SIGNAL TO NOISE May 07 2002


    "I leave a paper trail behind me,
      like a child lost in the woods."

You may have heard of Neil Gaiman. His Sandman series has pleased critics and crowds alike, and while this must be considered his magnum opus (for now, at least), there certainly is more to pick from than what bobs to the surface. Signal to Noise is one of these works, and I'm sure it won't be the last of Gaiman's smaller triumphs to be featured here at Encyclopedia Obscura.

First of all, let me write something on my own behalf. When I started up this site, I had quite clearly in mind that I would feature both brilliant and moronic contributions to (pop) culture. This far, I seem to have been stuck in the mire of stupid, stupid movies, TV productions and video games with only Cannibal: The Musical! and Lenore as exceptions. While writing about daft creations is great fun, it can also drain you for all energy, and I need a break. I considered separating the wheat from the catshit by creating two different sections, but I soon realised that many items would fall between categories (the nature of the beast, I suppose). So Signal will be one of many sheep among wolves.

Back to the subject: Signal to Noise concerns a film director who's working on the one film he knows will turn out the way he imagines it. No matter how vivid and clear his ideas are, they always seem to mutate into a shadow of their intended form when the product is finished, but this time he knows he'll get it right.

His project revolves around the inhabitants of a village in eastern Europe. It's New Years's Eve 999, and they are all convinced the world is ending. Some go mad, others silently accept the judgement. This film will never be finished: the writer-director is dying from cancer. But for reasons that elude even himself, he keeps on writing his script.

Signal to Noise is a fantastic graphic novel. I have admired the works of Neil Gaiman for a long time, and while his mammoth book American Gods and the larger-than-life illustrated series Sandman must be considered his most weighty works to date, this short story about people, art and death still falls more easily into view when I look at my bookshelf.

While Gaiman has written a great story here, a lot of the credit must go to Dave McKean (right: self-portrait from Sandman: World's End). His illustrations take a life of their own, and many could survive as stand-alone pieces of art. Like in many other works he has done, he here combines photography, pencil/brush drawing and digital imagery.

Gaiman's words and McKean's pictures seem to be a perfect hybrid, fulfilling each other to a degree where the sum exceeds the parts. When I read comics and graphic novels, I'm often kept at a distance because of the obvious lack of communication between the writer and the artist. In this case, if I didn't know better I would assume Gaiman himself had been illustrating his own script.

Signal to Noise is highly recommended.


Links:
- Neilgaiman.com
- Buy the book at Amazon.com