Monday, May 4, 2009

Neil Gaiman

This has been quite a week for me. First I met Tom Robbins, then I had my adventure at Yankee Stadium and on Saturday I met another of my favorite authors - Neil Gaiman.

I was first introduced to Neil Gaiman in the spring of 1994. I was going to visit my brother at College and was taking the Greyhound all the way down to Maryland. I was 16 years old and looking forward to my first weekend of hanging out at a College town complete with lots of beer (I'll never forget Olympia beer) and other potential debauchery. They only problem was the 6 hour Greyhound bus ride down. Now I was already a comic book fan but kept to the typical Batman, Superman, X-Men, Spider-Man etc.. I decided since I was going to be cooped up for a long time, I would buy a lot of comic books and try some I had heard a lot of about, but never read. Along with my typical haul, I grabbed the entire Vertigo collection and got 2 issues of Swamp Thing and Sandman since they said this was a good jumping on point for new readers. I bought issue 57 and 58 - the 2nd and 3rd parts of what would be the penultimate storyline of Neil Gaiman's opus - Sandman. From there I bought all the single issues until the series concluded in issue 75, but I was hooked.

Whenever I could get some money together I would buy the trade paperbacks of Sandman. It is safe to say that by 1999, I had the entire series, and it is even safer to say, I have read the entire storyline about once a year. I love it that much. I always seem to find something new and when this year Neil Gaiman released his Absolute Sandman hardcover editions, I started to buy them even though I already own the series in paperback.

I have also gotten many friends to read the series all of whom seem to really enjoy it and some have gotten pretty obsessed.
So to say I'm a fan is an understatement. I have read nearly everything he's put out (that I can get my hands on. Miracleman still escapes me, but someday...) and find his writing to be spectacular. He has an entire shelf on my bookcase that includes American Gods, Fragile Things, Anansi Boys, Smoke and Mirrors and all of Sandman and some other graphic novels he has written.

So when my girlfriend told me he was doing an interview on stage on Saturday, I jumped at the chance. We went to Cooper Union at 1PM Saturday and sat in a lecture hall with a stage that simply had 2 chairs and 2 microphones on it. Although we were late, we were able to get 3rd row seats all the way to the right, luckily we were on the side he sat on. I have seen him speak previously. I went to a reading of American Gods at the Border's Book in the WTC back in June of 2001 but it has been some time. Since then he has kind of broken out writing Mirrormask, Beowulf, Stardust and Coraline for the movies and a bunch of book including his newest The Graveyard Book. (to be reviewed once I finish reading it)

Gaiman has such a great cadence to his voice, such an easy going way of talking that is quite engaging. He speaks so slow that his words feel deliberate. He seems to have a great story about any situation that I didn't realize the hour of him talking was up so soon. He answered questions on stage on various subjects from how he got into writing comic books, to what awards mean to him to how he writes so well for children, to his similar look to arguably his greatest creation: Morpheus. He actually seems to be one of the kindest people in the world and his diminishing English accent gives him a great command over a room.

At the end of the hour, they announced that Gaiman would be signing some books, and he is known for his enthusiasm in meeting and speaking with fans. Unfortunately today, he had a flight to catch to Paris and he could not spend the amount of time he normally does speaking with people and would limit his signing to 1 per person. Anticipating that he would be signing, I had brought 2 books. Now that he would only sign 1 book of mine and 1 for Aubrey, we were excited. Aubrey was not sure what to do since both books were technically mine and she had only read one of them. She said she wished she had bought the Graveyard Book since we had not gotten it yet and that could be hers. The line was moving, but we were still quite far away. I told her to hold the line while I run out and get the book she wanted for herself and Neil Gaiman could personally address that. I ran out across the street to the St. Marks Bookstore on 7th and 3rd and with some help found the last edition in the store. I was able to buy it and get back in line before Aubrey was at the front.

Now, Neil Gaiman is someone that I would love to spend an entire afternoon with and talk and ask question. But what do you say or do when someone you would love to meet you only have 30 seconds with? I'll tell you what I did: Nothing. I got to the front of the line, told him my name and watched as he wrote my name, and signed his name on the piece of tracing paper that precedes the title page. He then flipped over to the title page itself and drew a line going up from his name to the top of the page where he drew a quick sketch of Morpheus - the sandman. He then flipped back over the piece of tracing paper and added a crescent moon. What did I do while all this was going on? Nothing. I had a stupid smile on my face and watched in awe. He finished, I gushed Thank you and then he said "You're welcome. That was fun to draw" with a genuine smile on his face. As I stared at his new creation, he went on to sign and engrave Aubrey's book. I didn't notice what was happening, but he drew a tombstone on the title page of the Graveyard Book and put Aubrey's name on that tombstone then signed his name at the bottom. What did Aubrey do while this was going on? Yup.... Nothing. She stood there with a silly smile on her face gushing that this was happening. As she said later, we both "Carried a Watermelon" for anyone that gets the Dirty Dancing reference.

So I give you the pictures of the fruits of Neil Gaiman's labor below. And although it is difficult to tell in these pictures, my Sandman book is double the size of a normal comic book and this edition is spectacular. I cannot wait to get the entire series (once I can afford it).

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