Sunday, January 27, 2002
Lots and lots of helpful people writing in to make suggestions about universities and libraries that might be good places for the Sandman papers-- scripts, minicomics, what-have-you. And others have pointed out that they had better be the kind of well-budgeted place where the papers would be safer than they are in my attic.

Someone suggested that I auction them off for the CBLDF. I'd hate to see all that stuff split up -- there are too many academics out there who would curse me forever if I did. And any academics who are trying to do stuff about comics are fighting enough of an uphill battle anyway -- I'd rather not make things any harder for them.

An interesting side-question:

Neil --I guess this is more of a suggestion that a question. Recently, you posted that you had "huge quantities" of Sandman papers, scripts and computer files that you thought should be preserved. Well, I have no idea how one goes about donating comic book scripts to a university, but it got me thinking about that you and DC should consider putting out these scripts in book form. There definitely seems to be a market for comic script books recently (i.e. the Bendis Powers book, the Making of AiT book, and the upcoming Panel One book) and I really enjoyed reading the Sandman script in the Dream Country TPB. With collections broken down by story arc and featuring unseen art by the various artists who worked on Sandman, I can't imagine these books wouldn't sell. They may even be more attractive to the audience who discovered you through your prose work and can't quite bring themselves to buy comics.-- Matt

Let's see... well, it's been suggested a few times by such disparate publishers as DC Comics and Fantagraphics's Gary Groth. I even toyed with the idea of self-publishing them. In the end, it hasn't happened for three reasons. In order of importance they are

(1) I'm not entirely comfortable with publishing the scripts; they were letters to artists, not written to be published. It took a lot of arm-twisting for me to be persuaded to publish the script in Dream Country, which I agreed to mostly because I'd wanted so much as a young writer to see what a comics script looked like. Reading a comics script and turning it into a comic is even harder than reading a movie script and imagining a movie from it. If I wanted to see it happen, it would probably have happened. I have no doubt that it would sell -- just as I have no doubt that "novelizations" of the Sandman books would sell. But I want people to read the comics.

(2) I had a nightmarish computer crash while working on Sandman 5 (a hard disk fried by a lightning strike) which meant that it took years of hunting to find scripts for those early Sandmans, and as far as I know the script to Sandmans 2 and 5 are more or less lost for good. (nobody kept things like scripts back then.) So publishing the complete Sandman scripts is more or less impossible unless someone turns up the missing scripts. (But the script for Sandman 1 was believed lost as well, until a friend of Mike Dringenberg's found the copy Mike had done for him back in 1987.)

(3) The copyright and Trademark issues are complex. (DC purchased the right to publish the script for Sandman 17 from me for Dream Country.) While the comic is certainly copyright DC, the scripts (except, in some countries, that of Sandman 17) are copyright me -- which is why Fantagraphics was interested in publishing them. I suspect that the copyright issues are foggy enough that had DC wanted to stop me publishing them through an outside publisher they certainly could have tried. Not, I hasten to add, that it ever became an issue, and if I'd actually felt comfortable with the idea of a published script book I would probably have simply phoned Paul Levitz (DC's Publisher) and we'd have figured out how to do it, or at least come up with a few potential solutions.

But I wasn't comfortable with it, it wasn't complete, and I said no.

Dear Neil, Whats it like having people call you a genius, and refer to stuff you've done all the time as brilliant? does it get to you? do you believe in it, or try shrug it off with a grin, or a demeaning comment (like lennon used to)? or does it make you want to become a recluse like kubrick did? also, what do your wife and kids think about it? do they think its sweet, or do they have to hide the laughter and roll their eyes? Anyway, you are both a genius and your work is brilliant. Ben Lipman.

I'm not a genius, Ben. Honest. I know from geniuses, and believe me, I'm not. I'm a writer with a certain amount of talent and a commitment to the craft of writing who has written some good stuff and some stuff that's not so good. I've written enough words that I sound more or less like me when I write, and, mostly, I trust the story. I'm pleased when people enjoyed stories I wrote, but don't mistake it for praise of me, or for any kind of objective standard of excellence. (A writer is not the work. An artist is not the art.) Somebody with good taste's favourite story is certain to be the one story someone else with taste just as good but different is certain I should never have allowed to see print. (I'm no judge, either: my least favourite Sandman story was 3 Septembers and a January -- and now cannot remember why I disliked it so much. I just remember trying to talk Tom Peyer and Karen Berger into dumping it and skipping a month as it was so awful. In the end I changed the shape of a couple of word balloons.)

Somewhere in there I learned that awards and praise don't make it easier the next time it's just you and a blank screen -- sometimes they make it harder.

(Geniuses I've known would include Douglas Adams and Alan Moore. One is a monstrously prolific and hard-working writer, the other was notoriously 'blocked'. But both geniuses none the less. Dave McKean's a genius. They sail different seas.)

As for family... I've told on several occasions the story of how I got my first really powerful review in Locus, from Tom Whitmore, in 1989, and I read the sentence that made me happiest to my wife. "The voice of Gaiman," I read aloud, proudly, "is the voice of Marlowe and Poe." "That's very nice," she said. "Now will you take out the garbage?" which brought me down to earth with a sensible bump. And I did.

The kids know there are people out there who think I do cool stuff, but then, they've watched me wandering the house trying to remember where I put down my tea, and know that I have no sense of time and an exasperating habit of drifting off into my head in the middle of a sentence without noticing that I've stopped talking, not to mention a tendency to make things up that needs to be watched ("Is that true?" they'll say. "Er, no," I'll admit). They are occasionally impressed when they realise that someone I know is famous.

No desire to be a recluse, although I like having a certain amount of peace and quiet to write in, and I don't ever get used to being recognised when I'm not expecting it, especially not in shops.

Overall, I try not to take the praise too seriously. I like making up stories, I'm lucky that people want to read the stories I make up. If they didn't want to read them, I wouldn't be able to do anything about it, after all.

The stories wouldn't change...