‘Fame: Neil Gaiman’ doesn’t quite do justice to its subject

(Bluewater Comics)

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.

About The Pop Mythologist

The Pop Mythologist
The Pop Mythologist is the founder and editor of PopMythology.com. He has been a staff writer for the nationally distributed magazine KoreAm , the online journal of pop culture criticism Pop Matters and has written freelance for various other publications and websites.


  1. I was thinking that it sounds like an excellent addition to school libraries. Biographies, even brief ones, are excellent educational material and schools are always hard-pressed to find room for them in their budgets. Their longevity might be an issue because of their comic format, but for the price, it’s worth a school subscription.

    • The Pop Mythologist

      That’s a really good idea, John. I should pass on your idea to Darren, the founder of Bluewater Productions, the publisher. Maybe he can get solicit some schools to subscribe to it the way they get magazine subscriptions. I do think that the series would probably appeal to younger readers like those in elementary and middle school.

    • Agreed. This is excellent for young children.

  2. Thanks for the review, and you’re right, I was probably a little too dry. Although for what it’s worth, when my Dr. Seuss bio is released, it should hopefully show an improvement in that regard. If that sounds like a plug I apologize.

    • Hi, @TonyLaplume:disqus. You know, I’m usually all about context and taking into consideration what a work itself is trying to be first before critiquing it. But looking over this review again, I can’t help but wonder if I wasn’t a tad unfair to it. I mean, I do contextualize the ‘Fame’ series somewhat, but I still come across sounding like I want the work to be what *I* want it to be instead of just letting it be what it wants to be which is a simple summary of a biographical subject in a single issue. And that it is. But as I do say in the review, I think it’s a good series/issue for kids, but even then a bit of dramatization (if possible within the confines of one issue) might help. The Dr. Seuss bio sounds interesting and I’d be happy to have one of my reviewers check it out when it comes out. And please don’t apologize for plugging. As a small, struggling webzine we understand the importance of self-promotion and we do it ourselves all the time.

    • Hey, don’t worry about it. I also did the Orbit: Mikhail Prokhorov comic, which was released about a year ago, although I wrote both around the same time. They were my first comic book scripts to be produced. I wasn’t comfortable dramatizing in either one, although that’s certainly something other Bluewater bio writers have done. Sometimes when you work toward a dream and it takes a while, you face a little shock when it happens. I started forgetting how to put an engaging comic book together. That’s why it was so gratifying to hear that there was still some worth in this one, and why I was determined even before that to improve on the model with my third effort. I appreciate the review a great deal no matter what you said, and all the more because it was generally positive.

    • Thanks to you again too. And, like I said, please drop me a line when the Dr. Seuss comic comes out. editor[at]popmythology[dot]com

    • If I may be so bold, Daniel, Dr Seuss is one of my favorite writers. I think he sits next to Shakespeare, even. Keep me in mind 😉

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