The Sandman comic book creator Neil Gaiman’s best-selling, award-winning, contemporary mythological fantasia novel, American Gods has once again begun the climb to the small screen. Gaiman had been doing his part to help the possibility of a TV series adaptation on HBO become a reality for some time, but earlier this year we found out that Fremantle Media had acquired the show rights – and today, Starz has released a press release announcing the script to series development of the American Gods property in collaboration with Fremantle.

Showrunner duties on the American Gods series have been assigned to Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, who have worked together before on the super-powered individuals TV action/drama Heroes (when it was at its peak, that is). Their collective resumes encompass much more than that, as Fuller is currently serving as the showrunner on NBC’s lauded Hannibal TV show (which he also created), while Green’s body of work in the small screen medium includes Smallville, Everwood, and Kings; together, the pair will be writing the American Gods pilot for Starz.

Gaiman will serve as an executive producer alongside Fuller and Green, similar to how George R.R. Martin assists show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss on the HBO series adaptation of his A Song of Ice and Fire books, Game of Thrones. It’s certainly feasible that Gaiman, like Martin does on Game, will also help script the American Gods series, maybe even penning the occasional episode; Gaiman already has some experience in that area under his belt, having written a few American Gods pilot scripts back when HBO was involved (he’s also penned a couple of Doctor Who episodes in recent years).

For those unfamiliar, here’s how Gaiman’s source novel is summarized and described in the Starz/Fremantle press release:

The 2001 novel has been translated into over 30 languages and earned numerous accolades including Hugo, Nebula and Bram Stoker Awards for Best Novel. The plot posits a war brewing between old and new gods: the traditional gods of biblical and mythological roots from around the world steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of gods reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. Its protagonist, Shadow Moon, is an ex-con who becomes bodyguard and traveling partner to Mr. Wednesday, a conman but in reality one of the older gods, on a cross-country mission to gather his forces in preparation to battle the new deities.

Here is the exact wording of Gaiman’s vote of confidence, where it concerns Fuller and Green’s ability to do justice by his beloved source material:

“When you create something like ‘American Gods,’ which attracts fans and obsessives and people who tattoo quotes from it on themselves or each other, and who all, tattooed or not, just care about it deeply, it’s really important to pick your team carefully: you don’t want to let the fans down, or the people who care and have been casting it online since the dawn of recorded history. What I love most about the team who I trust to take it out to the world, is that they are the same kind of fanatics that ’American Gods’ has attracted since the start. I haven’t actually checked Bryan Fuller or Michael Green for quote tattoos, but I would not be surprised if they have them. The people at Fremantle are the kinds of people who have copies of ‘American Gods in the bottom of their backpacks after going around the world, and who press them on their friends. And the team at Starz have been quite certain that they wanted to give Shadow, Wednesday and Laura a home since they first heard that the book was out there.I can’t wait to see what they do to bring the story to the widest possible audience able to cope with it.”

American Gods has the potential to be a prestige series for Starz, much as Fuller’s Hannibal TV show brings more artistic credibility to NBC’s standing. Good news for Starz that, seeing how most of the channel’s original genre series content (Black Sails, Da Vinci’s Demons) has managed to draw in respectable viewer numbers, but without receiving the sort of critical respect that may help the channel better in the long-term.

Gaiman’s source book, like the Hannibal show, blends together horror, bleak comedy, and poignant drama; American Gods also explores dark fantasy genre territory in a fashion that’s often poetic and heavy (though not overbearingly so) on the symbolism, recalling how Hannibal utilizes dream logic in order to rise above its crime investigation drama elements. That bodes quite well for Green and Fuller’s televisual rendition of Gaiman’s work – not least of all, because the pair will now be afforded the greater creative freedom that comes with working in cable television.

We’ll keep you posted on development of Starz’ American Gods TV series.

Source: Starz/Fremantle Media