BOSTON: Mention the name Neil Gaiman to geeks and book lovers in the Philippines and watch their faces light up.Neil Gaiman is the amazing human behind so many beloved comic books, novels, children’s stories and anthologies: The Sandman, The Graveyard Book, American Gods, Neverwhere, Fragile Things, Stardust and Good Omens (co-written with Terry Pratchett) to name but a handful.Beyond writing some of our favorite fiction, local fans love him even more for visiting the country not once but three times! He was in the Philippines in 2005, 2007 and 2010. He sponsored the Philippine Graphic Fiction Awards with the help of Fully Booked. He did a series of events each time he was here and genuinely took time to engage with each person he encountered.
I remember on his 2005 visit, he was greeted with loud, thundering, lingering applause at the Rockwell Tent. For his signing in Cubao, the line snaked around three floors of the Gateway Mall, it went on even after the store had to close, Neil made sure he signed down to the last person waiting in line.Apart from signings he did readings, Q and As, radio guestings, awarding ceremonies and he was 100 percent in the moment each event, each time. Just ask someone who tried to go to everything, and was lucky enough to co-host the 2007 event with Gabe Mercado.
Well, that was a long introduction — but he deserves all that gushing! In April 2020, Neil was supposed to go on a tour but that was taken off the table. Two years later, it finally happens and I get the rare pleasure of enjoying the second night of the 2022 “An Evening with Neil Gaiman” tour.Gaiman reads from works and answers questions from the audience. He has received countless Audie awards, for narrating and voicing his audio books. Despite a very simple set up of a podium with Neil behind it in his signature black t-shirt and jeans (dressed up with a black tailcoat jacket for tonight), one is tickled, engaged, transported and falling in love again all over again with his fantastical yet accessible stories. You don’t need anything more.He started last Friday night with a brilliant yet to be published Batman poem, in honor of the legendary comic book artist (and fellow visitor to the Philippines), Neal Adams who passed away on April 28. Adams is known for many things, one of them being his illustrating the late ’60s Batman which was gritty, muscular, realistic and had the longer pointy ears.He also read “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar” which earned a 1999 World Fantasy Award nomination in the short story category. When he asked the audience whether they wanted something funny or scary, scary won out so he read “Click Clack the Rattlebag.”
My favorite piece of the evening was the October entry from “A Calendar of Tales,” which is about genie who meets a girl who is pretty happy and content with her life and didn’t need three wishes to be granted.
Unfortunately, there was no meet and greet or individual book signing for this event. Pre-signed books were available at the venue and there was a long line to procure these copies.There’s something really magical about being in Neil Gaiman’s presence and I keep thinking if, at each stop on his tour, he’d read something different. If I could only beam myself over to listen to him read his stories, I would.