Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman (//; born Neil Richard Gaiman, 10 November 1960) is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, nonfiction, audio theatre, and films. His works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. He has won numerous awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards, as well as the Newbery and Carnegie medals. He is the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work, The Graveyard Book (2008). In 2013, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 3 Personal life
- 4 Litigation
- 5 Literary allusions
- 6 Selected awards and honours
- 7 Bibliography
Gaiman’s family is of Polish Jewish and other Eastern European Jewish origins. His great-grandfather emigrated from Antwerp, Belgium, to the UK before 1914 and his grandfather eventually settled in the south of England in the Hampshire city of Portsmouth and established a chain of grocery stores. Gaiman’s grandfather changed his original family name of Chaiman to Gaiman. His father, David Bernard Gaiman, worked in the same chain of stores; his mother, Sheila Gaiman (née Goldman), was a pharmacist. He has two younger sisters, Claire and Lizzy.
After living for a period in the nearby town of Portchester, Hampshire, where Neil was born in 1960, the Gaimans moved in 1965 to the West Sussex town of East Grinstead, where his parents studied Dianetics at the Scientology centre in the town; one of Gaiman’s sisters works for the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles. His other sister, Lizzy Calcioli, has said, “Most of our social activities were involved with Scientology or our Jewish family. It would get very confusing when people would ask my religion as a kid. I’d say, ‘I’m a Jewish Scientologist.‘” Gaiman says that he is not a Scientologist, and that like Judaism, Scientology is his family’s religion. About his personal views, Gaiman has stated, “I think we can say that God exists in the DC Universe. I would not stand up and beat the drum for the existence of God in this universe. I don’t know, I think there’s probably a 50/50 chance. It doesn’t really matter to me.”
Gaiman was able to read at the age of four. He said, “I was a reader. I loved reading. Reading things gave me pleasure. I was very good at most subjects in school, not because I had any particular aptitude in them, but because normally on the first day of school they’d hand out schoolbooks, and I’d read them—which would mean that I’d know what was coming up, because I’d read it.” When he was about ten years old, he read his way through the works of Dennis Wheatley, where especially The Ka of Gifford Hillary and The Haunting of Toby Jugg made an impact on him. One work that made a particular impression on him was J. R. R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings from his school library. Although the library only had the first two of the novel’s three volumes, Neil consistently checked them out and read them. He later won the school English prize and the school reading prize, enabling him to finally acquire the third volume.
For his seventh birthday, Gaiman received C. S. Lewis‘s The Chronicles of Narnia series. He later recalled that “I admired his use of parenthetical statements to the reader, where he would just talk to you … I’d think, ‘Oh, my gosh, that is so cool! I want to do that! When I become an author, I want to be able to do things in parentheses.’ I liked the power of putting things in brackets.”Narnia also introduced him to literary awards, specifically the 1956 Carnegie Medal won by the concluding volume. When Gaiman won the 2010 Medal himself, the press reported him recalling, “it had to be the most important literary award there ever was” and observing, “if you can make yourself aged seven happy, you’re really doing well – it’s like writing a letter to yourself aged seven.”
Lewis Carroll‘s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was another childhood favourite, and “a favourite forever. Alice was default reading to the point where I knew it by heart.” He also enjoyed Batman comics as a child.
Gaiman was educated at several Church of England schools, including Fonthill School in East Grinstead,Ardingly College (1970–74), and Whitgift School in Croydon (1974–77). His father’s position as a public relations official of the Church of Scientology was the cause of the seven-year-old Gaiman being forced to withdraw from Fonthill School and remain at the school that he had previously been attending. He lived in East Grinstead for many years, from 1965 to 1980 and again from 1984 to 1987. He met his first wife, Mary McGrath, while she was studying Scientology and living in a house in East Grinstead that was owned by his father. The couple were married in 1985 after having their first child, Michael.
Journalism, early writings, and literary influences
As a child and a teenager, Gaiman read the works of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, Mary Shelley, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, Steve Ditko,Will Eisner,Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Lord Dunsany and G. K. Chesterton. A lifetime fan of the Monty Python comedy troupe, as a teenager he owned a copy of Monty Python’s Big Red Book. When he was 19–20 years old, he contacted his favourite science fiction writer, R. A. Lafferty, whom he discovered when he was nine, and asked for advice on becoming an author along with a Lafferty pastiche he had written. The writer sent Gaiman an encouraging and informative letter back, along with literary advice.
Gaiman has said Roger Zelazny was the author who influenced him the most, with this influence particularly seen in Gaiman’s literary style and the topics he writes about. Other authors Gaiman says “furnished the inside of my mind and set me to writing” include Moorcock, Ellison, Samuel R. Delany, Angela Carter, Lafferty and Le Guin. Neil Gaiman has also taken inspiration from the folk tales tradition, citing Otta F Swire‘s book on the legends of the Isle of Skye as his inspiration for The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains.
In the early 1980s, Gaiman pursued journalism, conducting interviews and writing book reviews, as a means to learn about the world and to make connections that he hoped would later assist him in getting published. He wrote and reviewed extensively for the British Fantasy Society. His first professional short story publication was “Featherquest”, a fantasy story, in Imagine Magazine in May 1984.
When waiting for a train at London’s Victoria Station in 1984, Gaiman noticed a copy of Swamp Thing written by Alan Moore, and carefully read it. Moore’s fresh and vigorous approach to comics had such an impact on Gaiman that he later wrote “that was the final straw, what was left of my resistance crumbled. I proceeded to make regular and frequent visits to London’s Forbidden Planet shop to buy comics”.
In 1984, he wrote his first book, a biography of the band Duran Duran, as well as Ghastly Beyond Belief, a book of quotations, with Kim Newman. Even though Gaiman thought he had done a terrible job, the book’s first edition sold out very quickly. When he went to relinquish his rights to the book, he discovered the publisher had gone bankrupt. After this, he was offered a job by Penthouse. He refused the offer.
He also wrote interviews and articles for many British magazines, including Knave. During this he sometimes wrote under pseudonyms, including Gerry Musgrave, Richard Grey, and “a couple of house names”. Gaiman has said he ended his journalism career in 1987 because British newspapers regularly publish untruths as fact.
In the late 1980s, he wrote Don’t Panic: The Official Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Companion in what he calls a “classic English humour” style. Following this he wrote the opening of what became his collaboration with fellow English author Terry Pratchett on the comic novel Good Omens, about the impending apocalypse.
After forming a friendship with comic-book writer Alan Moore, Gaiman started writing comic books, picking up Miracleman after Moore finished his run on the series. Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham collaborated on several issues of the series before its publisher, Eclipse Comics, collapsed, leaving the series unfinished. His first published comic strips were four short Future Shocks for 2000 AD in 1986–87. He wrote three graphic novels with his favourite collaborator and long-time friend Dave McKean: Violent Cases, Signal to Noise, and The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch. Impressed with his work, DC Comics hired him in February 1987, and he wrote the limited series Black Orchid.Karen Berger, who later became head of DC Comics‘s Vertigo, read Black Orchid and offered Gaiman a job: to re-write an old character, The Sandman, but to put his own spin on him.
The Sandman tells the tale of the ageless, anthropomorphic personification of Dream that is known by many names, including Morpheus. The series began in January 1989 and concluded in March 1996. In the eighth issue of The Sandman, Gaiman and artist Mike Dringenberg introduced Death, the older sister of Dream, who became as popular as the series’ title character. The limited series Death: The High Cost of Living launched DC’s Vertigo line in 1993. The 75 issues of the regular series, along with an illustrated prose text and a special containing seven short stories, have been collected into 12 volumes that remain in print, 14 if the Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life spin-offs are included. Artists include Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Jill Thompson, Shawn McManus, Marc Hempel and Michael Zulli, lettering by Todd Klein, colours by Daniel Vozzo, and covers by Dave McKean. The series became one of DC’s top selling titles, eclipsing even Batman and Superman. Comics historian Les Daniels called Gaiman’s work “astonishing” and noted that The Sandman was “a mixture of fantasy, horror, and ironic humor such as comic books had never seen before”. DC Comics writer and executive Paul Levitz observed that “The Sandman became the first extraordinary success as a series of graphic novel collections, reaching out and converting new readers to the medium, particularly young women on college campuses, and making Gaiman himself into an iconic cultural figure.”
Gaiman and Jamie Delano were to become co-writers of the Swamp Thing series following Rick Veitch. An editorial decision by DC to censor Veitch’s final storyline caused both Gaiman and Delano to withdraw from the title.
Gaiman produced two stories for DC’s Secret Origins series in 1989. A Poison Ivy tale drawn by Mark Buckingham and a Riddler story illustrated by Bernie Mireault and Matt Wagner. A story that Gaiman originally wrote for Action Comics Weekly in 1989 was shelved due to editorial concerns but it was finally published in 2000 as Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame.
In 1990, Gaiman wrote The Books of Magic, a four-part mini-series that provided a tour of the mythological and magical parts of the DC Universe through a frame story about an English teenager who discovers that he is destined to be the world’s greatest wizard. The miniseries was popular, and sired an ongoing series written by John Ney Rieber.
In the mid-1990s, he also created a number of new characters and a setting that was to be featured in a title published by Tekno Comix. The concepts were then altered and split between three titles set in the same continuity: Lady Justice, Mr. Hero the Newmatic Man, and Teknophage, and tie-ins. Although Gaiman’s name appeared prominently as creator of the characters, he was not involved in writing any of the above-mentioned books.
Gaiman wrote a semi-autobiographical story about a boy’s fascination with Michael Moorcock‘s anti-hero Elric of Melniboné for Ed Kramer‘s anthology Tales of the White Wolf. In 1996, Gaiman and Ed Kramer co-edited The Sandman: Book of Dreams. Nominated for the British Fantasy Award, the original fiction anthology featured stories and contributions by Tori Amos, Clive Barker, Gene Wolfe, Tad Williams, and others.
Asked why he likes comics more than other forms of storytelling, Gaiman said:
“One of the joys of comics has always been the knowledge that it was, in many ways, untouched ground. It was virgin territory. When I was working on Sandman, I felt a lot of the time that I was actually picking up a machete and heading out into the jungle. I got to write in places and do things that nobody had ever done before. When I’m writing novels I’m painfully aware that I’m working in a medium that people have been writing absolutely jaw-droppingly brilliant things for, you know, three-four thousand years now. You know, you can go back. We have things like The Golden Ass. And you go, well, I don’t know that I’m as good as that and that’s two and a half thousand years old. But with comics I felt like – I can do stuff nobody has ever done. I can do stuff nobody has ever thought of. And I could and it was enormously fun.”
Gaiman wrote two series for Marvel Comics. Marvel 1602 was an eight-issue limited series published from November 2003 to June 2004 with art by Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove.The Eternals was a seven-issue limited series drawn by John Romita Jr., which was published from August 2006 to March 2007.
In 2009, Gaiman wrote a two-part Batman story for DC Comics to follow Batman R.I.P. titled “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?“ a play-off of the classic Superman story “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” by Alan Moore. He contributed a twelve-part Metamorpho serial drawn by Mike Allred for Wednesday Comics, a weekly newspaper-style series. Gaiman and Paul Cornell co-wrote Action Comics #894 (December 2010), which featured an appearance by Death. In October 2013, DC Comics released The Sandman: Overture with art by J. H. Williams III. Gaiman’s Angela character was introduced into the Marvel Universe in the last issue of the Age of Ultron miniseries in 2013.
Gaiman is overseeing The Sandman Universe, a line of comic books published by Vertigo. The four new ongoing series — House of Whispers, Lucifer, The Books of Magic, and The Dreaming — are written by new creative teams. The line launched on 8 August 2018.
In a collaboration with author Terry Pratchett, best known for his series of Discworld novels, Gaiman’s first novel Good Omens was published in 1990. In 2011 Pratchett said that while the entire novel was a collaborative effort and most of the ideas could be credited to both of them, Pratchett did a larger portion of writing and editing if for no other reason than Gaiman’s scheduled involvement with Sandman.
The 1996 novelisation of Gaiman’s teleplay for the BBC mini-series Neverwhere was his first solo novel. The novel was released in tandem with the television series though it presents some notable differences from the television series. Gaiman has since revised the novel twice, the first time for an American audience unfamiliar with the London Underground, the second time because he felt unsatisfied with the original.
In 1999, first printings of his fantasy novel Stardust were released. The novel has been released both as a standard novel and in an illustrated text edition. This novel was highly influenced by Victorian fairytales and culture.
American Gods became one of Gaiman’s best-selling and multi-award-winning novels upon its release in 2001. A special 10th Anniversary edition was released, with the “author’s preferred text” 12,000 words longer than the original mass-market editions.
Gaiman has not written a direct sequel to American Gods but he has revisited the characters. A glimpse at Shadow’s travels in Europe is found in a short story which finds him in Scotland, applying the same concepts developed in American Gods to the story of Beowulf. The 2005 novel Anansi Boys deals with Anansi (‘Mr. Nancy’), tracing the relationship of his two sons, one semi-divine and the other an unassuming Englishman, as they explore their common heritage. It debuted at number one on The New York Times Best Seller list.
In late 2008, Gaiman released a new children’s book, The Graveyard Book. It follows the adventures of a boy named Bod after his family is murdered and he is left to be brought up by a graveyard. It is heavily influenced by Rudyard Kipling‘s The Jungle Book. As of late January 2009[update], it had been on The New York Times Bestseller children’s list for fifteen weeks.
In 2013, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards. The novel follows an unnamed man who returns to his hometown for a funeral and remembers events that began forty years earlier. Themes include the search for self-identity and the “disconnect between childhood and adulthood”.
Film and screenwriting
Gaiman wrote the 1996 BBC dark fantasy television series Neverwhere. He cowrote the screenplay for the movie MirrorMask with his old friend Dave McKean for McKean to direct. In addition, he wrote the localised English language script to the anime movie Princess Mononoke, based on a translation of the Japanese script.
He cowrote the script for Robert Zemeckis‘s Beowulf with Roger Avary, a collaboration that has proved productive for both writers. Gaiman has expressed interest in collaborating on a film adaptation of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Gaiman has also written at least three drafts of a screenplay adaptation of Nicholson Baker‘s novel The Fermata for director Robert Zemeckis, although the project was stalled while Zemeckis made The Polar Express and the Gaiman-Roger Avary written Beowulf film.
Several of Gaiman’s original works have been optioned or greenlighted for film adaptation, most notably Stardust, which premiered in August 2007 and stars Charlie Cox, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes and Mark Strong, directed by Matthew Vaughn. A stop-motion version of Coraline was released on 6 February 2009, with Henry Selick directing and Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher in the leading voice-actor roles.
In 2007, Gaiman it was announced that after ten years in development, the feature film of Death: The High Cost of Living would finally begin production with a screenplay by Gaiman that he would direct for Warner Independent. Don Murphy and Susan Montford are the producers, and Guillermo del Toro is the film’s executive producer. By 2010 it had been reported that it was no longer in production.
Seeing Ear Theatre performed two of Gaiman’s audio theatre plays, “Snow, Glass, Apples“, Gaiman’s retelling of Snow White and “Murder Mysteries“, a story of heaven before the Fall in which the first crime is committed. Both audio plays were published in the collection Smoke and Mirrors in 1998.
Gaiman wrote an episode of the long-running BBC science fiction series Doctor Who, broadcast in 2011 during Matt Smith‘s second series as the Doctor. Shooting began in August 2010 for this episode, the original title of which was “The House of Nothing” but which was eventually transmitted as “The Doctor’s Wife“. The episode won the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form). Gaiman made his return to Doctor Who with an episode titled “Nightmare in Silver“, broadcast on 11 May 2013.
A six-part radio play of Neverwhere was broadcast in March 2013, adapted by Dirk Maggs for BBC Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra. Featured stars include James McAvoy as Richard, Natalie Dormer, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, Bernard Cribbens and Johnny Vegas.
In September 2014, Gaiman and Terry Pratchett joined forces with BBC Radio 4 to make the first ever dramatisation of their co-penned novel Good Omens, which was broadcast in December in five half-hour episodes and culminated in an hour-long final apocalyptic showdown.
Gaiman frequently performs public readings from his stories and poetry, and has toured with his wife, musician Amanda Palmer. In some of these performances he has also sung songs, in “a novelist’s version of singing”, despite having “no kind of singing voice”.
In 2015, Gaiman delivered a 100-minute lecture for the Long Now Foundation entitled How Stories Last about the nature of storytelling and how stories persist in human culture. In April 2018 Gaiman made a guest appearance on the television show The Big Bang Theory, and his tweet about the show’s fictional comic book store becomes the central theme of the episode “The Comet Polarization”.
Blog and Twitter
In February 2001, when Gaiman had completed writing American Gods, his publishers set up a promotional website featuring a weblog in which Gaiman described the day-to-day process of revising, publishing, and promoting the novel. After the novel was published, the website evolved into a more general Official Neil Gaiman Website.
Gaiman generally posts to the blog describing the day-to-day process of being Neil Gaiman and writing, revising, publishing, or promoting whatever the current project is. He also posts reader emails and answers questions, which gives him unusually direct and immediate interaction with fans. One of his answers on why he writes the blog is “because writing is, like death, a lonely business.”
To celebrate the seventh anniversary of the blog, the novel American Gods was provided free of charge online for a month.
Gaiman is an active user of the social networking site Twitter with over 2.7 million followers as of June 2018[update], using the username @neilhimself. In 2013, Gaiman was named by IGN as one of “The Best Tweeters in Comics”, describing his posts as “sublime.” Gaiman also runs a Tumblr account on which he primarily answers fan questions.
Gaiman is a dedicated user of fountain pens and has said that he writes the first draft of all his books with one. He started this practice with Stardust which he wrote in fountain pen in order to capture the feeling of the 1920s. He is most closely associated with the Pilot 823, one of which he has said he has used for giving over one million signatures.
|2010||Arthur||Himself (Voice)||“Falafelosophy/The Great Lint Rush”|
|2011||The Simpsons||Himself (Voice)||“The Book Job“|
|2013||Jay & Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie||Albert the Manservant (Voice)|
|2015||The Making of a Superhero Musical||Melvin Morel|
|2016||Neil Gaiman Dream Dangerously||Himself|
|2017||The Simpsons||Snowball (Voice)||“Treehouse of Horror XXVIII“|
|2018||The Big Bang Theory||Himself||“The Comet Polarization”|
|2018||Lucifer||God||“Once Upon a Time”|
|2019||Good Omens||Man in the theater/Bunny Rabbit/Head Frog||“Saturday Morning Funtime”|
Gaiman has lived near Menomonie, Wisconsin, since 1992. Gaiman moved there to be close to the family of his then-wife, Mary McGrath, with whom he has three children. As of 2013[update], Gaiman also resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 2014, he took up a five-year appointment as professor in the arts at Bard College, in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.
Gaiman is married to songwriter and performer Amanda Palmer, with whom he has an open marriage. The couple announced that they were dating in June 2009, and announced their engagement on Twitter on 1 January 2010. On 16 November 2010, Palmer hosted a non-legally binding flash mob wedding for Gaiman’s birthday in New Orleans. They were legally married on 2 January 2011. The wedding took place in the parlour of writers Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon. On marrying Palmer, he took her middle name, MacKinnon, as one of his names. In September 2015, they had a son. In May 2020, Palmer announced their separation; Gaiman relocated to the UK, and Palmer stayed in New Zealand.
In May 2020, he traveled from New Zealand to his holiday home on the Isle of Skye, breaking lockdown rules imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford described his behaviour as unacceptable and dangerous. Gaiman published an apology on his website, saying he had endangered the local community.
In 2016, Gaiman, as well as Cate Blanchett, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Peter Capaldi, Douglas Booth, Jesse Eisenberg, Keira Knightley, Juliet Stevenson, Kit Harington, and Stanley Tucci, appeared in the video “What They Took With Them”, from the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR, to help raise awareness of the issue of global refugees.
Friendship with Tori Amos
One of Gaiman’s most commented-upon friendships is with the musician Tori Amos, a Sandman fan who became friends with Gaiman after making a reference to “Neil and the Dream King” on her 1991 demo tape. He included her in turn as a character (a talking tree) in his novel Stardust. Amos also mentions Gaiman in her songs, “Tear in Your Hand” (“If you need me, me and Neil’ll be hangin’ out with the dream king. Neil says hi by the way”), “Space Dog” (“Where’s Neil when you need him?”), “Horses” (“But will you find me if Neil makes me a tree?”), “Carbon” (“Get me Neil on the line, no I can’t hold. Have him read, ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ where nothing is what it seems”), “Sweet Dreams” (“You’re forgetting to fly, darling, when you sleep”), and “Not Dying Today” (“Neil is thrilled he can claim he’s mammalian, ‘but the bad news,’ he said, ‘girl you’re a dandelion'”). He also wrote stories for the tour book of Boys for Pele and Scarlet’s Walk, a letter for the tour book of American Doll Posse, and the stories behind each girl in her album Strange Little Girls. Amos penned the introduction for his novel Death: the High Cost of Living, and posed for the cover. She also wrote a song called “Sister Named Desire” based on his Sandman character, which was included on his anthology, Where’s Neil When You Need Him?.
Gaiman is godfather to Tori Amos’s daughter Tash, and wrote a poem called “Blueberry Girl” for Tori and Tash. The poem has been turned into a book by the illustrator Charles Vess. Gaiman read the poem aloud to an audience at the Sundance Kabuki Theater in San Francisco on 5 October 2008 during his book reading tour for The Graveyard Book. It was published in March 2009 with the title Blueberry Girl.
In 1993, Gaiman was contracted by Todd McFarlane to write a single issue of Spawn, a popular title at the newly created Image Comics company. McFarlane was promoting his new title by having guest authors Gaiman, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Dave Sim each write a single issue.
In issue No. 9 of the series, Gaiman introduced the characters Angela, Cogliostro, and Medieval Spawn. Prior to this issue, Spawn was an assassin who worked for the government and came back as a reluctant agent of Hell but had no real direction in his actions. In Angela, a cruel and malicious angel, Gaiman introduced a character who threatened Spawn’s existence, as well as providing a moral opposite. Cogliostro was introduced as a mentor character for exposition and instruction, providing guidance. Medieval Spawn introduced a history and precedent that not all Spawns were self-serving or evil, giving additional character development to Malebolgia, the demon that creates Hellspawn.
As intended, all three characters were used repeatedly throughout the next decade by Todd McFarlane within the wider Spawn universe. In papers filed by Gaiman in early 2002, however, he claimed that the characters were jointly owned by their scripter (himself) and artist (McFarlane), not merely by McFarlane in his role as the creator of the series. Disagreement over who owned the rights to a character was the primary motivation for McFarlane and other artists to form Image Comics (although that argument related more towards disagreements between writers and artists as character creators). As McFarlane used the characters without Gaiman’s permission or royalty payments, Gaiman believed his copyrighted work was being infringed upon, which violated their original oral agreement. McFarlane initially agreed that Gaiman had not signed away any rights to the characters, and negotiated with Gaiman to effectively ‘swap’ McFarlane’s interest in the character Marvelman. McFarlane had purchased interest in the character when Eclipse Comics was liquidated while Gaiman was interested in being able to continue his aborted run of the Marvelman title. McFarlane later changed his initial position, claiming that Gaiman’s work had only been work-for-hire and that McFarlane owned all of Gaiman’s creations entirely. The presiding judge, however, ruled against their agreement being work for hire, based in large part on the legal requirement that “copyright assignments must be in writing.”
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court ruling in February 2004 granting joint ownership of the characters to Gaiman and McFarlane. On the specific issue of Cogliostro, presiding Judge John C. Shabaz proclaimed, “The expressive work that is the comic-book character Count Nicholas Cogliostro was the joint work of Gaiman and McFarlane—their contributions strike us as quite equal—and both are entitled to ownership of the copyright”. Similar analysis led to similar results for the other two characters, Angela and Medieval Spawn.
This legal battle was brought by Gaiman and the specifically formed Marvels and Miracles, LLC, which Gaiman had previously created to help sort out the legal rights surrounding Marvelman. Gaiman had written Marvel 1602 in 2003 to help fund this project and all of Gaiman’s profits for the original issues of the series were donated to Marvels and Miracles. Marvelman was eventually purchased by Marvel Comics in 2009.
Gaiman returned to court again over the Spawn characters Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany, claiming that they were “derivative of the three he co-created with McFarlane.” The judge ruled that Gaiman was right in these claims as well and gave McFarlane until the beginning of September 2010 to settle the matter.
Gaiman’s work is known for a high degree of allusiveness. Dr. Meredith Collins, for instance, has commented upon the degree to which his novel Stardust depends on allusions to Victorian fairy tales and culture. Particularly in The Sandman, literary figures and characters appear often; the character of Fiddler’s Green is modelled visually on G. K. Chesterton, both William Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer appear as characters, as do several characters from within A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest. The comic also draws from numerous mythologies and historical periods.
Analyzing Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, bibliographer and librarian Richard Bleiler detects patterns of and allusions to the Gothic novel, from Horace Walpole‘s The Castle of Otranto to Shirley Jackson‘s The Haunting of Hill House. He concludes that Gaiman is “utilizing works, characters, themes, and settings that generations of scholars have identified and classified as Gothic, … [yet] subverts them and develops the novel by focusing on the positive aspects of maturation, concentrating on the values of learning, friendship, and sacrifice.” Regarding another work’s assumed connection and allusions to this form, Gaiman himself quipped: “I’ve never been able to figure out whether Sandman is a gothic.”
Clay Smith has argued that this sort of allusiveness serves to situate Gaiman as a strong authorial presence in his own works, often to the exclusion of his collaborators. However, Smith’s viewpoint is in the minority: to many, if there is a problem with Gaiman scholarship and intertextuality it is that “… his literary merit and vast popularity have propelled him into the nascent comics canon so quickly that there is not yet a basis of critical scholarship about his work.”
Though Gaiman’s work is frequently seen as exemplifying the monomyth structure laid out in Joseph Campbell‘s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Gaiman says that he started reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces but refused to finish it: “I think I got about half way through The Hero with a Thousand Faces and found myself thinking if this is true – I don’t want to know. I really would rather not know this stuff. I’d rather do it because it’s true and because I accidentally wind up creating something that falls into this pattern than be told what the pattern is.”
Selected awards and honours
This article’s use of external links may not follow Wikipedia’s policies or guidelines. Please improve this article by removing excessive or inappropriate external links, and converting useful links where appropriate into footnote references. (May 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- Official website
- Neil Gaiman at Curlie
- Neil Gaiman at British Council: Literature
- Neil Gaiman at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Works by Neil Gaiman at Open Library
- Neil Gaiman at Library of Congress Authorities, with 179 catalogue records
- Neil Gaiman Visual Bibliography
- Neil Gaiman at the Grand Comics Database
- Neil Gaiman at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original)
- Neil Gaiman at the Internet Book List
- Neil Gaiman on IMDb
- Neil Gaiman’s Children’s Books
- In-depth interview: Neil Gaiman in conversation with Tom Chatfield in Prospect magazine
- Appearances on C-SPAN