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'Roll Review #1: Neil Gaiman

Back in his heyday, before moving to that retirement home for DJs, satellite radio, Howard Stern proved that you could give yourself a nickname and make it stick. It didn't hurt that he was the titular focus of a syndicated radio show that held huge shares in most major media markets. But still, he managed to persuade nearly every person who uttered his name to preface it with "King of All Media," virtually willing a mildly entertaining book and follow-up film into best-sellerdom. Did anyone else find that annoying? We should thank him, though, for launching the career of Paul Giamatti.

In stark contrast is Neil Gaiman, who really could lay a legitimate claim to media monarchy and who's done it without the advantage of a mic plugged into millions of ears. He started as a freelance journalist before raising the bar, and profile, of comic book writing with the Sandman series. He has since written popular and award-winning books, short stories, screenplays, and stage and radio plays in a logorrheic display of almost Asimovian proportions.

What enables him to move so effortlessly between media can be described only as intuition. Many have thought about and successfully described the subtle differences between media—what makes a good book vs. a good film vs. a good TV show. In fact, the bad-books-make-good-movies paradigm has been explored to death. But Gaiman is one of the few who's done it, who's consistently produced artistically and popularly successful works in multiple media. And nothing highlights his intuition more than his blog.

Gaiman was in the vanguard of blogging and continues it, almost daily, as a labor of love and outreach to his fans. The blog now reportedly registers more than a million unique hits each month. It's got the typical bloggy elements—brief news items, recommendations, links to neat sites, travel photos—but where it succeeds most, and puts Gaiman's media intuition on display, is in its tone. His blog is friendly and intimate. It's completely devoid of the creepy or salacious feeling of reading someone's journal on the sly. Rather, reading his blog feels like reading a letter from a friend.

Through his blog Gaiman gives his readers a glimpse of a successful but hard-working writer's life, complete with undoctored photos of his dark and baggy eyes. We cheer for him because of those circles and don't begrudge him success because of those bags. And we are charmed by him when he asks his precocious adolescent daughter to guest-blog in his absence. Above all, we feel while reading his blog as if we're in on a joke or a gentle secret—even if it's with a million other people.

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