Neil Gaiman At C2E2

Greg Baldino continues to report for Bleeding Cool from C2E2.

Amidst all the character resurrections and creative team reunions getting announced left and right, one of the most anticipated returns at C2E2 was Neil Gaiman return to reading for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fun.

Hundred upon hundreds of fans filled the seats in the convention center’s auditorium, spanning generations of Gaiman’s fans both in age and medium. From kids who loved his recent children’s and young adult work to adults who adults who started reading him through Sandman, everyone was excited.

Charles Brownstein the director of the CBLDF welcome the crowd and thanked them for their support before bringing on DC co-publisher Jim Lee, who collaborated with the author on a CBLDF benefit print. He thanked Gaiman both for getting him involved with the Fund, and also for bringing more women into comics through Sandman “It makes the cons less stinky,” he joked.

Neil Gaiman came on stage to thunderous applause and told the audience that this was the first benefit reading he had done in roughly a decade. He began by reading his poem “In Reilig Oran,” which is also available as a print at the CBLDF booth, then followed with the short story “Chivalry.” “I always used to read this to open CBLDF readings,” said Gaiman, “when I stopped doing them, I retired it.”

A mix of new and old stories were read; the old included because “I thought you might like to have me read something familiar. And since I haven’t done this in ten years, I thought I might too.” Two of the most entertaining pieces read were “Shuggoth’s Old Peculiar,” a funny Lovecraftian story set in an English pub, and the hilarious “Being An Experiment Upon Strictly Scientific Measures,” a faux-article written when Gaiman was a journalist documenting the effects of alcohol on the writing process.

After the intermission, the CBLDF had items for sale in the lobby, including books by Gaiman, Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs scents, stickers, magnets and posters. Photos of all the wonderful items were hard to get, because almost immediately the table was swarmed upon by fans wanting to support the CBLDF or buy cool Gaiman stuff, or both. Which is an excellent reason for not having a photograph of a merchandise table.

After the intermission, Gaiman read through some questions written by attendees before the event starts. His answers included the incident of Harlan Ellison and a dead gopher, the difficulty of taking a quarter of a million bees out for a walk, and his original plan to become a writer which involved interdimensional travel and murder, the latter conceived when he was eleven. Gaiman was also finally to give some hints about his upcoming Doctor Who episode next year. “I can tell you now what Stephen Moffat told the press last Friday: It will be on television and in color.” he then remarked that he’d love to find a way to do a new Who episode in black and white as an homage to his favorite Doctor, Patrick Troughton.

At the conclusion of the event, Gaiman thanked the audience for supporting the CBLDF, and for those who didn’t know about the organization explained that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance and lawyer fees. The organization works to protect the first amendment rights of people who make comics, publish, sell comics, and- he lamented with a note of sadness- read comics; referring to Christopher Handley who was sentenced to six months of prison for possession of manga considered to constitute child pornography.

For those who missed the event, the CBLDF will have many more Gaiman items- including signed t-shirt formerly owned by the author- and other comics items for sale. The CBLDF will also accept donations in any amount, and those who hold any value in being able to read what they like without the interference of censorship should stop by and contribute.

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Elsewhere in the world of comics in Chicago, the IDW party at Challengers Comics + Conversation was in full swing last night. Chris Ryall, publisher and editor-in-chief of IDW was in attendance, offering two-minute pitch sessions to anyone who purchased the book Comic Books 101 at the event. A history of comic books as an artform, Ryall co-wrote the book with Scott Tipton. Also present was B. Clay Moore, writer and co-creator of the series Hawaiian Dick; artist and Transformers: Bumblebee writer Zander Cannon; comics writer Stuart Moore, and others from IDW.

Greg Baldino lives and writes in Chicago, where he watches over the local comics scene like a posthuman autocrat. His fiction and journalism has appeared in many publications internationally. He can be contacted at greg.baldino@gmail.com.