The best-selling British writer, who turns 50 in November, returns to our magical islands this month
THE WILDEST OF IDEAS burst into life in his wake and the merest touch of his words beguile whomever they brush against.
He is a traveler between the worlds of the real and the imagined. He?s tall, pale with messy hair and dressed in black. The subject of our discussion is author Neil Gaiman, but it could just as easily be about his most famous creation, Morpheus, the title character from the DC Comics title ?The Sandman.?
The best-selling British writer, who turns 50 in November, returns to our magical tropical islands this month. Think you know everything about him? Behold the things you may not know about Gaiman in this eclectic A-Z.
A is for Anansi: The African trickster god who was passing himself off under the name Mr. Nancy before dying in Gaiman?s 2005 novel ?Anansi Boys.? Gaiman?s other novels for grownups are ?Good Omens,? written with Terry Prachett.
B is for Beowulf: The hero from the ancient English epic poem, also the protagonist of Robert Zemeckis? 2007 CGI adaptation; Gaiman and Roger Avary wrote the adapted screenplay.
C is for Coraline: Coraline Jones is the smart girl who finds a twisted version of her world within the spooky house her family moves into. Published in 2002, ?Coraline? is Gaiman?s spooky young reader?s novel that became a 2009 stop-motion film directed by Henry Selick.
D is for Dream: The brooding ruler of the Dreaming and is also known as Morpheus and the Sandman, among countless other names. The DC Comics series he headlined ran from 1989 to 1996, and is known as one of the greatest comic books ever written.
E is for the Endless: In ?The Sandman,? the Endless are the first family of everything: Death, Destiny, Destruction, Dream, Desire, Despair and Delirium, formerly known as Delight. They have their own realms but meet occasionally; like any family, the Endless tend to be dysfunctional.
F is for Fiddler?s Green: Traditionally a place where soldiers go after death, Fiddler?s Green is indeed a setting in the Dreaming. During Dream?s absence, Fiddler?s Green develops sentience and takes the form of a gentleman named Gilbert.
G is for the Graveyard Book: A novel for young readers, ?The Graveyard Book? is about Nobody Owens, a human boy who grows up in a cemetery raised by ghosts. It won the Newbery Medal for best children?s book in 2009.
H is for Hugo: The Hugo Award, one of many awards received by Gaiman. His writing has also received the World Fantasy Award, the Locus Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Nebula Award, the Eisner Award and the Harvey Award, among others.
I is for Ishtar: Ishtar is a Babylonian fertility goddess who has fallen into hard times and is working as a dancer in a crummy joint when Dream encounters her in ?The Sandman: Brief Lives? arc. She then makes a memorable exit.
J is for Justice League of America: The heroic members of the JLA make several appearances in ?The Sandman:? ?The Martian Manhunter,? ?Mister Miracle,? ?The Batman and Clark Kent.?
K is for Keepsakes: ?Keepsakes and Treasures? is a short story that appears in Gaiman?s collection of short fiction ?Fragile Things.? Beware of what is lost and being sought, particularly if the seeker?s name is Mr. Alice.
L is for Lucien: In ?The Sandman,? Lucien is the trusted librarian of the Library of Dreams. The Library contains all the books that have been written and those only dreamt of. He is perhaps Morpheus? most reliable servant.
M is for Marvel: Gaiman was given the opportunity to reinvent many of Marvel Comics? stars in the New World of the 17th century through the ambitious ?Marvel 1602? project. He would also write the graphic novel ?The Eternals? for the company.
N is for Neverwhere: ?Neverwhere? is a six-episode British TV series created by Gaiman that aired in 1996. In it, a man named Richard Mayhew discovers a time-lost magical place beneath London called London Below. Gaiman wrote a novelization of the serial; a comic book as well as a stage play were also made.
O is for Odin: The father of the Norse gods and also known as Wotan, Odin appears in ?The Sandman? as he leads a delegation to lay claim to Hell. He also appears in Gaiman?s novel ?American Gods,? using the name Mr. Wednesday.
P is for Princess Mononoke: ?Princess Mononoke? is a 1997 animated movie from Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli fame; Gaiman adapted the script for its English-language release.
Q is for Queen Titania: Queen of the Faerie, Titania, as she appears in ?The Sandman,? has a fondness for Dream and arrives in the waking world to watch the first performance of William Shakespeare?s ?A Midsummer Night?s Dream??with real faeries in tow, of course.
R is for Remiel: In ?The Sandman,? Remiel is one of the two angels sent to speak to Morpheus when the Dream King takes possession of the Key to Hell. Together with the angel Duma, he is eventually appointed ruler of Hell.
S is for Stardust: ?Stardust? is a 1998 novel by Gaiman, illustrated by Charles Vess, about magical high jinks occurring near the English town of Wall when a star falls to Earth. The 2007 motion picture adaptation was directed by Matthew Vaughn and featured a cast that included Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert de Niro.
T is for Thessaly: Also known as the Thessalian or Larissa, she is the last of a line of ancient powerful witches. Spiteful and petty, the bespectacled witch bears a grudge against Morpheus, her former lover, because their relationship ended abruptly.
U is for Ursula K. Le Guin: Ursula K. Le Guin is among the writers who strongly influenced Gaiman?s writing. Other inspirations include Douglas Adams, H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien and Harlan Ellison.
V is for Vertigo: Vertigo Comics is DC Comics? imprint for its experimental, mature readers series. It became the home of Alan Moore?s ?Swamp Thing,? Bill Willingham?s ?Fables? and, most notably, Gaiman series such as ?The Sandman,? ?The Books of Magic? and ?Death: The High Cost of Living.?
W is for Wayne, Bruce: Gaiman penned a critically acclaimed 2009 two-parter for DC Comics about the Batman called ?Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?? The tale explores what the Batman experiences after the villain Darkseid apparently kills him.
X is for X: The Roman numeral for 10, the official number of ?The Sandman? trade paperbacks, collecting the entire series from #1-75 and pertinent one-shots. They are, in order: ?Preludes and Nocturnes,? ?A Doll?s House,? ?Dream Country,? ?Season of Mists,? ?A Game of You,? ?Fables and Reflections,? ?Brief Lives,? ?Worlds? End,? ?The Kindly Ones? and ?The Wake.? Other books such as ?The Dream Hunters? and ?Endless Nights? are considered companion volumes.
Y is for Yvaine: The damsel in distress of ?Stardust,? Yvaine is actually a star fallen to Earth and has now taken on the form of a beautiful girl. She is the object of several competing forces. In the movie, she is played by Claire Danes.
Z is for ZZZ: When people fall asleep in ?The Sandman,? they enter The Dreaming, the Sandman?s realm. It is a dizzyingly magical place, full of all the creatures who inhabit our dreams. Here, Morpheus is almost all-powerful, with the power to alter reality as he sees fit.