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I 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.
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.
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]
To 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?
“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
A 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.
I 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.
Starting today, UK underground comics publisher Knockabout Comics and digital-comics publisher Sequential are teaming up to publish Neil Gaiman’s Lost Tales, a collection of Gaiman’s comic strips from the 1980s, for free—and they will donate 50 cents to charity for every download.
The 100-page collection, which is available only via the Sequential iPad app, includes stories from Outrageous Tales from the Old Testament and Seven Deadly Sins, as well as a science fiction story from 2000AD and other material. Some of the comics are collaborations with other creators, including Bryan Talbot and Dave McKean, and many are long out of print. Also included is a 1988 interview with Gaiman.
A New Mexico school district has at least temporarily removed Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere from its lone high school following an objection to the fantasy novel’s “inappropriate” content.” The book has been part of the 10th-grade English curriculum in 2004.
The Alamogordo Daily News reports that Nancy Wilmott, whose daughter was reading the novel as part of an assignment, was offended by a four-paragraph passage on Page 86 that “graphically describes an adulterous sexual encounter between a married man and a single woman in which the F-word is used three times, along with a brief description of groping of one’s anatomy.”
“I trusted the school system. I trusted the school district to pick proper material, and this is not,” Wimott, who contacted school officials last week about the material, told KASA Channel 2. “I did state to the principal that this is rated-R material, and she can’t get into a rated-R movie.”
On Thursday, the school district ordered Neverwhere “temporarily removed from usage” until it can be reviewed.
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. It’s only Monday, but our contributors have their eyes on Wednesday releases, ranging from John Wagner and Arthur Ranson’s Button Man: Get Harry Ex to a new jumping-on point for 2000AD to … well, it’s not exactly a comic book but it does involve two comics creators.
To see what we’re looking forward to this week, just keep reading.
Neil Gaiman will be in Portsmouth, England, on Sunday as the city renames a road after his new novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
The author’s first novel for adults since 2005’s Anansi Boys, the modern fairy tale follows an unnamed man who returns to his childhood hometown for a funeral only to be caught up in events that began 40 years earlier. The book was published in June.
Publishing | As the movie version of 2 Guns heads toward theaters this weekend, BOOM! Studios CEO Ross Richie talks about his company’s “creator share” model and his career in comics publishing, from Malibu Studios to Atomeka to BOOM!, which he co-founded on a suggestion from Keith Giffen, whom he describes as “the Aerosmith of comics”: “If Steven Tyler came up to you and said, ‘You really ought to produce albums,’ you probably would listen.” [The New York Times]
Legal | The prosecutor for Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers has decided not to pursue sedition charges against cartoonist Leslie Chew, who was arrested in April on charges stemming from a cartoon at his Demon-Cratic Singapore Facebook page. Chew still faces charges of contempt of court for “scandalising the Judiciary of the Republic of Singapore.” That case will be heard on Aug. 12. [Straits Times]
Legal | Kevin Lim and Evaline Danubrata add some context to the story of Singaporean cartoonist Leslie Chew, who was charged Thursday with contempt of court for several cartoons critical of the Singapore courts that appeared on his Facebook page Demon-cratic Singapore. This isn’t the first time Chew has run afoul of authorities; he was charged with sedition earlier this year for alleging official discrimination against the Malay population. Singapore recently enacted a law requiring licenses for news sites that report regularly on the country, a move that critics of the ruling People’s Action Party see as an attempt to silence dissent. [Reuters]
Retailing | Comic-store owners in the Tampa Bay area agree that sales are up, but they differ on the reasons why. [The Tampa Tribune]
It appears 2013 is going to be another banner year for Neil Gaiman: He’s already following the release of a new novel with a highly anticipated return to The Sandman, and now comes word that he’s writing a video game.
In an interview with Mashable, the author reveals he’s working with the video game companies Odd Gentlemen and Moonshark on a multiplatform game titled Wayward Manor that centers on a haunted house. Set for release this fall, it follows a ghostly resident of the manor as he encounters the various owners and tenants of the house over a 200-year period. Sounds scary? Gaiman’s got more for you than just horror.
Neil Gaiman, Torchwood and Arrow star John Barrowman and Futurama voice actors Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom and David Herman will be among the presenters at the 25th annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards ceremony, held July 19 during Comic-Con International in San Diego.
They’ll be joined by talk-show host and comics writer Jonathan Ross, TV host Chris Hardwick, artist (and nominee) Becky Cloonan, writer/artist Bill Morrison, Hall of Fame cartoonist Sergio Aragonés and promised “special surprises.” This year’s title sponsor is Syfy.
Doors will open to the Hilton San Diego Bayfront’s Indigo Ballroom at 7:45 p.m., with the Eisner Awards ceremony beginning at 8 p.m. Advance seating will start at 7 p.m. for nominees, sponsors, presenters and attendees with pro badges. Everyone who attends the ceremony will receive a graphic novel from the Will Eisner Library, published by DC Comics.
In addition to the 30 Eisner categories, other presentations will include the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, the Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award, the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailing Award and the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing.