Neil Gaiman Takes On Dr. Who And TV Giant HBO

With his very own Dr. Who episode coming Saturday, and HBO now eager to produce an adaptation of cult novel American Gods, fantasy writer Neil Gaiman’s brand of original spookery is once again escaping the bookshelf and heading straight to our screens.
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With his very own Dr. Who episode coming Saturday, and HBO now eager to produce an adaptation of cult novel American Gods, fantasy writer Neil Gaiman’s brand of original spookery is once again escaping the bookshelf and heading straight to our screens.

In 1989 D.C comics imprint Vertigo began releasing The Sandman, the brainchild of an up-and-coming, messy haired British writer by the name of Neil Gaiman. A sprawling, imaginative and truly epic comic series, Sandman proved to be vastly different to the guns and muscle tales most expected of the medium. Over its 75 issues and seven-year run it told the adventures of one Morpheus, The immortal Lord of Dreams, and his equally powerful family, The Endless. Dealing with heavy philosophical queries such as mortality, spirituality and the power of the subconscious, the tone was instantly distinguishable from its competitors resulting in numerous industry awards and an instant cult fan base. Thanks to the combination of its easily recognizable covers (courtesy of famed illustrator Dave McKean) and Gaiman’s kaleidoscopic imagination, The Sandman and its ‘Dream King’ are now held in same high regard as Moore’s Watchman or Frank Millers The Dark Knight in graphic novel folklore. Not settling with simply re- imagining what comics could do and stand for; Gaiman also began a highly successful career in novels, be they for adults or children, short stories, scriptwriting and looking after bees.

No stranger to the small or silver screen the authors first major dabbling with the mediums began in the mid nineties with six part series, Neverwhere for the BBC. Set in the magical realm of ‘London Below’ and co-devised with comedian Lenny Henry, Neverwhere was classic Gaiman; silly, dark, imaginative and obviously dreamy. He followed the cult success by naturally producing a successful novel of the same name and, as ever, searching for new challenges on the horizon. Escaping the London set comfort zone of Neverwhere a localized English language script of Hayao Miyazaki’s modern classic Princess Mononoke soon emerged, used for western distribution. Putting his masterful knowledge of mythology and out and out geek tendencies to work, scripts for Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf and so-so Sci-Fi series Babylon 5 quickly followed, the former finally seeing the light in 2007 smothered in motion capture technology. Portfolio well and truly widened it was time to return to the world of Sandman, a movie adaptation of fan favorite ‘Death: The High Cost’ of living planned. Pan's Labyrinth’s Guillermo Del Toro rumored as executive producer comic readers waited with baited breath for word on the series most popular character. Despite the backing of the once Hobbit director, the project soon lingered in various forms of development-hell, trapped for the past ten years, with nothing much set in stone apart from a relatively modest budget figure of $15,000,000 and possible New Line Cinema's interest.

Putting his masterful knowledge of mythology and out and out geek tendencies to work, scripts for Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf and so-so Sci-Fi series Babylon 5 quickly followed.

If the last decade of the 20th century proved a successful but occasionally frustrating learning curve for Gaiman’s flirtations with the film industry, the past decade has been far more friendly. Coraline, based on the writer's bestselling book, was released May 2009 to much acclaim (including an Academy Award nomination). December that year also saw the broadcast of his second feature as director with the short, Statuesque, starring Bill Nighy. Interview with the Vampire’s Neil Jordan is also set to helm the adaptation of 2009’s Hugo award winning The Graveyard Book, the tale of an orphaned boy raised by ghosts; it’s a bit like Kipling’s Jungle Book… but for Goths.

And now word that TV giant HBO, coaxed by Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, are to prep an adaptation of the black clad ones, Stoker Award-Winning novel American Gods. Adding to the excitement is the involvement of Robert Richardson, Oscar winning cinematographer for Scorsese (Shutter Island), Tarantino and Stone (JFK). If all goes to plan this will be his first co-scripting credit, working with Gaiman himself on a pilot to ensure their vision of the story stays true to the text. With Game of Thrones currently causing a stir, HBO will no doubt look at the ratings damage once the dust has cleared before pressing the big green-light button.

A lifelong fan of the show, Gaiman jumped at the chance to write an episode; his endless imagination not quite fitting realties budget constraints causing many well documented and accepted re-writes

So high are the fantasy scribblers stocks of late that the fiercely protected and ‘unfilmable’ Sandman tales now stand one step closer to adaptation. Erick Kripke of Supernatural fame pitched his vision of the sprawling series to DC and Gaiman last year to positive feedback but no results. However 2011 will see the author and comic juggarnaught once again open their ears for hopefuls. Things were cleared on the writer’s blog: “I think that this year the people at DC Comics (and me) will talk to a lot of people who want to make a Sandman TV series, and if we find the perfect person with the perfect way of treating the material, it’ll happen. And otherwise it won’t.” Perfection seems the standard. Why not? After all this is a series that once outsold Superman.

For the time being audiences will just have to make do with the Doctors latest adventure this Saturday, ‘The Doctor’s Wife’. A lifelong fan of the show, Gaiman jumped at the chance to write an episode; his endless imagination not quite fitting realties budget constraints causing many well documented and accepted re-writes. Early word is very positive though, and it’s clear the makers have gone overboard to accommodate the scripts ambitious demands. “My biggest concern now is that people will build it up too big in their heads” says Gaiman “I just hope people enjoy it. Especially kids”. No doubt everyone will

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