On June 19th, 2001, a book was released. Neil Gaiman had been a prolific writer for years, with a multi-year run on The Sandman, his adaptation of his television show, Neverwhere, and his classic collaboration with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens. This was something different though. Neil had blogged throughout the creative process, allowing his readers to see what really makes up the sausage of a creative act, and the result was something that many of us Gaiman fans took some ownership of and felt a deeper connection to when we finally dove into the pages of American Gods.
Now, 16 years later, Gods is becoming two new properties: a comic book adaptation and a television series. I was lucky enough to claim issue #1 for this week’s review, and while I’m a bit torn about any adaptations of this novel, I know that what we have is a solid telling. Let’s discuss.
American Gods #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
American Gods is the story of three people: Shadow, his wife Laura, and his employer Mr. Wednesday. I’m going to intentionally keep this light on plot, so let’s just say Shadow was in jail, now he’s out, and Mr. Wednesday has employed him to do some very interesting things.
Those things involve the Gods. Yes, those gods. They are real, and they’re in America because at some point in the past, someone who worshipped various gods and goddesses did so from this continent, connecting them to this land. They are now stuck here–splintered from their original forms and homelands, and desperate to survive by any means necessary. Their sustenance?
How does a down on their luck god gain worship?
Through whatever means necessary.
Now, the comic is pretty much a word for word remake of the book–with some editing for time, as I assume this isn’t going to be a 700 issue series–but it stays very faithful to the original.
The artwork? This is where I’m torn to pieces like a dude at a Dionysius party.
Firstly: the artwork is great. Scott Hampton is telling a story with his image choices just like the book does with words, and his rough style and light background additions make the focus stay on the characters at hand.
Having said that, these are not my Shadow and Wednesday. When you’ve read and re-read a book this much, your own slightly baked images of the characters stand out tall. In my mind Shadow is a dark-skinned, long-haired, VERY BIG character, who trouble knows to stay the hell away from. My Wednesday was older and wiser, and more cunning, and far more attractive to all.
Reading a book and then reading the comic forces you to step inside someone else’s mental image of your characters that you’ve read with for so long, and it’s always a disconnect.
I can look past it, because there are scenes that I want to see another adaptation of to confirm or deny my own suspicions and thoughts. The Forgotten God, for instance, is something I’m so god damn curious about, I asked Gaiman himself (he dodged the question) when I met him.
So, this is a solid book. I can’t tell if the comic is going to be worthy of the source material, but if it’s even half as good as the novel, this is well worth picking up.