Friday, 9 January 2015

The Four Images Of Neil Gaiman

Lithograph No. 1: Neil Gaiman
(from The Long, Strange History of Phase II, 2004)
...The four images of Neil-the-starving-journalist overlap the principle image of Neil and make for a more-than-somewhat ridiculous composition.  It is the author of Sandman, or -- perhaps more relevant to the subject -- the New York Times bestselling author of American Gods (the principle image having been adapted from that novel’s dust jacket photo) with four little starving journalists stuck onto him. I’m actually quite pleased with the way it worked out: If you are close enough to see what it is made up of, it’s actually quite dignified: Neil, as I first met him -- who was certainly a most distinguished-looking individual as starving journalists go -- framed in a tight photorealistic illustrative composition of the four-times-repeated image coupled with Neil Gaiman, the best-selling author he would become.  But if you take a step back it becomes ridiculous. Neil is wearing himself like a pair of Mickey Mouse ears.  The point that I’m trying to make is that this always needs to be factored into my thinking about Neil: I always have to observe closely in order to perceive accurately.  The size of the starving journalist relative to the best-selling author he has become is critically important to accurate perception: the increase in stature is in no way exaggerated.  In my most accurate assessment these images here are as big as he was then and that image there is as big as he is now.  There was, to me, an intrinsic necessity in depicting -- through the repeated image -- the multiple aspects of the starving journalist I met: Neil, Dave Dickson's friend and journalistic peer; Neil, Roz Kaveney’s literary protégé; Neil, the inquiring graphic novelist in utero; Neil, the Cerebus fan. These are aspects of Neil Gaiman that I was privy to, however briefly, that his legions of admirers are not. In any conventional sense, that can’t -- nor, in my view, should -- be discarded   But in this instance, as a result of knowing "pre-Neil", distance not only doesn't imply overview, it results in an opposite effect.  Whenever I see Neil I can never "not see" the sort of nerdy young fellow that I first met.  As on the occasions when Neil would say to me, "I'm so proud of you."  And I would -- very much amused -- correct him: "No, Neil. I was in the business before you were. I’m proud of you."

And it's quite true. I am proud of Neil, proud of the graphic novelist who was the first person besides myself and Gerhard to attempt a marathon graphic novel, proud of his commercial success and proud of -- and what is more a direct beneficiary of -- his status as a breakthrough person who has served to legitimize the comic-book medium both by his triumph with Sandman and by his success in the world of television drama, short stories and novels which have led so many people TO Sandman and through Sandman TO the comic-book medium.

Even though when I look at him from any distance, I see these little starving journalists sticking out of him.

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