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The Art of Neil Gaiman – reviewed by Hunter Coleman

Neil Gaiman, the master of imagination, has been pleasing his readers for over two decades, and at last there is a book devoted entirely to the man himself, detailing his journey from journalist to comic artist to cult novelist.

Ms. Campbell, the daughter of Eddie Campbell, a veteran graphic novelist, has known Gaiman since childhood, and as such has wide access to Gaiman and his correspondents. (Gaiman’s The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish was dedicated to the ten-year-old Hayley Campbell).

Although heavily illustrated throughout, The Art of Neil Gaiman is more about the art of writing than about visual arts per se. Gaiman is, after all, a writer, not an illustrator. And written he has, from some of the most beloved graphic novels (The Sandman, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader (the last Batman story)), to novels (The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Coraline) to blockbuster movies (Beowulf starring Angelina Jolie), to a biography on Duran Duran (or should that be rockagraphy?).

This is not a straight biography (his wife and children get only a passing mention, and then only to show how they affect the work), and with the possible exception of the first part, Preludes, should not be read as one. The Art of Neil Gaiman is, instead, full of never-before-seen notes, cartoons, personal photographs and drawings from Neil’s own collection. Each project is examined in turn, from genesis to fruition in the book that is divided among Gaiman’s three most influential mediums: comics, novels and screenplays.

The early chapters share episodes in the life of the writer, such as his embarrassment on having to take a sandwich with him to the library (his parents did not want the young boy spending his entire day reading books without food in his stomach) where he tells how he would reluctantly carry around the sandwich while exploring the stacks in the morning before taking his lunch break outside on a bench (all while reading, of course) before happily throwing the bag away and at last being able to return to the library, sans sandwich.

Later, the book does spend many pages detailing the inception of Gaiman’s magnum opus, The Sandman, which he worked on for seven years, and which became one of the most famous graphic novels in history, and justifiably so.

Lavishly illustrated, The Art of Neil Gaiman is the fully authorized account of the life and work of one of the world’s great storytellers, and is definitely a must-have for any fan.

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