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November 26 2013

00:15

‘Doctor Who,’ Neil Gaiman And The Triumph Of ‘Intellect Over Brawn’

This morning, the amazing Neil Gaiman joined us in the studio to talk about the new prequel to his “Sandman” series and his incredible career as a writer.
 Nicole — a listener from Attleboro, Mass. and a fan of Gaiman’s work — made note of one accomplishment in particular: his stint as a writer on the long running British sci-fi series “Doctor Who,” which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary this past Saturday. Nichole called in, still recovering from the emotional anniversary special that featured not one, but three doctors (well, four if you count a cameo by the fourth incarnation of the Doctor, Tom Baker, now almost eighty,) including fan favorite, David Tennant.
Gaiman’s contribution to the long-running series started with the award winning episode “The Doctor’s Wife,” which aired back in 2011 and featured the current (at least for one more Christmas special!) incarnation of the Doctor, played by Matt Smith. For those who have not had the pleasure of seeing it —  the episode gives a voice to one of the stars of the show, who for almost half a century remained voiceless — the Doctor’s beloved time machine, the TARDIS (or, “Time and Relative Dimension in Space.”)
 The TARDIS’s claim to fame — besides being a magical, blue police box that can travel through time —  is that it is “bigger on the inside.” When Gaiman finally gave her the chance to speak, the TARDIS quite poetically wanted to know if the same could be said for people, an insight that tugged fans’ heart strings, and resonated with our listener Nichole.
Gaiman, a lifelong Whovian (the affectionate moniker for fans of the show), remembered discovering the show back in his kindergarten days, when his peers turned milk bottles into Daleks (which as he kindly explained to host Tom Ashbrook as, “These little robots that look like pepper pot shaped, hatey, metal death machines, with eye stalks and toilet plungers as weapons.”)
“I would go to my grandparents and watch episodes of ‘Doctor Who,’ and I would watch them from behind the sofa so that the things couldn’t get out at me,” Gaiman said.
And like many in the century since the show’s introduction, Gaiman fell in love with the odd man traveling through space and time in a little blue box: “The joy of ‘Doctor Who,’ was that it was always about intellect over brawn. Nothing was ever solved in ‘Doctor Who’ by somebody being bigger or stronger than somebody else, it was always about being smarter… That was what hooked me. I loved it.”
“Getting to write episodes of doctor who, was my dream job.” Gaiman admitted. (It’s a sentiment shared by fellow life long ‘Doctor Who’ fan, actor Peter Capaldi, who will step into the role on Christmas Day as the twelfth incarnation of the Doctor.)
Happy Fiftieth Anniversary, Doctor Who!
- Emily Alfin Johnson

November 25 2013

21:15

Neil Gaiman, With A Meta-Take On Writing For Comics

Our Nov. 25 hour with Neil Gaiman had the rather lovely advantage of the comic book / fantasy / horror writer extraordinaire right here in our studios in Boston. (For the time being, at least, Gaiman maintains a house in the Boston area that makes WBUR studio visits a mere car ride away.)

Sitting in with our host, Tom Ashbrook, also gave Gaiman the opportunity to take a very meta approach to explaining the way a typical author might prepare for writing the words and actions in a graphic novel.

“I got to use the most wonderful artists in comics, and still with ‘Overure,’ I’m still having that as a privilege. Normally, the tradition with comics was that you would be an artist-writer team forever. For various reasons, Sam Kieth, who started ‘Sandman,’ retired early. he retired after issue five, and just said, he said, ‘Look this is great but I feel like Jimi Hendrix in the Beatles, I’m in the wrong band.’ He was taken over by a wonderful artist named Mike DringenbergMike stuck it for another couple of years,but didn’t like the monthly deadline thing. You have to sit there and keep drawing and keep drawing. I think it’s bad as a writer.”

“So Mike then retired and after that, we decided that it would be easier to find the right artist for the right story line, which was a complete break with tradition. So, for a story called ‘Season of Mists,’ which was big and grandiose and in Hell, I had a marvelous artist named Kelly Jones. For a story called ‘Brief Lives,’ which was much more human, much more just all about real people standing around talking, I used a fantastic artist called Jill Thompson. That was great because I walked away with all of these friends…there were probably a hundred people who worked on ‘Sandman’  during the course of those 75 issues.”

“What you do, and this is something that I’d wanted to know since I was a kid. I was a kid reading comic books, as I read everything, and I particularly loved American comics, ’cause they’d come over to England and they were like postcards from Oz. They were just these strange, wonderful things, and I’d think, ‘How do they get written?’ I knew what a movie script looked like, I’d seen them . But I couldn’t get my head around what a comic script was. And eventually, a marvelous comics writer, probably the finest writer of comics there’s ever been, a man named Alan Moore just showed me how to write comics. He sat down and said, ‘Right, right now, you write Page One, Panel One. And then you say everything that is happening in that panel.’ In this case, you know, you’d say, ‘Page one, panel one, Neil Gaiman and Tom Ashbrook are sitting in a studio, there’s paper all over the desk, there are great big microphones. Neil is talking, waving his hands around, doing an impression of Alan Moore. Tom is nodding sagely.’”

It’s stage directions, and it’s a letter to an artist. And then underneath, you’d write Tom: ‘It’s stage directions’; Neil: ‘It’s a letter to an artist’ and those would be what would go into the word balloons. And Neil, thought balloon: ‘I’m so glad they got me that cup of tea.’ You put everything. As far as I was concerned, and still to this day, as far as I’m concerned a comic script is a 10,000 word letter to an artist. I would always get puzzled when people would say to me, ‘So you write comics! So you write the words that go in the balloons.’ And you’re going, ‘That’s absolutely the tip of the iceberg.’ What I’m doing is building the cake, and in those words I will tell the artist everything I want to be in the panel — the size of the panel, the shape. What you’re also doing is working with some of the most creative people in the world.”

10:25

Neil Gaiman’s Newest ‘Overture’

Norman Mailer called it “a comic strip for intellectuals.” Best-selling author Neil Gaiman joins us with his dark, new series on the origins of “The Sandman.”

Guest

Neil Gaiman, Best-selling author of the acclaimed graphic novel series, “The Sandman,” including the new prequel, “The Sandman: Overture.” Also author of “American Gods,” “Coraline,” “The Graveyard Book” and “The Ocean At the End of the Lane.” (@neilhimself)

From Tom’s Reading List

The New Republic: An Interview With Neil Gaiman, the Internet’s Favorite Fantasy Writer – “Gaiman is perhaps the world’s best-known fantasy writer. The internationally bestselling author of ‘Neverwhere,’ ‘Coraline,’ ‘American Gods,’ ‘Stardust’ and many other books, graphic novels and film adaptations is rich, famous and married to a rock star. He has millions of devoted fans who eat his every word like air. He has won every major award going for science fiction, fantasy, and children’s literature, including the Hugo, the Nebula, the Bram Stoker and the Locus, many times over. He spends most of his time flying around the world between homes and fancy hotels, being celebrated and signing an improbable number of books.”

Paste Magazine: ‘The Sandman: Overture’ by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III — “I have absolutely no hesitation calling ‘The Sandman’ the best comic book ever written. I don’t consider it hyperbole or exaggeration: it’s a universal truth in my head, as unwavering as gravity or male pattern baldness. Other comics have certainly come close, but did ‘Watchmen,’ ‘Blankets,’ or ‘Maus’ deliver sublime graphic literature over seven years for 75 issues?”

The A.V. Club: Neil Gaiman’s classic comic-book series returns with ‘The Sandman: Overture #1′ – “Stories never really end, do they? Even after the final word on the page or the last shot on screen, stories live on in the imagination of the audience and, in more recent times, the limbo where narratives ferment until they’re ready for prequels and sequels. When Neil Gaiman ended ‘The Sandman’ in 1996, he emphasized the idea that these characters and this world would live on after the end of the series, and the nature of mainstream comic books ensured that Gaiman’s concepts would stick around for a while.”

See A Gallery Of Images From  Both The New And Original ‘Sandman’ On Our Blog

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