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Comic-Con: Neil Gaiman Spotlight

Neil Gaiman is officially my favorite guest at the convention. He held the most panels, and those I saw were very entertaining, even the spotlight session which he came without anything prepared. Instead, for the entire one hour session he took questions from the audience.

Updated: added notes from Newarama at the end

Gaiman revealed some interesting background about 1602. He had the idea about one week after Sept. 11. He was on a plane and he saw a person on the flight get sick merely from the terror of flying. This caused him to wonder what it would be like to have a world with no guns, no planes, no skyscrapers, and no explosives, and thus came 1602.

The premise of 1602 is that something strange has happened to the Marvel universe and suddenly it is 1602. Eventually things will work out and things will revert back to normal, but not without some consequences. He loved the possibilities of the setting, as it would allow him to cast characters in an entirely new spotlight.

Gaiman wrote about the serial killers convention in part because he had the thought that serial killing is dull. There isn't anything creative about in. He could imagine his teachers saying "Now that wasn't very clever." In 1988 serial killers hadn't been sexed up by movie like Silence of the Lambs, but Gaiman could sense it coming and decided to depict a serial killers convention, with all the entailing dullness.

Gaiman has no specifics on an American Gods movie, because there aren't really any. He wrote American Gods because he didn't want to have something that could broken up easily into separate acts. Instead he wanted to do something squishy. As a result, no one really knows how to turn it into a movie, and he doesn't have the time to figure it out.

Gaiman has an amazing ability for recall. Nearly every question could be answered with an appropriate anecdote and/or quote. As an example, someone asked Gaiman if it was difficult to be away from his books. Gaiman answered that he was very lucky because he has many good author friends who e-mail him scripts, so when he can't sleep at 4am in Tokyo he can pull one of those up. Gaiman then ended his answer by quoting Richard Burton: "Home is where the books are"

His best movie experience has been on Mirrormask. Henson studios promised not to mess with the filming, and they didn't. This is a rare experience.

Asked why he tought women dig Sandman, he answered that at the time Sandman came out, most comicbooks were "preadolescent male fantasy" books with huge breasts and guns. Sandman depicted woman normally. Early on, Sandman's fans were about 20% female, but within a couple years it grew to the point where at one convention, a man rushed over to Gaiman, "pumped his hand," and said, "Thank you. You brought women into my store."

On Terry Gilliam: Gilliam had said to Gaiman that if he didn't get to direct another film, he would kill someone. Gilliam had tried to get funding for Good Omens, and only needed $12M from an American distributor (they had $50M from European companies), but apparently a story about the end of the world with the anti-christ as the savior scared many off, and those that weren't were terrified of Gilliam directing, so it doesn't appear the movie will be made. However, Gaiman has heard that Gilliam is currently directing another film, so "homicide averted."

It would be impossible for him and Terry Pratchett to do another book together. When they first worked together, they were both nobodies, so they could write it just out of the love and fun of it without much concern for the financial details. Now, both are so big that it would take a year just to get their separate lawyers to hammer out the financials, and tehre would be so much pressure that it wouldn't be fun.

I really like the fact that Gaiman managed to use "embiggened" in an answer. He used it to describe the secrecy behind 1602. It wasn't intentional at first, he merely wanted to be able to have the comic done before it was released so that they wouldn't fall into the comic book ritual of releasing the first two books on time, the third book two weeks late, the fourth book a month late, etc... Naturally, they didn't want to leak any details as that would spoil the series before it even came out. However, this initial secrecy "embiggened" as it became a marketing monster in itself.

He finds MacFarlane's most recent appeal humorous. Apparently, MacFarlane (or his lawyers) are going for the "haha, I tricked you" appeal as their defense is that they secretly filed copyrights on Miracleman, and Gaiman didn't contest it. All Gaiman knows is that he does have rights to Miracleman as Moore gave them to him, and MacFarlane's rights may not even exist.

Just in case I missed anything, here is another summary of the same event:
Original Posted on Newarama:
- Newsarama thread (reposted here as I don't trust bulletin board threads to last forever)


by Matthew Maxwell

Gaiman announced that he’s got a new spoken-word CD out, performed with the drummer from Boiled in Lead. He described it as a “’50s coffehousey sort of thing.”

Foolishly, he admitted, he hadn’t prepared any kind of presentation due to the fact that he’d had to write a proper speech for the Eisners the previous night. He decided to just open things up to a Q/A session.

With regards to his writing process, he mused that “It’s a lot like me sitting in front of my keyboard until it feels like my head is going to explode” and that he acts out the dialogue that’s going on, using facial expressions and gesture (as much as that’s possible.) He also told the audience that he writes with different media, depending on the type of project that he’s writing for, and that he actually does panel breakdowns on scratch paper for his comics work.

Gaiman discussed 1602 at some length, now that the ‘veil of secrecy’ could be lifted on the project. He said that this was done so that people wouldn’t be sick of hearing about it by the time the book had actually come out. The project was written far ahead of time in an effort to avoid the slipping schedule problem often faced by big, ambitious miniseries work (“the honorable tradition of comics being late” was the joke bandied about.) The basic premise of the work is that it’s 400 years ago, and for some inexplicable reason, the Marvel Universe has started to come into being. Some of these events will slip into the actual Marvel Universe.

Originally the book was planned to be an 8-issue series, wrapping up cleanly with little or no spillover into the wider Marvel Universe. This will be the basis of a second mystery project that hasn’t yet been announced or started, but Gaiman has discussed it with Joe Queseda and other powers that be at Marvel. Movie/film properties were an element of this discussion as well.

1602 was originally plotted about a week after 9/11, in direct opposition to the sorts of things that usually happen in Marvel books, with regards to ‘skyscrapers, guns and things that explode.’ He wanted to have the fun of the Marvel Universe without some of the usual trappings of it. The book isn’t meant to be topical, nor is it meant to be an imaginary story of any kind.

When asked about other projects that he’d like to pursue, Mr. Gaiman lamented that he had a problem with the number of bodies that he owned, that there was only the one that was able to do only so much work at any given time. He knows that there are a lot of steps to any project (for instance, entering his John Bolton film into any number of film festivals) but often doesn’t have the time to get to step zero in any of those plans.

He was asked about the status of Miracleman rights and went into a little detail on Todd McFarlane’s appeal of the judgment against him (in which Gaiman won on all possible counts). By and large, the basis of McFarlane’s appeal is that Gaiman was not fast enough in registering copyright that Gaiman’s original copyright on the Angela/Cagliostro material expired and thus went back to. McFarlane. This was regarded as something of a fool’s errand on McFarlane’s part, but the whole thing is moving on.

Gaiman admitted that the whole thing is one of the most complicated messes ever to come out of comics, and that no clear resolution was in sight, even if McFarlane turned around tomorrow and handed everything back to him. There’s still the matter of the original rights that were held by Dez Skinn and whether or not those will hold up under scrutiny.

In related news, Gaiman told the audience that he’d commissioned Randy Bowen designs to do a line of Miracleman statues that actually looked like the characters involved. It’s assumed that profits from this, as well as some of the profits from 1602 are going to the fund that’s been set up to straighten out the Miracleman/Marvelman mess.

When asked if he’d direct full productions, Mr. Gaiman answered “Probably not.” He was far more likely to come up with concepts and hand them off to Dave McKean and let him supervise those productions. There’s still potential for a Death movie which Mr. Gaiman is planning on directing, but that he certainly doesn’t want to direct forever.

He was then asked why so many women like Sandman. Mr. Gaiman said that there were two reasons for this. One, that it wasn’t a preadolescent male power fantasy or commentary on such. Two, that he writes peculiar female characters. Peculiar in that they aren’t men with gigantic breasts, but more realistic. He also told a short anecdote about being accosted by heavyset men who’d meet him, pump his hand firmly and who told him “I gotta thank you for getting women to come into my store.”

There’s another kid’s book coming out in Spring 2005, entitled Crazy Hair, which will have art by McKean. The Wolves in the Walls comes out next week as well. There are other planned collaborations with McKean as well, and perhaps even another comic work, which was welcome news to the audience.

The next book that he’s slated to write is a children’s book along the lines of Coraline entitled The Graveyard Book, which he described as “The Jungle Book, only set in a graveyard.” There will be no new Coraline book.

When asked if he’d do workshops or standup comedy, he noted that “I’m much less interesting than the work.” Though this was a stance that he’d possibly reversed himself on later that night, at a reading for the Comic Book Legal Defense fund. There, he said that he was considering a tour to benefit that cause, perhaps in 2005, but that was some time off.

Newsarama thanks Matthew Maxwell and Broken Frontier for their help in assembling this article.

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on July 18, 2003 1:00 PM.

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