Neil Gaiman on Creative Process, Boredom and Changing Directions
Neil Gaiman started writing the Sandman comic books 25 years ago. Since then, he’s written acclaimed fantasy novels, children’s books and screenplays. However, the pale, star-eyed Lord of Dreams remains one of his most beloved characters. Over the course of 75 issues, the series captivated fans and critics alike.
The last issue of The Sandman came out a decade ago. A couple of years ago author Neil Gaiman returned to Sandman with a prequel series, called The Sandman: Overture. In this interview for NPR, Gaiman talks about his creative process, collaborating with artists, and how boredom propelled Sandman from horror to other things.
The Creative Process and Collaboration
I write a script, and it’s kind of like a film script, only a lot more complicated. In a comic, it’s Page 1, Panel 1, and you have to decide what you’re showing. Page 1, Panel 1 could be a finger on a doorbell.
The fun thing for Sandman: Overture is on Page 2, I did one of those things you do as a writer to try and put, you know, these upstart artists you’re working with in their place. I thought, well, I’ll give him something impossible to do, and that’ll teach him. So I asked Jim, J. H. Williams, to draw the Sandman, the Lord of Dreams, as a plant. And I said, “Just give me a white flower that is somehow reminiscent of a human face, and give me leaves that are reminiscent of a cloak.” And not only did he do it, but he did it better than I ever imagined.
Boredom and Changing Directions
Well, the glory of Sandman, at [the beginning], was nobody had ever done anything like this before. So nothing could possibly go wrong, because nobody knew what to expect, which was wonderful. There weren’t any rules that said I couldn’t go off and do complex historical stories, or that I couldn’t do a retelling of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream on the first-ever performance before an invited audience of all of the fairies and the characters from Midsummer Night’s Dream, because nobody had ever done something like that to make a rule that you couldn’t. …
It starts out almost a horror comic. And then I start getting bored with horror, so it becomes a comic about other things: history, the responsibilities of leaders and kings, whether we need gods, and if we do, why we need gods.