Dreaming of Thalabert

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Among Gaiman’s other DC Vertigo creations is the original 4-issue graphic novel series The Books of Magic , in which seemingly normal 12 year old Timothy Hunter discovers that he has the potential to become the greatest sorcerer of the age. It may sound juvenile, but it's not, and the artwork is excellent throughout, each book being rendered by a different illustrator. My personal favorite is Book III, featuring Illustrator Charles Vess’ singular vision of the twilight world of Faerie, a setting that both he and Neil have revisited again and again. Tim Hunter continues to be one of the most popular characters in the DC Vertigo lineup, and there are those who argue that he was the inspiration for Harry Potter.

Then there are Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life, two short story arcs starring Dream’s foxy older sister. The High Cost of Living is perhaps Mr. Gaiman’s personal take on Death Takes a Holiday. He also put his own stamp on an obscure D.C. character, bringing Black Orchid  back to life with the help of Dave McKean, who was responsible for the cover art of The Sandman, as well as the complete renderings of both Violent Cases: Words and Pictures, and The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch: A Romance.  The last two graphic novels are arguably among the finest of their kind ever created, both being compelling things to behold. (There is a brilliant fan site devoted to the art of McKean called Dreamline; his vision is the perfect match to Gaiman's, and one can only rue the fact that they don't have the chance to collaborate more often.)

The Dom. de Thalabert is a fairly nondescript dark garnet in color, with deep, dark plum/black currant/Provencal herb on the nose, and just a hint of tar. These impressions follow through on the palate, and the herbal element dominates early, drifting into an added nuance of saddle leather. Not too tannic, and with just the right amount of acidity, this is very dry and not quite astringent on the finish.

Since completing that body of work, he has gone on to write two well-received novels, Neverwhere and Stardust, the latter with another visit to Faerie and an alternate edition (DC Vertigo Comics; ISBN: 1-56389-470-X) featuring the painted artistry of Charles Vess. There are also the collected short stories and poems in Smoke and Mirrors, and the amusing children’s book The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, the latter again illustrated by Dave McKean. He has also collaborated with Terry Pratchett on the hilarious apocalyptic tale, Good Omens, soon to be a major motion picture directed by Monty Python's Terry Gilliam.  And then there is also the English language screenplay written for the Japanese animated classic, Princess Mononoke.

A few words about Charles Vess are in order. Quite simply, his work is like that of a 19th Century illustrator of fairy tales. He probably could have cleaned up doing comics (I first saw his signature on a gorgeous Spiderman Graphic Novel from Marvel, Spirits of the Earth, in 1990), but has held true to his personal vision. As it is, he collaborated with Gaiman to produce Sandman 19, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the only monthly comic ever to win a literary award, the 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. They collaborated again to create Sandman 75, “The Tempest,” the series finale. His work is well represented at his Greenman Press web site.

We’ve continued to monitor this fine wine for over four years now, and it always shows well as long as it has plenty of air, and it continues to open and evolve as long as there's some left. The herbal leathery plum and black currant character expands to include notes of chocolate and finally, hints of nutmeg and lavender, recalling the aromatic glories of earlier days.

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© George Heritier

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