Often credited as a driving force behind the resurgence of macabre fantasy and horror literature, Neil Gaiman is one of the most highly regarded and celebrated writers of the past three decades. The British author has written 11 novels, four of which have already been adapted into successful films and TV series, including Starz's already critically acclaimed new fantasy series American Gods.
Now that his latest adaptation has premiered following six years of build-up and anticipation from fans and critics alike, you may be asking yourself just who this #NeilGaiman fellow is. Let's get to know the scribe and take a look back at his career.
1. Gaiman Has Written For Four Major Comic Book Publishers
In addition to his steady stream of novels, Gaiman has contributed stories to many comic book universes, as well as having created major characters for big-name publishers including #Marvel, DC Comics/Vertigo, Dark Horse and Image Comics. Among his contributions to the comic book world, perhaps the most celebrated is The Sandman, created in 1989 for the Vertigo imprint under #DC. The story followed Dream, a powerful being older than gods who escapes captivity after 70 years and must readjust to the new world and reclaim his domain. In addition to the Sandman universe, Gaiman has also contributed stories to Dark Horse's detective series The Spirit as well as Marvel's Miracleman and Image Comics' Spawn series.
Gaiman's work in the comic book and graphic novel industry has received much praise, with many of his stories and characters remaining atop many best-of lists. Look out for DC's film adaptation of #TheSandman, as well as Season 3 of Fox's supernatural police procedural Lucifer, which features Sandman supporting character Lucifer Morningstar.
2. Gaiman Was A Journalist Before He Was An Author
Though as a kid he always harbored aspirations of becoming a writer, Gaiman entered the world of journalism prior to becoming a bestselling author. He wrote reviews and conducted interviews for smaller publications in the 1980s, including for the British Fantasy Society and X-rated Knave magazine.
Gaiman would finally get his first short story published in 1984 with Image Magazine, a shortly-lived monthly published in the UK. He has stated via his Twitter that the reason he finally quit journalism in 1987 was because British newspapers were then publishing falsehoods.
3. Gaiman's First Full Novel Was A Biography
Around the time his first short story was published, Gaiman's first book was also released, a biography about ultra-popular British pop band Duran Duran. Despite believing he had done a poor job on the novel, the first edition quickly sold out.
4. His Childhood Hero Responded To His Fan Letter
As a teenager, Gaiman had many heroes to look up to, including fantasy veterans C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. But one of his biggest inspirations was US sci-fi writer R.A. Lafferty, popular for his award-nominated novel Past Master. Gaiman discovered the author's writing at the age of nine, but it wasn't until he was around 20 years old that he decided to send a letter to Lafferty, asking for advice on how to improve his writing. Gaiman heard back from Lafferty, who offered a very encouraging response on keeping his literary spirit alive.
5. His First TV Show Became A Book After The Fact
While most screen adaptations following the novel, Gaiman's Neverwhere offered something of the reverse, with Gaiman releasing a novel companion through BBC's own publishing house. The book was released within three episodes of the original series' six-episode run and went on to enjoy more success than its TV counterpart.
6. He Is Friends With His Comic Book Inspiration
Prior to becoming one of the biggest names in modern storytelling, Gaiman grew up devouring novels, short stories and comics. But it wasn't until the '80s, when he found a copy of DC Comics' Swamp Thing at a London train station, that he became engrossed in the storytelling nature of comic writer Alan Moore. After sending Moore a complementary copy of his book Ghastly Beyond Belief, Gaiman received a phone call from Moore in response, opening the door for a firm friendship that has continues to this day.
7. His First Full Foray Into Films Was A Failure
Having co-written the BBC limited series Neverwhere and written and directed his first short film in 2003, A Short Film About John Bolton, Gaiman teamed up with English comic book artist Dave McKean to make MirrorMask, a feature-length fantasy adventure to harken back to the success of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.
Unfortunately, Gaiman's first venture into original screenwriting would not fare well, with the film receiving mixed reviews from critics and becoming a box office flop. Though critics praised the film's visual aesthetic, they felt the story carried little weight, but the film has gone on to become a minor cult hit on home video.
8. Five of His Novels Have Been Adapted For The Small and Big Screen
With a vast repertoire of novels and short stories under his belt, it's easy to see why there have been many adaptations of Gaiman's works. But what amazes is the successful transition from the pages of the source material to the big screen.
The first adaptation of a Gaiman novel was the fantasy-adventure Stardust, based on the 1999 novel of the same name. It follows Tristan (Charlie Cox), a young man who sets off on a journey to capture a fallen star and bring it to his beloved in exchange for her hand in marriage, only to discover the fallen star is a woman (Claire Danes) and there is a witch after the star's heart to regain her youth.
Though the film omitted characters and a few key plot elements, it kept the majority of the story intact and received positive reviews from critics, who noted the impressive handling of the multiple genres the novel covered.
The second adaptation of a Gaiman work was the 2009 children's horror-fantasy film Coraline, based on Gaiman's children's novel of the same name, in which a young girl (Dakota Fanning) and her family move into a bizarre apartment complex with a door that leads to an alternate world where every adult in her complex are better versions of themselves, but with black buttons for eyes.
Director Henry Selick worked closely with Gaiman to not only faithfully bring the story to life, but to also expand on some aspects of the source material to make it a feature-length film worthy of the 163-page novella. The film proved to be a huge success, earning more than $120 million at the box office, critical acclaim, and Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. It helped to propel stop-motion studio Laika into the spotlight and proved there could always be a place for Gaiman's stories in the world of film.
The latest adaptation of Gaiman's work is the aforementioned Starz fantasy-mystery series American Gods, based on the 2001 novel of the same name. The story follows Shadow Moon, a recently released convict who, upon discovering that his wife is dead, begins working for the conman Mr. Wednesday and becomes engrossed in the world of real-life gods and monsters.
After nearly six years of development, the series has finally been brought to life through the combined efforts of Starz, co-creator Bryan Fuller, and Gaiman, and despite only having premiered on April 30, it's already shown signs of becoming a hit for the cable network. Critics have delivered nothing but praise for the fantasy thriller, the show holding an impressive 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The adaptation of Gaiman's 2005 fantasy novel Anansi Boys has yet to enter production, but is being turned into a TV miniseries by the BBC. The original novel followed the journey of two young men who discover they are brothers after the death of their father, a West African trickster god who was hiding in disguise as Mr. Nancy. The adaptation of the fantasy novel has been in the works for nearly five years now, and there is chatter that it will be a spinoff of #AmericanGods.
9. He Was Involved In A Legal Battle Over One of Stories
A few years into his comic writing career, Gaiman was contracted by cartoonist Todd McFarlane to guest author an issue of the newly created series Spawn, for which Gaiman created multiple characters that would go on to be a recurring cast in the series. Gaiman and McFarlane disagreed over copyright and whether Gaiman deserved royalties for the continuing use of his characters. After years of appeals and court appearances, Gaiman was granted joint ownership of his characters.
10. He And His Wife Often Hold Public Performances
Gaiman has been married twice, his first union lasting more than 20 years and spawning (y'see what I did there?) three kids, before their divorce in 2007. He's currently in an open marriage to musician Amanda Palmer, with the couple often celebrating their love with public performances in which Gaiman often reads one of his stories or his poetry while his wife plays guitar.
11. He's Been Named One Of The Best Tweeters
Most celebrities will use their Twitter accounts to promote upcoming works or to earnestly voice their opinions on politics. With Gaiman's Twitter, he offers a voice of comedy, wisdom and criticism of the modern world, which has not only helped him gain more than 2.5 million followers, but also pegged him as one of the best comic book Twitterers.
12. One Of His Besties Is Musician Tori Amos
Being friends with a rock star is everyone's teenage dream. Who wouldn't want the perks of free front-row seats? Before she hit the big time, musician Tori Amos was fangirling over Gaiman on her 1991 demo tape, showing her love for the Sandman series with references in the song "Neil and the Dream King." This would open the door for a career of references to each other in their respective works, including Gaiman creating a character based on Amos in his novel Stardust, and Amos making Gaiman the godfather of her daughter.
13. Gaiman Writes An Online Journal For Fans
Hoping to do what sci-fi writer Lafferty did for him, Gaiman regularly takes what he's learned as a writer, from how to structure stories, editing, and revising processes, and passes these lessons on to his fans who are also budding writers. Gaiman will often have ongoing communications with fans via his online journals, giving immediate responses to questions posed to the author. Gaiman stated in a 2008 journal entry that part of the reason he writes the blog is because "writing is, like death, a lonely business."
American Gods is screening now on Starz. Look out for Episode 2 of Season 1, airing Sunday, May 7, and check out the ep's teaser below. Are you a fan of Neil Gaiman? Sound off in the comments.
[Main image source: BBC]