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.