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Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean - Signal to NoiseThis is a re-publication of this story written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean, with a long and slightly convoluted history leading to the form you can now (re)purchase for your enjoyment.

Signal to Noise was originally published in serialised form in The Face, the UK 'style' magazine (I remember some of it from those days, although it passed me by... I must have been too young and superficial at the time, I suspect) in 1989, and then collected into a Graphic Novel in 1992. Neil then re-wrote it into a Radio play, with music by Dave McKean, in 1996 (and released on CD in 2000). There is a stage adaptation by Marc Rosenbush and Robert Toombs from 1999, and Dave McKean has been writing about work to turn it into a film, which, to my knowledge, is currently on ice, but which I look forward to, should it ever materialise.


The story, for those who are not familiar with any of the above, concerns a director who, whilst planning for his biggest, best film, learns that he has cancer, and only a short time to live. The film he meant to make concerns the end of the World, exemplified by the populace of a small village, as the first Millennium is about to end. 

And, instead of throwing himself into treatment and attempts to extend his life, he keeps working out the film, in his head (because that's how he works). Do I need to point out the obvious parallels re. the end of the world, but also the differences in outcome for the village and the director? But there is so much more going on here, on ever so many levels. And, even if you don't feel like you want to (over-)analyse Neil Gaiman's writing, there is the actual film we are shown, and which we can play in our heads, and generally the rather gorgeous and evocative graphics by Dave McKean.


So, what do you get with this new version? From front to back...

  • A new cover, FWIW
  • The Introduction to the original edition, as written by Jonathan Carroll in 1992
  • A new Intro by Dave MacKean from 2000
  • A new Intro by Neil Gaiman from 2000
  • Two further Intros by Dave McKean, from 2006
  • 3 short stories by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, also originally published in The Face, and also part of the original Graphic Album: Wipe Out (aka Hackers). Deconstruction. Borders (aka Vier Mauern or Four Walls). Not completely unrelated to the main story, of course.
  • Signal to Noise, re-scanned and polished, as the original files have been lost...
  • A new chapter: Millennium, based on the BBC CD Release.


I'm not sure this justifies the marketing hype (“a completely remastered and redesigned edition overflowing with bonus material”), but it definitely adds to the story, and changes the end point and thus the message. Yes, I think stories are much defined by their end points, regardless if that's a “Happy Ever After” or a rather desolate ending as the original story here; Millennium definitely traces out much more of a path into the future than the original version did.


Should you buy this? Yes if you're a fan of either Neil or Dave. Yes if you're interested in the creative process preceding the making of films. Yes if you're interested in Endings – of the world, of lives, of stories.

And – do yourself a favour and buy a proper hardcopy. I've tried to read this on an eReader (forget about it), I've tried on a laptop screen (meh) or on a wall-sized projector screen (also quite meh). This really only comes to live on a proper, high quality printed page.



More Neil Gaiman

More Dave McKean


Title: Signal to Noise

Author: Neil Gaiman

Illustrator: Dave McKean

Reviewer: Markus

Reviewer URL:

Publisher:  Diamond Book Distributors/ Dark Horse Comics 

Publication Date: 1 November 2013

Review Date: 131227

ISBN: 9781593077525

Price: USD 24.95

Pages: 98

Format: ePub

Topic: Cinematography

Topic: Death


Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.



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