Musings After Sandman Volume 3– Gaiman’s Scripts

I felt the need to just ramble about how I felt after reading Sandman. And here are my unfiltered thoughts (though I edited for grammar)– just thought I would share it with you guys! You may notice it is a bit different from my usual style of writing, but that is because I was just pouring out everything that went through my mind after reading the volume!
I have nothing better to do on this fine Tuesday afternoon. I have braved through all my classes, and am now waiting for my HR meeting.

Anyway, I was at the gym earlier (shocker!) and instead of bringing my usual iPad to watch an episode of Supernatural while I run, I read volume 3 of Sandman. The stories were okay. Like the first book, I found myself loving certain parts of the book a lot more than the rest. I remember for book 1, it was when we were introduced to the Sandman’s sister– Death. She is amazing. Dare I say perfect? We see her again in one of the short stories in this volume.


I still don’t entirely get Sandman. But I respect Neil Gaiman as a writer– a lot. He has that dark vibe to him, much like how you would expect Tim Burton to write if you got a chance to read his scripts. What was my favourite part of this graphic novel was the very last section of the book. Gaiman told us he would allow us a peek behind the curtains of how he writes his graphic novels. Actually, I’m wrong in saying that. He explicitly told us that this was not the Neil Gaiman style of how to write graphic novels, but simply how he writes The Sandman.

I did not think that writing the script for a graphic novel would be so intense. It seems like it would take ages to finish a page (I’m sure it does). I know I breezed through the pages of the novel, spending 2-3 minutes max on them. But the effort it takes to write one of these pages is commendable. He included notes from both him and his artist, Kelley Jones, in the margins of the script.

Gaiman writes his script out in a manner similar to writing a letter. To introduce each page, he would write to Kelley how he wanted the page to go. Additionally, he would also add random thoughts that he happened to ponder on. One of these included how he had a strange phone call the night before and it freaked him out. I loved this. It personalized the script, and made it so much more inviting to Kelley (or at least I would think I would feel that way if I was him). You are no longer reading stone cold instructions, but something from a friend.

After taking Creative Writing 203, we were told that we were not supposed to give the artist too much directions in our children picture book drafts. I wrote my story (which I was not satisfied with– and neither was my TA judging from my mark), and the only instructions you could get from what I wanted the illustrator to do was which page I wanted the text on. It was important that you allowed the artist freedom. Gaiman’s approach was completely different..

If you could read how detailed he makes each scene, it really is amazing. He not only tells the artist roughly what he wants the character to be doing, but he goes as far as to say that outside the window, we should get a lighting that suggests “early summer or late spring”. Each page’s panels have about half a page of text instructing Kelley on what he should do. Gaiman also says that he’d send Kelley reference pics (which us as the reader does not get to see). Gaiman does say that he has to first know who his illustrator is before he writes his scripts, so I am assuming he keeps in mind what he believes Kelley can produce.
I think this is amazing, but of course, I am thinking through the mind of the author. I would love for my artist to paint exactly what I imagined in my head. I wonder how Kelley feels. I wonder if this is the approach many other comic book/graphic novel writers use when they write their scripts. Or maybe it’s because Neil Gaiman is a such a big shot, so he gets to do things this way. Or maybe it’s a neutral agreement between solely Gaiman and Kelley. It’s weird how I refer to Gaiman by his last name and Kelley by his first. But I like it like that.

Seeing the script, I no longer think of graphic novels as very short pieces with several hundred words. Sure, each chapter may come in a small little compact booklet, and yes, we may only see the few hundred words that the writer chose to express physically with words in font.
But it is so much more than that.


3 thoughts on “Musings After Sandman Volume 3– Gaiman’s Scripts

  1. Ash says:

    This was so interesting: I remember reading this volume a few years ago, and it was nice to hear someone else’s thoughts.

    I know what you mean about breezing through pages that must have taken forever to produce – I remember when I was fifteen, flicking through a Bleach chapter in about five minutes and my friend telling me off, saying that I should have taken the time to appreciate the artwork.

    But, I think that things like showing us the script are really useful for helping us to appreciate the way in which the words and the art interact. I know it’s a habit that I’ve only really gotten into in the last few years when I started absorbing some more film crit. Though, having said that, when I discuss these sorts of things – usually with my parents when we’re watching a movie together – I’ll say that, if a comic or film is well-directed/drawn/scripted then you don’t need to be well-versed in the lingo to understand the message that the artist/director/writer is trying to convey, because your subconscious will have noticed it already. It’s like your eye is much better at noticing changes in lighting and camera perspective than your brain is at consciously noticing them. This is the sort of thing that I’ve been trying to demonstrate with my close-reading of Hellsing manga, because that manga is a master class in how to make words and art interact well.

    Although, interestingly, I wonder if it’s really important for that that the author and artist are the same person for Hellsing?

    Also, in comparing Gaiman to a director, I would say he’s more of a Sam Raimi than a Tim Burton: Gaiman’s dabbles in the Gothic seem to take more from the idea of a a Grimm’s fairy tale, which he tells with a twinkly-eyed sort of glee at the fear that he instills, whereas I see Tim Burton’s Gothic as far more a Victorian type. Idk, just an opinion.

    Sorry I got a bit rambly there …

    • kalyrical says:

      Wow. Thank you so much for your well thought out comment!!
      I think your analysis into manga is amazing. You really take time to delve into what the ink and words are trying to convey. But yeah, I also agree. You don’t need to spend TOO much time on a page, especially if you’re flowing along with the story and know where it’s heading.

      I’m not sure if being both the author and artist is really important. But I do know that if I could draw and was into graphic novels, I would most probably want to do my own art. Like what you said, a well encoded comic allows the reader to understand what you are trying convey pretty easily. I think when one is the writer (who ultimately creates and understands what they want the underlying story and themes to be) and the artist, it is probably easier for the message to be understood.

      Haha, I’ve never seen Sam Raimi’s work, so maybe that’s why Tim Burton popped into my head XD You have now made me curious… Google time!

      ALSO Thank you for nominating me for the Sunshine Award! In the process of making my blog post for it 🙂 Did the first part, and now I gotta pass the award on to other lovely bloggers! Thank you thank you thank you Ash!! 😀

      • Ash says:

        You’re welcome! I thought your post was really well written, and I especially liked how you focus closely on the aspects that interest you.

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