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Get Gaiman?: PolyMorpheus Perversity in Works by and about Neil Gaiman

By Clay Smith
Figure 1. Clay Smith.

When assessing Neil Gaiman’s work, Richard Walsh argues that Gaiman’s absolute control of the narrative elements in The Doll House transcends and redefines what Walsh finds is an overemphasis on closure by Umberto Eco and Scott McCloud: instead, he argues, Gaiman’s representation of the indeterminate space between experience and narrative approximates the “protofiction” of dreams (13). Such high praise for Gaiman’s work from a critic is not singular, as evidenced by the criticism of Dave Mockaitis, Joe Sanders, Anne N. Thalheimer, and others. In fact, virtually all critics, fans, and news media argue that Gaiman has redefined graphic novels through his metanarratives into a coherent contemporary mythology.1 According to most critical assessments of Gaiman’s works, Gaiman can (re)create “protofiction” because he can control textuality to an exclusive degree. These assessments often hail Gaiman as the “Prince of Stories,” a titular honor that celebrates Gaiman’s singular narrative ability and conflates his identity with that of the protagonist in the Sandman series – Morpheus, the King of Dreams.

Such celebratory criticism, however, denies the elements constituting Gaiman’s author(ity). Author(ity) hereafter refers to his ability to author texts (in their broadest senses of published works, readers, and his own authority as the-one-who-authors) as well as the recognition and celebration of such an ability to (re)author authors/others. While such celebratory criticism is not new to the criticism and theory of comics and animation, it is surprising given the extent to which it perpetuates a mythic auteur that is at odds with most postmodern criticism and theory – a body that has promoted textuality since the late Sixties when Roland Barthes declared the author dead. Moreover, it is surprising because it requires us to substitute the polymorphous perversity of/with/through textuality for the amnesiac pleasure of being subject to the (Dream) King’s author(ity) – substituting polymorphous free play for a polyMorpheus perversity.

As my textual play suggests, I derive much of my critical impulse from those theorists who have promoted textuality, particularly Derrida and his concepts of the impurity, graphemes, parasitism, and citationality.2 My analysis will emphasize the ways in which the drive to establish Gaiman’s author(ity) denies the textuality he seems to promote. Readers familiar with the exchanges between Derrida and John Searles about citationality will note a parallel between the drives to disclose and to foreclose the textuality defining those texts. Readers may also find this claim ironic, especially given Gaiman’s support of free speech through his endorsements of the Comic Book League Defense Fund and through his incorporation of Kathy Acker as a main character (Delirium) within the Sandman cosmology. However, Acker’s appearance within the Sandman informs Gaiman’s strategy to foreclose textuality in order to establish his author(ity): Gaiman (re)presents the textuality that Acker championed in her life and work as Delirium, the frenetic indeterminacy that cannot maintain a focus; in contrast to her relative ineffectuality, Dream (Gaiman) embodies a managerial control that determines much of what happens in The Sandman. Big Brother (Dream) knows better than little sister (Delirium), The Sandman constantly demonstrates. Such nominal gestures toward and ultimate control of textuality characterize Gaiman’s strategy of polyMorpheus perversity – the self-reflexive establishment of Gaiman’s singular author(ity) over the impurity of the trace that (re)articulates textuality.

As my rhetoric here indicates, we must counter such drives toward hegemonic monologues celebrating Gaiman’s (and any other’s) author(ity) as exclusive. If meaning is fundamentally indeterminate because of the continuous interplay of text and context, as Derrida argues, then those authors who seek to fix their texts through explicit attribution to an originary/exclusive author(ity) violate this fundamental principle of textuality. These authors also seek to reinstitute the myth of originary hierarchy: primarily by incorporating authors/others within their own texts then (re)authoring them under their author(ity), these authors seek to demonstrate their authority over those authors/others as well as over the readers of both the citing/siting and cited/sited texts. In such works we find the specificity and determinism that is its antithesis of the infinite “citationality” that Derrida advocates.3

Gaiman’s Author(ity) over authors/others

While the criticism that I cited at the beginning of my essay promotes Gaiman over the gaming that occurs in/with/through texts, it does provide us with an effective means for observing how polyMorpheus perversity maintains Gaiman’s author(ity). As indicated above, one of the primary causes of this perversity is the attribution by critics of the works produced under the name “Neil Gaiman” to a single [and singular] authorial source. Often these critics illustrate their claims about Gaiman’s author(ity) by including panels from his graphic novels (most often from the Sandman series). In doing so, these critics deny the existence of the authors/others (e.g. inkers, colorists, editors) involved in the production of those panels and the series in which they appear; instead these critics promote the textuality that they see in these panels as a product of Gaiman’s author(ity), thereby further obscuring Gaiman’s authors/others and promoting polyMorpheus perversity.

Attention to these authors/others within Gaiman’s work(s) reveals the extensive promotion and production of Gaiman’s exclusive author(ity). Interviews with artists like Kelley Jones describe how Gaiman’s storylines enable his own creativity in ways that he would not realize otherwise. To illustrate his claims, Jones notes how he added intricate details to his visual designs of Hell’s Gate and other referential images (e.g., dreams attributed to historical persons like El Cid and Columbus) to his work on the Sandman series (Bender 102). He also notes that he adopted previous artistic styles (e.g., those characterizing 19th c. Japanese woodcuts and Ancient Egyptian tomb paintings as well as the works of Audrey Beardsley and August Doré) to accentuate the diversity of cultural references in his work for Seasons of Mist. While none of these visual elements or styles appear explicitly in Gaiman’s verbal narrative for this series, they do coexist with(in) the published version of these Sandman stories through Jones’s illustrations. However, they do so only because Gaiman author(ize)s them: initially by sketching the plotline which they illustrate, then by placing his authorial approval on them – essentially (re)authoring them as part of his own incorporative production. In other words, Jones’s elements remain invisible until readers are told that they may see them and even that they exist. The work of authors/others within the body of Gaiman’s work(s) exist only after they have been (re)articulated by Gaiman. Tellingly, the titles of the books profiling such insights – Bender’s The Sandman Companion and McCabe’s Hanging with the Dream King – promote the idea of intimacy with Gaiman’s author(ity); literal and figurative proximity to the Dream King can come through such means.4

This processing of authors/others into an author(ized/ing) product illustrates a central aspect of Gaiman’s strategy to promote his author(ity). Here the process reveals its complexity by first having Gaiman (re)articulate the product, then by having Jones echo that reauthorization in his interview, then by having Bender (re)authorize it (visually within a grayed text box thereby formally separating it from the main-text/interview body) so that readers can see that the inspirational intersection of Gaiman’s and Jones’s articulations of the Sandman story is actually engendered exclusively through Gaiman’s author(ity). Gaiman’s approval of the storyboards did not include such detail or stylistics; such detail and stylistics emerged only after/through Gaiman’s approval within the space that he had originally created and actively controls. In other words, Jones would not have been able to create the visual analogs of (re)articulation and referentiality in his panels without Gaiman’s originary and continuous (re)authorization. As this example illustrates, Jones’s (re)articulation is actually an iteration of Gaiman’s author(ity). Such foreclosure of textuality defines a key aspect of polyMorpheus perversity by revealing how the apparent openings for/of textual free play are foreclosed by Gaiman’s author(ity). Readers come to see textuality only by forgetting the authors/others for the pleasure of knowing Gaiman’s author(ity).

Other artists who have worked with Gaiman express this sentiment explicitly as when colorist Daniel Vozzo states: “If he doesn’t agree with or like something, he’ll let you know it, which is fine. And then you change it because he is the man. [Laughs.]” (McCabe 190). The extent of that control can be seen in Vozzo’s comments introducing his interview in which he attributes his “wife and family” to his work on Sandman (187). Again, Gaiman appears as the controlling nexus from which artistic creativity and familial fulfillment can and do emerge – a mythic empowerment of Gaiman’s author(ity). According to these testaments, Gaiman’s guiding hand is everywhere, whether we see it or not. And if we do see it, we see yet another example of the polyMorpheus perversity that we must come to know through such openings.

Further examples of the extent of Gaiman’s authority occur in the anthology The Sandman: Book of Dreams (1996). There various authors intersect, invoke, and interject Gaiman’s Sandman storyline within their own works, but only under Gaiman’s literal and figurative author(ity). Because Gaiman occupies a paratextual role in this collection, The Sandman: Book of Dreams illustrates how pervasive his author(ity) is: while he appears only as a nominal identity within this collection, his author(ity) manifests itself throughout the entire work in implicit and explicit ways; in doing so, Gaiman appears as a virtually anonymous author(ity) validating each of the anthology’s authors and her/his work.

While Gaiman’s name appears in only four places, those places serve to (re)author those works that appear in this collection: his name appears (1) on the cover as the editor (along with an otherwise silent Ed Kramer), (2) at the anthology’s end as part of advertising for his other works, (3) a brief bio note, and (4) at the anthology’s beginning as one of the creators of Sandman characters (Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg are also listed). This last appearance informs his author(ity) in this anthology: the formal declaration of genesis follows the legal declaration of DC Comics’ trademark ownership of the “Sandman and all related characters, slogans, and indicia” and precedes the statement: “The Authors assert the moral right to be identified as the authors in this work.” Yet this disclosure of textuality appears virtually invisible: buried so that only a very few readers may ever find it. However, Gaiman’s nominal primacy overshadows the presence of any authors/others.

Get Gaiman?

While such manipulation remains relatively hidden, the hand of Gaiman’s author(ity) appears more explicitly throughout much of his work in the form of citations, commentary, paratextuality – in short, though his attributive incorporation of the bodies of other works within the body of his work(s). Throughout his work(s), Gaiman utilizes a constant rhetorical strategy that explicitly and implicitly cites/sites citationality within his works not as textual free play but as textual foreclosure. Most often these references appear in the form of direct and indirect quotes embedded within the body of his work, but they also assume other forms of reference to other authors and cultural events. Despite its presence in seemingly different formats (graphic novels, interviews, and webpages), this referentiality (re)articulates the same message: Gaiman is the vortex (one of his recurrent images) from which his unique narrativity exudes and from which most readers cannot (do not want to) escape.

To implement this strategy, Gaiman uses a wide variety of encyclopedic gestures – incorporating quotes, phrases, images or other referential elements that demonstrate his command of authors/others – specifically by incorporating them into the body of his work and (re)authoring them. This gesture is analogous to the scene in Game of You where Morpheus’s recalls the dream characters back to him and reincorporates them into his body, their originary source. Again, the conflations between Gaiman and Morpheus reveal how this scene functions as an illustration of Gaiman’s author(ity) over the source of such “protofiction” – a visual analog to Gaiman’s control over authors/others. Gaiman further encodes his author(ity) through this novel’s title – Game of You.

Gaiman also uses implicit references to demonstrate his power at the micro and macro scales. He demonstrates the extent of his encyclopedic author(ity) by embedding relatively minor elements within the body of his texts. His use of arcane words (e.g., “sigil” throughout Sandman and “serewood” in Stardust) represents the most minute scale. While Gaiman is most intent on demonstrating his use of major elements, he incorporates such minor elements as further proof of the degree to which he controls all levels of textuality in his works. As with the agendas promoting the suppression of polymorphous perversity, demonstration of such absolute control is crucial to maintaining and instituting the suppressive agency’s author(ity).

Confirmation of Gaiman’s embedding strategy comes from numerous interviews in which he explicitly states his agenda, but also in the body of his works. In Smoke and Mirrors, Gaiman enacts this overdeterminism by embedding a story within the novel’s introduction as a treat for his readers. Tellingly, he entitles this story “The Wedding Present,” a titular revelation of the power relations he exerts over his readers (and those who work for him as revealed in Jones’s earlier comment about his wife) and which he makes explicit in this novel’s introduction and in his comments on this introduction in interviews.

As we shall see particularly in his use of Shakespeare, Gaiman often embeds implicit referentiality in the titles of his graphic novels (e.g., The Last Temptation) as well as within the body of his other works (e.g. in his children’s book Walking Tour of the Shambles, when he has the small child at the Petting Zoo recite Lewis Carroll’s “How doth the little crocodile” (31). In contrast to his use of arcane words, such encoding and embedding is more visible; they also functions as treats for those readers who can see them. As in previous examples, such textuality remains invisible until (re)authorized by Gaiman’s author(ity). Whether representing Alice Cooper as Christ or an anonymous character as Alice in Wonderland, Gaiman demonstrates his author(ity) to encode such treats for readers who are familiar with those references: this encoding serves as a reward for readers who can sight/cite/site such implicit encoding and thereby approximate Gaiman’s mastery of such referentiality – they get Gaiman.

As the name suggests, this overdetermined use of verbal and visual references turns into an extended game – a version of Where’s Waldo? that we should call Get Gaiman? to emphasize its doubled meaning of “get.” This game should not be confused with Where’s Neil? on the website; that webpage allows readers to determine where Gaiman will be/has been appearing in his promotional tours since it currently charts Gaiman’s appearances over the past three years. While they share the strategy of finding Gaiman, and thereby locating him as the exclusive origin of his narratives’ textuality, Get Gaiman? and Where’s Neil? reveal how pervasive and illusory is the drive for intimacy with Gaiman’s author(ity).

See Gaiman Cite/Site

“…no irreducible polysemy, that is, no ‘dissemination’ escaping the horizon of the unity of meaning…” (Limited, Inc., 14).

When he cites/sites a referent, Gaiman often uses direct quotes as he does when he uses the quote from Herodotus at the beginning of American Gods: “Call no man happy until he is dead” (7). As he does here, Gaiman frequently has the text explicitly attribute the quote to its source: such attribution clarifies the quote’s origin and, more importantly within this strategy, demonstrates Gaiman’s mastery of that textual body (and by extension the wider range of textual bodies from which he can pull pieces). Here he also makes this connection explicitly formal by including a list of the works from which he had appropriated texts for this novel, thereby allowing readers to see the extent of his ability to incorporate and (re)articulate pieces from the works of others. These two levels of attribution provide inter/intra/meta/con/para/textual examples of Gaiman’s author(ity).

As part of this larger strategy to demonstrate the polymorphous nature of his author(ity), Gaiman also uses variations on this strategy. In his novel Stardust, for example, he modifies this strategy to first incorporate quotes from nursery rhymes, then have his characters comment on them (e.g., 74 and 108); in doing so, he demonstrates his ability to manipulate the inter/intra/meta/con/textuality of such referentiality. Similarly, he entitles Chapter 4 “Can I Get There by Candlelight?” (referencing that nursery rhyme) and refers to A Pilgrim’s Progress (71) to demonstrate his author(ity). Moreover, Gaiman signals his appropriation of these textual bodies by their italicization, formatting, and other conventional demarcations within the body of his work. Without such marks from their (re)ma(r)ker, these citations might be lost to readers who did not know their referents – his conventional demarcation of them thereby prevents readers from missing this sign of his author(ity); those readers who could not see that author(ity) could not fully appreciate the extent of Gaiman’s knowledge and capability as the(ir) auteur.

When Gaiman provides a context or other sort of explanatory remark for a reference in his introductions and interviews, he (re)marks the reference as a manifestation of his author(ity) over that narrative (and by extension all narratives). Through such a strategy, these explanatory remarks confine the interpretive matrix of those works to the context that he authorizes, thereby privileges himself as the definitive force behind, in front of, and within that text as he does at the end of the graphic novel Harlequin Valentine. There readers find a definition of “Harlequin” and a lengthy explanation of Commedia dell’arte, all in a question-and-answer format with Gaiman-the-auteur that mimics the interview formats featured in the web sources below and which invokes the intimacy of such personal commentary. Similarly, in his introductory comments to the graphic novel The Last Temptation, Gaiman narrates the events leading up to the creation of this novel as well as emphasizing its referential matrix (e.g. Faust. le Theatre du Grand-Guignol, previous comics) so that readers can appreciate the story more fully (both by knowing the origins of its referential matrix and his rearticulation of them). Also, Gaiman demonstrates the extent of his author(ity) over such works and over their readers through the range of his references: yet again, he appears as the vortex through which readers come to know his control over those and their own textual bodies.

“The Order of Dependency”5

As these examples illustrate, Gaiman explicitly and implicitly demonstrates his author(ity) throughout his work(s). His use of Shakespeare illustrates the extent of this strategy as well as the ways that it critics have misread that strategy. As with his other works, critics often cite Gaiman as Shakespearean in his authorial capabilities. Kurt Lancaster, for example, even attributes Gaiman’s use of Shakespeare as a primary causal agency in restoring and maintaining Shakespeare’s validity for contemporary readers. While consistent with the larger body of criticism about Gaiman and his works, such comparisons also emphasize one of the primary ways that Gaiman maintains his celebrity.

Through explicit and implicit Shakespearean quotes and references throughout his works, Gaiman invites a comparison with The Bard: he, like Shakespeare, creates a body of works that incorporate, reference, and otherwise (re)articulate an encyclopedic range of cultural events and other sources, thereby demonstrating their author’s creativity: he, like The Bard, deserves accolades and credit for his innovative works.6 Gaiman’s author(ity) so approximates Shakespeare’s, these critics claim, that he can revive Shakespeare figuratively: through the textual complexity of his works and through the incorporation of Will, the analog for Shakespeare who first appears in Sandman‘s “Men of Good Fortune” when Morpheus approaches the Shakespeare character with his dream deal. While readers are not privy to Morpheus’s deal, they do witness the recurrence of Shakespeare’s figure within the narratives controlled by Morpheus – a visual analog of Gaiman’s incorporation and control of Shakespeare within the corpus of his works. In other words, Shakespeare becomes another character within Gaiman’s narrative, and thereby within Gaiman’s author(ity).

The graphic novel 1602 further conflates Gaiman’s author(ity) over Shakespeare’s. Primarily it does so by redefining the origins of current superheroes as Shakespearean contemporaries, either enacting proto-versions of Shakespearean plays or embodying attributes and speeches from Shakespearean characters. Gaiman controls these contemporaries as part of his novel’s narrative and as displays of his power over the creator of their referents-Shakespeare. Gaiman’s strategic setting of this reinvention demonstrates his ability to effortlessly navigate time and space (as reflected in the novel’s plot) as well as narrativity. Such mastery also resonates in DC Comics’ promotional literature when it touts how only Gaiman was deemed capable by DC Comics to undertake such a rearticulation of its works.

While examples of Gaiman’s explicit and implicit citations of Shakespearean works are too numerous to include here, they assume two basic forms: verbatim quotes delineated by quotation marks and their corollary, implicit (encoded) references to Shakespearean quotes, characters, and plays; Titania in Gaiman’s version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” illustrates all of these forms. The seamless suturings of Shakespearean quotes into a character’s mouth are too numerous to mention here, but they appear throughout the Sandman series and his non-graphic novels, like Coraline when Miss Spink and Miss Forcible virtually embody Shakespearianism through their constant acts on stage or in speech (e.g., the scene in which they recite their version of “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose…”, 51). He also includes variations on Shakespearean quotes as in The Last Temptation (e.g., “The show’s the thing,” 87). Such incorporation and (re)articulation, in turn, serve to demonstrate Gaiman’s author(ity).

The Impurity of the Trace

As extensive and coordinated as Gaiman’s rhetorical strategy is in these work(s), it becomes even more polyMorpheusly perverse in his virtual works. There Gaiman directly and indirectly author(ize)s the same sorts of paratextual maneuvering (in Genette’s sense of an author’s authorial presence and production) that further enacts the sorts of textual foreclosure that characterize his printed texts. For example, Gaiman often mixes promotionals within interviews (which when published on the Web often contain embedded hyperlinks to those products that he mentions in those interviews); such intertextual dimensions give the illusion of textuality while enabling readers to further enter into Gaiman’s work(s) through such links – the links function as openings through which readers come to know more about Gaiman and his work(s). The websites promoting A Walking Tour of the Shambles (coauthored by Gene Wolfe) illustrate the ways in which he crafts such openings. The website “The Wolfe and Gaiman Show” combines the dialogic and the promotional aspects in a relatively short space, while the URL listed in the back of the Walking Tour book takes readers to The House of Clocks website, which represents the House of Clocks as an actual museum complete with tickets and directions to its location. This site’s shop site also features a promotion of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The ways in which these sites incorporate direct links to Gaiman’s site hosted by HarperCollins (which promise and promotes direct access to Gaiman’s author(ity) as well as other sites associated with Gaiman illustrates the pervasive influence of his author(ity) to control and redirect all such sites into promotionals for his author(ity); the loop thereby created approximates the managerial control enacted by suppressing polymorphous perversity.

While such promotion may not seem surprising given the commercialism of such sites, its blurring of the lines between product and producer(s) reflects Gaiman’s larger rhetorical strategy designed to privilege him as the author(ity) of all of his works. Moreover, those readers who get Gaiman’s gaming with such sites (the dimensions of his [and Wolfe’s] parodic walking tour book and its virtual presence) seem to approximate an intimacy with Gaiman’s manipulation (and thereby approximate an intimacy with Gaiman). However, such approximations are integral parts of Gaiman’s strategy as we have seen: they render those who believe in them as appendages for Gaiman to control. Again, the peripherals emerge only in relation to the center: the auteur over the authors/others.

Gaiman also performs similar sorts of polyMorpheus perversity in the numerous sites that he hosts, appears on, or otherwise maintains (or is maintained) through his name. Foremost among these sites is, a site hosted by HarperCollins. This site encourages the idea of intimate access to Gaiman through a variety of means (e.g. links that provide access to his journal, conversations in his chatroom, and visual images). Notably, this homepage is literally and figuratively divided between promotionals for his products (on the left) and a photograph of Gaiman producing textual products: those products are simulacra of his authorial production (e.g. Gaiman in the act of writing or Gaiman in the act of being Gaiman [posing with devil tomatoes, funny hats, or pensive looks]). Such gaming with readers echoes Gaiman’s rhetorical strategy in his other work(s).

This site’s Journal displays how Gaiman’s web-based author(ity) mimics his printed strategies. This link’s title “Journal” assumes an intimately revelatory status since it promises access to Gamain’s private writings and conflates the division between writer and written as “guests” enter into conversation with Gaiman and become part of the body of his work in a revealing commentary on the consumptive aspects of his work. This link allows readers to participate in a chatroom of Gaiman’s postings: a forum, as it were, in which readers can hear “directly” from Gaiman as opposed to the Message Board which enables fans to participate in the sorts of commodification that privilege him as the exclusive source of that economy. The Exclusive Material link offers additional elements that Gaiman’s readers can access in their pursuit of greater proximity to Gaiman’s author(ity). Interspersed between these nominal points of access to Gaiman, tellingly, are the more explicitly commercial links to his products.

Fansites also emulate this strategy through their incorporation of its methodologies. The Dreaming: The Neil Gaiman Page and other sites that host live chats with Gaiman like the Bowienet Live promise intimacy yet deliver promotionals through the number of references and hyperlinks that they incorporate within the bodies of such texts. Similarly interviews with Gaiman that are published on the Web (e.g. White and Worley) often contain links to distributors like By doing so, such sites repeat and extend Gaiman’s rhetorical strategy to promote his author(ity) as so pervasive that readers cannot escape it – yet another aspect of polyMorpheus perversity.

Such exclusivity and denial of the text’s hybridity in favor of hierarchy and stasis run counter to the apparent inclusivity and alterity that Gaiman claims to promote in his texts and life as well as for which he is often celebrated. We can see how Gaiman manipulates that apparent textuality to achieve this delusion only if we keep our own relationship with textuality: we must maintain the polysemic over the author(ized); if we do otherwise, we too will become subject to Gaiman’s author(ity), and thereby become subject to its polyMorpheus perversity.


[1]  Porter Anderson’s works listed in my essay’s Works Cited list illustrates this trend. Of particular note here are the few critics like Annalisa Castaldo who challenge Gaiman’s author(ity).

[2 ]This one quote from Derrida illustrates, as much as a single quote can, my agenda:

And this is the possibility on which I want to insist: the possibility of disengagement and citational graft which belongs to the structure of every mark, spoken or written, and which constitutes every mark in writing before and outside of every horizon of semio-linguistic communication; in writing, which is to say in the possibility of its functioning being cut off, at a certain point, from its ‘original’ desire-to-say-what-one-means and from its participation in a saturable and constraining context. Every sign, linguistic or non-linguistic, spoken or written (in the current sense of this opposition), in a small or large unit, can be cited, put between quotation marks; in so doing it can break with every given context, engendering an infinity of new contexts in a manner which is absolutely illimitable. This does not imply that the mark is valid outside of a context, but on the contrary that there are only contexts without any center or absolute anchoring. This citationality, this duplication or duplicity, this iterability of the mark is neither an accident nor an anomaly, it is that (normal/abnormal) without which a mark could not even have a function called ‘normal.’ (Limited Inc., 12)

I also owe a deep and abiding gratitude to Donald Ault; articles like his “Preludium” which appeared in this journal and his many other works reveal his insight and genius, but cannot articulate the depth of his generosity and support. Finally, I would like to thank the anonymous reviewer of my original draft who encouraged me to pursue key aspects of my argument.

[3] When authors incorporate quotes from Shakespeare into their works, for example, they seek to privilege themselves as superior to Shakespeare because they demonstrate (a) the continued relevance of Shakespeare to contemporary texts and readers as well as (b) their own extensive knowledge of Shakespeare (which further empowers them) through their ability to extract from that corpus what those authors claim to be the most salient parts from Shakespeare’s work. In other words, such authors evoke an originary determinism for Shakespeare to validate their own author(ity). In doing so, they further invoke the originary myth of an essential Shakespearean textuality and their participation in (continuation of) it – the sorts of dissemative Classicism that Derrida and most other postmodernists have opposed by emphasizing the textuality of all texts. Those authors and their texts that seek to privilege authorial intention over speech acts by their readers do so by controlling the context of their citations – by seeking to limit those contexts and their readers’ use of them. This situation is analogous to that enacted by/through the suppression of polymorphous perversity; in this case the polyMorpheus perversion of polysemy.

[4] This self-referentiality also involves readers in an exchange economy that privileges such apparent proximity to its source (Gaiman’s author[ity]). Those who read these sources and otherwise participate in its dynamic gain status within the Gaiman fan community through their approximation of Gaiman’s personal metanarrative insights (Bourdieu). Through such means, readers enlist in a consumptive economy with Gaiman as the definitive source of value. This economy requires Gaiman’s readers to appreciate the repetition and difference of his referential rearticulations. Gaiman’s explanatory notes validate this economy with the reassurance that the repetition/difference that readers note is accurate – thereby instituting a false repetition/difference as Deleuze defines it. In other words, Gaiman’s referentiality assures readers that the only difference is repetition – a secure, self-contained narrativity which is empirically stable because of Gaiman’s exhaustive efforts. Moreover, the inclusion of introductory material by other authors attesting to Gaiman’s prowess function as (extra)textual validation of his abilities and of the acquisitive process in which many readers (including these authors) find themselves when reading Gaiman’s works.

[5] This quote appears in Limited, Inc., 104.

[6] This quote from Annalisa Castaldo’s “No more yielding than a dream” illustrates how she perceptively targets Gaiman’s rhetorical (mis)appropriations:

Gaiman’s uneasy relationship with the material he has borrowed/stolen/obscured is worked out through Shakespeare’s relationship with Dream, so it is interesting to note that several of the writers who pen introductions to the trade paperbacks extol Gaiman in exactly the language used for Shakespeare. About the stories, Gene Wolfe writes,” … [Y]ou will understand yourself and the world better for having read them ….” (Gaiman 1993, unpaged). And in the introduction to Brief Lives , Peter Straub describes Gaiman as, “on a plane all his own … Gaiman is a master, and his vast, roomy stories, filled with every possible shade of feeling, are unlike everyone else’s.” (Gaiman 1994, unpaged) And while this is manifestly untrue in terms of the stories, it has a grain of truth in that the way Gaiman (and Shakespeare) present their twice-told tales is what makes them matter.

Works Cited

Anderson, Porter. “The Selling of Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’.” 11 December 2001. 31 May 2006. <>.

—. “Two new Gaiman-ic works: One is for kids, the other for very big kids.” 17 September 2003. 31 May 2006. <>.

Ault, Donald. “Preludium: Crumb, Barks, and Noomin: Re-Considering the Aesthetics of Underground Comics.” Imagetext. Vol. 1 no. 2. Fall 2004. 31 May 2006. <>.

Bender, Hy. The Sandman Companion. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1999.

Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Trans. Richard Nice. London: Routledge, 1984.

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