Neil Gaiman


Also Known As
Neil Richard Gaiman, Neil R. Gaiman, Neil Richard Mackinnon Gaiman
November 10, 1960


Neil Gaiman is a British writer with endless affinity for the fantastical. Best known for his novels, children's books, comic books and graphic novels, Gaiman has also been involved in film and television. After a bookish youth, he eventually began writing comic books, albeit ones not intended for a younger audience. During the late 1980s, he was invited to reinvent the character of the ...


Neil Gaiman is a British writer with endless affinity for the fantastical. Best known for his novels, children's books, comic books and graphic novels, Gaiman has also been involved in film and television. After a bookish youth, he eventually began writing comic books, albeit ones not intended for a younger audience. During the late 1980s, he was invited to reinvent the character of the Sandman for DC Comics, coming up with radically different interpretation in the enigmatic figure of Morpheus. By the early '90s, The Sandman (DC/Vertigo, 1989-1996) had a devoted following and was part of a movement towards edgier, darker comic books. In 1990, Gaiman, in collaboration with Terry Pratchett, unveiled the humorously apocalyptic novel Good Omens, and he later made the leap to screenwriter with the BBC fantasy series "Neverwhere" (1996), also released as a novel. Going on to add children's books and films to his resume, these two overlapped most successfully with Coraline (2002), a creepy tale about a curious girl that was made into a hit 2009 stop-motion-animated movie by Henry Selick of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993) fame. With a fan base that has grown exponentially over the years, Gaiman is one of the world's finest fabulists.

A native of Southern England, Gaiman was brought up in an East Grinstead household with Jewish roots and Scientology leanings. Ultimately embracing neither perspective, he became fascinated with fantasy literature as a child, gravitating towards the writings of Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, among others. After his schooling, he got his start in journalism, and even wrote a biography about the popular New Wave group Duran Duran, before heeding the siren call of comic books in the late 1980s. Befriending Alan Moore, one of the medium's most notorious and unconventional scribes, Gaiman began penning comics himself, notably working on a story featuring the iconic and futuristic British enforcer Judge Dredd and a noir-tinged graphic novel called Violent Cases (1987) with up-and-coming illustrator Dave McKean.

Soon Gaiman, along with McKean as a cover artist, was hired by DC Comics to work on rebooting the long-dormant Sandman character. Drawing heavily on mythology, as well as brooding post-punk imagery, Gaiman reconfigured the superhero into a being far less benevolent, transforming him into the embodiment of dreaming, also known as Morpheus or simply Dream. Gaiman used the gothic exploits of this Sandman, who was partially modeled after the Cure's Robert Smith and Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, as a gateway to heady tales of horror and fantasy, bringing other memorable characters, including his immortal and disarmingly kindhearted sister Death and their eccentric Endless siblings, into the fold. Increasing interest in The Sandman, along with other unabashedly odd and offbeat titles such as Hellblazer (DC/Vertigo, 1988-2013) and Shade, the Changing Man (DC/Vertigo, 1990-1996) eventually led to the creation of DC's Vertigo imprint, which carried the standard cover notice "Suggested for Mature Readers."

As The Sandman developed into a fan-favorite series, Gaiman worked on a cheeky novel about the end of the world with well-established author Terry Pratchett, publishing Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch in 1990. For the early part of the decade, Gaiman focused primarily on The Sandman and its large cast of supernatural beings, even expanding into a number of series spin-offs, including Death: The High Cost of Living (Vertigo, 1993) and Death: The Time of Your Life (Vertigo, 1996). After bringing The Sandman to an end in 1996, Gaiman collaborated with actor/writer Lenny Henry to create "Neverwhere," a six-episode BBC miniseries set in a strange world under London, and he also penned the attendant novel of the same name. Clearly getting a feel for screen adaptations, Gaiman subsequently wrote the script for the English version of master filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki's acclaimed animated Japanese epic "Princess Mononoke" (1997), which featured the voices of Billy Crudup and Claire Danes, among others, and had a United States release in 1999.

The turn of the 21st century found Gaiman quite busy with his fiction. In 1999, his faerie-centric love story Stardust was published, first as a graphic novel and then as a standard novel, with the former featuring illustrations by celebrated artist Charles Vess. Two years later, Gaiman introduced American Gods, a book about humanity's relationship to mythological figures from various cultures in modern times. Deemed the most Sandman-like of his non-comic work, the novel met with widespread acclaim and won numerous literary awards. Having already dabbled in youth-oriented books with the McKean-illustrated The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish (1997), Gaiman went back to children's territory for Coraline (2002). This through-the-looking-glass fantasy story, with its considerably dark atmosphere, follows the title character as she discovers the intriguing and disturbing realm of the Other Mother, who wants to sew buttons on Coraline's eyes and keep the girl in her magical domain.

In 2003, Gaiman made his low-key debut as a movie director with "A Short Film About John Bolton," which, as the title states, focused on John Bolton, a highly respected comic-book and graphic-novel artist, and his sources of inspiration. Reuniting with McKean for the kid-leaning book The Wolves in the Walls (2003), Gaiman also worked on the script for the latter's first feature film, the visually dynamic tale "MirrorMask" (2005), starring Stephanie Leonidas and Gina McKee. The same year, the restless and productive Gaiman also published Anansi Boys, a novel rooted in West African folklore about two brothers and their mysterious heritage. Increasingly busy, Gaiman watched Stardust get the Hollywood treatment in 2007 courtesy of English writer/director Matthew Vaughn, with Claire Danes, Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer in key roles. Far from a huge hit, it nonetheless proved that a Gaiman book could be the basis for an appealing and entertaining movie. He also collaborated with screenwriter Roger Avary on the script for Robert Zemeckis' ambitious CGI-animated retelling of the time-honored story of Beowulf, with Ray Winstone voicing the powerful monster-fighting title warrior and Crispin Glover and Angelina Jolie also on board for major parts.

Making a rare return to comic books and working under the banner of DC's rival company, Marvel, Gaiman revised the story of the ancient superheroes known as The Eternals (2007) and later went back to children's books with renewed enthusiasm and energy. In 2008, he released The Graveyard Book, a macabre novel about an orphaned boy growing up in a cemetery with various supernatural allies and adversaries. The book won an impressive number of awards, including the Newbery Medal and the Carnegie Medal, and furthered Gaiman's reputation as a major author. The following year, he offered up two notably lighter kids' stories, the sunny and sweet Blueberry Girl, with artwork by Vess, and the gleefully bizarre Crazy Hair, featuring McKean's unmistakably quirky images. Fittingly, while he was in a young-at-heart mindset, writer/director Henry Selick's 2009 stop-motion movie adaptation of Coraline was released to rapt reviewers and audiences alike. Featuring Dakota Fanning as the plucky young Coraline Jones and Terri Hatcher as the manipulative Other Mother, the film combined Selick's colorful, yet appropriately shadowy, aesthetic with Gaiman's imaginative and unsettling story to wonderful effect, resulting in an Academy Award nomination, among other accolades.

Having divorced his longtime American wife, Mary McGrath, in 2007, Gaiman who had been living for years primarily in small-town Wisconsin near Minneapolis, Minnesota, began seeing outrageously extroverted and controversy-courting musician/cabaret performer Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls in 2009. A woman who uncannily resembled Gaiman's own volatile Sandman creation Delirium, Palmer legally married the writer in 2011 after an informal flash-mob ceremony in New Orleans during the previous year. Also in 2011, Gaiman fulfilled a childhood dream by writing "The Doctor's Wife," an episode of the venerable British sci-fi series "Doctor Who" (BBC, 1963-1989, 1996, 2005- ), with Matt Smith portraying the heroic alien adventurer. Around this time, Gaiman was also featured in animated form on a literary-themed episode of "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ), a brief guest spot that reinforced his ever-increasing popularity.

In 2013, Gaiman returned to "Doctor Who" for an encore episode, "Nightmare in Silver," this time bringing along with him the fan-favorite villains the Cybermen. With a very active year lined up, he also released the cute sneezing-panda kiddie book Chu's Day, with artwork by Adam Rex, and finally unveiled his long-awaited novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which found a nameless protagonist recalling extraordinary events from his past. The latter book was met with significant media attention and critical praise, and Gaiman embarked on an extensive tour to support it. Close to the same time, his heartfelt commencement speech at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia became a viral video, leading to an online phenomenon and its publication in book form as Make Good Art (2013), boasting eye-catching design work by Chip Kidd.

Although Gaiman was absent from the film world for quite awhile, numerous projects of his remained in play, with Disney acquiring the rights to The Graveyard Book for a future movie, and names like Selick and Ron Howard circling the project. Meanwhile, a TV version of Good Omens was being considered, possibly under the guidance of Monty Python alum Terry Jones, and hopes were also raised for a television production based on American Gods.

Life Events


Created the BBC series "Neverwhere" as well as its novelization


Published Stardust


Collaborated with Dave McKean on the fantasy film "MirrorMask"


Released the novel Anansi Boys


Debut of the "Stardust" movie


Co-wrote the CGI-animated movie "Beowulf"


Wrote a pair of "Doctor Who" episode


Book American Gods was optioned by the Starz network to become a series