Neil Gaiman Gives David Bowie a Proper Origin Story in “The Return of the Thin White Duke”

Over the years, David Bowie’s work and personae have inspired extraordinary art: Velvet GoldmineHedwig and the Angry Inch, Starman, The Venture Brothers, and the greatest of all of Wes Anderson’s film soundtracks. But Neil Gaiman, of all of his fans, seems to be the one who tangles most directly with Bowie-as-superhuman. First, he made Bowie the obvious visual reference for his version of Lucifer in the Sandman series. But more recently, in last year’s Trigger Warning, Gaiman included a story called “The Return of the Thin White Duke,” which he has now made available on his site.

The story has a symbiotic relationship with some gorgeous Yoshitaka Amano paintings, which you can see here, but it also spins off into its own direction, giving Bowie a worthy origin story. Gaiman uses the Thin White Duke persona as a starting point, writing his way into the type of person who could embrace such an alter ego. And though the author refers to the story as “unabashedly fan fiction,” after a few paragraphs he makes the character his own, and creates yet another pocket universe for the Duke to test his bravery, create stars, and forge a new life for himself. It both is and isn’t Bowie, as Gaiman uses the idea of self-creation as the core of a story that could be about any one of us.


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