Friday, March 13, 2009


I need to take this as an entire series, instead of a volume by volume look. So, this is probably going to be full of spoilers.

I'm looking at the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, as I read it in these volumes:

The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll's House
The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country
The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists
The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You
The Sandman Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections
The Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives
The Sandman Vol. 8: Worlds' End
The Sandman Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones
The Sandman Vol. 10: The Wake
The Sandman: Endless Nights
The Dream Hunters

The first 10 make up the Sandman series proper, while the last two are more companion volumes.

So, for those not in the know, Sandman is this ground-breaking comic that changed comics as we know them.

It's about Dream of the Endless. He has 6 siblings--Destiny, Death, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium (who used to be Delight). His stories are populated with fairies and Norse Gods, Greek goddesses, and Biblical characters. There are references to older comics I'm sure I didn't get (like that bit about the Justice League) and references I'm sure I missed altogether. 1 big one is Lyta Hall. I

guessed she was from something else (and Wikipedia tells me it's Infinity, Inc.) and I wonder if I would have gotten more from her (and she's a big one) if I knew her other stories. (Comic book geeks, what say you?) Dream is the King of all Dreaming. He was imprisoned, then escaped. Was stuck with Hell for a time. Saved a few people. Didn't save a few people. And, in the end, was unable to change, and died.

Initially I felt about Sandman the same way I feel about Pet Sounds. Slightly dated, but perfectly enjoyable and not really understanding the

pure genius of it. Eventually, I learned more about pop music history to understand why Pet Sounds is quite possibly the greatest album ever (because even if it now seems like dated bubble-gum pop, everything I love now would not be possible with out Pet Sounds...). I understood the ground-breakingness of Sandman early on, and why it was so new and different, but coming at it from this point in time, it's no longer new, even if I could appreciate the fact that I what I like now is more easily done because of what was done then.

If that makes sense.

Overall, the first half of the series or so, while enjoyable, wasn't my cup of tea. They were a little creepy and violent for my tastes. I didn't see an over-reaching story arc. They were taking me forever to read-- I just wasn't getting into them that much.

At several points, I thought, eh, maybe I should just give the whole series up as not for me and read something else. But, every time I thought about this, Death or Delirium would make an appearance and so I'd keep reading. I liked Death and Delirium. Death especially. (Most people like Death. She's funny.)

I didn't really get into the series until the very end of World's End, which is the 8th volume. In the very last page spread, when there is a funeral across the sky, I knew what had happened. I sat there and counted and saw who was missing from the procession.

And I was stunned. How could Dream die with 2 more volumes to go, plus companion works?!

But he could, and he did. The Kindly Ones and The Wake are pure brilliant genius and I loved them. BUT. The only reason I understood them, both on the basic level of "what is going on in this plot" and level of "yes, this is why this series is So @#$%^$@#@$@#$$%^* Awesome" is because I had read what come before.

Everything that seemed random, or yawn-worthy, or just not that interesting, tied back in during these final volumes. Ah yes, well played sir. Well played.

You know how I have to keep eating my hat about stuff with the Fables series? Sorry, Jack's jaunt around Americana might have been relevant after all. Sorry, the Ballad of Rodney and June really isn't just a one-off that won't come back later. Yeah, well, Willingham worked on Sandman. He learned a lot.

I should just learn to keep my trap shut.

There were a lot of different artists, so Dream kept looking slightly changing his appearance. You know how I feel about my comic characters looking different. It's like the new Darren. Ah well. When a comic runs over a decade, artists will come and go I guess.

There is a lot I'm still digesting with this series. I expect I will be digesting much of it for years to come. I will say that it is messing with my dreams though. In the past 2.5 months, I've read all of Sandman (which took most of that 2.5 months), listened to The Graveyard Book and Coraline (both of which are read by him), saw

Coraline in 3-D and have been following his Twitter feed. Plus, he's been discussed widely in the professional literature and there's a giant picture of him on my desk in the guise of the March issue of SLJ. It can't be a huge surprise to find that I've been dreaming about Neil Gaiman, but he looks like Dream in my dreams. It's very weird. A few nights ago we wandered around Mumbai looking for a good burrito. We never found one.

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