On November 10th, 1960, in the town of Portchester in Hampshire, England, a child was born to a grocer and a pharmacist. An early and avid reader, their eldest child would go on to make his own contributions to literature. With his black wardrobe and a mop of hair that makes Harry Potter’s (book-version Harry Potter) look downright tame, Neil Gaiman has permanently altered the landscape of comics and dark fantasy.
In honor of “Scary Trousers’” birthday, here are five things you may not have known about Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman—like the fact that he was gifted the nickname “Scary Trousers” by Alan-friggin’-Moore!
He was raised in the Church of Scientology
When he was five years old, his family moved to East Grinstead in West Sussex so that his parents could study Dianetics at the town’s Scientology center. In fact, Gaiman was denied entry to a school because of his family’s connections to the widely-criticized religion when he was seven years old. It was in East Grinstead that Gaiman met his first wife, Mary McGrath, who was there to study Scientology. Though one of his younger sisters is still very involved in Scientology and works for the Church in Los Angeles, Neil Gaiman has gone on the record saying that he is not now a Scientologist.
He played bass and sang in a punk band.
He’s Neil Gaiman and it was the late 1970s—of course he was in a punk band! The band was called the Ex-Execs and were actually offered a record deal. The band passed on the deal because it was pretty specifically designed to screw them over. Nevertheless!
*Author’s aside: bass players are the best. Just sayin’.
Before he started brilliantly reviving long-lost comics characters and writing fantasy novels, Gaiman worked as a journalist.
In responding to a letter asking for advice for aspiring writers that know their stuff isn’t good yet, Gaiman said, “What I did was work as a journalist. It forced me to write, to write in quantity, to write to deadline. It forced me to get better than I was, very fast.” In the course of his journalistic career, he interviewed people like Richard O’Brien and Terry Jones.
Gaiman was a very active interviewer, often appearing in the photos accompanying the piece.]
He married his second wife, Amanda Palmer, twice.
Well, they married legally once. But they got flash mob married first! For Gaiman’s fiftieth birthday, Palmer put together a flash mob wedding ceremony in New Orleans that illustrated some of the defining moments of their relationship together, including her appearing as a statue bride. A few months later, they tied the knot legally on January 2, 2011 and Gaiman legally changed his name to include Palmer’s middle name, MacKinnon, as his own second middle name.
He has written for film and television too.
And I don’t just mean stories that he’s written being adapted for the large and small screens—though Coraline is brilliant and American Gods looks amazing (confession: I’ve only gotten to see the first episode so far). He’s actually written teleplays for episodes Dr. Who and Babylon 5. And he co-wrote the screenplay for Beowulf.
Happy Birthday, Neil! Thank you for sharing your strange, beautiful imagination with us. Here’s to many more years of your particular brand of strange, wondrous, thought-provoking, beauty-revealing, you-ness.
Oh, and one more bonus fact (because I can’t not share this photo with you!):
Neil Gaiman: beekeeper