Neil Gaiman was more of a comic book writer than a novelist. However, he had accumulated the same amount of reverence and accolades from both of his main works, as well as being a screenwriter and voice actor among others.
Born on November 10, 1960, at Portchester, Hampshire, England, to Jewish parents, the multi-talented Neil was densely impacted by lots of synchronous literature that he relished reading when young.
His favourites include the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, James Branch Cabell, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gene Wolfe, and G.K. Chesterton. But, what really nailed the coffin for his love of written words is the discovery of comic books. Since then, he had dabbled with an extensive portfolio of graphic comic books and credits as one of the creators of modern comics, along with best-selling novels in his entire career.
His writing career took off as he worked as a journalist in the United Kingdom. His first book was a biography of the then famous group of musician, Duran Duran. Then, he proceeded to write graphic novels mostly published by DC Comics. His groundbreaking comic series, The Sandman, which ran with 72 issues and collected numerous US awards, became the first comic to receive a literary award.
Other notable works which Neil Gaiman drafted include the award-winning novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book.
Gaiman’s works had definitely transcended genres and reached audiences of all ages, As one of the top ten living post-modern writers according to the Dictionary of Literary Biography and a prolific creator of prose, science fiction, fantasy, and drama, Neil Gaiman certainly achieved the cult status he deserved. Early LifeNeil Richard Gaiman was born in Portchester, a part of Hampshire County in southern England.
With a Polish-Jewish and other Eastern European-Jewish origins, his father, David Bernard Gaiman, worked at a chain of grocery stores his grandfather has established after emigrating from Antwerp, Belgium; while his mother, Shiela Gaiman, was a pharmacist. He has two younger sisters, Claire and Lizzy. In 1965, his family moved to West Sussex, East Grinstead, where his parents studied Scientology, in which Gaiman did not care less.
As a child, Neil Gaiman was able to develop a love for books, stories, and reading as he devoured page and pages of books at the local library. The works of Dennis Wheatley, particularly The Ka of Gifford Hillary and The Haunting of Toby Jugg, made an impact to him, while J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings made him won the third instalment as his school’s English prize and the school reading prize. He also received C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia series on his birthday, while Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was a classic childhood favourite of his.
He read books in a number of various genres, especially comics as well as science fiction and fantasy works. These popular literary works can be said as Gaiman’s first influence in writing. EducationNeil Gaiman’s early education comes from several Church of England schools such as Fonthill School in East Grinstead, Ardingly College in the year between 1970–1974, and Whitgift School in Croydon from 1974–1977. Unable to attend a boys’ school because of his father’s position at the Church of Scientology, Gaiman remained at East Grinstead 1965 to 1980 and from 1984 to 1987.
From being an avid reader in his childhood years, Neil Gaiman grew up to be a best-selling and critically acclaimed writer. From rummaging through every book in local libraries, he had become an extraordinary and unique storyteller whose works ranges from graphic novels, short stories, novels, and children’s books to scripts for television and films.
His first job as a journalist in the early 1980s allowed him to conduct interviews and write book interviews of several famous authors back then, in which he learned about the world and made connections that would, later on, help him publish his works. He wrote about and reviewed the works of the authors from the British Fantasy Society and published his first short story, Featherquest, in May of 1984 through Imagine Magazine.
In 1984, his first book was written. It was a biography of the popular band, Duran Duran. Next was a book of quotations named Ghastly Beyond Belief, which he co-wrote with Kim Newman. During this time, he also penned many interviews and reviews for a number of British magazines like Knave, which he uses several pseudonyms such as Gerry Musgrave, Richard Grey, and many other household names.
Aside from his journalistic journey in the ’80s, he was also able to write Don’t Panic: The Official Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Companion with a classic English humour style. He followed it with Good Omens, a comic novel about the forthcoming apocalypse which he collaborated with fellow Engish author, Terry Pratchett. Because of the nature of British magazines’ publication of false stories and presenting them as truths, Niel Gaiman ended his journalism career in 1987.
In 1984, he discovered Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing while waiting for a train at Victoria Station. After befriending the author, he started writing comic books beginning with Miracleman as Moore ended his run on the series. Eclipse Comics, the publisher of the series, collapsed, so he was able to produce his first ever comic strips, Future Shocks, for 2000 AD between 1986 to 1987.
During this time, he also published three graphic novels: Violent Cases, Signal to Noise, and The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch with his favourite collaborator and long-time friend, Dave McKean. And on February of 1987, DC Comics hired him and Gaiman wrote Black Orchid, a limited series.
It attracted the attention of Karen Berger and asked him to re-write The Sandman with his own spin, along with the artist, Mike Drigenberg. It had its premiere in January 1989 and took its final bow in March 1996. In the time of its run, he also collaborated with other artists such as Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Jill Thompson, Shawn McManus, Marc Hempel, Michael Zulli, Todd Klein, Daniel Vozzo, and of course, Dave McKean. The series then became DC Comics’ top-selling titles, which surpasses even Batman and Superman as well as becoming one of Neil Gaiman’s many successes.
Following thereafter, Gaiman produced two more stories for DC’s Secret Origins series, Poison Ivy which was drawn by Mark Buckingham and Riddler with an illustration from Bernie Mireault and Matt Wagner. He also wrote Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame in the same year of 1989 which was later on published in 2000. The following year, Gaiman wrote a four-part mini-series about the DC Universe called The Books of Magic.
Many of Niel Gaiman’s written comics and novels have been made into television series and movies. But aside from these compliments, numerous of his works also received various recognition from different award bodies and organization. For example, his graphic stories The Sandman and Overture gained him the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story.
The Graveyard Book made history by winning both the John Newbery Medal in 2008 and Carnegie Medal in 2010. The novel Coraline won a host of accolades which include Hugo Award for Best Novel, Nebula Award for Best Novella, and School Library Journal awards.
And that was exactly how a comic book artist became a matter of legend in the golden pages of English literary history.