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Balloonless | Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art’ speech, in book form

make good art coverI attended a small, perpetually broke Catholic high school that couldn’t afford to employ a guidance counselor. If we could have afforded one, it’s highly unlikely it would’ve been Neil Gaiman, as nice as that might have been.

At the time I was nearing graduation and about to go off to college to earn an expensive degree in pursuit of my lifelong — all 18 years of it — ambition to be a writer, Gaiman was just the writer of The Sandman (and a few other pretty great comics), and was, in fact, nearing the final story arc of that seminal series. At that point in my life, I certainly would’ve liked advice from the writer of one of my favorite comic series.

In the years since, Gaiman’s bona fides have only increased. In addition to writing comics, he’s written novels for adults and kids, he’ s written picture books, he’s written screenplays, he’s seen his works adapted into television and film, and he’s enjoyed  the rarefied position of being a writer whose works are not only popular, but acclaimed, as well as being almost universally beloved in the field of comics, an industry with more than its fair share of crooks and cranks, of drawn daggers and venom.

Who better to offer advice to a young person about to embark — or at least attempt to embark — on a life in the arts, particularly a young person who would like to be a successful, professional writer of quality fiction? Someone who might want to grow up to be someone like, say, Neil Gaiman?

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Comics A.M. | ‘Attack on Titan’ closes in on ‘One Piece’ in Japan

Attack on Titan, Vol. 10

Attack on Titan, Vol. 10

Manga | While Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan has been burning up the bookstore sales charts in the United States, the dystopian manga is also giving the smash-hit One Piece a run for its money in Japan. According to market research firm Oricon, Attack on Titan sold more than 15.9 million copies in the past year, just behind One Piece‘s 18.1 million (Kuroko’s Basketball is a distance third with about 8.8 million). Of course,  Eiichiro Oda insanely popular pirate manga has little to fear: The 72-volume (and counting) series has 300 million copies in print in Japan, and 345 million worldwide. Kodansha’s Attack on Titan, meanwhile, is on its 11th volume. [ICv2]

Auctions | Select titles from Don and Maggie Thompson’s collection of rare comics — among them, The Avengers #1, Journey Into Mystery #83 and The Incredible Hulk #1 — sold at auction last week for a combined $835,384. A 9.6 copy of Tales of Suspense #39 alone fetched $262,900. [Heritage Auctions]

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Quote of the Day | Neil Gaiman on writing comics

neil gaiman“I knew what a movie script looked like, I’d seen them. But I couldn’t get my head around what a comic script was. And eventually, a marvelous comics writer, probably the finest writer of comics there’s ever been, a man named Alan Moore just showed me how to write comics. He sat down and said, ‘Right, right now, you write Page One, Panel One. And then you say everything that is happening in that panel.’ In this case, you know, you’d say, ‘Page one, panel one, Neil Gaiman and Tom Ashbrook are sitting in a studio, there’s paper all over the desk, there are great big microphones. Neil is talking, waving his hands around, doing an impression of Alan Moore. Tom is nodding sagely.’

It’s stage directions, and it’s a letter to an artist. And then underneath, you’d write Tom: ‘It’s stage directions’; Neil: ‘It’s a letter to an artist’ and those would be what would go into the word balloons. And Neil, thought balloon: ‘I’m so glad they got me that cup of tea.’ You put everything. As far as I was concerned, and still to this day, as far as I’m concerned a comic script is a 10,000 word letter to an artist. I would always get puzzled when people would say to me, ‘So you write comics! So you write the words that go in the balloons.’ And you’re going, ‘That’s absolutely the tip of the iceberg.’ What I’m doing is building the cake, and in those words I will tell the artist everything I want to be in the panel — the size of the panel, the shape. What you’re also doing is working with some of the most creative people in the world.”

The Sandman writer Neil Gaiman, turning his interview with Tom Ashbrook for the WBUR radio show On Point into a comic script on the spot

Quote of the Day | ‘All I wanted was not to be canceled’

sandman house ad“It was terrifying. It was really, really scary. It was mostly really scary because — at the beginning of writing Sandman, nobody expected anything. All I wanted was not to be canceled. Back then, DC Comics had a really nice system, where they would give you a year to save face for everybody. So I knew I had twelve issues, and I loved the fact that I had my twelve issues. That was great! All I wanted was not to be canceled at the end of issue twelve, not to get the phone call.

Back then, I wasn’t nervous. Nobody was looking, nobody cared. Since then, “Sandman” has sold millions upon millions upon millions of graphic novels. You have a generation that grew up reading them, and then a younger generation that got infected. Now, I will do signings and it’s kind of weird that I’ll be signing copies of “Sandman” graphic novels for people who were not born when the first issues came out.”

Neil Gaiman, on sitting down to write the six-issue Sandman: Overture

Comics A.M. | More on JFK comic art that surfaced at auction

From "Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy”

From “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy”

Creators | Newsday picks up the story of Al Plastino’s original art for the John F. Kennedy comic that was canceled when the president was assassinated, and then published a few months later at the request of the Johnson administration. Plastino, now 91, had been told the artwork would be donated to the Kennedy Library, but last month at New York Comic Con he learned that a private individual had the art and was planning to sell it through Heritage Auctions, which now says it won’t move forward until the ownership question is resolved. Copyright lawyer Dale Cendall, former DC Comics President Paul Levitz and artist Neal Adams weigh in on the case. [Newsday]

Kickstarter | In the wake of the successful Fantagraphics Kickstarter campaign, Rob Salkowitz looks at the evolution of the crowdfunding platform from a way for individual creators to connect with their audiences to a pre-sale mechanism that eliminates a lot of the risk for smaller publishers. [ICv2]

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For the ‘Sandman’ fan who has everything: $500 Silver Edition

sandman-silver2

With the holidays rapidly approaching, you may be wondering what to buy that special Neil Gaiman fan in your life. If you have a generous budget, and really like this person, you may want to consider the limited-edition Sandman Omnibus Silver Edition from DC Comics.

Like the standard Omnibus, it’s a two-volume hardcover collection of the entire 75-issue run of The Sandman, released to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the landmark series. Of course, it comes with additional bells and whistles, like a slipcase, silver-gilded pages and a numbered art page autographed by Gaiman himself. Only 500 copies will be printed, so you’ll score serious points with that Sandman enthusiast.

But here’s where you have to decide just how special that Gaiman fan is to you: The Sandman Omnibus Silver Edition costs a whopping $499.95 … plus shipping. It’s limited to one per customer, in case you had any ideas about stocking stuffers.

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Vertigo debuts ‘The Sandman: Overture’ television spot

sandman-overture-tv-spot

Vertigo has debuted the television commercial for The Sandman: Overture, the new miniseries by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III.  The DC Comics imprint is billing the comic as “the first new Sandman story in 17 years,” which seems to overlook the 2003 graphic novel The Sandman: Endless Nights.

There’s no word yet as to where the ad will air, but last year’s Before Watchmen campaign was in heavy rotation on IFC, BBC America and (the now-defunct) G4.

The Sandman: Overture #1 was released Oct. 30.

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Neil Gaiman writes ‘Doctor Who’ e-book for 50th anniversary

Neil Gaiman, Suranne Jones and Matt Smith on the set of "Doctor Who"

Neil Gaiman, Suranne Jones and Matt Smith on the set of “Doctor Who”

Neil Gaiman has written the final short story in a series of e-books released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, each centering on one of the Time Lord’s 11 incarnations. Titled “Nothing O’Clock,” it stars the Eleventh Doctor (as played by Matt Smith) and Amy Pond.

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Reviews | ‘Sandman: Overture’ #1 & ‘Damian: Son of Batman’ #1

sandman coverI think it’s hard to overestimate the value of The Sandman, the 75-issue Neil Gaiman-written series that began its life as a revival of the late-’70s Joe Simon/Jack Kirby character, and ended up as 1,600-plus page epic that was one of the all-time best gateway comics — not to mention a powerful factor in the mainstreaming of adult comics content and a then still-emerging graphic novel market.

So Gaiman returning to Dream of the Endless (and the first Dream, rather than Daniel), for the first time since 2003′s The Sandman: Endless Nights? That should be a pretty big deal, right?

For The Sandman: Overture, which debuted this week, Gaiman is paired with Promethea artist J.H. Williams III (better known these days for his run on Batwoman), colorist Dave Stewart and letterer Todd Klein, who lettered all the previous Sandman comics.

As exciting as the project is, it also feels rather dangerous for writer, reader, character and publisher. You know what they say about going home again, after all, or catching lightning in  a bottle.

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Neil Gaiman joins faculty of New York’s Bard College

neil gaiman

As if the debut today of The Sandman: Overture weren’t enough, Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, announced this morning that acclaimed fantasy author and comics writer Neil Gaiman will join its theater and performance faculty in the spring semester as a professor in the arts.

He’ll teach courses in the Division of the Arts and the Division of Languages and Literature, beginning with an advanced writing workshop “exploring the history of the fantastic, approaches to fantasy fiction, and the meaning of fantasy today.”

Gaiman, who this year launched what he calls his last U.S. signing tour (in support of The Ocean at the End of the Lane), lives with his wife Amanda Palmer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, about three hours away from Bard College.

Comics A.M. | Graphic novel sales rise again in book market

The Walking Dead, Vol. 18

The Walking Dead, Vol. 18

Graphic novels | Graphic novel sales are up 6.59 percent in comics shops, and they are also up in bookstores, according to the latest issue of ICv2′s Internal Correspondence. Sales have been increasing in the direct market for a while, but this is the first uptick in bookstore sales since the economy crashed in 2008. There seem to be several factors, including the popularity of television and movie tie-ins — the success of DC’s graphic novel program linked to Man of Steel is singled out — and a turnaround in manga sales. The article winds up with lists of the top properties in a number of different categories. [ICv2]

Digital comics | Here’s today’s news article on Crunchyroll’s new digital manga service, which offers same-day releases of 12 Kodansha manga titles for free and an all-you-can-eat service for $4.99 a month. Tomohiro Osaki interviews Japanese publishing insiders, who are upfront about the fact that this is an attempt to compete with pirate sites, and translator Matt Thorn, who says that better translations on the official site may lure readers away from scanlations. [The Japan Times]

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Can we wait 25 years for more ‘Sandman’ mysteries to be solved?

sandman-overture2aTo celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Sandman, Neil Gaiman looked back to the very beginning of the acclaimed series to answer a lingering question: What left the mighty Lord of Dreams so weakened that he was able to be imprisoned for 70 years?

“We learn, as the story goes on, that he arrived in England exhausted, dressed for war, from somewhere very far away, and that was why they captured him so easily,” Gaiman told Fast Company ahead of the Wednesday debut of The Sandman: Overture, his six-issue collaboration with J.H. Williams III. “But I never told that story. And it’s big, and it’s very weird.”

However, over the course of the The Sandman‘s 75-issue run, there were at least two other untold tales that are certainly just as big, and undoubtedly just as weird — and they both involve the letter D (naturally).

“If we ever get to the 50th anniversary, I may tell the story of how the character of Delight became Delirium, or the story of how the first Despair died,” Gaiman teased. “But that’s the 50th anniversary, so there’s plenty of time.”

Although Destruction, who long ago abandoned his Endless duties and disappeared, was found during the series, Delight’s transformation into Delirium was a mystery to which not even Destiny knew the answer. And while clues were dropped about the death of the original Despair — she even appeared in 2003′s Endless Nights — readers were left wondering about the details, including who was behind it.

But, hey, we can hold out until 2038 for the answers, right?

Quote of the Day | Neil Gaiman on serialized storytelling

sandman overture1“I started to feel an enormous amount of sympathy and empathy for Charles Dickens, because he was doing the same thing – a serialized story. And I started reading Dickens in a very, very different way. While writing The Sandman I’d go, ‘Ah, this is part of the big plot that you absolutely know what you’re doing, and this bit is you going, “I’m not quite sure what I’m doing here, so I’m gonna busk a little bit. And this is you just bringing on a character and just going I know I’ll find a use for you somewhere down the line.”‘ These days, probably the nearest thing to it outside of comics would be serial television, if you had just had one writer. [...] But the one thing that TV has is the same thing wonderful thing that Dickens had, and same thing that I had – to be able to take stock of what you’re doing and what’s working as you go, to the point where you bring on somebody who was a little better than an extra and you go, ‘Actually, everybody really likes that guy and we like that guy! Let’s bring him back and have him do something else.’ And by season two he’s one of the stars and nobody actually remembers that he wasn’t even in the original outline. There were definitely things when I was writing Sandman that were like that. And in a peculiar way, there are moments when I’m writing Overture where I get to do little things that set up for later things that I wasn’t expecting.”

Neil Gaiman, reflecting on writing The Sandman on a monthly basis, in an interview with RollingStone.com

New Zealand library in catch-22 over ‘Lost Girls’

lost-girlsA New Zealand library’s refusal over the summer to carry Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls has received renewed attention, earning a signal boost from Neil Gaiman and a stern denial from the National Library of New Zealand that it had anything to do with the move.

The story illustrates the strange and unenviable predicament of libraries in countries with censorship laws: If they submit the material for government review in hopes it will be cleared, they risk triggering a ban; however, if they don’t submit a potentially objectionable book, they risk later being found in violation of the law.

Here’s what happened in New Zealand: Over the summer, cartoonist Dylan Horrocks reported he had asked his local library in Auckland to purchase a copy of Lost Girls. The library refused, and he posted its response on his Facebook page:

Thank you for your suggestion to purchase ‘Lost Girls’ by Alan Moore. Due to the depictions contained within this graphic novel we have been advised by the Office of Film and Literature Classification that we may be at risk of prosecution if we made the book available to customers. As a result Auckland Libraries will not be purchasing copies of this title.

As it turns out, Stuff.co.nz reported this week, the library had purchased a copy in 2008, at a patron’s request, but removed it from shelves after concerns were raised about the content.

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Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean on the birth of ‘The Sandman’

Sandman Overtures #1 Cover for the 25th-anniversary story Neil is currentlyI like this too-brief piece for The Guardian in which writer Neil Gaiman recounts the beginnings, and the “end,” of The Sandman and artist Dave McKean recalls the evolution of the comic’s distinctive covers.

“I’d been keeping it secret that the story would one day end. But, around issue 30, I began dropping hints,” says. “And it was explained to me that this couldn’t happen: with a successful monthly, when a writer leaves, a new one comes in. I decided not to argue. But in every interview I did, I said I hoped they would stop it when I left, because if they did I would keep on working for them. That percolated into the world and one day I got a call from Karen [Berger] saying: ‘You know, we really can’t keep this going after you’re done.’ That was the biggest thing Sandman changed: DC’s most successful comic was stopped because the writer was done. Otherwise, the brand would have been tarnished.”

As a nice bonus, there’s also a gallery of McKean’s favorite Sandman covers, complete with commentary. The Sandman: Overture, by Gaiman and J.H. Williams III, with variant covers by McKean, debuts Oct. 30.

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