Neil Gaiman is one of the most charming and popular writers to ever escape from comics. Famed for his extended runs on The Eternals and Hellblazer, as well as for his transcendental novels Mirrormask and American Gods, Gaiman’s name has become a synonym for so many words that it’s threatening to replace our whole language: “dreamer”, ”storyteller”, “vainglorious tout”… all of these words and phrases are contained within him now.

Soon, no thoughts will be safe!

But all of this is as obvious as breathing and twice as much fun.  What can we tell you about Neil Gaiman that you don’t already know?

1. While everyone knows about the Dreamsqueezer’s massive contributions to 2000AD, the fact that he cut his teeth for DC Thompson is less commonly discussed or understood. Working under a series of bewitching pseudonyms and accepting payment only through a convoluted array of shell companies, Gaiman honed his craft, taking the staid comedy routines that had trapped characters like Oor Wullie for decades and transforming them into something strange, something other:

Gaiman is often hesitant to discuss his early work, but in the deep, dark woods of his infamous 2008 radio interview with Jonathan Ross, the bewitching Duran Duran biographer compared these early strips of his to “the very best of Kafka”.

Rumours abound that Deep Space Transmissions archivist Ben Hansom will be debuting a new website this summer that is wholly dedicated to unpacking Gaiman’s contributions to the DC Thompson line. When approached for a comment, Mr Hansom maintained a knowing silence while letting a smile eat his whole face.  Gaiman into that what you will.

2. Neil Gaiman is his own most famous creation, but most true acolytes would acknowledge that Dream from the popular Swamp Thing spin-off Sandman is a close second.  What these fans don’t know is that Dream was conceived as a hybrid between Cure singer Robert Smith and another famous comic book character.

Gaiman explains it all:

“I just saw Robert Smith singing about being in love on a Friday and I thought ‘This is so funny, this guy’s obsessed with Fridays! What must his life be like?’  Dream, then, is perhaps best thought of as my tribute to Garfield, the yin to his ever-yearning yang. Garfield lives for lasagne and despises Mondays, while our beloved Dream hates all Italian food and is only able to sustain himself by thinking of the warm, loving embrace of the last day of the working week.

“Together they amount to something like a complete human being.”

As a huge Garfield fan and spiritual brother to all goths everywhere, Robert Smith was flattered by this garbled comparison:

“I’ve always felt a deep spiritual connection with Garfield.  We’re both cuddly cats doing our best to stay warm in a cold, thankless world after all, so when Neil called me and asked if I’d like to model for his own version of this fuzzy icon, how could I refuse?”

3. Dream and Garfield work together save unreality itself in a ‘I Dream of Mondays (Blue)’, a Little Nemo pastiching mini-comic that is given only to the most delightful fans who attend the Dream Laureate’s signings.  Lucky punters report that they were given no indication that the Dreamonger had slipped the comic into their existing pile, though some of those approached did admit to having received a particularly enigmatic smile from their hero as they parted ways.

Original ‘I Dream of Mondays (Blue)’ pamphlets have sold on eBay for as much as £12,000.  Convincing fakes circulate for a mere tenth of cost but are generally thought of as the prevail of idiots and dilettantes.  Mass produced Gaiman works are common currency and reek only of the material world, while those who have encountered  ’I Dream of Mondays (Blue)’ report that it “stinks of the unearthly real”. 

I have never been close enough to a copy to taste it and I am beginning to suspect that I will die alone and unloved.

4. Our own Mister Attack was prevented from appearing on the first Mindless Ones album due to legal complications that followed his attendance at Neil Gaiman signing in Borders Buchanan Street on 2001.  While Mr Attack cannot officially comment on the events in question, other sources have confirmed that the trouble began when Mister Attack heard the man in front of him in the queue say “I don’t read comics but I do read Neil Gaiman!”

Gaiman’s own recollections of this event are suitably haunted:

“I remember hearing a guttural howl, the sort of noise you’d expect someone to make when they’ve just been told they’ve contracted gonorrhoea of the soul.  The crowds parted and I saw a man staggering around, except that it soon became obvious that he wasn’t really a man, not any more.  He was more like a collection of Sandman back issues that was wearing a man as a suit and yowling in eerie delight at its fresh social prospects.

“Of course I signed the meat suit before we were done. It had come along to see me and I try not to disappoint my fans. After all, they’re the ones who give me life.”

5.  Despite being the subject of articles in not just the comics press but also in publications with a readership upwards of 12 people, the prolonged legal battle between Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane was actually the result of a private joke that got out of hand. Rumour has it that the two creative titans shared one too many Bud Lights at a San Diego fight club in 1992 when they first conceived of the scheme.  Flush with success and sick of their betters, Gaiman and McFarlane decided to play a game where they pretended to engage in an escalating legal battle over the ownership of a character who didn’t exist and would never actually appeared in any comics.

A former friend of the Dreamreaver claims that

“They conceived of it as a form of gormless performance art, a satire on the endemic exploitation of the comic book industry, with the joke being that the whole farce was about a bullshit character who no one could possibly give a shit about.”

It’s unclear whether this play fight became real or whether both parties have simply maintained kayfabe across the decades.  Our source believed the latter case to be true, but also noted that they found it impossible to tell at this point:

“I mean think about it, has anyone actually read a comic with this ‘Angela’ character in it? There are a few cover images, sure, but the joke was supposed to be that she never actually showed up in the books. I thought it was dumb at the time and I still do, especially given the fact time Time Warner appear to have a publishing arm dedicated to trolling a crabby old guy in Northampton these days.  As to what Todd and Neil think about any of this in 2018… I have no idea.”

When we approached Mr Gaiman to ask the question he disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving only a vague sense of whimsy in the place where he’d previously stood.

Mr McFarlane, meanwhile, only had two words for us on this subject:

6. While Dave McKean is an immensely talented artist with clear themes and interests of his own (clocks, photocopying, the life of the mind), his collaborations with Gaiman are apparently fraught with spooky tensions:

“I find that whenever I’m working on a Gaiman project, the very house I live in seems to be possessed by his spirit.  A darkness fills the windows.  I wake up with the smell of leather on my pillow.  When I go to draw, I find myself being pelted with strange objects that weren’t previously in my house: fragments of crow, dark amulets, the sense of shame of a Victorian gentleman who was accidentally born in 1988.

“All of these things ended up being incorporated into the work, of course.  I don’t know how he does it, but I believe this is what Neil intends, every time.

“It can be quite invigorating, you know?  But I’m getting older now.  I don’t know how much more of this treatment my body can take.”

7. In order to hone his prose-craft further, The Dreamsqueezer spent 6 months tucked into Alan Moore’s beard in order to better observe the Northampton scribe’s writing process while he was working on Voice of the Fire.

Moore was slow to discover his acolyte, but described the experience as being “like having a tiny, gothic mouse tucked under my chin at all times”.  Gaiman, for his part, claims that this adventure provided him with the inspiration to write his hit all ages novel Coraline:

“The strange, shifting landscape of Al’s beard… I lost myself in it.  If I could have run school trips to Northampton I would have loved to have become a sort of part-time tour guide, leading children for a dance through the thickets of Al’s facial foliage, but he was busy that winter so I moved on.  Coraline is my tribute to Al’s hirsute nature.  Its shadows are the ones I spent half a year hiding in, living only off of dandruff , flecks of spittle and various creamy magicks.”

8. Neil Gaiman is legendary for his generosity, but in addition to his well-publicised charity work, the Wicked and the Divine author is said to slink into second hand shops around the world, donating crisp leather jackets and dreamy shades so that his look is more accessible to the young and the thrifty across the globe.

9. The average man will never visit space, but Neil Gaiman is not the average man. In order to help his friend Neil deGrasse Tyson settle a bet with some Flat Earthers, Gaiman agreed to be launched into space in front of them using a giant catapult.  The version of Neil Gaiman that was launched into space did not survive to describe the experience, and the Flat Earthers involved were said to be unsatisfied with this result – as of the time of writing, neither party has paid out on the bet.

Rumours that Gaiman regenerates by inhabiting the form of young souls who have picked up his nifty glasses/jacket combo from their local charity shop are hard to deny despite repeated disavowals from Gaiman and his agents.

How Neil deGrasse Tyson rationalises Gaiman’s ability to come back from certain death with his consciousness intact is hard to say.

10. While he may be known as the goth king of comics, the Dreamsqueezer is actually very funny and surprisingly down to earth.  Rather than display the rudest excesses of his humour though his own writing, Neil created the character or Brian Limmond aka Limmy to act as a vent for his puckish impulses.

Gaiman had successfully maintained this ruse for over a decade and had found a wide audience for his podcasts, sketches, vines and epic twitter rants but people began to suspect the connection when “Limmy” posted this joke account of meeting Ursula Le Guin in the wake of her death:

Keen Gaimanologists will remember this last quote, “To write is to write, is to write”, from the first volume of Gaiman’s biography, Neil Gaiman: The Art of the Dream where it is also attributed to Le Guin.

Our best psykers have driven themselves to the brink of destruction to confirm the fact that the conversation quote in those tweets did in fact take place… between Ursula Le Guin and a promising young author called Neil Gaiman.

11.  Despite some harsh rumours to the contrary, the actor who plays Limmy is not a ventriloquist’s doll that Neil has brought to life by way of dark magics learned in Northampton.  Brian “Limmy” Limond is actually Neil’s personal trainer, Jeremy Bloom, a health-freak from Sussex with an uncannily good Glasgow accent.

We contacted Mr Bloom by email to request a short interview on the subject of what it was like to have everyone think you’re a Scorch comedy genius when you’re not.  This was his response:

12. In order to free himself from the constraints of mortal time, Neil Gaiman underwent an expensive course of hypnosis that has left him unable to recognise the number 12 or to process any information grouped into a dozen parts.  In addition to preventing whatever form he is currently inhabiting from ageing this has also set him free from mere chronology.

I believe this is what allows the Gaiman entity to Gaiman into other bodies and to corrupt living words. I myself have been poisoned by the Gaiman entity. It has entered through my eyes and graffitid my soul.

This dream stuff is no joke. There’s not much left of me now. I’m more and more Gaiman every day.

To protect what’s survives I’ve been avoiding charity shops and anything that tastes of leather, but all this means is that I’m an unlikely candidate for the next revival.

I can feel myself slipping. I quoted the Sandman nine times before breakfast this morning. I’m in the middle of curating an all Sisters of Mercy playlist. Life as an attractive husk beckons, but while it’s too late for me, it doesn’t have to go this way for you.

This is a warning. I don’t think he can read it, but he’s everywhere. In all of us.

FIGHT!

2 Responses to “Gaimanology – 12 things you didn’t know about Neil Gaiman!”

  1. Winty Says:

    This is a work of genius. Illogical, I am verklempt!

  2. Thrills Says:

    (Buzzfeed commenter voice)

    Uh I actually knew most of these things already?!?

Leave a Reply