by SETH KUSHNER (courtesy of Neil Gaiman)
Photo by SETH KUSHNER. (courtesy of Neil Gaiman)

AN UNFINISHED “Sweeney Todd” graphic novel. Controversial comics anthologies. A hotly collected, never-reprinted rock book from early in his journalism career.

Humble Bundle will announce this afternoon that Neil Gaiman is making those and many other of his writing rarities available digitally for two weeks to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Moth Foundation. Gaiman is a co-chair of the CBLDF’s advisory board.

From prose to poems to speeches, the Neil Gaiman Rarities collection will include the acclaimed author’s “Adventures in the Dream Trade” (including essays and lyrics), Being an Account of the Life and Death of the Emperor Heliogabolou (a 24-hour comic written and rendered by Gaiman) and the sci-fi and fantasy works gathered as “Ghastly Beyond Belief” — all works that customers will receive at whatever price they choose.

[NEIL GAIMAN: A new novel sprung from loneliness]

The San Francisco-based Humble Bundle allows customers to “name their price” for much of the digital content offered through its store.

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Other Gaiman works that will be made available at higher price points include “Sweeney Todd & Other Stories” (with Michael Zulli); “Angels & Visitations”; “Day of the Dead,” an annotated “Babylon 5” script; “An Honest Answer & Other Stories, Feeders & Eaters with Mark Buckingham” comics; “Neil Dreams” comics; the comics anthologies “Outrageous Tales From the Old Testament and Seven Deadly Sins” (featuring Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Dave McKean and Bryan Talbot); “Duran Duran” (big on the collectibles market); “Love, Fishie” (privately printed poems by Gaiman and his daughter Maddy); “A Little Gold Book of Ghastly Stuff”; and “Manuscript in a Milk Bottle.”

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“This bundle portrays Neil’s creative evolution from the young journalist striving to find his voice, to the comics writer who knew the medium was capable of so much more, to the confident storyteller of deep imagination we admire today,” Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, tells The Post’s Comic Riffs.

[Sketchbook quotesNeil Gaiman’s wise and compelling advice to artists]

Ahead of the announcement, Comic Riffs talked with Brownstein about the birth of this Gaiman bundle:

MICHAEL CAVNA: So how did this come about, Charles? Did Neil approach you and say he’d like to do this, or had he already approached Humble Bundle?

CHARLES BROWNSTEIN: I bumped into Neil at last year’s National Book Awards and introduced him to Kelley Allen, my host for the evening, who runs Humble Bundle’s book program. He had some nice things to say about what Humble was doing with books and charity, and in the brief moments of that exchange, his wheels turned and sketched out the program almost exactly as it appears today. Kelley and I were both immediately enthusiastic — what an opportunity!

MC: So how was this collection chosen? I mean, it would seem as if Neil has included about every last rarity he could have. 

CB: Our goal was to share all of the pieces that fans simply had no practical access to, and we wanted it to span Neil’s full writing career. That led us to being able to offer his earliest books from his journalism days: “Duran Duran” and “Ghastly Beyond Belief,” both of which trade for hundreds — or in the case of a good copy of “Duran,” thousands — of dollars on the collectors’ market.

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It also led us to collecting some comics that haven’t been seen outside of the small-press anthologies they first appeared in. It’s incredibly exciting to offer “Sweeney Todd,” Neil’s lost graphic novel with Michael Zulli, which, even unfinished, is a really moving story in its own right. It’s also fun to be able to include the entirety of the Knockabout Press graphic novels “Outrageous Tales From the Old Testament” and “Seven Deadly Sins,” which include Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and others. These were so controversial in the 1980s that the books were nearly banned in the U.K. and Sweden.

There’s also a lot of solid writing from Neil’s mature period — the collections “Angels & Visitations,” “Adventures in the Dream Trade” and “A Little Gold Book of Ghastly Stuff,” especially, provide a range of enjoyable writing that sits just slightly outside of what one expects from Neil. There’s much more in here, including “Love, Fishie,” a very sweet book his daughter Maddy made for his 42nd birthday, and “Manuscript Found in a Milk Bottle,” which Neil calls his worst published story.

Having read everything in here in the process of putting the Bundle together, I can say that what’s really cool about it is that this isn’t just a bunch of cool deep cuts and rarities. Taken as a whole, this bundle portrays Neil’s creative evolution from the young journalist striving to find his voice, to the comics writer who knew the medium was capable of so much more, to the confident storyteller of deep imagination we admire today.

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I don’t know that any author has ever been able to open their vaults in this way. It’s not just that he’s sharing all of his rarest books, but that he’s making them available without DRM, and for charitable purposes. It’s a real testament to Neil’s generous nature that the proceeds from this bundle will make meaningful differences to CBLDF, Moth and the other charities supported by the Gaiman Foundation.

MC: So was Humble Bundle the only option you and Neil considered for doing this?

CB: Humble Bundle was always the destination for this offer. The support Humble has generated for charity is remarkable. In the case of CBLDF, it was literally transformative, and helped us grow our staff to do even more with our program. They’ve been tremendously supportive to the fund, and provided a great deal of effort to make this a reality.

MC: Lastly, is there any target goal you hope to hit with this rather stunning bundle?

CB: You never want to put a number of these kinds of offerings, although I do hope that fans will take advantage of it, and contribute generously. These items will only be available for the two weeks that they’re in this bundle, and after that they’re gone. I think the people who get the bundle will enjoy it tremendously, and their support will help CBLDF, Moth and Gaiman Foundation advance our work in ways that will make a strong difference to our communities.


by CAVNA’S CANVAS / The Washington Post