Friday, April 28, 2006

Tribute to Neil Gaiman

Way back in the day (as in way back in "internet time") when the best site for movie scoops was Corona's Coming Attractions before it was taken over and mutated into part of Cinescape's film section, I first heard about a film in development called Neverwhere based on the novel by Neil Gaiman (which was in turn adapted from his own BBC miniseries) whom I had never heard of hitherto this point.

Life-changing day, that was.

Based on the one-line synopsis of the plot which I fell in love with, I tracked down the book and thrilled myself to bits. I sapped up whatever Gaiman books were available at our library. Soon I was among the eager fan community awaiting his new novel American Gods in 2001. At this point, I had no idea of the scope of this so-called fan community... he was my secretly unknown favourite author. In conjunction with the writing and publishing of this book, he started up an online journal to track its progress. Now this certainly wasn't one of the first "blogs" or even an early one, but it was around a long time before everyone and their neighbour's cat ran a blog (moi-self included). Now it's one of the most popular blogs (there must be stats somewhere to prove this...) and he still regularly updates nearly every other day with interesting, readable postings even though he was under no obligation to continue past the 2001 publication of American Gods.

I remember when the library had maybe three books categorized as "Graphic Novels" including an adaptation of the Vampire Lestat. It was around this time that I had first heard this term and adopted it as my own to defend my reading of comics. "NO! It's a graphic novel," I'd tell my mom, although it was indeed she that handed me the Lestat book and asked me if I was interested. Another one of the early ones available at the ol' EPL was Neil Gaiman's Sandman: The Dream Hunters, which sorta went over my head at the time and I didn't get who or what Sandman was supposed to be. Of course, when you hear about Neil Gaiman it's usually Sandman-This and Sandman-That, but the whole Sandman thing eluded me until several years after the fact, the library's graphic novel collection exploded and I finally got my hands on the seminal, epic 10 volume, 9-year run of the series. Masterful storytelling, exquisite art, complex interweaving of myths and history, etc, etc, etc. It was everything great literature could be and it was a comic, so there. It could hardly exist in another medium with the same impact and resonance.

It still baffles me to this day that I try to expose friends/families to Neil Gaiman and no one pays attention. "Neil who?" say the slobbering masses. Yet don't they realize that Neil Gaiman is SLOWLY TAKING OVER THE WORLD??

His career drastically reduced to some trivial points:
-left an indelible mark on the comics world with the Sandman series (1988-1996)
-became a best-selling author of novels (Neverwhere, American Gods, Anansi Boys), then children's books (Coraline, Wolves in the Walls)
-has written lyrics for Tori Amos (a friend who has been known to name-drop Neil in her own lyrics)
-wrote the English language adaptation of Princess Mononoke, which was certainly the first Miyazaki film I saw before I even realized I was watching a Miyazaki film
-decides he's going to make some movies, so he writes and directs A Short Film About John Bolton... just to warm-up
-then he collaborates with Dave McKean to create last year's MirrorMask
-co-wrote with Pulp Fiction's Roger Avary the uber-hyped Robert Zemeckis-directed Beowulf (which, for the record is most definitely not filmed with stop-motion techniques) set for release in 2007 with the most eclectic cast one could ever hope to assemble: Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Crispin Glover(!), John Malkovich(!!), Robin Wright-Penn
-currently Matthew Vaughan (producer of the Snatch/Lock Stock; director of Layer Cake; near-director of X-Men 3) is in Inverness filming an adaptation of Neil's novel Stardust with another dandy cast of Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Alfred Molina, Sienna Miller, Charlie Cox... OK, I've never heard of Charlie Cox either.
-Henry bleedin' Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas, anyone?) is directing an adaptation of Coraline, which will be stop motion animation, if I'm not mistaken. Sadly to do Coraline, Selick abandoned his work on the film version of Roald Dahl's The Fantastic Mr. Fox... but Wes Anderson came in to replace him! Henry Selick's Coraline!! Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr. Fox!! Has the world gone mad and suddenly fulfilled my fantastical dreams of non-stop stop-motion animation!?!? BWAHAHA, Brilliant!
-Wolves in the Wall was recently adapted for the stage and is being performed by the National Theatre of Scotland
-I think Neil's still in the development stages of his own feature directorial debut for a film adaptation of Death (Sandman's cute gothic sister)
-internet sensation, according to me.

Movies, music, literature, the stage, the internet... is there anything he can't and/or won't dominate? Plus, he has a wonderfully delightful young daughter Maddy who is the real star of Neil Gaiman's journal if you ask any regular reader, and he knows it too.

OK, the real reason behind this whole rambling tirade of tribute is because I was just reading on his journal about "Where's Neil When You Need Him?" an album of music inspired by his work. See? He's unconsciously determined to conquer every form of media. Now it doesn't surprise me that Tori Amos is involved nor am I remotely shocked that past collaborator Stephen Merritt of The Magnetic Fields is a contributor. But according to Neil's latest post, Rasputina is singing a song about Coraline. Rasputina + Coraline?!? Victory is mine! Plus, "Hungry Lucy doing a haunting take on Wolves in the Walls". I know one Hungry Lucy cover and I love it. I can only wish for a tune by the Ditty Bops, another fantastic group that I dig listening to, which can be directly attributed to Neil.
It's kinda scary to see how he has influenced my tastes... damn you! I'm independent and think for myself! You can't brainwash me. Fine... you can, but I won't like it. Ok, ok, I'll like it.

Tori Amos - Angie [originally by the Rolling Stones]
Rasputina - Wish You Were Here [originally by Pink Floyd]
The Magnetic Fields - Heroes [originally by David Bowie]
The Ditty Bops - Ooh La La
Hungry Lucy - Jealousy [originally by the Pet Shop Boys]

Neil who? Now you know.

...and just because I can't not share this unrelated great cover:
Motormark - Left To My Own Devices [originally by the Pet Shop Boys]


That's it, I'm off to Europe until July!

I leave you with a newly discovered (very exciting) cover of a song I'm obsessed with (see here).
Blind Spot - 12 [aka the Pinball Number Song from Sesame Street]

By the way, if there are any errors in this post I won't be around to fix 'em. So there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I realise this is a very late comment lol. I knew of Neil Gaiman but never really knew how many different things he was involved in, untill a friend sent me the cd Where's Neil When You Need Him. Now i'm sitting here trying to connect all of the songs to plays, stories and movies. I can't seem to find the lyrics to Coraline and it's driving me insane but oh well atleast I was able to find the lyrics to We Won't Go which I absolutely love along with Wake The White Queen. Anyways it was great to read a good blog and know they do exist.