Fame, a comic series from Bluewater Productions, is, to be honest, not the kind of title I’d normally want to pick up and read. It’s a biographical comic series that typically spotlights stars like 50 Cent, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears and Katy Perry, with a different subject every issue. The common denominator of all the featured subjects seems to be simply celebrity status and a popularity among teens, particularly.
But when I saw that the latest issue sported the famously black-clad fantasy author, Neil Gaiman, as its biographical subject, my curiosity was piqued. Neil Gaiman featured among the ranks of Justin Bieber and Katy Perry? Surprising, but actually it makes sense. Gaiman is, after all, that rarity among writers, a bona fide celebrity. His popularity among young readers is perhaps surpassed only by authors like J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer and Suzanne Collins (who is also featured in a different issue of Fame). He also happens to have always been one of my all-time favorite writers in both comics and contemporary fiction since his days of penning The Sandman for DC Comics/Vertigo, and he is almost certainly one of my greatest creative influences overall for numerous reasons. And so, out of mild intrigue, I picked up my first issue of Fame to see how it would handle the life of one of my literary gods.
And how does it? Well, the art is all right for a series of this type , and one doesn’t normally read a title like this for its spectacular artwork anyway. But the main problem with Fame – its very format – is, in all fairness, probably also its main appeal to its target audience: young readers interested in celebrity culture who want to learn a little something about their favorite stars without too much of an investment in time or effort.
The reason why good biographies make for such compelling reading is that they use all the techniques and tropes of novels – it’s storytelling. But at just over twenty pages, a single issue of Fame isn’t nearly enough to be able to present its subject’s life as a linear story with a beginning, middle and an end. And in any biographical storytelling, the real drama occurs in the subject’s interactions and dialogue with other people and characters, but there isn’t a single speech balloon here, not a single scene played out for its dramatic potential (imagine the narrative potential of Gaiman’s lawsuit against Todd McFarlane!). Instead, Gaiman’s life story is essentially presented as an illustrated series of bullet points of notable moments and achievements. There’s nothing here that you wouldn’t be able to find out in, say, the Wikipedia article on him, and hardcore fans would surely already know all the little factoids presented and would be left wanting more.
The one insight this issue offers that I did appreciate is the following observation by the writer, Anthony Laplume: “Neil Gaiman’s success story is one of the true originals of modern fame, of incredible versatility but also a strong central conviction that concentrating on the mythology of his characters will always provide for the best material.” What this means, to clarify, is that Gaiman always believes in the mythic validity of his stories and characters and treats them as such, taking the time and care to fully flesh them out, and that this dedication to story is what has resulted in his eventual, even somewhat unlikely celebrityhood. Unfortunately, for me, as a devoted fan, Fame: Neil Gaiman doesn’t approach its subject with that same level of care and devotion to storytelling.
As such, this isn’t an issue or comic title in general that I can recommend to older readers or serious fans of a particular celebrity. But for younger readers, casual fans and those simply seeking quick primers about their favorite stars, it beats reading a dry Wiki article.