Coraline changed the way we watch children's films.
This peculiarly dark movie about a girl trapped in a fantasy world was released in 2009, and since then, movies aimed at young audiences had a great transformation. Nowadays scripts are not as friendly as Disney's stories were; they have strong female characters and dramatic plot twists that resemble Lewis Carroll's and Roald Dahl's stories. The man responsible for the comeback of the melodramatic fantasy tradition is Coraline's creator, Neil Gaiman. Considered a literature master, Gaiman summarizes complex aspects of life in incredible narrations.
Born in England in 1960, Gaiman's winding career has led him through different media and styles like comics, adult and young novels, movies, TV series, poetry, radio shows, and basically every form of literature. Each of his works is different, but still, all of them have a very peculiar signature. It looks like Shakespeare and Hemingway merging to reveal a little bit of Charles Dickens and H.P. Lovecraft. His usage of imaginary worlds resembles the craft of his colleague, comic book author Alan Moore, since it evokes the idea that not everything in life can be joyful and that misfortunes are present everywhere.
Gaiman is an avid reader, and, of course, during his youth he read the aforementioned authors among others, like J.R.R. Tolkien and Mary Shelley. He began working as a journalist, but eventually, joined Alan Moore to produce one of the most recognized comics ever made: The Sandman, a complex work that tells the story of "Dream," a multi-faced mythical figure. This comic had the perfect combination of existentialist tones with modern aspects, but it caught the attention of many because it changed the scene of graphic narrations inspired by those great authors that had an influence on him.
His steps in the comic world are prolific; it includes adaptations, such as Sweeney Todd, and alternative stories like Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, an acclaimed Batman spin-off. In that particular comic, Gaiman left his particular style and made a darker approach to the story of the superhero. He introduced a vulnerable Bruce Wayne going through a tragic personal journey, a heartless version of the hero even for his most devoted fans.
He has never paused his literary work. In his children's books –like The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, The Wolves in the Walls, and Blueberry Girl– he creates amazing effects through illustrations in order to awake children's interest and produce different emotions and sensations. Using fear as the main element, Gaiman makes the reader trust in weird, dark, and even exaggerated images to show that fear isn't such a bad emotion.
His novels are outstanding as well. Coraline is obviously one of his most popular stories and the one that linked him to the fantasy genre; but The Silver Dream and Eternity's Wheel are clear examples of his interest in science fiction, a genre that later on would lead him to work in movies and TV. Gaiman presents illogical universes in the style of Lewis Carrol, but uses themes similar to those used by George Orwell, to portray dystopic futures and adventures not as positive as we could imagine. His work looks as if he had merged all of our favorite literary characters to create much more elevated, clever texts.
The clearest example of this is the Doctor Who episode he wrote about five years ago, considered one of the best episodes of the series. Entitled "The Doctor's Wife," Gaiman uses the mythology of the story to explain a simple question: why is the TARDIS always protecting the Doctor? The author answers this with a fantastic episode in which science fiction, fear of death, and isolation are used to tell an odd tragic love story.
Neil Gaiman is one of those names that disappear between the amazing visual imagery of comics, novels, and films. He might not be as famous as his colleague Alan Moore, but he's just as important. The way he uses classic fantasy, lyrical tradition, and contemporary horror elements makes him an excellent model for any aspiring writer, especially those interested in depicting life with a fantastic pessimism.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards