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Neil Gaiman - Exit Sandman
Donnacha DeLong spoke to Neil Gaiman, the writer of Sandman, about life after the comic that by its final issue was outselling "Batman" and "Superman".

Hodges Figgis, Dublin, was the last stop on a whirlwind promotional tour for Neil Gaiman's new book and TV series "Neverwhere".

After he spent half an hour reading from the book, answering questions about his work and signing his name a few hundred times, I got a chance to talk to him.

We retired to his hotel and Neil just wanted to see the beginning of the TV broadcast of "Neverwhere" before we started. We ended up watching the whole lot before we got talking.

The first impression I got of the man was one of tiredness. When asked about the tour, he confirmed this impression by saying that this kind of thing is very tiring.

"This is not what I do. I don't do signings, I don't do readings. I write stories. I have a lot of friends who do this. Like Tori Amos, she plays piano. She tours and plays in front of thousands of people. But, that's what she does and she enjoys it. It's not what I do."

Neil Gaiman, though, is a man who does a lot. For years he has been one of the top comic book/graphic novel writers in the world. He is still generally known as Neil "Sandman" Gaiman. Recently, though, he has been branching out a whole lot more.

"It got to the stage where writing "Sandman" took up nine weeks out of every month. Now that it's finished, I have a chance to do a lot of things I've always wanted to do."

Things such as books, films, music and TV. The "Neverwhere" series came about because the BBC wanted a fantasy series for the 90s. A fan of his, by the name of Lenny Henry, contacted him about it and "voila"!

Film projects include a version of his "Death" graphic novel, with a bit of help from a certain Mr Quentin Tarantino. There's also a film version of "Sandman" in the pipeline. Neil didn't want to be involved in the latter.

""Sandman" is so huge, making a film would involve throwing a lot of stuff out. That's something I didn't want to do. Making a film of "Death", on the other hand, will involve adding lots of stuff in."

A somewhat strange project he's been approached to do is a Broadway musical. He's no stranger to music, though, having collaborated with Alice Cooper on his "Last Temptation" album.

Neil wrote the concept, Alice wrote the songs and recorded the album, and Neil wrote the comic. He's very proud of the work he did and the critical acclaim the album recieved.

At the same time, analysing his work is not something Neil likes to do.

"I don't like to stare at my navel. I don't know where the ideas come from, they just appear all of a sudden. I try to tell something that no-one's ever told before, or at least take something and put my own stamp on it."

The reaction to "Neverwhere" has been "surprising. A lot of journalists acted as if I came out of nowhere, but I've done other stuff that was better"

He says the people that turn up to his signings are all really sweet.

"I suppose my ideas of who's weird would be different from other people's. In comparison to the people who slash their arms at Clive Barker signings and ask him to sign his name in blood or the woman who turns up at Stephen King signings claiming to be his wife, my fans are pretty normal. Strange clothes and weird hair and lots of earrings don't bother me."

At one signing in LA the crowd included a group of topless dancers, Tim Leary's assistant and two old women from the Narcotics Enforcement Bureau, who gave him N.E.B. T-shirts.

Neil liked the way "Sandman" managed to create its own audience and not be dominated by fan-boys.

"You just have to look at the people who turned up tonight. A lot of them were pretty feminine - they're hardly fan-boys."

Neil thinks the current policy of the comics industry of making as much money as possible, using gimics, is really stupid.

"The policy on "Sandman" was to write good stories. By the final issue we were outselling "Batman" and "Superman"."

If you want to do your own thing in this climate, he says you either have to self-publish or find someone nice.

As far as the fame-game goes, he's very philosophical: "If I wanted to be famous, I wouldn't have started writing comics!"

by Donnacha DeLong.