With his crow-in-the-night style and huge base of fervent fans, Neil Gaiman is often referred to as the “rock star” of fantasy and science fiction. It’s a fair enough label, of course, but, as The Art Of Neil Gaiman shows, hardly does justice to the depth and polymathic scope of an extraordinary career.
Written and compiled by Hayley Campbell, a journalist and close friend of Gaiman, The Art Of… is an impressively put-together compendium of the Sandman, Stardust and Doctor Who writer’s work.
It is not, however, a straight biography of his life – although its first part, ‘Preludes’, does root itself in childhood and teenage punk years. Instead, it’s mostly structured around the three main mediums of Gaiman’s fiction – comics, novels and screenplays – with no creative project left neglected in either.
Early journalism features, an unpublished Duran Duran book, the most obscure comics, poems and short stories: it is staggeringly definitive.
As for execution, Campbell’s close relationship with the author allows her unparalleled access to Gaiman’s company (many of the quotes are from her own interviews) and archive, with her being allowed to print such gems as old rejection letters, early drafts of stories and never-before-seen art – all of which are presented beautifully. Indeed, there is as much to see here as there is to read.
Yet, above all, what is truly impressive about The Art of Neil Gaiman is the insight into his mind, thematics and creative process. Campbell writes clearly, without ego and backs up each story of a story with either original or well-researched quotes.
It’s an exciting and rare opportunity to read one of the masters of his craft pick it apart in the kind of detail that fans could only ever beg the King of Dreams for.