Since I recently wrote about Dave McKean, it just doesn’t feel right to not talk about the Sandman.
The Sandman is a comic book series written by Neil Gaiman and published by Vertigo. It is a story about Dream of the Endless (also called Morpheus) who rules over the world of dreams. The series ran for around 75 issues from 1989 until 1996. There were a number of different artists who worked on the interior pages, but Dave McKean did the artwork for all of the covers.
Every few years I find myself pulling The Sandman off the shelf and reading through the issues again. It is funny because, while this story was being released in single issues, it took me a while to realize how great this comic was. Although I always liked the covers, the interior artwork wasn’t attractive to me at first. Slowly, the story brought me in, and the artwork inside kept getting better and better. This book, the whole Sandman collection, is a masterpiece.
Maybe it isn’t for everyone. This comic is definitely a product of the ’80s, and Morpheus looks altogether too much like Robert Smith from the Cure. Also, I’m not sure that I would call the Sandman a horror story, but there are some truly horrible things that happen.
Basically, the Sandman deals with what lies beyond the human mind and consciousness, taking us into unfamiliar meta-physical ideas and concepts. Ha! Dreams! You can portray them pretty much however you want and who can say it’s wrong. And yet, they often hint at something true. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.. People like to believe everything can be understood through science, religion, or whatever. The idea behind the Sandman is life is not only stranger than we think, but also stranger than we can think to think. Like Harlan Ellison pointed out in his introduction to Season of Mists, “real art has the capacity to make us nervous”. I like that.
The story begins with Morpheus being imprisoned by a magician around the turn of the 20th century. Morpheus is caged for about 80 years, until events conspire which allow him to free himself. Morpheus starts to rebuild his life and dream kingdom, eventually forcing him into direct confrontation with demons, angels, demi-gods, myths, superheros, regular folks, fairies, monsters, and the Devil himself (not once, but twice!).
Sounds like a good yarn, ehh? Youbet!