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Saturday, March 14, 2009

PRINCE OF STORIES by Wagner, Golden & Bissette

Been reading through PRINCE OF STORIES, the recent book by Hank Wagner, Christoper Golden and Steve Bissette about the various works of Neil Gaiman in comics, prose, film and music/poetry. Lots of great stuff in there, and it got me to finally re-read the whole run of THE SANDMAN and related comics for the first time in one short period, which proved to be quite a different experience from either the original not-quite-monthly reading or the piecemeal re-reading I'd always done before.

I haven't read the whole book yet, I'll probably save the bits on the novels and films until sometime after I read or watch (or re-read or re-watch as the case may be) them in some vaguely planned future date, but a few highlights:

The section on Miracleman has a very clear summation of the legal situation surrounding the incomplete and out-of-print status of the series, and even had a few very noteworthy bits of information that I, as a more-than-casually interested observer, didn't know before, and which point to a possible resolution of the situation being somewhat closer than I expected (though maybe still a few years away). So that's good news.

The book also has a 50-page interview with Gaiman conducted by Wagner and Bissette, which covered a lot of general background on Gaiman and his work. Of particular interest was the information on a book that we unfortunately didn't see last year and won't see in the near future, a "Sandman issue zero" story of the sometimes vaguely alluded to background of what Morpheus was doing prior to being captured for 70 years in the first issue of the series. I had read Gaiman mentioning before how he wanted to do that story last year but couldn't come to an agreement with DC, but in here he goes into quite a bit more detail than I'd heard before about the disagreement which is a fascinating look at the sometimes short-sighted nature of the comic book industry. Still, it's a story I'd like to read someday, so hopefully sometime in the future people will change their minds or be replaced at the same time that Gaiman is interested in writing it.

In addition to the useful notes on Gaiman's work, the book also has an excellent selection of some rare, sometimes previously unpublished, bits of Gaiman's work that he made available to them. "Blood Monster", a 4-page horror story from TABOO drawn by Marlene O'Connor is vaguely unsettling without being explicit. Gaiman's extensive and amusingly fannish "Notes Towards a Vegetable Theology" is a treat, and a glimpse at what might have been if he'd had a run at Swamp Thing as was once planned. An unseen bit of his early journalism, describing a 1984 fantasy convention is enjoyable. Gaiman's original proposal for the various Tekno Comics series which carried his name are a lot more detailed than I expected, I'll have to take a look at the handful I have to see how much of that was intact.

There are also some short bits by various Gaiman collaborators which shed an interesting light on his work.  The most entertaining is an interview with Dave McKean, and Gaiman's reaction to it. Lots of stuff of interest comes out in the bits with Charles Vess, Craig Russell, Mark Buckingham and Jill Thompson. The short bit written by Mike Dringenberg is fairly enigmatic, and I always get the feeling that there's a lot more going on there that probably won't come out for years, if ever.

So all-in-all a highly recommended book if you're interested in several aspects of Gaiman's varied career.

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