On a fellow traveller note, there are many images of Dave McKean’s work in Lestat, as well as a reprinted page of an interview with him about the musical’s visual effects, here, unless someone has requested that they should be taken down.
From Robert J. Wiersema year end wrap up in the December 31st Vancouver Sun (reprinted in full here – and yes the whole article is worth the read. Thanks Rob!):
No one can say that Neil Gaiman hasn’t caught people’s attention. With his latest novel, Anansi Boys, the fantasist and comic book writer revisits the world of American Gods, a world in which gods have flesh. And children, apparently.
A droll comedy of manners with elements of mystery, thriller and romance thrown in, it chronicles the misadventures of the two sons of Anansi following the death of the old man, the African trickster god (and spider.)
Though not as ambitious as American Gods, Anansi Boys is charming.
From the Gilbert A. Bouchard list of best ‘young reader graphic narratives’ of 2005 in the December 29th Edmonton Journal:
One of the most popular and well-known comic book creative teams in the field, writer Neil Gaiman and artist Dave McKean are perhaps best known for their work on the cult DC Comics series Sandman. Of late, the Gaiman/McKean team made a well-received foray into children literature with their best-seller The Wolves in the Walls. Their most recent effort is Mirrormask, a companion juvenile graphic novel accompanying the soon-to-be-released movie of the same name. Evoking the trippy Sandman series, this book is a beautiful, if surreal, dream narrative about a circus-raised child reacting poorly to her mother’s serious illness.
Mirrormask “Best of the Year” Listings::
From Lawrence Toppman’s December 30th Charlotte Observerarticle:
10) MirrorMask — A circus girl who rejects her parents’ lifestyle enters a dream world where she can bring harmony to a divided, dying kingdom of masked inhabitants. The most visually imaginative movie I saw this year, with creatures from the Jim Henson factory. Family-friendly, too.
From Sean P. Means’ December 30th Salt Lake Tribune article:
10) MirrorMask — Dave McKean and writer Neil Gaiman (collaborators on the Sandman graphic novels) play with the “Alice in Wonderland” template for this eye-popping fantasy about a 15-year-old girl trapped in a dreamscape of her own making. Visually audacious and emotionally straightforward, like any great children’s adventure.
Anansi Boys Review – London Free Press
From the January 7th London Free Press:
Neil Gaiman has always gleefully avoided being confined to a genre. His stories stretch effortlessly to cover fantasy, dark humour, horror, satire and philosophy.
His latest novel, Anansi Boys, is much merrier fare than usual, but it touches on all of those categories and more.
The novel opens with Fat Charlie Nancy planning his wedding when his estranged father dies — in an embarrassingly funny way.
Typical, Fat Charlie glumly muses, remembering the pranks and ways his father thought up to embarrass him as a child, starting with his unshakable nickname.
Uptight, diffident, always a hair’s breadth from dropping dead of embarrassment, Fat Charlie is as different from his fedora-wearing, puckish father as is humanly possible. We soon learn this is because his father wasn’t human at all.
He was the king of tricksters and outrageous charmers, the African monkey god, Anansi, whom we briefly saw telling tall tales to a rapt audience in Gaiman’s American Gods.
His father’s funeral sets Fat Charlie’s life careering madly off its moorings as he is forced to face facts and learn lesson after unbelievable lesson, grim and hilarious, often at the same time.
The first — and simplest — thing he learns is that if you feel compelled to turn crimson and launch into a moving graveside speech, it’s best to first check you’re addressing the right stiff.
From there on, things get complicated. Four occult old neighbourhood biddies explain that not only was his father a god, but Fat Charlie has a brother.
Back home, Fat Charlie gives this brother a call and things start to go Gaiman-shaped at a dizzying pace.
Spider, Fat Charlie’s new-found, designer-dressed brother, seems to have greedily inherited all of Anansi’s charm, poise and chutzpah, as well as his magical abilities, leaving nothing for Fat Charlie.
Fat Charlie finds himself plunged into chaos — with his fiancee, the law, his obnoxious boss, ancient African archetypes and gods and several murderous flocks of birds.
Grim things happen in a matter-of-fact way and everyday events are loaded with drama as Gaiman’s genre-bending genius makes it hard to figure out which of Fat Charlie’s many interlinked crises is the most serious.
His story is equal parts ancient and ultra-modern, a quest, a coming-of-age tale and a fable rolled into one as he seeks help in a world he barely believes in and finds an ally where he’d least expect.
Rich as it is, Anansi Boys is a lighter read than some of Gaiman’s novels, but there’s no dearth of grim happenings.
But Gaiman tells the tale with such a deft touch, spiking the most sombre situations with wit and humour, the whole story goes by in a flash.
Anansi couldn’t have told it better.
Mirrormask Film Review – Edmonton Sun
From the January 6th Edmonton Sun:
In an era of cinema where anything seems possible, assuming that filmmakers spend enough on the digital special effects, MirrorMask is a rarity.
It is so fresh, so bold and so fantastical on the visual plane that it seems to reinvent the language of dreams and widen the possibilities of fantasy.
Dave McKean’s film chronicles a 15-year-old British girl’s harrowing, coming-of-age journey. Everything we see in the surreal world presented on the screen is a product of the girl’s fertile imagination.
The paradox of how new this looks is that there are dozens of references to the familiar. In the realm of children’s literature and/or movies, MirrorMask invokes fare ranging from The Wizard of Oz to Alice in Wonderland, Labyrinth and the underappreciated 1988 drama Paperhouse (a connection made by critic Roger Ebert, who recognized the dangerous trap that a dreamscape can become).
In the realm of fine art, MirrorMask employs images reminiscent of Michelangelo, Chagall, Max Ernst, Picasso and even contemporary filmmaker-artists Tim Burton and Terry Gil
This could turn into a toxic stew in the wrong hands. But graphic artist and director McKean, working with collaborator Neil Gaiman on the story and screenplay, delivers a breathtaking phantasmagoria.
The central figure is the girl (a charismatic Stephanie Leonidas, channelling Helena Bonham Carter in her youth). She is a jack of many trades in her parents’ one-ring circus.
While most kids want to run away to join the circus, our heroine wants to run away to join real life.
One day, her resentment slides into cruelty. She tells her mother (the lustrous and versatile Gina McKee) that she wishes her dead. Her mother falls deathly ill.
At this point, the girl escapes into her fantasy world, a quixotic land of good and evil, of dark and light, of creatures so bizarre that the girl does not even recognize how she could have conjured them.
In the fantasyland, Leonidas must find an elusive, rare object, the mirrormask, to save the Queen of the City of Light from a dire fate and to stave off the gathering forces of darkness. Meanwhile, she catches glimpses of her own destructive alter ego.
No matter how the prism is turned, MirrorMask offers a unique and dazzling look into a surreal world.