Coraline's Neil Gaiman Is "Nobody's Bitch"

Illustration for article titled Coraline's Neil Gaiman Is "Nobody's Bitch"

After reading the New Yorker profile on noted author Neil Gaiman, I want to know which "internet critics" said his fan base is made up of "Twee ‘Bisexual' Goth Girls with BPD" so I can give them the finger.

Gaiman, who specializes in fantasy and sci-fi writing, is most famous for two works: The critically acclaimed Sandman series, published by DC Comics and Coraline, the award-winning novel which was made into last year's animated film.

The Sandman series was Gaiman's breakout hit. As the New Yorker article explains:

The first issue of Gaiman's "Sandman" appeared in 1988. He gave the series a loose, intuitive structure; dream logic prevailed. This allowed him to tell whatever stories he wanted to, about the kinds of people he knew: pre-operative transsexuals, dysfunctional families, mixed-race couples, spurned lovers, addicts, and young adults with tattoos and brightly colored hair.

Illustration for article titled Coraline's Neil Gaiman Is "Nobody's Bitch"

This emphasis on the inclusion and an interesting, muddled perspective allowed Gaiman's creation to skyrocket in popularity and to attract a broad fanbase for his work. One of his most popular characters, Death (pictured above), is a re-imagining of the Grim Reaper as a ankh-sporting, goth dressing older sister to Dream. Gaiman describes the popularity of the series as "sexually transmitted":

"Sandman," Gaiman says, is sexually transmitted. "Guys who wanted their girlfriends to read comics would give them ‘Sandman.' They'd break up, and the girl would take the ‘Sandman's and infect the next guy. It grew on a vector."

However, the reasons for Gaiman's popularity may be the reasons why he's still underrated by mainstream outlets - his wide appeal to female readers. Karen Berger, his editor while he was at DC Comics, explained how his work became the launching pad for the Vertigo line:

According to Berger, it was the first modern comic to attract a large female readership. "Young women dressed in black and black eyeliner would walk into the comic store and pick up ‘Sandman' and just walk out," she said. "You look around a room where Neil is, and half of the fans are women, if not more." The success of "Sandman" outside the typical comic-book demographic helped Berger form Vertigo, an imprint at DC devoted to graphic novels and edgier, more literary fare. It also allowed Gaiman to negotiate for the right to end "Sandman" where he wanted to, without DC hiring another writer to replace him, which was standard practice at the time.


The incongruous nature of Gaiman's staggering popularity in comics fandom and sci-fi circles, and his relative anonymity in mainstream circles does lead one to wonder if his habit of creating characters that women can identify with causes him to be overlooked. But even if that's the case, Neil Gaiman isn't losing any sleep over it:

He attributes his recent No. 1 débuts to his ability to communicate directly with his fans: he tells them to buy a book on a certain day, and they do. "It means I'm nobody's bitch," he told me.


Kid Goth [New Yorker]
The Sandman [Wikipedia]
Death (DC Comics) [Wikipedia]

Related: Neil Gaiman's library [BoingBoing]

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Ahem. I am not Twee nor am I bisexual, and I've never been anywhere near bi-polar. I had a goth leaning in middle school, but did not do the dressing up or the overly-moody thing. And I love Gaiman. So bite me, whoever those "internet critics" are. I enjoy quality stories with strong female characters, and Gaiman is a master at writing them.

Also, I see no one mentioning MirrorMask. Am I the only person who saw that movie? Because even with the lower-budget graphics and soundtrack that give it a very 90s feel, I love that damned movie.