Whenever it seems to me, Neil Gaiman, that my life has become a thing understood, a plan well-executed, inevitably the forces of the universe conspire to remind me that it's all a dice-roll, and we're just as likely to come up snake-eyes as we are whatever a GOOD roll is called. And when it became apparent that my new house was going to cost a lot more than that brigante who calls himself a General Contractor said it would, I found myself, like Alice, stepping back through the looking glass. Even though I'm Neil Gaiman.
"I'm willing to write comics again. You may genuflect, if you wish," I said to the DC editor, a young chap clearly fresh from whatever public school purgatory had been responsible for the almost funereal lack of intelligence in his eyes, "I shall of course be needing a limousine to drive me from my bedroom to my word processor each day, and a generous fruit basket must accompany each editorial missive, and perhaps a string quartet fortnightly would not be untoward. I'll agree to write a book titled Sandman, with the sole proviso being, of course, that neither Morpheus nor Daniel ever appear in the book, which will mostly be about a tribe of hill people in a faerie land trying to weave a great basket to catch moonbeams. I, Neil Gaiman, will have my choice of several artists, all of whom will paint the full script which will then allow me to select the version I think looks best, or, conversely, I may choose to scrap the entire project and use the art to pitch a movie deal. Public announcements for my - that is, Neil Gaiman's - return to Vertigo will be tasteful, yet expensive. Nothing too ostentatious, but I urge you to consider the value of genuine gold leaf, which is as long-lasting as it is eye-catching."
The dullard former copy boy stared at me blankly and said, "Right…now who are you again?"
It seems that in my absence, sales for comics in general and Vertigo in particular had (predictably) taken a catastrophic plunge. I wouldn't wipe myself with the current Invisibles sales figures, for example. Thus, my quite reasonable initial offer was rejected.
"But…but…I have both a leather jacket and a pair of sunglasses which I wear at all times!", I protested. "I, Neil Gaiman, produced an entirely adequate translation for Princess Mononoke! All my comics have been HUGE, if you discount anything not Sandman-related! DC recently did a trade paperback of nothing but my W-2 forms…For God's sake, this is still VERTIGO, is it not? Just tell whatever troglodyte is in charge that I'm BRITISH!"
But it was not meant to be. Apparently editors have a memory of infinitesimal length. No matter though, as the title they DID offer me is one of such rich possibility…
The great Chaos Lord sat alone, one weary hand upon his alabaster brow, inscrutable, with only the heavens to bear witness to his gossamer contemplation. A copy of Finnegans Wake lay at his feet.
His was a deathless solitude unmatched, for he was a Czarnian and the last of his kind. The guilt for the incandescent slaughter of his people could be laid at his spiked leathern boot (next to the book), yet he felt no shame for his deeds, for he was Lobo, Lord of Chaos, and no more answerable to mortal responsibilities than the hurricane is answerable to a newt. His eyes were crimson in skin like Wisconsin winter.
"A client has arrived, my brother…", said Limbo, his adopted sister, and about her it must be said that even though she was the Lord of Misadventure; a wild, raging vortex of majik and pre-Jurassic sound and fury, she still looked like a cute Goth chick. "Shall I send him in?"
"I'm aware of his presence, dear sister, for am I not the Main Man? Please, will you be good enough to send the bastich in, that I might frag him..?"
"You'd do well to remember your place, brother, and stay thy insolent tongue when addressing me.", the Goddess spake, her voice betraying a treacherous undercurrent of sharp red danger, like a razor blade wrapped in furious velvet, despite the fact that she looked a bit like a fourteen year old Tori Amos.
"I do apologize, beloved sister. Allow me to receive our guest personally. Please feel free to frolic with my space dolphins, if you so desire…or perhaps I could make you some herbal tea? I have a fabulous loose-leaf Darjeeling from Ceylon…it's fragging exquisite, I assure you."
The Cure groupie-looking Lordette (the kind British writers like…grROwlll!) relented, a bit mollified…"Perhaps I will, brother…and your civility is noted, all the better for you. Pray, do not forget what became of our departed sister Lesbo, when she was impolite to me…"
"I'm aware of our sister's demise, Limbo, as I am also aware of our long-standing truce. Our realms are not wholly disparate, after all…", he allowed his stinging retort to hang in the air a moment, then added the capper that would leave his sister gasping;
The great Chaos Lord opened the massive, living
doorway to his outer chambers, maintaining an almost
British writer-ly dignity, but barely concealing the
simmering cauldron of rage within…really, I'm not
exaggerating at all, he was really angry. I
know my characters seem sort of bloodless, but let me
reiterate that Lobo was mad. He was anger given form,
plus he had a crystal ball thingie, which by itself
makes him a rich and complex character, ask anyone,
"Welcome to my domain, bastich. Might I offer you something to nosh a scone, perhaps? They're quite good; raspberry with bits of sweet crme and a mintleaf garnish. Some Amontillado? No? Quite certain? It's no trouble at all, I assure you."
His would-be client cowered in terror before the verbal fury of the Czarnian Lord, "Oh, great and vengeful one..! I'm SUCH a fan of yours! Please have mercy on my lowly self, who art not worthy to lick your boots, but of course, will do so if you request, nono, quite right, don't bother requesting, I'll go ahead and do it anyway, do you have a preference which boot I should lick first? If I may, your Lordship, the left one appears to have a spot of intestine on it, no doubt from one of your much-lauded victories on the field of combat…If it please your Lordship, I'll start with that one and work my way around, shall I...?"
"HOLD, o most honored bum-biter! My trusted counselors - Matthew and Arviragus the space dolphins - approacheth! Speak not, lest I should stomp on your spine and rip out your fragging bladder and drink the fluid inside (if it's no great inconvenience to you, dear guest)!"
Matthew the space dolphin floated over the left shoulder of the Main Chaos Lord, and said, "AWK!!! Perhaps you should hear this unworthy one out, Great One…our Lordly coffers are as empty as the Awk awk awk SQUEEEEEEEEE!"
And of course, Arviragus joined in, flapping his flukes merrily, "SQUEEEEEEEEEE!!! Awk! AWK!!!! SQUEEEEEEE!! SQUEEEEEE!"
The client continued to avert his pastel gaze from the fury of the last Czarnian, "Your Lordship, if I may, my name is Prevaricus. I've come from my planet to procure your services, MOST RESPECTFULLY, as a bounty hunter, if it please your Lordship…I would of course be willing to pay whatever fee you deem fair…? A great evil conqueror is murdering our populace and we are without defense."
Arviragus began dipping his snout into all the scones, making quite a pig out of himself, and taking no heed of the bits that fell on the carpet. Prevaricus pretended not to notice when Matthew, obvivious, excreted waste in the midst of the crumbs and spilt raspberries. "SQUEEEEEEEEE!!", they exclaimed in unison, "Squeeeeeeeeee! Awk awk!!! AWK!!!"
Lobo turned his albumen face away the man and clasped his hands behind his back…the chains on his arm made a faint but distinct clinking noise, like something from a really old poem or something. Something really obscure. "Prevaricus, let me say this to you:
Mad as the sea and wind, when both contend
Which is the mightier: in his lawless fit,
Behind the arras hearing something stir,
Whips out his rapier, cries, 'A rat, a rat!'
And, in this brainish apprehension kills
The unseen good old man.
"I'm sure this will explain my position to you
quite clearly. Now, good day, sir. I suggest you leave
before the Main Man - by which I mean myself, Lobo,
God of Chaos - decides to perform some carnage inside
your rib cage, eats your spleen, frag frag bastich frag et
cetera, et cetera. You may go."
Prevaricus, clearly disappointed beyond measure,
"I…I understand, your Lordship." He bowed his head,
"I'll simply go back to the Planet of Winona Ryder and
report my mission a failure." He turned to leave.
"SAY NOW…just a moment! What was the name of your
planet again?", asked the pallid Warrior-God.
"Oh, it's just a nothing little place, your Lordship…It's called the Planet of Winona Ryder because all the females there look like Winona Ryder circa 'Heathers' and 'Mermaids', but before she turned eighteen. But you don't want to be bothered with such matters…I understand. It's a shame, because these girls really go for guys in leather, I mean, you would not BELIEVE. And they all wear tank tops and have ankh necklaces. And their SKIN...! Honestly, they look like they've never even SEEN the sun. In fact, they look positively sickly. Oh, well…sorry again to have bothered you."
Prevaricus again turned to leave, accidentally stepping in a puddle of dolphin urine…
"Nonsense! Never let it be said that the Main Lord Of Chaos would let some fragging and donnybrooking go to waste, and you're certain these girls look underage? MATTHEW! Bring my good leather pants! We're once again ON THE CASE!"
Next month, the Albino Chaos Lord gets some sunglasses just like mine, and if you don't like it, thou may bite'st me, fanboy!
APOLOGIES: I mistakenly left off the credit for the wonderful cover art to last week's column. The credit should go to the fabulous loon, Merlin Goodbrey, who is wicked funny and gifted. His website is: http://www.merlin.zetnet.co.uk/
HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE!!!