Tagged: Neil Gaiman

Dennis O’Neil: The Neil Gaiman Digressions

So what I’d like to know is, how come Neil Gaiman looks better in photographs than I do?

There I was, paging through the latest issue of the AARP magazine and… Wait! Isn’t that a familiar face? Yes! It’s my old friend Neil!

Looking, as always, grave, thoughtful, wise… authorial. You see my pic, you wonder when J. Puddingpuss Chromedome hit town.

(Now, let us indulge in a digression. Seth Kuchner’s picture of me, which one of my students dubbed “Denny noir,” does not make me look like Mr. Chromedome. Seth posed me on a fire escape in a Chinatown alley, about a half block from Canal Street and maybe because you can’t really see much of me, the result was pretty nifty.)

(And while we’re digressing…You might want to check out Leaping Tall Buildings, a book of Seth’s photos of comic book people accompanied by Christopher Irving’s biographical essays. Might make a welcome gift for the comics reader in your life.)

But where were we? Oh yeah, Neil Gaiman.

(Before we go on, though, answer me one question. Just exactly what is a pup like Neil doing in a magazine published by the American Association of Retired Persons? Do you youngsters have to take over everything? Can’t we dodderers have a single thing that’s ours? You don’t find us going to your raves or mosh pits or whatever you call those noisy and perverted gatherings.)

(Once, it must have been shortly after I got sprung from military service, I did go to one of those “music clubs” in some city or other, probably hoping to encounter some not-overly-picky young woman seeking male companionship for the evening and who knows where that might lead? Picket fences, maybe? But the music – that’s what they called it, “music” – was so loud that I found conversation to be impossible and even if I knew sign language, I doubt that I could have initiated a lifelong relationship using it and don’t we all, really, yearn for lifelong relationships?)

(And for those of you who may think I’m a pacifist – yes, I put in my time wearing a uniform and though I was arguably the worst sailor in the history of the United States Navy. I don’t regret it. When I enlisted, I was buying the whole load of bushwa about how we had to stop the commies in Viet Nam, yada yada yada… Pacifism came later, post-discharge, and then became modified when a book by Sam Harris convinced me that there were god-fearing folk who feel that their passport to heaven is my infidel’s dead body and they won’t listen to reason and so self-defensive combat is the only option. Which does not begin to justify the numerous wars to which the Land of the Free seems addicted.)

But where were we? Oh yeah, digressing. But digressing from what? Dunno. But I guess it doesn’t make a whit of difference. Not very much does.

Emily S. Whitten: Terry Pratchett – Shaking Hands with Death

Best-selling author Sir Terry Pratchett passed away on Thursday, March 12, and the final tweets from his Twitter account were a fitting and poignant way to announce his passing. Even though I knew it was coming, given Terry’s long struggle with Alzheimer’s and attendant health issues, it broke my heart a little bit more to hear that it really was the end.

I was fortunate to know Terry for almost ten years, beginning with my work on The North American Discworld Conventions after meeting Terry at a book signing in 2005 Along with being a great light in this world and one of my all-time favorite authors, he was also my longtime friend; and it’s hard to know how to sum up my feelings in the wake of his passing.

So much of my life would be different and much less rich without having known Sir Terry. From lending warmth and humor to the reading breaks I took from dry law school texts, to the experiences and wisdom and new opportunities I gained through building conventions from scratch, to wonderful friends I’d never have met if not for a shared love of Discworld, to all of the myriad ways his writing has caused me to ponder and question my views of the world, reading and knowing Terry literally changed my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know that I am not alone in my feelings here, and my sincerest condolences go out to Terry’s family, his other friends, and the many, many other Discworld fans who are also mourning his death.

It’s both a nice thing and a strange one to see all of the public tributes to a person I am mourning on a personal level as well as due to the loss of his amazing talent; but I am very glad to see Terry getting the honor he deserves the world over for his achievements and contributions. Many are paying tribute to and writing about him and his works, and I’m sure that won’t cease any time soon, which is as it should be. It’s great to know that his impact on the world will be felt for years to come; and it’s comforting to read or listen to the social media posts and discussions by fellow Discworld fans and friends. (And this talk by Neil Gaiman, who honored Terry by devoting much of his time at an event onstage on March 12 to reading a bit of Good Omens and remembering Terry in conversation with Michael Chabon.)

Discworld fans are some of the most fun and intelligent folks I’ve ever met in fandom. As sad as I am over Terry’s passing, it delights me to see the many tributes, stories, and testimonials to how Terry and his work continuously changed people’s views and lives. It also surprises me not one bit to see that Pratchett fans have already begun to think up ways to ensure the memory of Terry lives on forever not just through his works, but through what his writing inspires other people to create. The “GNU Terry Pratchett” code is both a touching reference to Going Postal, and a bit of nerdy fan fun that would have delighted Terry, who was always glad to see fans enjoying Discworld, and unfailingly giving of his time and attention to those who appreciated his work.

But that doesn’t sum up the essence of Terry. The best summation of the Terry I knew comes from Neil Gaiman, in the foreword he wrote for Terry’s most recent collection of non-fiction writings, A Slip of the Keyboard. It can be read here. As Neil noted, Terry, while often genial, could in fact also be angry and impatient – with stupidity, with injustice, with unkindness – and he wasn’t one to hide or repress that anger. Instead, it underlies a lot of the genius that makes the Discworld series great. Underneath the humor and the fantasy, and the trolls, dwarves, wizards, witches, dragons, and more that inhabit that magical land, lie currents of deep and incisive observations and thoughts about how the world is versus how it should be if things were just and fair; and how and why we humans both often fail at being the better people he imagined we can be, and sometimes, against all odds, succeed in glorious fashion.

Terry’s brilliant satire both skewers humanity for its shortcomings and lifts it up for its goodness because of, as Neil put it, his love “for human beings, in all our fallibility; for treasured objects; for stories; and ultimately and in all things, love for human dignity. …anger is the engine that drives him, but it is the greatness of spirit that deploys that anger on the side of the angels, or better yet for all of us, the orangutans.”

This is the Terry that I treasure and will remember forever, from our first genial meeting in a small Virginia bookstore, through discussions and plans about what the North American convention ought to be like, (“by the fans, for the fans!”), and into odd and entertaining conversations had over a shared bowl of edamame at whatever sushi place we could locate wherever we happened to be. Along with his work, the funny and sharp yet still sweet moments I shared with Terry are what I will continue to hold dear. Like the story about the National Book Festival that I told BBC Radio 5live in the interview about 5 minutes from the end of this program. Or the time at the 2009 NADWCon when, after half a day of rushing around with Terry as his Guest Liaison, we found ourselves in the Green Room for a few unprecedented moments of calm. As Terry signed some books that needed signing, I took a pause from working at 2 p.m. to eat my first meal of the day, a yogurt and a granola bar (hey, I never said I acted like a sane person while running conventions). A couple of bites of yogurt in, Terry looked up from where he was industriously signing away and said, in a voice of concern, “Are you alright?” I said, “Yes, Terry, I’m fine. Why?” And he replied, with that slight twinkle in his eye, “You’ve gone quiet. That can’t be normal.” And there it was, the slyly sharp and observant Pratchett humor, poking fun at me for my regular stream of chatter, with which by then he was very familiar; but combined with a genuine concern that maybe something in the universe wasn’t quite right for a friend just then and something might need to be done about it. That was Terry to a T.

From start to finish, Terry was also defined by being a prolific and driven writer. Starting out as a journalist for the Bucks Free Press at the age of seventeen, Terry never stopped writing. Even near to the end, Terry continued to be driven to write, and has thus left us with one more finished Discworld book to look forward to; The Shepherd’s Crown, which should be out sometime this fall. It’s a Tiffany Aching book, which delights me both because Tiffany has always been a favorite of mine (Wintersmith sharing the title of My All-Time Favorite Pratchett Book with Night Watch), and because The Chalk where the Tiffany books mainly take place is closest in Roundworld geography to the area in which Terry lived. When I visited the area and walked out to Old Sarum and the surrounding area after reading the Tiffany books, I experienced the odd sensation of seeing The Chalk through Terry’s eyes and storytelling, and feeling the overlay of his magical fiction on the reality I walked through – or, to put it in more Pratchettian terms, feeling the thinning of the fabric of reality between the Discworld and Roundworld. For that experience as well as the beauty of the area and the feeling that, like Tiffany, Terry was very connected with and grounded in that land, The Chalk has always held a special place in my heart. I find it fitting that the last Discworld book is set in the Discworld equivalent of the land Terry lived in and loved.

In thinking of Terry’s passing, I recall that over the years, Terry noted that many people had told him that they feared Death less thanks to his portrayal of the character as an, if not exactly friendly, then at least comfortable and natural presence in the Discworld series. As with Terry’s other characters, Discworld’s Death reflects some of the fundamental truths about human nature that Terry understood and was so well-versed in; and is, I think, a Death Terry would not have been afraid to meet. It deeply saddens me to know that I will never again share a bowl of edamame and a fascinating conversation with Terry, but it comforts me to think that Death came for him as for an old friend with a mutual understanding of how the world works, and that they are now off somewhere together, keeping company with cats as they “murder a curry” during a companionable journey across the black desert to the ultimate end.

Although I can’t converse with Terry in this life anymore, the final thing I would like to say to him is: Even though you’ve left us, Terry, you’ll always be with me in spirit. I’ll miss you forever. Thank you for being my inspiration and my friend for so many years.

And when it comes to your writings, whether they be the much re-read favorites or the newest and last book of the Discworld series, I will always Servo Lectio.


Martha Thomases: The Great Comic Book Lock-Out

There’s been a story making the rounds on the Internet among women who work in the comic book industry. It’s the first-person account by a father who takes his young children to his local comic book store and finds himself embarrassed in front of his daughter. Like the smart little cookie she is, the daughter explains to her father that there is nothing in the store for her.

This is a complaint that women in the comic book industry have been making, as a group, for at least twenty years. Neil Gaiman captured the ethos perfectly in an early issue of Sandman – which is when a lot of fanboys learned that particular point of view was out there. Still, even with all this discussion over the decades, this gentleman did not notice until he had his own daughter, and looked at his comic book store through her eyes.

Some women, reading this story, immediately suggested a few dozen comics or graphic novels that his daughter might like but which, apparently, were unknown to the salespeople at this particular store. Some women were irked that this gentleman wasn’t aware of the problem until it was his problem.

I understand both reactions, but neither is the part of the story that made me the most angry.

There seems to be a school of thought in which the only fiction available to readers is about the readers themselves. Boys can only read about boys. Girls can only read about girls. African-Americans can only read about African-Americans or, possibly, racial minorities can only read about other racial minorities. Certainly, the thinking goes, white kids are only interested in reading about other white kids.

Let me be clear. I don’t think there is some kind of committee that issues these edicts. I think it is a more subtle form of bigotry.

Here’s an example: When I worked at DC and we launched Milestone, a lot of retailers told us that they weren’t going to order the books because they didn’t have any African-American customers. There are so many errors in this kind of thinking that it made me want to tear my hair out. Here is why:

  1. Milestone comics are not created by exclusively black creators for an exclusively black audience.
  2. White readers will not find anything they don’t understand in an issue of a Milestone comic.
  3. The money that African-Americans use for goods and services is exactly the same as that used by white people. If a retailer stocks comics that might appeal to African-American customers, these African-Americans may use this money in his or her store.
  4. Most capitalists consider more customers for their goods and services to be a desirable state of affairs.

The same thinking can apply to comic books that might be appropriate for young girls and, I would argue, for young boys as well. Comics that don’t overly sexualize the female characters. And yet, in the comments section, a retailer claims that no one buys such books for more than an issue or two.

Maybe none of his regular customers buy such all-ages titles regularly. However, a look at a national best-seller list shows a wide variety, including books appropriate to an all-ages audience. Booksellers make money with these books. There is no reason any particular reader can’t.

Comics are not the only literary format with this problem. To quote from the link: “Ellen Oh tells a story of being in a bookstore in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2012, and watching a little white girl reach for The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis, a book with a black girl on the cover. Her mother takes that out of her hands and says, ‘Oh no, honey, that’s not for you.’’’ Oh recalls. This is a version of a story I heard repeatedly from the librarians, authors, and editors I interviewed.

We can’t do very much about individual narrow-minded parents. We can celebrate the fact that fiction in all media allows us to see the world through another set of eyes.

Comics do this in a way that allows us to immerse our senses with color and artwork and so much imagination that there was a time when people thought comics were just for kids. That kind of thinking started to fade away thirty years ago, and this was a good thing. It’s not a good thing to keep the kids out.

Nor anybody else.


Emily S. Whitten’s Snow Stories

BlizzardBy the time you read this, we’ll have a much better idea of whether the snow predictions for Winter Storm Juno in the Northeast were accurate, but starting on Sunday with a tweet from the Bowery Boys, I had already started seeing people wondering if this would be a historic blizzard like the Great Blizzard of 1888 (or the apparently lesser-known but just as terrifyingly fascinating Children’s Blizzard of 1888).

The post from the Bowery Boys site (which is worth a read or a click for the pictures alone) stirred my memory – hadn’t I read something else once about the Blizzard of 1888? I didn’t really remember it as its own thing, but something was there. It took me a few minutes of cogitation, but I finally recalled Voices After Midnight by Richard Peck, a children’s or young adult book I read when I was nine or ten, that flip-flops between the story of a modern family who vacations in a historic New York City house and the story of the family that lived in the house before and during the time of the Great Blizzard. It’s a great book for that age group (singled out by Publishers Weekly for its careful historical background), and key events take place during the blizzard. Years after reading it, I can still recall tiny descriptive details about those key scenes, because they are so vividly described and seemed so real.

What I found funny, as I thought about it, was that the book is, as far as I can recall, my only prior encounter with the Blizzard of 1888. Here is one of the biggest snowstorms on record, which killed over 400 people and immobilized New York City for a week, and I only knew it from a fictional children’s book. But then again, it’s really not that odd after all, is it? We learn all the time about real things by reading fictional works, because anyone who’s a writer or even a regular reader knows that “truth is stranger than fiction” is more than a tired old cliché, and that often the things that stick in the mind the most in a good book are the ones that the author has pulled from reality (albeit with tweaks or modifications to fit them to the fictional world).

Often the best work we do is that which we’ve managed to base on something that really happened or some blazingly unique individual who was utterly real. Fiction that has been informed by a wider reality, no matter how otherwise fantastical it may be, is more gripping than the stuff that comes purely out of our own heads – because even the most creative of us can’t imagine the heights and depths to which other humans can rise and sink without observing them, or the potential that each of us has inside without seeing it come to fruition. And even the most creative of us might not be up to imagining a snowstorm that piled snow to the fourth floors of New York City houses, and toppled entire streets-worth of telegraph poles.

These thoughts dovetailed with a conversation I’d been having with a fellow writer, about the little life details that we find which inspire us to create more in-depth characters and worlds, and reminded me in turn of something Terry Pratchett once shared with me during an interview, about a beaded stone bracelet he’d once bought at a convention silent auction, that inspired the scene in Wintersmith (one of my all-time favorite Discworld books) in which Tiffany Aching sees the heart of Summer. It’s a beautiful scene; and it’s these little real things that become the building blocks of the bigger story for writers, and the reason why writers like Pratchett and Neil Gaiman consistently discuss reading non-fiction works (like Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor) when talking about what inspires or helps their writing.

Just like fiction can be a door to a reality we’ve never encountered before, like the Blizzard of 1888, reality is what gives our fiction many of its best moments. As a journalist, I was trained to look for both the facts and the angles of a story I’m reporting – and likewise, as a fiction writer, I can’t help but muse on all the myriad interesting facts and odd story angles that existed in the events of March 11-14, 1888 in New York City alone, and what kind of fictional stories they could inspire (like a story about Augustus Post, who survived the 1888 blizzard and went on to scoff at the 25 inches of snow that came down during a blizzard in 1947. I bet he’d be a fun guy to write about). It’s a little bit mind-boggling, but also comforting, to think of all the material out there – especially when I’m feeling the effects of writer’s block. Because no matter what, there’s always going to be something waiting to inspire; and just like looking for the facts and the angle as a journalist, as a fiction writer looking to create a good story you just have to seek it out.

So off I go, looking for that inspiration, and saying unto all of you in the meantime, stay warm and safe out there, and until next time, Servo Lectio!


Mindy Newell: Je Ne Suis Pa Charlie Hebdo

SoBigYesterday I had a thought – which I do have on occasion.

I have always considered myself a “socially conscious” comics writer. This means that, if you look over my body of work, you will notice that I have told stories that, in one way or another, reflect “real world” events and the consequences of those events on my characters. Notably, of course, in my 1986 Lois Lane mini-series about child abduction and abuse, “When It Rains, God is Crying” (coincidentally edited by ComicMix’s Robert Greenberger when we were both working for DC, he an editor and me a freelancer), but also as far back as “Moon River,” my first story in New Talent Showcase, an admittedly tyro effort to portray the outcome of a closed, dictatorial society on an individual. And of course there was “Chalk Drawings,” which I co-wrote with George Pérez for Wonder Woman, which was a story about suicide.

These efforts do not make me Edna Ferber (a member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of renowned and influential New York City writers, critics, actors, and wits who gathered at the Algonquin Hotel every day for lunch from 1919 to 1929), whose “socially conscious” novels include, among others, So Big (1924), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize, Show Boat (1926), which was adapted into a musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, and Giant (1952), which was made into a movie directed by George Stevens and starred Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean – his third and last role before his death by car accident – who did admirable jobs in a no-way-was it-as-good-as-the-novel script adaptation. So Big was about the war between art and finance, Show Boat was about the racism between black and white and its price, while Giant dealt with the racism between brown and white, the antipathy between cattle ranchers and oilmen, and, as well, the clash between liberalism and conservatism. All are issues we face today.

Nor am I Laura Z. Hobson, whose 1947 Gentlemen’s Agreement attacked post-World War II anti-Semitism in the United States. It was made into a film produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, who, according to Wikipedia, was approached by Samuel Goldwyn and other Jewish filmmakers. They asked him not to make the film because it could “stir up trouble,” and feared that Hays Code enforcer Joseph Brown would not allow the film to get by the censors because of his openly known anti-Semitism. But Zanuck essentially said, “Fuck him,” and the film went on to be nominated for eight Oscars and to win three – Best Picture, Best Director (Elia Kazan, no stranger to controversy), Best Actor (Gregory Peck), and Best Supporting Actress (Celeste Holm). Just a brief aside here: in my not-so-humble opinion, John Garfield should have won a Best Supporting Actor for his role as Dave Goldman, a Jewish WW II vet and best friend to Gregory Peck’s main character, journalist Phil Schulyer. Oh, and young Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap’s Admiral Al Calavicci and Battlestar Galactica’s Brother John Cavil) played Schulyer’s son.

But, getting back to my original sentence, in which I said I had a thought…

Am I still listed in the phone book?

Of course it sounds silly. I mean, who uses a phone book these days?

But the point is, how easy am I to find?

And the answer is: All too easy.

So what if I offended someone out there? Certainly in these past two and so years I have stated my opinions loudly and frequently. And I’ve done the same on my Facebook page.

Is it that inconceivable some one could decide to meet me in the parking lot at work, or in front of my apartment building, or even in my apartment? Some one with a pathological chip on his or her shoulder and a knife or a Luger or a Kalishnikov?

Or maybe while I’m shopping at the Jewish deli?

No, I’m not inflated with self-importance.

No, I am not Edna Ferber or Laura Z. Hobson. Neither am I Lawrence Wright or Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein. I’m not Maureen O’Dowd. I’m not Rachel Maddow. I’m not Chris Matthews or Ed Schultz. I’m not Megan Kelley or Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter. I’m not Jon Stewart. I’m not Steven Colbert. I’m not Louis Black or John Oliver or Bill Maher.

I’m not Thomas Nast. I’m not Art Spielgman and I’m not Jules Feiffer. I’m not Nigar Nazar of Pakistan.

I’m not Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman or G. Willow Wilson.

I’m not Mike Gold or Denny O’Neil or John Ostrander or Marc Fishman or Martha Thomases or Michael Davis or Emily Whitten or Bob Ingersoll.

I am Mindy Newell.

Je ne suis pa Charlie Hebdo.

But I could be.

We all could be.

And so could you.


Mindy Newell: Reflection In A Dark Pool

Through the mirror of my mind / Time after time, I see reflections of you and me / Reflections of the way life used to be / Reflections of the love you took from me • “Reflections,” by Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland, and Eddie Holland, recorded by Diana Ross and the Supremes, 1967, Motown Records

Like every other art form, comics – or more accurately, the creators of comics – reflect the times in which they live.

I started reading comics in the Silver Age, when superheroes were manufactured like products in factories, conveyed along conveyor belts of post-World War II American middle-class morality, which ensured that everything but the packaging was the same. Each hero kept their true nature hidden behind a pair of glasses, or a secretary’s typewriter, or a desk in a high school classroom. Each hero lived a lonely life, because to reveal their secret would only endanger their loved one. And each rose above their personal traumas and tragedies to fight for “truth, justice, and the American way.”

And we felt good about our heroes, and about ourselves.

Then, while Mississippi burned and Vietnam raged, “let it all hang out” and “tune in, turn on, drop out,” became the mantra of a generation. The real world intruded onto the four-color page as mutant X-Men fought societal preconceptions of race, religion, and gender roles, Speedy, Green Arrow’s sidekick, became a drug addict, and alcoholism consumed Tony Stark.

And even though our heroes suffered, they rose above their personal battles and we felt good about them, and about ourselves.

Then came the “Brit Invasion” of comics, and writers like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Peter Milligan, Grant Morrison, and Jamie Delano turned comics inside out and upside down. Our heroes became just like us, only more so; questions about identity and debates about right and wrong plagued them. Nothing was black-and-white in the four-color world, anymore; doubts and uncertainty ruled decisions, and outcomes were often ambiguous.

But we still we rooted for our heroes, because through their problems, we understood our problems, and so we felt good about our heroes, and about ourselves.

But now I wonder… yes, comics still reflect the real world, but now it too often feels like I’m leaning over the railing of a ship and spitting in the wind. The realism flies back in our face.

The world seems to me uglier today than it ever was. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda and ISIS have made the Crusades and the Inquisition footnotes in a text on religion as an excuse for totalitarianism and war. Cyber terrorism raises the specter of a war between creative freedom and potential lawsuits, and creative freedom loses. Racism is alive and well again as acts of violence and death are perpetuated by those who wear a uniform that is supposed to stand for protection against such acts. The so-called leaders of our country are unfunny clowns in a thunderdome of viciousness and ugliness, and a vice-president, the man-who-would-be-king, defends torture as the American way. And hardly anybody votes, because hardly anybody cares.

And we no longer root for our heroes, who are us, but only more so, because, you know, all art is a product of its society, and comics are an art form, and comics are created by artists who are can’t be blamed for reflecting the society in which they live.


Martha Thomases: Defending Peter Pan

Over the weekend, film critic A. O. Scott wrote a long essay in The New York Times Magazine that irked me, and I wanted to use my column to unpack some of my feelings about it. If you have opinions about the state of modern pop culture, you might want to join me.

(I’m now going to paraphrase and reduce his arguments to the bones. By all means, read the entire piece for more nuance.)

Scott seems to think that the modern American adult, by his and her refusal to grow up, has had a deleterious effect on the popular arts. He specifically mentions “bromance” movies, like those produced by Judd Apatow, superhero movies, and adults who read young adult (YA) books like the Harry Potter series and The Hunger Games. In his opinion, the success of these genres means that we, as grown-ups, are rejecting our responsibilities.

As a tax-paying citizen who serves on jury duty, votes in every election, raised a productive citizen and volunteers in my community, I think I qualify as an adult in attitude as well as age. And I like all the things that Scott decries.

For the purposes of this column, I’m just going to talk about the books Scott talks about. You may assume I have parallel arguments about the other categories, and we can talk about this in the comments, if you like.

First of all, unless we are talking about marketing categories (as determined by publishers, booksellers and librarians), the YA category doesn’t make a lot of sense. When I was in middle school and high school, I read all kinds of books that were not considered to be YA. I read To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye and The Old Man and the Sea, books that are often read by people in those age groups. I also read Giles Goat Boy by John Barth. I read James Bond and Ray Bradbury and Philip Roth. We can argue about the varying qualities of these books, but none were racked on the children’s shelves.

Today, my reading includes some of these writers, and Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, J.K. Rowling and others who some may perceive to write for non-adults. I enjoy some genre fiction.

And I enjoy comic books. Lots of comic books.

Scott seems to think that graphic novels are not as intellectually demanding as prose novels. Like many, I think he confuses the medium of graphic storytelling with the genre of superhero comics. There are certainly books appropriate for the average young adult, such as March. And there are books that are not easily understood by those who haven’t had a certain amount of real-world experience, such as V for Vendetta or Promethea, which require at least some knowledge of history, linguistics, and adult relationships.

Please note: By adult relationships I mean actual relationships between adults, and not just sex. Thinking the word “adult” only refers to sex is actually kind of adolescent.

Now, I don’t really care what Scott thinks about my personal entertainment preferences. While we know some of the same people, I’m not likely to ever meet him, nor would I begin a conversation by attacking this particular essay.

And I don’t think he’s entirely wrong. Baby Boomers in general don’t like growing up, and we have clung to the remnants of our youth with a death-grip. We can be really obnoxious in our attempts to stay relevant, to the detriment of our popular culture.

Still, that is no reason to dismiss examples of popular culture because they come dressed in the costumes of youth and fantasy. After all, for nearly two centuries grown-ups have taught us that you can’t judge a book by its cover.


Emily S. Whitten: Neil Gaiman’s Recipe for An Amazing Evening

Truth Is A Cave in the Black MountainsThis recipe was originally concocted in August 2010 for the Sydney Opera House’s “Graphic” Festival. On June 27 it was recreated at Carnegie Hall, to the great enjoyment of yours truly. It is a rare and delightful treat, which is only due to be served three more times at present. This connoisseur of unusual cuisine highly recommends that you go and experience the moveable feast in London or in Edinburgh if at all possible. And if not possible, well then, at the very least I can share with you what made this epicurean oddity so enjoyable.

The Truth Is A Cave in the Black Mountains, Original Recipe


Act One:

  • Begin with decadent caramel layer concocted of Doctor Who theme and several excellent original songs performed by FourPlay String Quartet
  • Follow with heady gingerbread slice of Gaiman reading his new, slightly creepy, illustrated version of Hansel & Gretel (out this October!)
  • Bake in thin layer of intermission made of chocolate marshmallow cookies (courtesy of Carnegie Hall’s Citi Cafe)

Act Two:

  • Delicately blend haunting strains of string quartet, complex concoction of elements in Gaiman’s illustrated Scottish folk novelette as it is read aloud, and edgy art of Campbell being projected above the stage at Carnegie Hall into rich textured layer of eerie action, regret, violence, love, and vengeance.


  • Top with delightfully dark chocolate mousse and evilly humorous fluffy whipped cream of Gaiman singing Leon Payne’s “Psycho” to the strains of the quartet’s strings in order to “leave the crowd in a cheerful mood,” before exiting to a standing ovation.

It truly was a unique and delicious evening. This food (and art) critic gives it five stars.