Neverwhere Comic Adaptation
June 23, 2005 9:25 AM   Subscribe

The first issue of the comic book adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere was released yesterday. Mr. Gaiman is credited as a "consultant." So far, the story is fairly intact, but it's the visual element that deviates from the novel--characters look nothing like they were described, and don't even resemble the old BBC miniseries. And for someone accustomed to the phenomenal artwork seen in most of Gaiman's previous graphic novels (which included several adaptations of his short stories), Neverwhere seems downright bland. If a feature film follows in the same vein as this adaptation, will Gaiman pull an Alan Moore and refuse all royalties? (Go easy on me; it's my first post.)
posted by Saellys (32 comments total)
Neverwhere was a great novel. For a book so full of creative ideas it would be a shame if the comic didn't take advantage of them.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:34 AM on June 23, 2005

Saellys posted "(Go easy on me; it's my first post.)"

From what I've seen around here, there's no better way to ask for a beatdown than that. FYI. When it happens, don't take it personally.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:35 AM on June 23, 2005

hmm...yeah, i don't know about that keyhole around door's eye...i mean, she does have supernatural powers, but this looks too americanized.... too...DC superheroish... oh, wait. it is DC...(that explains it)
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 9:44 AM on June 23, 2005

I'd hit it.
posted by iamck at 9:50 AM on June 23, 2005

I'd hit it.
posted by iamck at 9:50 AM on June 23, 2005

Vandamar and Croup look wrong, Door looks wrong... Business as usual for the ruination of stuff I happen to like.
posted by longbaugh at 10:22 AM on June 23, 2005

A couple things:

1) This is a Vertigo offering, as opposed to a D.C. offering (it's DC Vertigo, but they are a basically seperate entity as far as I understand) Most of the stuff Gaiman is known for was published by them, and you may be able to make th eargument that without Gaiman they wouldn't be where they are today as a publisher.

SO I doubt that they're fucking with Gaiman too much. On the contrary, this might be a bone that he's throwing them, to give them a boost. On my most recent visit to my local comic shop, I was surprised at how little looked interesting from Vertigo. Prety much Hellblazer's all they have that interests me, and that's not enough to get me to the comic shop. The Sandman got me back into comics (omg, 10 years ago?) and I drifted away from them after Transmetropolitan gave up the ghost. I'm considering checking out Warren's current comic, but I don't think Vertigo is putting it out. Ok, enough rambling.

2) Why didn't Gaiman just right the thing himself? It's an adaptation, but if he chose to farm it out, he has to live with the consequences I guess.

3) I think expecting things to look like they did in the TV show is wrongheaded. I'm not even sure if they should look "as described" in the book. The artist of the book has a perogative to bring their own vision to the new work.
posted by illovich at 10:24 AM on June 23, 2005

The only Sandman I've seen is the MidSummer Night's Dream one - and the art-work, frankly, was dreck. This looks allrightish at first glance. Nothing like as bad as what Disney did to the Jungle Book
posted by TimothyMason at 10:25 AM on June 23, 2005

Neverwhere was not a great novel; it sucked. I know a lot of people love Gaiman, but I cannot understand the appeal. I can only conclude I have some character flaw that makes me pathalogically incapable of parsing his good qualities. (In much the same way, I'm unable to appreciate Terry Pratchett. Or Joss Whedon. Go figure.)

I thought Neverwhere was poorly written (from a technical standpoint), though it was vaguely compelling. The characters behaved in arbitrary fashions, so that they're choices seemed utterly random. The dialogue was simply awful — on a par with worst smug comic book dialogue I've seen. The book wasn't full of creative ideas; it recycled old fantasy tropes.

I did not like the book. A comic book adaptation that made changes could only impove Neverwhere in my eyes, but I still wouldn't buy it.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

(Now, Alan Moore? That man is a god. His writing is fantastic, though I've only ever seen it in comic book form.)
posted by jdroth at 10:32 AM on June 23, 2005

Any examples of differences between the two?
posted by Happy Monkey at 10:33 AM on June 23, 2005

Neverwhere was not a great novel; it sucked.

Picard is better.
posted by iamck at 10:35 AM on June 23, 2005

Yeah, not so much a fan of this particular comic. We will probably pick it up in the store just to see if it's any good but on first blush, I think Neil's been had by some well-meaning but sadly deficient people.

Is Neverwhere Neil's "Best Book EVAR!!!" -- no, certainly not. But the man is talented, and Neverwhere deserved better than this . . .
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:38 AM on June 23, 2005

Any examples of differences between the two?

In this issue at least, the appearance of the characters is the only thing that's really different. Door looks less like a vintage clothing waif and more like the vixen of London Below--instead of layered, stained, ancient clothes, she wears torn corsets and garter hose, and her hair is jet black and appears to be mostly dreadlocks. Mr. Vandemar was described as a large man, but he seems to be some kind of minor landmass in the comic book. The Beast of London Below looks as if it walks upright and bears little, if any, resemblance to a boar as it was described in the novel. It, too, is much larger--in Richard's dream sequence, one of its talons is about the same size as the spear. And the Marquis de Carabas is no longer simply dark-skinned: he is now a pure-black void of a face with a blood-red mouth and disturbing, pale eyes, with Colonial-era hair and garb. This is overkill.

I just feel like they've chromed it all up, and turned all the fascinating nuances of Gaiman's descriptions into caricatures of themselves. I'm dreading what they'll do to Hunter.
posted by Saellys at 11:05 AM on June 23, 2005

I didn't find Neverwhere that great either. It's bland and there's nothing memorable about it. Good Omens is the best book I've read of his, though it's probably because of Terry that it came off as well as it did.

Every time they try and make a movie out of the works of Alan Moore they screw it up. I won't bother with Constantine and Moore has described the script fo V For Vendetta as "...imbecilic; it had plot holes you couldn't have got away with in Whizzer And Chips in the nineteen sixties. Plot holes no one had noticed." It's more proof that the Wachowski brothers blew their wad with the first Matrix

He's passed all the money on to his co-creators to that movie as well. After his experience with DC, I'm quite tempted to never give them another dime, no matter how good the new Batman movie looks.

At least Alan has kept working. A follow up to his first novel "Voice Of The Fire" is coming out. It's called "Jerusalem." He's working on a graphic novel.

If you want to see him on film, check out The Mindscape Of Alan Moore [trailer].
posted by john at 11:08 AM on June 23, 2005

On my most recent visit to my local comic shop, I was surprised at how little looked interesting from Vertigo.

Vertigo's output has actually been very good lately. The four top-shelf comics they're putting out recently have been Y: The Last Man, Fables, The Books of Magick: Life During Wartime, and Swamp Thing. Of the current miniseries, Mnemovore - remniscent of Lovecraft - is just astounding, while the fantasy Otherworld is getting less interesting, in my opinion.

I'm not blown away by the Neverwhere adaptation, but it's decent comics so far. I've not read the book, however that colors my opinion of it.
posted by graymouser at 11:12 AM on June 23, 2005

Fables is great fun. Y: the Last Man shows promise, but somehow falls short of greatness. Mostly, I think it's the glib dialogue. Still, I find myself drawn to Y repeatedly. It's an interesting story. I keep trying to convince my wife she should read it. I think she'd enjoy it. Having all the men die is something of a fantasy of hers!
posted by jdroth at 11:28 AM on June 23, 2005

For a book so full of creative ideas....

With few exceptions, I thought the book was pretty cliche'. The characters were a set of cardboard cutouts-- cardboard cuts that were enjoyable to read about, though. All in all, the book was mediocre.

And I second the recomendation of Mnemovore.
posted by deanc at 12:19 PM on June 23, 2005

Just in case I ever have to pronounce his name, is it guy-man or gay-man?
posted by pracowity at 12:32 PM on June 23, 2005

pracowity: it's guy-man

As for NeverWhere, I read it after the Sandman Series and American Gods, and I found it somewhat lacking. I was a large fan of Stardust, however.
posted by mikeweeney at 1:32 PM on June 23, 2005

It seems to me that when adapting a story from a novel to a visual medium (like, say, a comic book), the physical appearance of the characters is one of the main things that should be changed. And it's not as though Gaiman would be shocked by the appearances of his characters changing over time: Sandman's look was changing constantly.

Different artists will portray the same characters in different ways. That's what keeps things interesting.
posted by Uncle Ira at 2:16 PM on June 23, 2005

mikeweeney: I'm pretty sure it's gay-man, actually. That's how everyone I know tends to pronounce it, anyway, and in one of his journal posts, long lost to the archives, I believe he mentioned that and spelled it phonetically. There's no search feature on, unfortunately.
posted by Saellys at 2:30 PM on June 23, 2005

Hated American Gods. Gaiman has a great depth of knowlege which worked well in the Sandman series (which I loved), but a lot of his characters lose their vibrancy.
Perhaps some folks are arguing to drop the obscure references, and depth for more commercial interests? I dunno.

BTW stupid post Saellys, your a complete jerk. A real kneebiter.
/total sarcasm
posted by Smedleyman at 2:30 PM on June 23, 2005

The only Sandman I've seen is the MidSummer Night's Dream one - and the art-work, frankly, was dreck. This looks allrightish at first glance.

Yeah, I've always wanted to read Sandman, too, but I can't get past the terrible, terrible art. Which is a shame, because I hear that Sandman is good.
posted by interrobang at 3:12 PM on June 23, 2005

I always pronounced it guy-man until I saw him at a book signing. Gay-man it is.

And yes, what they've done to Door here is awful.
posted by squidlarkin at 3:51 PM on June 23, 2005

There's no search feature on, unfortunately.

Actually, there is, although the link to it is hidden behind a text-less icon of a magnifying glass. Anyway, the definitive answer:

How do you pronounce your last name? Is it gay-man or guy-man or something else?

It's Gaym'n.

posted by icathing at 4:16 PM on June 23, 2005

The art in the Sandman comics varied. The covers were of course wonderful (if you like McKean's style, and I do), but some of the issues were... not so. The first few issues were particularly bad, I thought.

There was one issue with art I just loved, but I can't remember which it was -- my Sandman collection was stolen a few years ago and I haven't replaced it with the books yet, so I can't go look it up. Anyway, though the art varied, the story was always worthwhile.

Neverwhere was good too, I thought; I think I should reread it soon.
posted by litlnemo at 5:11 PM on June 23, 2005

Litlnemo--what was the issue you liked about?

(1) It's not as if the people doing this are totally foreign to the Gaiman franchise. Mike Carey's basically made a career doing a bad Neil Gaiman impression on LUCIFER (yes, the character from Sandman) and Glenn Fabry has been around Vertigo from before it was Vertigo (you may recognize him more prominently as the cover artist for the Ennis run of Hellblazer, which Carey now writes). I'm sure Gaiman got to approve everything on this in advance. Also, it's pretty rare that Glenn Fabry does the interiors to a comic book (the only thing I can think of off the top of my head is a short in an old A-1 issue), so we're probably lucky that he's screwing around with the original character descriptions, as Gaiman's imagination has never been predominantly visual (compare his scripts to one by Alan Moore).

(2) Did anyone catch NPR the other day, when Neil Conan of Talk of the Nation revealed himself as a Gaiman reader? Someone suggested American Gods for the NPR SUMMER READING LIST (!) and the silky-voiced radio announcer noted that he really liked AG, while dryly noting that it was far better than any of Gaiman's other prose works. Is this the general consensus of Gaiman's novels? He might have been my favorite author in high school (when I was getting Sandman issue-by-issue), but his short stories, childrens books, and Good Omens were all pretty disappointing. At one signing I was at, he said "I want to answer al the usual questions first" and said "Yes" and "No" arbitrarily for a few seconds and then, after talking about neverwhere and movie plans, said that he was not in fact going to write a sequel to Good Omens. The guy standing to my left let out a deep breath and said "Thank god!"

(3) This FPP should've included links to Mirrormask! (Unfortunatley, I'm too lazy to find them!)
posted by kensanway at 5:49 PM on June 23, 2005

This FPP should've included links to Mirrormask! (Unfortunatley, I'm too lazy to find them!)

Here, here, and here.
posted by djeo at 8:53 PM on June 23, 2005

"Litlnemo--what was the issue you liked about?"

Heh. If only I could remember. I just remember the feeling of "wow, this time the art lived up to the writing."

At some point I'll get around to buying all of the books. Unfortunately a meth addict stole my comics collection and probably sold it for next to nothing. (A complete run of Sandman, among other things... sigh.)
posted by litlnemo at 2:00 AM on June 24, 2005

In my opinion, the art got better as the series progressed. It was really, really bad in the first few volumes, to the point of making it difficult to follow the story. But in later issues, things took a turn for the better. The Wake and Endless Nights are works of art.
posted by Saellys at 11:11 AM on June 24, 2005

Neil doesn't seem to be talking about this comic on his journal, which he usually does if he likes something that's being done with his work.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:57 AM on June 24, 2005

The art in Sandman was extremely variable, as they kept switching artists. It's like a smorgasboard - you aren't going to like everything. The Wake is exquisite - and though at first I wasn't sure about it, the art style for the Kindly Ones grew on me, and now I really like it.

As for the novels - Neverwhere was very interesting (the concept is still one of my favorites ever), but strongest on the dialogue; sometimes the descriptive narrative was very awkward. By American Gods, his narrative style had improved substantially - it is a good book, though I think I had it too built up in my mind, and thus was a little disapointed (and annoyed at the way the world ended at the 49th parallel). I had the opposite experience with Stardust - I wasn't expecting that much, and was delighted with it - I think it's my favorite, and I'm disapointed I didn't have it to get it signed (I had gotten American Gods instead - but that's a long story involving a wonderful and self-sacraficing boyfriend making runs on the subway to suit his ungrateful girlfriend's whim).

But truth is, I would probably happily reread any of them - and isn't that the measure of a good book?
posted by jb at 10:01 PM on June 24, 2005

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