I have a geek confession to make: I’ve never read a Neil Gaiman novel. I found him post-grad school, and I simply haven’t figured out how to find time to read novels anymore. Seriously, it took me all of last year to get through the three books of The Hunger Games. However, I have managed to read comics and graphic novels in that time, and that was how I encountered another Gaiman project: The Sandman.
The Sandman was a comic series published by DC/Vertigo that ran for 75 issues 1989-1996. Gaiman is the only writer of the series, although it went through a series of artists. It can now be bought in a set of 10 graphic novels, which is how I read it, devouring each one as rapidly as possible. The original idea was to make this a revival of a series from the 70s, but when Gaiman proposed the idea, DC asked him to do something completely original instead. I’m glad they did!
The Sandman is a series of stories within and around an arching storyline centered mainly on the character Dream. Dream is one of 7 Endless, including Destiny, Death, Destruction, Despair, Delirium, and Desire. Dream has many names and roles in many cultures, the Sandman being one of these. He is the personification of dreams and lives in The Dreaming, a world based on dreams. Throughout the series, Dream is taken on a journey in the world and into himself where he must make decisions about his realm, his existence, and the world.
Why I Love It
I’m a mythology geek. I have always loved Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Norse stories. The Sandman plays off of many mythologies, in some cases bringing them all together through the Endless. Also, Dream himself is an important figure in many mythologies, and he goes by many names throughout the books in these various roles he plays. Another thing I love is playing with ideas of creation and spirituality, even religion, and by their very nature, the Endless encounter these themes and create explanations for things within our world, thus, in a way, creating their own mythology.
I really like the character of Dream. Even though he is a being of power who is revered and terrifying to people across the planet, he is also a well-rounded character with thoughts, feelings, weaknesses, and uncertainties. Dream also has relationships both with people on Earth and with others in his realm which are detailed from a variety of perspectives at different points in the books. Seeing the interactions between The Sandman and his dreamers puts a very personal face on this mythological concept. Following Dream along his life and his decisions in the books was my favorite part.
So far, everything I’ve mentioned has been Gaiman, but the art in these books is also incredible. There are a number of aspects of the story that really work because the artist portrayed them in just the right way. My favorite artistic rendering of Dream is in the earlier books, but I think the evolution in his look matched that of his mental state, so the changes fit well into the storyline. The other character that I think is extremely well done artistically is Dream’s sister Delerium. She was once Delight, and the elements of mania on top of beauty in her look are just amazing.
You should definitely start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start. The first volume: The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes is available on Amazon. If you think you might love it based on the description, you can always look into the fancy Sandman Slipcase Set with all the volumes. If you like Gaiman, or interesting takes on mythology, or just well-written thoughtful comics, The Sandman is definitely a series for you to check out.