Neil Gaiman is probably a great bloke. Let me get that out there at the start. I don’t want Gaiman fans coming at me, their pimples distended and ready to burst with righteous fury. I hold no grudge against the man and on occasion I’ve even tried to read his books. I don’t know why I never got into them but, whatever the reason, that’s not what I sat down to write about today. I don’t want to talk about his prose or his symbolism or his gift for narrative. I don’t want to look into his heart and judge if he’s a good or bad man. If you were to tell me that he is the best writer of his generation, I might agree with you but only because that doesn’t really interest me. What has become a bit of an obsession with me is his ubiquity.
I first became aware of Gaiman when Jonathan Ross regularly began to mention him as one of his close friends. They appeared together in Ross’s documentary about Steve Ditko, the artist who first drew Spiderman, when the pair of them presented themselves at the door of the reclusive Ditko and talked their way into a brief audience. I became more aware of his name after reading a few books about Scientology. I learned that his family are Scientology royalty in the UK, their company, G&G Vitamins, providing the vitamins used inside the Church.
The next time I came across him was a few months ago when I was reading about the controversy surround the crowdsourcing activities of a musician called Amanda Palmer who I would come to realise is Gaiman’s wife.
A few weeks ago, The Guardian was publishing new pieces about Gaiman seemingly every day for a fortnight. He was promoting a new book and, as is typical with The Guardian’s promotion of a new product, book, movie, or album, it was all a bit over the top. (See, for example, David Bowie’s new album before him, Alan Partridge’s new film after him). I tried to ignore it but the publicity worked. I was generally more aware of Gaiman. That, however, was only the start…
Last week, I was reading Ain’t It Cool News and there was a link to the Will Eisner awards. Among the guests: Jonathan Ross and Neil Gaiman.
A few days later, I was browsing the Eurogamer gaming website and noticed a new game coming out written by Neil Gaiman.
That same day The Guardian reported that the Edinburgh International Book Fair was celebrating Judge Dredd and there, prominent once again, was Neil Gaiman.
On Sunday, I was reading Bill Stott’s blog. Bill is one of our very best cartoonists and his work will be on exhibition at the Manchester Literary Festival in October. Check out their website. Need I tell you who is featured so prominently on their front page? I’ll give you a clue. It’s not Bill Stott.
Now, I have you down as intelligent readers so you’ve probably spotted the pattern, but, believe me, this is just a selection of the times I’ve come across Gaiman’s name over the last few weeks. Other examples I’ve now forgotten about… Except I haven’t forgotten all of them. I’ve just remembered that it was after the announcement of the new Doctor Who. The next day, Neil Gaiman was in the papers revealing that a black actor had turned down the role.
All of this had been rattling around in my head long before I hit the bookshops yesterday. In fact, I’d drawn a cartoon about it about a week ago which I’ve republished today. Yesterday, however, I came back with a Neil Gaiman headache. The man is everywhere! He’s providing the blurb on the front of books, introductions to books, or he’s edited collections of other people’s work. If it’s either science fiction or fantasy, an author clearly has to have Neil Gainman’s name on the cover or the bloody thing won’t sell. Then there are Gaiman’s books: kids books, adult books, and graphic novels. Lots of graphic novels… Seemingly endless graphic novels. Small graphic novels, normal graphic novels, and graphic novels the size of ancient religious texts that wouldn’t look out of place sitting on a lectern and lit by a single beam of light shining from a window high in temple’s dome.
I’m now at the point where I can’t decide if it’s the most perfectly engineered career or genuine talent that has got him where he is. I’m also dimly aware that Neil Gaiman might just be somebody very much like myself. His tastes seem to track my tastes almost exactly and that, for me, is a worrying thought… I’m beginning to think that everywhere I go, everything I look at, he’ll be there already, looking back at me and smiling as if to say, ‘Oh, so you’re into this, are you? Oh, I was into this a long time ago. So glad you could finally catch up.’