Neil Gaiman photoNeil Gaiman greeted a capacity crowd at his Comic-Con spotlight panel Friday afternoon by apologizing for not having prepared any remarks. Seems that on the walk to the hall, Neil asked how the spotlight was going to work – was he being interviewed onstage? Well, no. It hardly mattered though, as Gaiman is one of the most genial raconteurs in comics.

Gaiman entertained the thousands-strong crowd for over an hour, reminiscing over his earliest Comic-Con appearances and engaging with the crowd in a Q&A. His first Comic-Con appearance was 1989, when "Sandman #9 had just come out and nobody knew who I was ... it was great ... that was my last remotely sane Comic-Con appearance."

Gaiman told of a fan who gifted him with a cassette tape when he was at the Con in 1991. The tape was a demo by a musician friend of the fan, and he explained to Gaiman that "she sings about you on one of the songs ... please don't sue her." Upon listening to the tape at home following the Con, Gaiman was so moved that he called the musician (whose phone number had been written on the tape) to compliment and encourage her. The young musician's name? Tori Amos, who has been a friend (and sometime collaborator) of Gaiman's ever since.

Showing the crowd a couple of t-shirts which were unveiled at the Con this year, one an Anansi Boys design, and the other a portrait of L'il Neil by Kendra Stout bearing the title "Scary Trousers." Realizing that many in the crowd might be unfamiliar with that particular appellation, Neil told of a dinner he once had with Alan Moore, explaining that "dinner with Alan Moore is always interesting." During this particular meal, which took place while he was still writing From Hell, Moore explained over dinner to his companion –in gruesome detail– one of the book's gorier scenes. Gaiman admits to having become so green around the gills that he needed to excuse himself and escape outside for some fresh air. Upon his return to the dinner table, Moore remarked, "well, well, well ... Neil 'Scary Trousers' Gaiman, master of modern horror."

In responding to a question regarding 20th anniversary of Sandman events, Gaiman said that unfortunately he wasn't going to have time to write a new story, which he had been hoping to do. However, he did have an announcement to make, scooping Vertigo editor Karen Berger who had yet to announce the project herself: Artist P. Craig Russell, who has always wanted to adapt Sandman: The Dream Hunters as a comic, will be doing just that following his completion of the comics adaptation of Coraline on which he's currently working. Of the artist's Coraline efforts, Gaiman called the work "amazing" and "really gorgeous."

Providing an update on the Death movie which he is slated to direct himself, Gaiman said that it is "hopefully shooting early next year in London." The script needed to be rewritten to accommodate the change from New York to London, but the benefits of shooting in London are both financial (being an Englishman, the tax benefits for the film would be generous) and practical from an artistic standpoint. Since Guillermo del Toro, the film's Oscar-winning executive producer, will be in post-production on Hellboy 2 in London, he would be available to provide advice and insight to fledgling director Gaiman.

With a special Comic-Con screening of Stardust having taken place on Thursday night, one can't help but wonder if this time next year we'll be treated to a sneak peek at Gaiman's directorial debut at Comic-Con 2008.