Ah, first off, Happy Boxing Day.
Hope you all had a grand Christmas, too.
[Note: The following is a severely truncated version of my original post, which went up before 6 AM after three hours of sleep tops and many, many hours of work. Apologies to those missing out on the full post, which was up for about 15 hours today, but it was an error in judgment to excerpt so much from a work-in-progress in a collaborative venture such as this. Still, please enjoy the following...]
I am going waaaaaaay overboard -- the final published chapters will in no way reflect all this anal lunacy, as the book's length requires considerable pruning and my co-authors Chris Golden and Hank Wagner have yet to weigh in on and edit this brainspew, not to mention our outstanding editor at St. Martin's. Furthermore, this chapter represents a certain conflict of interest (after all, it contains my last-ever mainstream comics story), but while writing, I just... can't... stop... myself!
So, here's just a wee portion of the latest Bissette rough draft of one chapter -- the chapter on Midnight Days -- for The Neil Gaiman Companion.
And now, for me, to bed:
NEIL GAIMAN’S MIDNIGHT DAYS (Vertigo/DC Comics, 1999)
By the end of the 1990s, the ongoing success of all the collected Vertigo Neil Gaiman works -- the Sandman graphic novels primary among them -- made the notion of gathering the previously uncollected Gaiman one-shots, guest issues and single stories as a self-standing trade paperback an inevitability. The resulting volume, Neil Gaiman’s Midnight Days (the author’s byline is indeed part of the title), also provided the opportunity to showcase a previously-unpublished Swamp Thing story. We’ve saved discussing the individual works in their initial publications, in order to cover them here. In order of their appearance in Midnight Days, they are:
Swamp Thing: “Jack in the Green” (1999, original to Midnight Days):
This ten-page story was originally written by Gaiman in 1985, one of two ‘trial’ scripts Gaiman had written immediately after mentor and friend Alan Moore had shown Gaiman the template for writing comic scripts on a notebook page at a pub during the British Fantasy Convention. His first attempt, “The Day My Pad Went Mad,” involved “John Constantine going home after [the Swamp Thing serialized saga] ‘American Gothic,’ and the things he found growing in his fridge,” according to Gaiman’s story introduction in Midnight Days. His second script “was about a 17th Century Swamp Thing. Nothing much happened in it, but I liked it.” He submitted it to Swamp Thing editor Karen Berger in 1986 after meeting her for the first time at a UK comics convention, but nothing came of it until the summer of 1999 and work was underway on the Midnight Days compilation.
“Jack in the Green” is narrated by the medieval incarnation of Swamp Thing, the titular ‘Jack in the Green.’ Jack is shown caring for and conversing with a plague-infested man named Simon up to the moment of Simon’s death. After burying his friend’s body (as only a plant elemental can), he explores the neighboring village, finding all its residents dead, Jack torches the village and watches as it burns. The meat of this melancholy anecdotal tale is Jack’s description of his journeys around the world, meditating on the vast diversity of life while trying to comfort Simon in his final moments.
The inclusion of a new story, of course, made the volume essential to Gaiman fans who may have already owned the individual comics and annuals collected, but Gaiman and editor Karen Berger took full advantage of the situation by approaching Alan Moore’s original art collaborators on Swamp Thing, Stephen Bissette (pencils), John Totleben (inks), Tatjana Wood (colors) and John Costanza (letters). The team completed the story, with John Totleben solo-illustrating the ninth page, and this remains the only publication of the story to date. Bissette and Totleben based Jack’s likeness on a 17th Century Celtic sculpted face of ‘The Green Man,’ the elemental archetype Gaiman (and, in the Swamp Thing series, Alan Moore) had used as a basis for his characterization.
[Note: I -- and we -- also write about “Brothers” (originally published in Swamp Thing Annual #5, 1989), “Shaggy God Stories” (also originally published in Swamp Thing Annual #5, 1989), “Hold Me” (originally published in Hellblazer #27, 1990), and “Sandman Midnight Theatre” (originally published as the one-shot Sandman Midnight Theatre #1, 1995). That's all I should excerpt... you'll have to wait until the book is out, folks!]