NeverWhat?

by Sonia Mitchell

Sonia is unhappy with aspects of graphic novel Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere
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I think Neverwhere in novel form may have been my first introduction to Neil Gaiman, and it's a story I have a lot of fondness for. Having been presented in a couple of different forms already (tv and the novel) it seemed like a pretty good candidate to be adapted into a graphic novel. The story is fairly linear, and a lot of the joy is in the world Gaiman builds. I'd have thought you couldn't really go wrong with a graphic novel version, which just goes to show how naive I was. There's always something that can be fucked up if the team are dedicated enough.

Doing the words is Mike Carey, who's got plenty of experience with Gaiman derivatives, having written a couple of Sandman spinoffs and the series Lucifer. He knows and respects Gaiman's work, and his introduction makes it very clear that the changes he has made here aren't about stamping his own mark on the story, but are made in the interests of making it work in a different medium. And I think his writing is good. The plot is compressed a bit, and the narration is first person (from Richard's POV) but these are good changes. The only real annoyance I have is with the fact that so many words are emphasised. It's the manual version of abuse of the strong tag, and though it's possible to tune it out to some extent it does become noticeable again. But that's a small gripe and the writing is not where my issue lies.

It's Glenn Fabry’s art I have serious problems with. Technically, it's excellent. The floating market is particularly beautiful and he really pays attention to detail. Fabry mixes up his angles, uses colour nicely and no doubt employs lots of subtle techniques I don't even notice in order to make the art match the words. I have serious issues, however with the portrayal of some of the characters. Door and the Marquis de Carabas in particular are appalling, and I don't say that because I’m being pedantic about canon.

I'll start with the Marquis first. In the tv series, he's played by Paterson Joseph, who is a black man. In the book, he's a black man. In the comic... he's surprising. And not because he's white. Scroll down and see.

Then answer me one question. What. The. Fuck?

Eyes and a mouth in a block of black ink. We find out from his profile views that he does have a nose, but you wouldn’t know from the front - there's no shading, not contours to his face... nothing. This was published in 2005, by the way. Hunter, the other canonically black important character, is shown as a black woman in the human sense rather than the wall of ink sense, which makes the Marquis’s portrayal all the more bizarre. He's not supposed to be a demon or a monster or anything, and no one in the text even mentions that he seems to have no face (they also don't mention that Anaesthesia, another human character, is blue for no good reason). But someone made a character design decision that the Marquis should look like that.

And apparently no one involved in the production objected strongly enough that, er, it might look a tiny bit racist. Give them their due, though, they were also busy not objecting that it might have a hint of misogyny.

Door is supposed to be a vulnerable 16ish girl, huddled in clothes too big for her. I’ll admit there’s a hint of buyer beware here, as I could have seen from the cover how she’s been re-interpreted, but I somehow missed that in glee at the book's very existence. It was only when I came to read it that I realised she was wearing very little, and that that very little frequently moved aside to allow the reader to see as much of her flesh as Fabry can expose. Her breasts never actually fall out of that corset but it’s a close-run thing, and when the time comes for her to fall spectacularly we get a charming angle of her legs up on the air and wide open, with a very small amount of fabric stopping the comic from being porn. And this is a fish-in-a-barrel point, but seriously, those breasts are a bit on the odd side.

I know comics have a venerable history of this sort of shit, but this is where my other point comes in. Neil Gaiman’s name attached to this implies that he condones it. As a reader I don’t care about contractual obligations or legal tussles over rights or any other behind the scenes stuff that I haven’t heard about. If your good name means anything, you should care where you put it.

Gaiman is one of the writers I trust(ed) not to be linked with this stuff. He’s pretty famous for positive portrayals of women, queer people and people of colour - critics and fans fall over themselves to celebrate him for it. And within his own work he's pretty consistent. I haven't read everything he's ever written, but I've read quite a lot of his stuff and I've never had these type of concerns before, even when I haven't liked a piece of his work. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that an adaptation of his work that bears his name should carry the same values as other versions of the story, especially when his is the biggest name on the cover. And I'm no marketing expert, but surely if you're using Gaiman's name and selling a version of his work to his fans you'd want to keep with their expectations?

As far as I can see his name is on this either because
a) He liked it and didn’t see a problem with it
b) He had no choice due to contractual obligations
c) He didn’t read it
d) He did secretly object but decided to take the money

None of those look good to me. B is maybe the most excusable, but if it’s true then he should have had a care earlier in the game about what his name was attached to. And maybe mentioned somewhere that he didn’t personally approve the adaptation. All I can find on his blog is praise for it, and (this is subjective but) I don't get the impression he's being sarcastic or reluctant.

I was never enamoured with Alan Moore’s insistence that his name be removed from film adaptations of his work, but I’ll admire his stance before Gaiman’s. Moore cares about his name, and what it’s used to sell, while it seems that Gaiman maybe doesn’t care as much as I’d hoped. I’ll remember that next time I want to assume that because he’s linked with a work, the work can be trusted.

More than most SF/fantasy writers Gaiman's name is something of a brand (I think I've pinched a train of thought from Dan's article here). If someone compares a story or a writer to Gaiman it's a shorthand for certain elements and attitudes, not just a comparison of writing style. And it's quite an insular brand at that - mostly based online, and massively dominated by information from his blog. He's even commented himself on the distorting effect his web presence has compared to other authors. The fact that he and his fans make up the vast majority of this presence (day to day, I don't see many negative words about him. Even actively searching for negative criticism while writing this article didn't turn up much to work with) serves to present a fairly uniform view of what Gaiman's work is and what he has to say.

But while Brand Gaiman may bring him pretty big commercial advantages, as a consumer I feel more entitled to make assumptions about what that brand is - the good and the bad. If I buy a jar of Ainsley Harriot's carbonara sauce I don't expect him to have made it personally, but I can infer his approval from his choice to put his name on it, whether he was involved or not. If it tastes overwhelmingly of garlic and pepper I'll know next time that he either doesn't care what he puts his name to or that his tastes are very different to my own, and I'll apply those assumptions to the whole range of sauces. If Gaiman wants to use his name in this way then the same applies. I'll know in future that his name isn't the mark of quality I believed it to be.

You can't credibly set yourself up as someone who writes about minorities and women in a positive manner but set those attitudes aside when it's convenient - you actually have to believe them all the time. If you think it's okay to reinterpret 'black' as 'non-human' or 'woman' as 'body' then maybe you shouldn't be accepting thanks or awards from people who thought you were on their side. I'm not going to be avoiding all Gaiman's work in the future - I enjoy his writing too much for that - but maybe I need to rethink his ranking in my mental list of awesome people. Gaiman the writer might produce material I like, but Gaiman as endorser means considerably less.

(As a postscript, while writing this article I got my first Blue Screen of Death for years. I think the geeks may be on to me)
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Comments (go to latest)
Arthur B at 21:16 on 2009-04-20
I've never been sure what to make of Mike Carey. His run on Hellblazer is meant to be exceptionally good, but I've been burned by substandard Hellblazer stories often enough to be really cautious about the franchise (I still haven't found anything which recaptures the magic of Dangerous Habits). Lucifer started slow, was briefly interesting when Carey pulled out the most shocking and brilliant idea of the series, and then lost momentum again (I think I've got to the point where I need to admit to myself that I'll never actually get around to reading the last two trade paperbacks). And then there's his novels, which seem Hellblazer-like enough that I worry they'll degenerate into him whining about being taken off the series.

And then there's this thing. I've always felt that Neverwhere was a story that's never quite found its ideal medium, and I was always under the impression that it really needed to be a comic book to fulfil its full potential. It's such a shame they've bungled it.
Dan H at 22:26 on 2009-04-20
day to day, I don't see many negative words about him. Even actively searching for negative criticism while writing this article didn't turn up much to work with

Allow me to oblige:

"He's been writing the same fucking book over and over again for the past ten years at least, he really can't do endings properly, and for fuck's sake his books have discussion questions in the back".

Gaiman's always been a bit hit-and-miss race-wise. In American Gods, while it was nice that "Shadow" was mixed race it annoyed the hell out of me that Kali got lumped in with all the other "abandoned" gods. I mean, I know there aren't that many Hindus in America but there are presumably more Hindus than *Vikings*.
Sonia Mitchell at 00:21 on 2009-04-21
I enjoyed the two or three trade paperbacks of Lucifer I managed to buy, but whenever I see them in a bookshop I'm not entirely sure which ones I own, so my collection has halted. Give me ten years or so and I might have something to say on the series.

I should clarify that I was searching for criticism in relation to this graphic novel, which is why I didn't spread my net that wide. But Dan, I like that quote very much, in a painful way (though personally I've liked some of Gaiman's endings). And excellent point about Kali.

and for fuck's sake his books have discussion questions in the back

1. Do you appreciate being steered towards certain interpretations?
2. Do you think Harry Potter would benefit from similar treatment, or is it preferable to be directed from authorial interviews?
Gaiman's 'The Graveyard Book' is not as good as it could have been. I liked the characters and the world, but it disappointed. It was more a collection of short stories with the same main character, Bod, than the novella I thought it would be. I enjoyed each short piece but they begged to be longer. Bod went from infant to fifteen in three hundred pages that crammed in early childhood, middle childhood, and early adolescent development stages. I was jolting. I don't quite get how it won the Newbery medal, but maybe few authors applied.

'Coraline' on the other hand delighted.
http://marionros.livejournal.com/ at 07:52 on 2009-04-21
Yes Dan, there are more hindu's in America than Vikings, but we're not talking about Shiva here, but about Kali. The Sect of Kali worshippers (known as 'Thugees', hence the word 'thug') were violent and believed that the ultimate form of worship was by killing people. There can't have been many of *those* kind of worshippers in America.
Arthur B at 09:57 on 2009-04-21
The thugee were a sect of Kali worshippers; simply because they're extinct (and in a modern-day occult version of the US they may well not be extinct) doesn't mean she's been written out of Hinduism as a whole. Hinduism is such a massive and complicated subject I don't feel completely competent to make broad pronouncements about it, but I'm pretty sure she remains an important figure within most versions of Hinduism (especially those which focus on Shiva). Put it this way: the wikipedia article on her is able to take in a broad range of traditions and practices without mentioning the thugee once.

Also, the fact that she's one of a very short list of Hindu deities that people who haven't studied the religion are likely to be able to name must count for something.
Wardog at 10:52 on 2009-04-21
1. Do you appreciate being steered towards certain interpretations?
2. Do you think Harry Potter would benefit from similar treatment, or is it preferable to be directed from authorial interviews?

Haha - I have to admit, I was so massively peeved by the questions for discussion in the latest editions of Gaiman's books that it really soured me on him, which is entirely unfair becuase I'm sure no moderately sensible human would *not* if they could possibly avoid it have patronising questions for discussion at the back of their books.

The problem is, when I've tried to get over my Gaiman-Aversion, I've failed miserably. I remember quite liking Sandman, because it was impossible not to at the time of reading, and I still feel broadly positive about it today. I loved Stardust, novel, comic, and the movie was quite charming. And I was hugely into Neverwhere as a teenager.

Semi-recently I picked up Anasi Boys and I just couldn't finish it - and I couldn't work out whether I couldn't finish it because it wasn't very good or because my Gaiman Aversion is too pronounced.

'Coraline' on the other hand delighted.

I've heard nothing but positive things about Coraline, however, I should really investigate. Also it has the advantage of brevity so if I hate it, at least I won't resent the time I've spent on it.
http://marionros.livejournal.com/ at 10:55 on 2009-04-21
Yeah, Arthur, but that's because of the Indiana Jones movie :-)

The things people who haven't studied it don't know about the hindu religion could no doubt fill several libraries, and I count myself under those who know next to nothing about the religion (I even never saw the Indiana Jones movies, but I know the thugees and Kali feature in it - such is the permeation of popculture into every day life, alas), but if asked, the hindu gods that would spring to mind would be Shiva and Ganesh, not Kali. Kali summons up a vague picture of a savagelooking woman with a skull necklace (have no idea if this is correct. Will check out the wiki-link you provided later) and a vague recollection of reading some Victorian story where thugees were mentioned (Sherlock Holmes?)

Arthur B at 11:27 on 2009-04-21
The Victorian story could have been Sherlock Holmes, or it could have been one of a groaning pile of stories on the same subject (which Temple of Doom is merely a recent, big-budget manifestation of); Thugeemania was a big deal for a while.

I suppose which Hindu gods spring to mind to non-Hindus depends on your background, contact with actual Hindus, the breadth and depth of your religious studies classes in school, and so on. But this is all slightly at a tangent to Dan's point; while the general cultural pervasiveness of Kali might be up for debate, that still doesn't mean her worship has been completely discarded, but that's kind of what the banishment of her to the Island of Misfit Gods implies.
Wardog at 11:31 on 2009-04-21
I can join the Things I Don't Know About the Hindu Religion discussion by saying that my understanding of Kali comes from Around the World In 80s Day With Willy Fog, a splendid cartoon by the way, much beloved of me and my Granddad. But I believe the hot cat Princess rescued by Mr Fog was previously married to an Indian Rajah who worshipped the goddess Kali and thus sentenced to be burned alongside him on the funeral pyre.
Rami at 11:52 on 2009-04-21
my understanding of Kali comes from Around the World In 80 Days With Willy Fog
I don't know about the cartoon but IIRC Kali isn't mentioned in the original book. And suttee (immolation of the widow) is not in any case connected to her; I think it has something to do with the worship of Shiva, actually, although I haven't actually read the Wiki article I'm linking to and I might be wrong.

Kali appears in Hindu mythology (certainly in the Mahabharata) as the wrathful aspect of a number of goddesses, and I think Durga is an aspect of hers. Durga is certainly very popular amongst Bengali Hindus, and I know there's a few of them in the US (though I don't know exact numbers), so I suspect she's got a good strong lead on Thor!
Wardog at 12:02 on 2009-04-21
I don't know about the cartoon but IIRC Kali isn't mentioned in the original book. And suttee (immolation of the widow) is not in any case connected to her

Wait ... wtf ... are you saying Will Fog is not a reliable source of data on other world religions? Dude!
Arthur B at 12:15 on 2009-04-21
Willy Fog was excellent. Do you remember the sequel series where they did 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?
Dan H at 15:13 on 2009-04-21
The Sect of Kali worshippers (known as 'Thugees', hence the word 'thug') were violent and believed that the ultimate form of worship was by killing people


Except they weren't.

Cursory googling of the subject reveals that the "Thugee" were actually probably perfectly secular bands of robbers and murderers, whose number included Hindus, Sihks and Muslims. They were no more a sect of Kali worshippers than the Mafia are a "sect of Christians". Some Thugee were Hindus, some Mafiosi are Catholic.

In fact, it's pretty much this sort of cultural misconception that worried me about Kali's inclusion in the book in the first place. By including Kali alongside Odin, Gaiman basically lumps Hinduism with "weird, old religions that do human sacrifice" and that's a real problem.

It's the equivalent of having Yaweh sitting around at the Council of the Old Gods saying "How come nobody drinks the blood of Christian babies any more? Oy!"
Arthur B at 15:33 on 2009-04-21
It also puts "religions practised by a small number of neopagan revivalists" on a par with "religions which command the passionate devotion of millions". It's a bit rich to include on a list of "abandoned" gods a deity who has been continuously worshipped for thousands of years.
Dan H at 15:39 on 2009-04-21
Yeah, it's the combination of "Hinduism is obsolete" and propogating what could be considered racist misconceptions about Hinduism that bugged me.
Sonia Mitchell at 17:31 on 2009-04-21
Though having Jesus hitch-hiking in Afghanistan suggests that the down-on-their-luck gods can have a level of relevance somewhere above obsolete.

Willy Fogg was fantastic. I can now hear the chorus of the theme tune in my head :-)
(Oh, and I may be the one person who didn't like Coraline. Anansi Boys, though, I enjoyed.)
Rami at 18:15 on 2009-04-21
It also puts "religions practised by a small number of neopagan revivalists" on a par with "religions which command the passionate devotion of millions"
But everyone knows one white Anglo-Saxon ex-Protestant follower is worth thousands of those dirty little buggers who live in the Third World...
Dan H at 23:33 on 2009-04-21
Though having Jesus hitch-hiking in Afghanistan suggests that the down-on-their-luck gods can have a level of relevance somewhere above obsolete.


Unfortunately, it's one of Gaiman's trademark throwaway lines that sound meaningful but don't stack up to anything in the actual text. American Gods is curiously quiet on the question of Christianity. Apparently Americans went from worshiping Odin and Isis to worshiping TV and Shopping without passing through anything in the middle.
Sonia Mitchell at 00:07 on 2009-04-22
I just meant number of worshippers wise. Proportionally there are less Christians in Afghanistan than Hindus in America, but there are a few. If Jesus can be a misfit god with believers then presumably others can too.
I think it follows that Kali's inclusion in American Gods isn't automatically a suggestion that she doesn't have worshippers, unless she actually says so. It's been too long since I read it to remember exactly if she does say.

(I am still agreeing that her inclusion and portrayal could be problematic, and also adding my name to the list of people who don't know enough about Hinduism to add anything to the debate. I'm just questioning the choice of 'obsolete'.)
Dan H at 00:44 on 2009-04-22
I think it follows that Kali's inclusion in American Gods isn't automatically a suggestion that she doesn't have worshippers, unless she actually says so.


True, but I think her inclusion amongst the old, forgotten gods which America no longer needs or has any use for strongly implies that she and the pantheon of which she is part falls under "cool myths" not "proper religions". The line about Jesus is just so much self-justification - nowhere else does Gaiman dare mention Christianity (not least because it would undermine the entire point of the book).

Sorry to keep going on about this, I just really, really didn't like American Gods.
Sonia Mitchell at 01:22 on 2009-04-22
strongly implies that she and the pantheon of which she is part falls under "cool myths" not "proper religions"

Yeah, that's fair.
Interestingly, he was linked with a Dreamworks adaptation of the Ramayana. According to his blog it fell through after Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron didn't do very well, but his drafts had already strayed far enough from the original that they would probably need a different name. Which seems to back up your point pretty well.

(Slightly tangentially, he does engage with Christianity elsewhere - the horsemen of Good Omens were largely Gaiman's writing. They also get the 'cool myth' treatment)
http://mmoa.livejournal.com/ at 08:00 on 2009-04-22
Going back to the original article, I don't think you're alone in not liking certain aspects of the graphic novel, if you go here. I read the comic version before seeing the TV miniseries (I found the book a bit difficult to get into) and I still had the same issues with it, though mostly I found the 'alternative' look a bit forced (my inner snob coming through, I suppose), particularly when it came to Islington, Door and Carabas. Perhaps it would have seemed cooller if I'd been thirteen, but I couldn't stop thinking 'oh look, the characters shop in Camden market', every time I turned a page.
Wardog at 14:41 on 2009-04-22
I found the 'alternative' look a bit forced

From the artwork displayed here, I agree with you. I'm particularly irritated by what they've done to poor Door. There's nothing less other-worldly seeming than clothes that look like they came from Camden Market :)
Arthur B at 15:07 on 2009-04-22
To be fair, there's a long tradition of Gaiman characters looking like they've been shopping in Camden Market, so arguably Carey and Fabry are simply picking up on that and running with it.

Then again, there's always sort of a point to it in Sandman, for example. Death looks absolutely normal and down to earth, but that's sort of the point - she's far and away the most grounded of the Endless. Delirium dresses in the cheap colourful stuff you find in the bargain bins at the stalls but she's meant to have a bit of a lost vagrant look about her - she dresses more like a normal person who's fooled themselves into thinking they are one of the Endless than an actual ur-deity from before the dawn of time, which is completely appropriate (especially when you consider her history). Dream's costumes vary from the fantastic to the mundane gothy, but he's constantly flirting with being more human so that's OK.

The Neverwhere art, on the other hand, just seems slapped together. Aside from the blackface (what the hell?) they look like people play-acting as Neverwhere characters rather than actual residents of an otherworldly London-within-London, if you see what I mean.

(Gene Wolfe fact of the day: Wolfe designed the characters in The Book of the New Sun specifically so that they'd be reasonably easy to cosplay, because he was fed up of nobody dressing as his characters for costume contests at conventions.)
http://mmoa.livejournal.com/ at 19:41 on 2009-04-22
To be fair, there's a long tradition of Gaiman characters looking like they've been shopping in Camden Market...

True. On the other hand, as you said, it usually seems more 'natural', whereas in the comic it occasionally bordered into a cliche of the 'Gaiman' look.

Maybe I just need to get in touch with my inner thirteen year old...
Jamie Johnston at 22:04 on 2009-04-24

As far as I can see his name is on this either because
a) He liked it and didn’t see a problem with it
b) He had no choice due to contractual obligations
c) He didn’t read it
d) He did secretly object but decided to take the money


There is, I think, a fourth option that's at least theoretically possible. This is that Gaiman's attitude to adaptations of this kind is similar to the attitude of many playwrights (and many more directors) to productions of their plays, namely, "My works ends when I finish putting the words on the paper; what the director, actors, set designer, &c. do with my work after that is something I may like or dislike but is basically none of my business."

Is that an acceptable attitude to an adaptation like this? I'm not sure. With a play, the members of the audience know pretty well exactly what the playwright is responsible for and what he or she takes the credit and / or blame for: which character says which words in what order, and possibly to some extent how they say them and what they do with their bodies (by way of stage directions). We know that we can't assume Tom Stoppard's approval of any other aspects of a production even if it's billed as 'Tom Stoppard's Jumpers. With a comics adaptation of a novel there's no such established convention, so, as you say Sonia, the billing 'Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere can quite naturally be understood to mean 'a version of Neverwhere endorsed by Neil Gaiman. Moreover, it isn’t a direct analogy because in the case of an adaptation to another medium much of the original is actually changed, whereas from play-script to stage the words remain the same although they are added to in production.

Whether it’s an acceptable attitude or not, is it actually Gaiman’s attitude? I think it’s possible. I remember reading an online interview with him - I can’t remember where I found it, I’m afraid - in which he criticized an amateur stage adaptation of Violent Cases for being too faithful to the structure of the original and thus unintentionally relocating the emotional core of the story. He expressed the view that an adaptor should be willing to change fairly basic things in order to make sure the story works in its new medium. I think all this was in answer to the interviewer asking him whether he objected to changes that had been made in another adaptation - it may even have been the TV version of Neverwhere. So perhaps he does say, in effect, “I may not like it, but it isn’t my place to object”.

Then again, perhaps not. After all, it’s one thing to say, “I don’t like this stage adaptation, but I’m not a playwright”; but he can’t very well say, “I don’t like this comics adaptation, but I’m not a comics writer”... because he is. Of course we don’t know for sure whether de Carabas’ odd blackness and Door’s dress-sense is down to Carey or Fabry or both, but even if it was entirely the artist’s decision we know that Gaiman, even though not a comics artist, was prepared to write fairly specific visual descriptions of characters when he wrote comics (see the sample script of Calliope in the Dream Country paperback, for example), so it would be unconvincing for him to say, “I’m not qualified to judge whether this is an appropriate bit of adaptation”.

I fear it may just be one of your four original, unattractive options. Gaiman has become a bit of a franchise, and he does seem to be letting that happen without keeping a very careful eye on it. I went to a book-signing he did in Oxford a few years ago and I didn’t get the sense that he was a reluctant cult celebrity. But there we are. He’s done good work, and maybe one day he’ll do good work again.
http://serenoli.livejournal.com/ at 23:45 on 2009-04-24
I found the discussion on whether Kali is still important or not very funny, given that I've seen annual festivals in her honour on my streets since I was born. :D And all of that thugee extremism stuff is so Indiana Jones. It seems somehow she got a bad reputation because of her trident and the necklace of skulls. Bear in mind that the skulls are supposed to be of all the demons she has killed, and in Hindu mythology she has traditionally been the goddess who went into battle and killed all the demons whom the male gods - Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma - were too weak to defeat. Kali's terrible form is linked to her role as a protector, and had nothing to do with human sacrifice (that was never a feature of Kali worship; hello, Hinduism - they're all vegetarians and big on ahimsa :D) and in Bengal, she is considered the manifestation of the Absolute God as well as one of the kindest goddesses.

Sorry this is so tangential to the discussion; but I just found it so funny how weirdly distorted perceptions can be across cultures based simply on the physical representation of a god. Reminds me of that joke - the Sunday School one. Boy does terribly in school, is shifted around everywhere, nothing works. They send him to a Catholic School, he becomes very studious and aces his exams. His mom asks him what changed - did religion inspire him? Were the nuns very good teachers? How did they get him to get so serious about studies? Boy replies: When I saw the man they nailed to the cross, I KNEW they meant business!

:D
Arthur B at 17:47 on 2009-04-25
On the debate about Gaiman's motives re: the comic: as I understand it, the comic is meant to be an adaptation of the novel rather than the TV series. Unless Gaiman has been taken for a ride, he probably owns the copyright in the novel, which would mean that he'd have the right to prevent unauthorised adaptations if he chose to (which might explain the character redesigns - DC might not have been able to get the rights to adapt the TV series, since the rights to such things tend to be more complicated than the rights to novels). So I think it's safe to say that, regardless of whether Gaiman enjoys, is neutral to, or dislikes the comic, he doesn't object enough to do anything about it, since he could have prevented the entire project from getting off the ground if he wanted to.
Sonia Mitchell at 19:54 on 2009-05-04
@ Jamie - yeah, I didn't think of that. Gaiman's had that sort of attitude about adaptations of his work, it's true... Stardust springs to mind as something he was interested in but let others interpret it mostly how they wanted. OTOH had it not been any good I think he would have had a share of the blame, simply for taking the money and choosing to stand back.

@Arthur re:Character redesigns... Richard Mayhew looks pretty much identical to his tv version, though, so I don't think the rights are wholly to blame here. Agreed on the copyright though, and he's listed as the holder inside the novel version on Amazon.
Sonia Mitchell at 19:56 on 2009-05-04
Hey, I'm so alternative I don't even feel the need to close my tags.
Arthur B at 21:06 on 2009-05-04
Richard Mayhew looks pretty much identical to his tv version, though, so I don't think the rights are wholly to blame here.

Wow, how odd. I can see the appeal in keeping the character designs consistent with the TV show, and I can see why you might want to redesign the characters for the adaptation to distinguish it from the show, but redesigning almost all the characters but keeping one design consistent strikes me as a bit of a strange decision. It seems to directly invite people to compare the comic characters to the TV characters, which is a risky thing to propose when you've done what these guys have done to Door.
Sonia Mitchell at 01:20 on 2009-05-05
Actually my memory is playing tricks. Facially he looks the same, and he's just as scruffy, but he's wearing a suit in the comic and a jumper in the tv series. Sorry.
But I think your point stands, because compared to Door and de Carabas he's changed much less.
Arthur B at 06:41 on 2009-05-05
Well, that's even stranger - changing the character's costume but making them resemble the actor facially seems especially pointless.
Morgus at 17:23 on 2009-11-16
I think everyone's missing the point about American Gods. The point isn't how many worshipers this god or that one has, it's that when you move to America, what you were before you came here is more or less overwritten by America itself. That's why the vikings were massacred by the natives for following their customs, that's why the gods of highway and internet are more powerful than Odin himself. Speaking as a sort-of first generation Chinese immigrant who doesn't know his native language, I have to say that this idea of America is more or less accurate.

As for the absence of Jesus, keep in mind the part where they talk about the difference between a "real" god like Thor and a marketing idol like Paul Bunyan. Most of us would agree that in America, Jesus is basically a corporate mascot that happens to be public domain. That would explain why He has no presence here.
Sister Magpie at 20:25 on 2009-11-16
Wouldn't a lot of people particularly in America loudly disagree that Jesus has no presence here or is a corporate mascot? And don't immigrant groups routinely speak the language of the country in which they live rather than the one in which their parents live? I mean, I know plenty of first generation kids who are bilingual, but it depends on what a parent or the parents speak at home.
Morgus at 03:15 on 2009-11-17
>Wouldn't a lot of people particularly in America loudly disagree that Jesus has no presence here or is a corporate mascot?

They would, but then again, they sell depictions of him at Wal-Mart. Jesus is too immergent (opposite of emergent) to be one of the "actual" gods like Odin or Anansi. People don't just believe in him; they believe in him after they're told to go to church for most of their childhoods and large sections of the government tell people that Jesus = America Fuck Yeah.

>And don't immigrant groups routinely speak the language of the country in which they live rather than the one in which their parents live?

Which strengthens my point about America overwriting your heritage. I'm not saying that it's a bad thing, I'm saying that's what happens, and AG is a book about just that phenomenon.

They're all abandoned gods. None of them are as important to us as our cars or our Internet access or our televisions. That's just life.
Rami at 07:06 on 2009-11-17
Which strengthens my point about America overwriting your heritage.

I think the point Sister Magpie was making is that it's not a phenomenon exclusive to the US.
http://katsullivan.insanejournal.com/ at 08:04 on 2009-11-17
I thought that was what Morgus meant about the vikings being massacred for following their customs.
Morgus at 09:23 on 2009-11-17
It's rare that you'll find a place where the old customs are replaced not by some new customs but by modernity itself. People don't come to America and then convert to Christianity or something stupid like that. What happens is that they come to America and then find that their kids would rather play video games and watch TV than listen to their parents talk about their customs. That's what happened with me, that's what happens with a LOT of immigrant kids. It wouldn't be that much of a stretch to say that that's what happens with ALL American kids, period.

America doesn't replace your old customs with some sort of deity. It just replaces them. Figuratively, America has always been the place where tradition goes to die. AG simply makes this fact less figurative.
Orion at 04:57 on 2011-09-03
Fun fact: Neil Gaiman interviewed my Hindu Studies professor as research for American Gods. She is not at all pleased by his depiction.
valse de la lune at 06:28 on 2011-09-03
I am completely unsurprised. :/
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