People know Neil Gaiman’s name for a myriad of different reasons. Sure, to many he’s the man behind The Sandman series, which DC began publishing more than two decades ago. In the years since, however, he’s done so much else that, depending on who you talk to, he could be “best known” for any of a number of things. Some love him as the novelist responsible for Neverwhere and American Gods. Others know him instead as the children’s author whose book Coraline was recently made into an Oscar-nominated animated film. Then there are surely the sci-fi fans who care more about his scripts for Dr. Who episodes than his work in comics. For others it’s probably something else entirely, as there’s plenty to choose from.
Delirium’s Party, which is out now from DC’s Vertigo imprint, blends together a couple of the talents Gaiman is known for without actually having anything to do with the man himself. Written and illustrated by Jill Thompson, Delirium’s Party: A Little Endless Storybook is an all-ages graphic novel featuring the characters Gaiman introduced in the pages of The Sandman. In this new book, the character Dream, who is “the Sandman,” and his six siblings, known as “the Endless,” have a family party. The story is pretty straightforward kids stuff from there, with Delirium, the youngest of of the Endless, throwing the party to try and make a sibling smile.
What’s interesting about this book, and what truly makes it “all ages,” is the fact that the characters featured in it once helped to make comics a more adult pastime. Here though, they get the Muppet Babies treatment, with Thompson painting child-like caricature versions of the seven Endless. It’s a sequel of sorts to The Little Endless Storybook, which Thompson similarly authored and illustrated in 2001. In both books Thompson softens the horror and dark fantasy aspects of The Sandman, while expertly including allusions to and content from the source material itself.
It helps that Thompson’s no stranger to the characters, especially Delirium. In the 1990s she illustrated a Sandman story arc called “Brief Lives” that heavily featured Delirium. Plus, prior to that, Thompson had illustrated a single Sandman issue (#40) which served as the official debut of the “Little Endless” characters. In her 20-plus years in the industry, she’s also drawn for Marvel and Dark Horse, as well as illustrated a number of other DC/Vertigo titles — Swamp Thing, The Invisibles, Books of Magic and Black Orchid, to name a few.
What makes Delirium’s Party so compelling is less the children’s story it tells than its watercolor illustrations. With panels and speech balloons conspicuously absent, Delirium’s Party, not surprisingly, reads more like a children’s book than a graphic novel. The pages alternate between solely prose and full-page illustrations by Thompson. It’s an engaging effect. I spent less time looking over the words than I did taking in the artwork, and I’m sure the experience will be the same for most readers — especially Gaiman fans. For them the fun’s going to be less finding out what makes Delirium’s sister, Desire, smile than deciphering the imagery that serves as simple background on some pages.
For something that uses The Sandman as source material, this book is much less macabre than it could have been. Thompson’s reimagining of the Endless is straightforward enough to stand on its own, but it’s going to be the dedicated Sandman readers who buy this — as well as Thompson’s own fans. In addition to being one of the most well-known female comic book artists working in the industry today, she also has her own series of children’s books, called Scary Godmother.Visit: Jill Thomspon | Vertigo
Purchase: Powell’s Books | Amazon