisa Kwitney. He commented, "If I have a concern over The Sandman, the 2,000-page story I was able to tell between 1988 and 1996, it is that the things that have come after it, the toys (whether plastic and articulated or soft and cuddly), the posters, the clothes, the calendars and candles, the companion volume, and even the slim book of quotations, along with the various spin-offs and such--will try people's patience and goodwill, and that a book like this will be perceived, not unreasonably, as something that's being used to flog the greasy patch in the driveway where once, long ago, a dead horse used to lie. The ten volumes of The Sandman are what they are, and that's the end of it."

Throughout his career, Gaiman has included young people as main characters in his works. For example, The Books of Magic, a collection of four comics published in 1993, predates J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series by featuring a thirteen-year-old boy, Tim Hunter, who is told that he has the capabilities to be the greatest wizard in the world. Tim, a boy from urban London who wears oversized glasses, is taken by the Trenchcoat Brigade--sorcerers with names like The Mysterious Phantom Stranger, the Incorrigible Hellblazer, and the Enigmatic Dr. Occult--on a tour of the universe to learn its magical history. Tim travels to Hell, to the land of Faerie, and to America, among other places, each of them showing him a different aspect of the world of magic. He also searches for his girlfriend, Molly, who has been abducted into the fantasy realms; after he finds her, the two of them face a series of dangers as they struggle to return to their own world. At the end of the story, Tim must make a decision to embrace or reject his talents as a wizard. The Books of Magic also includes cameos by the Sandman and his sister Death.

Writing in Locus, Carolyn Cushman said, "It's a fascinating look at magic, its benefits and burdens, all dramatically illustrated [by John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, and Paul Johnson], and with a healthy helping of humor." Speaking of the format of The Books of Magic, Michael Swanwick of Book World noted, "The graphic novel has come of age. This series is worth any number of movies."

Excerpted from Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004.

Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2004.
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