Exclusive Q & A: Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is the kind of writer that, were he to scrawl a few words on a steamed up bathroom mirror, people would never clean it again. They would instead be forever steaming up the glass just to read what it says. Moreover, they would probably remove the mirror from the wall (with force if necessary) to hang it above their beds.
So for us to have this exclusive Q & A with him makes us both very excited and very humble.
"What is the occasion?" you ask.
All six issues of his newest work, The Sandman:Overture, have been collected in one, deluxe hardback edition, which is released today.
But before you rush off to buy your copy, allow the very charming Neil Gaiman to introduce and discuss Overture in his own (highly sought after) words:
It’s 2015 and you’re writing this two decades after the series debuted. When you first started writing this it was a completely different world: no Internet, your profile as a writer was vastly different than it is now. How has your experience changed knowing that there are and were expectations on this series from your fan base at large, which is a much, much larger fan base than it was 20 years ago? Did that change your approach at all, or did it feel kind of the same?
It made it much, much scarier. When I was writing The Sandman in 1987, I had nothing to lose. I was someone who wanted to write a comic, and here I was writing a comic. Nobody had heard of me, nobody cared. All I’d hoped for at the time was that they’d let me do the first eight issues before they told me they were cancelling me. Compare that to a world where I genuinely do not know how many millions of people have read Sandman by this point and encountered Sandman. We’re looking at a book that was published for Sandman’s 25th anniversary year. You’re not just looking at millions of people, but you’re also looking at multi-generations. It’s very common for me now to run into people in their mid-20s whose parents got them hooked on Sandman, who brought them to Sandman signings as they were kids. Knowing there were huge expectations, all I hoped is that I wouldn’t f*$% up.
Do you feel that it’s the collaborations with the artists, or the medium itself, or these specific characters, "The Endless", any one of these specific things that keeps drawing you back to comics and Sandman specifically, or is there something else entirely?
Working with an artist is an amazing thing, especially if you are a writer and doing something kind of lonely. It’s really sad. You can write the best thing in the world, but that’s it, it’s what you wrote and it sits there on the page. If you’re doing comics, you have this wonderful team of people, and it’s not just J.H. Todd Klein on lettering, Todd is a genius, and he came back and that meant so much to me, getting to work with Todd again. And working with Dave McKean on covers. You’ve got a team and this continuous reinforcement. Just as you’ve given up and forgotten that The Sandman: Overture is even a thing, your phone goes ding! and J.H. has sent 10 pages over. And you go, “Oh my God,” and you sit there and look at them and they’re better than anything you imagined, and stranger than anything you imagined. J.H. and I would get to have probably about four or five long phone calls through the course of the project, and he came up with some amazing ideas. There were a couple ideas that just proved too weird for DC to do, but I’m not going to say what they are, because it’s quite possible that J.H., or J.H. and I, may do them one day.
How would you describe the Sandman’s overall journey from Overture to the end, if you had to encapsulate it? What is it about from the beginning of Preludes and Noctures to Overture?
If you include Endless Nights, which was a book we did in 2003, the story of Sandman actually takes you from several billion years ago, shortly after the beginning of the universe, up until the present, and it is a story of an immortal personification of dreams. He is the lord of your dreams. He is the entity that is dreaming. It shows him learning things, changing. It’s all human history, not to mention some animal history is there. You get to find out what cats dream about. It’s kind of a family soap opera.
In the end, it’s a story about how much we can let ourselves change. And about death and about rebirth. That was my big story. I love the fact that I can still come back to it now, 27 years after the first issue was being written, and the characters still feel fresh, they still feel alive. And The Sandman: Overture, I think, I hope, is going to be deemed a worthy part of the canon. I can’t wait until people sit and read the whole thing all the way through and then read the whole Sandman all the way through.