Neil Gaiman: one author, many adaptations

Good Omens: Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Neil Gaiman and Douglas Mackinnon

Neil Gaiman is the archetype of the modern storyteller: born as a music journalist, the narrator immediately decided to explore more media, juggling comics, screenplays, children’s books, novels and short story collections. In the vast universe that, over time, he has shaped with his words, there are some recurring elements and themes: the encounter between antiquity and the present, the power of stories, the magic of everyday life, but, above all, the influence of the myth, the epic and the legends that permeate most of his creatures. An influential character, welcomed by critics and the public in a more than enthusiastic way, who has always followed the flow of change, adapting year after year to the transformations of the creative world. This is why Neil Gaiman himself accepted the challenge of changing his lyrics into something else, in television series and feature films, actually obtaining rather positive results. Let’s find out all adaptations of his works and which have been brought to the small and large screen.

1. Stardust (2007)

A striking scene from Stardust

A striking scene from Stardust

Stardust is one of the many fantasy novels conceived by the writer, originally published in 1999. Unlike the later Coraline, this novel best expresses another characteristic of Gaiman’s poetics, namely his innate ability to populate other worlds, which are teeming with bizarre inhabitants , invented places, intrigues and mysteries. In particular, the book tells of a magical universe, Faerie, which interacts with the ordinary world every nine years and at the center of the story we find the love between two young people who belong to these two opposite universes. In 2007, after some obstacles, the Stardust film finally came out, which initially was to be directed by the visionary Terry Gilliam, but which was later entrusted to Matthew Vaughn, on his second project in the cinema. With the production of Gaiman himself, the feature film takes off: it is positively received by critics and doubles the budget invested economically. An adaptation without particular flashes of excellence that however manages to transpose the original material worthily.

Stardust review (2007)

2. Coraline (2009)

New poster for the animated film Coraline

New poster for the animated film Coraline

Coraline is the second children’s novel published by Neil Gaiman in 2002, which enlisted the help of the talented Dave McKean, who accompanied with his illustrations another seminal title by the British writer, Sandman. The book sees as the protagonist a young woman who, crossing a door of her apartment, discovers another world, a distorted dimension governed by a mysterious woman, the Other Mother. A text that reveals the author’s great passion for dimensions parallel to our universe and that, by virtue of concept strongly imaginative and fairytale, it was perfect for an adaptation. Hence the film Coraline and the magic door makes use of a promising US production company, Laika Productions, specialized in stop-motion, which thus launches its first film in the cinema, in 2009. A success across the board: plasticity offered by this animation technique is well suited to the grotesque reality evoked by the book and allowed the feature film to win at the Annecy Film Festival and get several nominations.

Coraline and the magic door (2009) review

3. Lucifer (2016 – 2021)

Lucifer 5 6

Lucifer 5: Tom Ellis and Aimee Garcia in the sixth episode

Lucifer is one of the best known characters created by Neil Gaiman, among the recurring figures of the Sandman cycle (he appears already in Volume 1). The son of God, within the saga, abandons Hell and, in some spin-off comics, devotes himself to life on Earth. A charismatic character, aesthetically inspired by David Bowie, who always remains distant from the readers, due to his arrogance and his pride, which recall his biblical counterpart. The powerful entity has two television versions: in the Lucifer show, the figure (who has the face of Tom Ellis) is very different from the comic both physically and in character, but despite this the product was a success due to some more exquisitely pop solutions that have made the work appealing to the general public. Within the series of The Sandman, however, we can see a version much more faithful to the original material, where he is played by Gwendoline Christie.

Lucifer: The devil, on television

4.American Gods (2017-2021)

American Gods 2 Season 3

American Gods: A picture from the series

American Gods, released in 2001, is probably one of the most popular fantasy texts of recent years that has won several literary awards. The novel expresses Gaiman’s love for mythology and is the story of a war between ancient and modern gods. A complex and layered story of how the cult of various religions has evolved in the United States and how divine entities have survived to this day. American Gods then became a television series, under the aegis of Starz, with the aim of bringing back and expanding the universe of the book. The result did not go as hoped: after an incredible first season, signed by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, after the abandonment of the showrunners, the show fell slowly, with many appreciable ideas, but also with many digressions and problems. which slowed down production. This led to the cancellation of the work after three seasons that have managed in a fluctuating way to reproduce the multifaceted spirit of the novel.

American Gods and mythology: all references in the series

5. How to talk to girls at parties (2017)

How To Talk To Girls At Parties: Elle Fanning and Alex Sharp in the first photo from the film

How To Talk To Girls At Parties: Elle Fanning and Alex Sharp in the first photo from the film

How to talk to girls at parties is a nice short story written by the British author published directly in 2006 as part of the Fragile Things collection that includes many independent stories published by the storyteller over time. In this little story the two protagonists find themselves, in spite of themselves, in a strange party surrounded by beautiful young people who turn out to be, in the end, alien creatures. A surreal narrative that, in full Gaiman style, also finds points of contact with everyday reality and that has also become a comic in 2016, with the script by the same writer and the drawings of the well-known Gabriel Bá. In 2017, among other things, a film adaptation of How to Talk to Girls at Parties called The Punk Girl in Love was unveiled, directed by John Cameron Mitchell. A film that is configured as a decidedly audacious transposition and that has very few connections with the story from which it takes its cue.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties: the party at Cannes 70 with a wild Elle Fanning

6. Good Omens (2019 -)

Good Omens 5

Good Omens: Michael Sheen with David Tennant during one scene

Good Omens (localized in Italian as Good Apocalypse to all!) is the debut novel by Neil Gaiman, released in 1990, which he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett, the greatest exponent of humorous fantasy. The alchemy between the two is palpable: to the exquisite and lashing irony british by Terry Pratchett adds the cultured and intellectual quotationism of Gaiman and the result is extraordinary, an innovative product that totally reinvents the apocalyptic theme transforming it into something new. In 2021, a television series inspired by Good Omens was released on Prime Video starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant, respectively as the angel Aziraphale and the devil Crowley, friends for centuries who will try in every way to stop the Armageddon. The work not only manages to perfectly reproduce the comic and irreverent soul of the original text, but it adapts brilliantly to the current times with some changes relating to characters and situations (let’s not forget that this show arrived 30 years after the novel).

Good Omens, Neil Gaiman speaks: “We should take care of our planet!”

7. The Sandman (2022 -)

Sandman Poster

The Sandman: a new poster of the series

We finally arrive at the most mammoth and epic work of Gaiman’s artistic career, namely the comic cycle of The Sandman, released for DC Comics (in the Vertigo line) between 1988 and 1996. It all stems from the kidnapping of Sogno, one of the seven Eternals, demigods who silently rule some fundamental aspects of humanity. The audience follows the adventures of Morpheus (another name of the king of dreams) through the world of the Vigil and other alternate realities. Between time leaps, independent stories, epic feats, mythical and poetic clashes, the comic represents the poetic summa of Gaiman, a masterpiece of form and technique, born also thanks to the collaboration with the greatest designers of the time. After so many difficulties, The Sandman arrives on Netflix in television format, with a first season that adapts the first, second and part of the third volume. A huge bet for a product that tries to go beyond the limits of seriality. The adaptation of Goyer and Heinberg manages to faithfully evoke the magic and spectacularity of the comic and we hope it can go on for further seasons.

The Sandman, the review: A dream come true

8. The boys of Anansi (2022 -)

The boys of Anansi (Anansi Boys) is the official sequel novel to American Gods, which stars the two children of Anansi, one of the central characters of the previous book, the god of deception of West Africa, represented with the features of a spider. Within the text, the boys, after the death of their father, begin an adventure that leads them to get to know each other better and discover their common ancestry. Like The Ruler of Glen, a small story contained in Fragile Things, a collection of independent stories by Gaiman, this book also expands the urban fantasy world created by the English author populated by gods, going to tell other themes. However, Anansi Boys is a promising product that, after many years of slowdowns, will become a television miniseries for Prime Video (filming ended in June 2022). At the moment we have little information about the project, mostly related to the cast involved, although we will probably know more soon.

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