The King of Dreams

These days, you hear a lot about non-comics writers who start writing comics. Novelist Brad Meltzer is writing “Justice League of America,” novelist Jodi Picoult is writing “Wonder Woman,” director Kevin Smith wrote “Daredevil” and “Green Arrow,” writers/producers J. Michael Straczynski and Joss Whedon have written a ton of different comics. But there’s only one comics writer who’s managed to cross from comics to mainstream fiction, and manage to hit big: Neil Gaiman.

Gaiman is a Brit who now lives in Minnesota. He started out as a journalist, reviewer, and author (I owned one of his books, a companion guide to Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” for years before I realized that the guy who wrote it was actually famous). He was friends with Alan Moore, who introduced him to comics. After taking over Moore’s “Miracleman,” Gaiman’s work got more and more attention, eventually leading to experimental/artistic efforts for DC Comics with his frequent collaborator, artist Dave McKean.

Let’s take a look at some of Gaiman’s best works.


First and foremost, you can’t talk about Gaiman without talking about “Sandman.” This epic series, which got its start back in ’88, focuses on Morpheus, sometimes called the Sandman, sometimes the King of Stories, sometimes Dream. For lack of a better word, he’s the god of dreams and story-telling. He’s a tall, pale, gaunt guy with an unruly mop of black hair and a preference for black clothing.

The series starts as he is imprisoned for almost a century by a magic spell and finally earns his freedom in the modern world. The first batch of stories are horror stories, told in almost pitch-perfect “Tales from the Crypt” style, but they eventually evolve into modern/urban fantasy. The stories range throughout history — though the bulk of the series is set in the modern-day, there are tons of flashbacks about Morpheus in Ancient Greece, the French Revolution, Victorian England, etc., etc., etc. Dream meets a few superheroes, plus William Shakespeare (in a story that won the World Fantasy Award), Emperor Norton, Marco Polo, Augustus Caesar, and others. We also meet Dream’s family, the cosmically powerful and cosmically dysfunctional Endless, including devious Desire, pitiful Despair, loopy Delirium, and sensible Death.

I can’t recommend this series highly enough. It’s one of the best runs of comics ever, with the best ongoing storyline ever, with the coolest characters ever. DC keeps the entire series in a set of ten reprints. Yes, it’s expensive, but man alive, I’ve never once regretted spending all that dough on the series. It was fun to read and is still fun to re-read. Start with the first collection in the series, “Preludes and Nocturnes.”

Marvel 1602

Gaiman’s first major work for Marvel Comics plays into his love of history. It’s basically Marvel’s characters transplanted to Elizabethan England. Dr. Strange is Queen Elizabeth’s court magician, Nicholas Fury is her spymaster, the X-Men are superpowered outcasts in a school run by a bald guy named Carlos Javier. The world may soon be destroyed by mysterious storms, and Dr. Strange believes the problem may lie with innocent Virginia Dare, the first child born in the American colonies. On top of that, the wicked Count Otto von Doom is plotting against England from his fortress in Latveria, and the Inquisition is moving against all of the “witchbreed” who are born with mutant powers.

This is another very enjoyable series, very fun, lots of entertaining cameos and easter eggs for fans, plus an outstanding story, too. You should go pick this one up, too.

Like I said before, Gaiman has had great success as a novelist, writing “Neverwhere,” “Coraline,” “American Gods,” “Anansi Boys,” and others. My two favorite Gaiman novels are “American Gods” (a modern fantasy about American manifestations of weakened mythological gods) and “Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch” (written with Discworld creator Terry Pratchett, it’s a comedy about angels, demons, the Apocalypse, the Four Horsemen, and an awfully nice 11-year-old Antichrist). I insist you go buy these immediately. Go! Run!

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