The Sandman

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!

One Comment

  1. Nice, just got some breaking news from Anna’s friend Bronwen.

    Apparently one of the original artists on Sandman was living in Utah while working on the Sandman (and still lives in Bountiful according to: ), and he based the original characters of Death and Desire on some of the old patrons of Bandaloops.

    Here is a quote from Neil Gaiman and a little more history on the creation of Death, taken from:

    “Death is the only major character whose visuals didn’t spring from me; that credit goes to Mike Dringenberg. In my original Sandman outline, I suggested Death look like rock star Nico in 1968, with the perfect cheekbones and perfect face she has on the cover of her Chelsea Girl album.

    But Mike Dringenberg had his own ideas, so he sent me a drawing based on a woman he knew named Cinnamon — the drawing that was later printed in Sandman 11 — and I looked at it and had the immediate reaction of, “Wow. That’s really cool.” Later that day, Dave McKean and I went to dinner in Chelsea at the My Old Dutch Pancake House and the waitress who served us was a kind of vision. She was American, had long black hair, was dressed entirely in black — black jeans, T-shirt, etc. — and wore a big silver ankh on a silver necklace. And she looked exactly like Mike Dringenberg’s drawing of Death.”


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