a preponderance of punctuation marks (reedrover) wrote,
a preponderance of punctuation marks

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Happpy Birthday, Neil Gaiman!

This morning's Writer's Almanac wished Neil Gaiman a happy birthday. I did not realize that he is credited with launching the graphic novel as a "serious" art form.

It's the birthday of writer Neil Gaiman, born in Portchester, England (1960). He writes serious comic books and turns them into graphic novels. Growing up in England, he knew what comic books were, but the comic books published in England weren't very exciting. One day, a friend of his father gave him a box of old DC and Marvel comic books from America, and he fell in love with them. He stayed up late every night, reading them by the light from the hallway.

He said, "The most important dreams, the most manipulable of cultural icons, are those that we received when we were too young to judge or analyze." He wanted to take those icons of his youth and write about them in a serious, literary way.

In 1987, DC Comics let Gaiman pick one of their old, failed comic book characters and revive him. Gaiman chose a character called the Sandman, who uses sleeping gas to catch criminals. Gaiman kept the name but changed everything else, turning the character into the god of both dreams and stories.

He chose different artists to draw the seventy-five issues, and he filled the series with references to myths, folklore and literature, especially Shakespeare. In 1991, a single issue of The Sandman called "A Midsummer Night's Dream" became the first comic book to win the World Fantasy Award.

People like Stephen King and Norman Mailer became fans of the Sandman series, and it was also one of the first comic books to appeal to women. The seventy-five issues were collected and published in ten volumes, the first of which was The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes (1991). It launched the graphic novel as a serious art form.

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