Graphic Novel Spotlight ♦ Neil Gaiman

©Kimberly Butler (2005)

If anyone were to ask me about my favorite writers of comics, Neil Gaiman would be tops. I’d planned to re-read the entire Sandman collection this year, but I refuse to start until I have all the glorious volumes in front of me – nothing is more irksome than interrupting the flow of a series to search out the next installment. So while waiting on Volume 3 I decided to read some of Gaiman’s other comics – which my library has almost all of!

So here are just a couple I’ve read so far, but first I wanted to share these two quotes from Gaiman which I love.

“Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten”

“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.”


Myth… Angels… Murder…

From the looks of the solitary man on the park bench, one would never guess his origins – a former angel, descended from the heavens and ages. He’s appeared on Earth to tell a story that must be heard – a story of the earliest time, when Earth was still a design in the eyes of God, and sin was not yet known, and of the first and most unspeakable crime in God’s newly unfolding universe.

A murder in paradise.

Author: Neil Gaiman Genre: Graphic Novel
Illustrator: P. Craig Russell Type: Hardcover 64 pages
Publisher: Dark Horse Publication Date: June 2002

My Thoughts   
The format of this comic was really what made it so enjoyable. The framework of the story is a stranger telling a story to another man on a park bench. The story he tells is the flesh of the book and concerns the suspected murder of an angel. The setting of the murder is a time and place before the world was fully created, when angels are responsible for breathing life into the ideas of the creator. After the dead angel is discovered, another angel is assigned the role of detective to uncover what has happened. The plot is not the main thing that grabbed my attention, it was the ideas that were being presented. It’s very a very short book, but it’s not light. It brings up many questions that seemed to be only answerable by the person reading it. I’m sure that Murder Mysteries is one of those stories that would lead to intense debate among readers. It’s all in how you personally relate, perceive or believe.

Another thing to consider is that this particular graphic novel is adapted from Gaiman’s short story of the same name. (Which I really want to read now.)


A Modern, Magical Love Story!

Those who have spent Valentine’s Day alone are aware that the cold February holiday can be hard to swallow. Award-winning creators Neil Gaiman and John Bolton want you to know that all it takes is a steak knife, a fork, and a bottle of quality ketchup…

In this contemporary retelling of a classic Commedia dell’arte legend of tomfoolery and hopeless, fawning love, Gaiman and Bolton update the tale of Harlequin and Columbine. A magical buffoon burdened with a brimming heart, Harlequin chases his sensible, oblivious Columbine around the city streets, having given his heart freely. Consumed with love, the impulsive clown sees his heart dragged about town, with a charming surprise to bend the story in a modern direction.

Author: Neil Gaiman Genre: Graphic Novel
Illustrator: John Bolton Type: Hardcover 40 pages
Publisher: Dark Horse Publication Date: January 2002

My Thoughts   
Harlequin Valentine is apparently based on the Italian love story of Harlequin and Columbine – which I know nothing about! But it is now on my must-learn-about list. Even though I was completely ignorant of the story’s background, I really enjoyed it. However, that enjoyment was mostly due to the beautiful artwork of John Bolton. Not your typical comic style, it was more like actual photographs touched with splashes of paint. I wish now that I had taken a few pics before returning this to the library.

The Dangerous Alphabet

A is for Always, that’s where we embark…

Two children, treasure map in hand, and their pet gazelle sneak past their father, out of their house, and into a world beneath the city, where monsters and pirates roam.

Will they find the treasure? Will they make it out alive?

The Dangerous Alphabet is a tale of adventure, piracy, danger, and herois told in twenty-six alphabetical lines – although even the alphabet is not to be relied upon here. A delightfully dangerous journey from national bestselling author Neil Gaiman, and the monstrously talented Gris Grimly, The Dangerous Alphabet is sure to captivate and chill young readers.

Author: Neil Gaiman Genre: Picture Book
Illustrator: Gris Grimly Type: Hardcover 32 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins Publication Date: April 2008

My Thoughts   
How could I resist this picture book after reading what Nymeth and Chris had to say in their reviews?! Dangerous Alphabet is awesome – that’s pretty much all I can say. Gaiman’s rhymes are perfect for speaking aloud and Gris Grimlys’ artwork is fabulous as always. I’d say this would be the best alphabet picture book for children and adults both. It is creepy, but in a fun and magical way.

Tragical Comedy
Comical Tragedy
Of Mr. Punch

Mister Punch
”He threw the baby out of the window. Then he battered his wife to death. He killed a policeman who came to arrest him. He caused the hangman to be hanged in his place. He murdered a ghost. And outwitted the devil himself.”

“He never died”

“And Mister Punch still lives – to travel up and down the countryside, amusing and delighting both old and young.”

In his grandfather’s failing seaside arcade, a young boy encounters a mysterious Punch and Judy Man with a dark past, and a woman who makes her living playing a mermaid.

As their lives intertwine and their stories unfold, the boy is forced to confront family secrets, strange puppets and a nightmarish world of violence and betrayal, in a dark fable of childhood innocence and adult pain.

Author: Neil Gaiman Genre: Graphic Novel
Illustrator: Dave McKean Type: Hardcover 80 pages
Publisher: Vertigo Publication Date: March 2007

My Thoughts   
This graphic novel is one that has to be read, whether you know anything about the history of Punch and Judy or not. If like me you aren’t all that familiar with the history of this famous British puppet show, Mr. Punch gives you the perfect starting lesson. Along with learning, this comic also features a wonderful story of a boy growing up, looking back on life, and learning about his family. Rhinoa has written a much more in-depth review that prompted me to search out this book.

Another thing I discovered after looking for more info about Punch & Judy culture, was that Jan Svankmajer, a Czechoslovakian stop-motion filmmaker, who created the wildly bizarre movie Alice, also had a short film called Punch & Judy/The Lynch House. Done in the same puppet style it features Punch (no Judy) and a supporting character named Joey who get into a scruffle over a guinea pig. Very strange, but very cool if you like that sort of thing :P


Now I have a surprise! If you made it this far, and you love Neil Gaiman and all his fantastic books, comics, short stories, movies etc. I’ve got an official Coraline bookmark to give away.

If you would like to win this bookmark, simply comment below and let me know what your very favorite Gaiman work is. If you haven’t experienced anything Gaiman yet, let me know what you most look forward to.

This is open to everyone, everywhere. I will draw the winner on Saturday July 11.


© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

I have only read Coraline but I am so coveting the Alphabet book! I am realizing that I have a bit of a 'thing' for the alphabet... No need to enter me in the contest - I just seem to lose book marks. :)

bermudaonion said...

Oh, I want that bookmark! The only Gaiman book I've read is Coraline. I actually got to meet him at BEA and he autographed The Graveyard Book for me so I have that to read. I could hardly put a sentence together when I was standing there with him. milou2ster(at)

Nymeth said...

I LOVE that bookmark!!! Where did you get it? Because even if I don't win I want to get myself one :P

Picking my favourite book by my favourite author is NOT easy, but I think I'll go with Death: The High Cost of Living. That one is very, very special for me. Of course, I'd probably pick something different tomorrow.

Jeanne Ryan said...

There is something very special about your first. The year was early 1990. I will always remember sitting on my comic-obsessed boyfriend's waterbed Sunday morning and having yet another series tossed at me, "You'll love this, I promise." Fortunately he was usually right. I still seek out many of those series when I'm in a comic book store, which is becoming more frequent now that my 12 year old daughter is getting into them. Holding them takes me back to those carefree days of college and the first boy I truly gave my heart to.

My husband (not the aforementioned guy) bought me Preludes and Nocturnes for Christmas a few years ago and I'm glad to have it, but it's not the same as having those early issues of Sandman in my hands. There is something magical about something so flimsy as a comic book holding so much weight.

Vasilly said...

I read a few of Gaiman's works and really enjoyed them. Fragile Things is my favorite with Coraline probably second.I read The Dangerous Alphabet but not Murder Mysteries. I'm adding it to my wish list.

Kailana said...

Lots of interesting reads there. My favourite Gaiman is 'Good Omens'. Probably because it was the first book I read by him and he wrote it with Terry Pratchett. :)

Lenore said...

I want to get the Alphabet book. It would make a nice companion to Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies!

Anonymous said...

American Gods. I will always love American Gods.

Zibilee said...

I love all things pirate, so The Dangerous Alphabet looks like something I have to get my hands on. Sadly, I have not read enough of Gaiman's work as of yet, but I do have some on my shelves. I will have to work on that and get back to you.

Rebecca said...

What a cool bookmark!

My favourite Gaiman work would probably have to be Neverwhere. It wasn't the first of his that I read, but it was the first one that I truly loved. The story was wonderful and the writing just so rich.

BTW I've read the short story 'Murder Mystery' - and it's fantastic! I didn't realise it was in comic version too, now I'm going to have to hunt for it!

Veens said...

:) I made it till the end because I have not read a single one... and I was just looking at the things I have missed :)

Thank You for the COOL bookmark :)

naida said...

Cool giveaway :)
So far I've read Coraline, which was fantastic, and Stardust.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

I'm too late for the giveaway, but I just wanted to say that I had no idea Neil Gaiman wrote so many comic books. I am going to start looking for them now, since they all sound pretty great!

Rhinoa said...

Damn I am too late to win the lovely bookmark. Nevermind. I want to finish reading The Sandman this year as well and I know what you mean about having a series all lined up in front of you so you don't have to wait to get to the next one! My favourite is probably American Gods as I love his blend of mythology and fantasy.