The Sandman is considered as one of the greatest comic books ever written. From my childhood, I was very much into comics; so much so that I learned a complete language just so that I could read comics that came out primarily in that language. So when I heard of The Sandman in a documentary about the origin of DC comics, I was hooked. I wanted to read through the series and learn why it was considered the best Comic Book work ever created. I wanted to know why it won so many prizes and why it’s creator, Neil Gaiman was no less popular than a rock star. DC comic under its Vertigo imprint has over the years released collected editions of The Sandman. Each of the volumes is excruciatingly costly and as I go buying and reading through them, I will remember to share my views and thoughts with you.
The first volume is called The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes. It collects the following stories from The Sandman.
- Sleep of the Just: The first comics in this series, The Sleep Of The Just introduces us to Roderick Burgess, an average occultist who receives a book from a grieving father who thinks he can capture death and help restore his dead son. Burgess goes on to perform a ritual to capture death but instead captures, Dream also known as Morpheus. He relieves Morpheus of his possessions, namely a helm, a pouch of sands and a ruby. Morpheus is captured in glass globe without air for decades as he sees Burgess gradually wilt away. In His absence, the dream world dilapidates and people all around the world suffer from a sleeping sickness which destroys their lives. Waiting patiently for his time to strike, Morpheus finally gets his chance to escape and he condemns, the now dead Burgess’ son, to eternal waking by imprisoning him in a world of recurring nightmares.
- Imperfect Hosts: Morpheus has escaped from his captors but he must now find his tools that he needs to get back his lordship of the Dream Realm. He needs them to reconstruct his castle of dreams and to put the broken world together. He visits Cain and Abel for they posses something that has his mark on it. He then calls upon the fates, the triple goddesses to point him in the direction of his belongings. He learns of their locations or at least the possible locations and sets out to reclaim what was his but was stolen.
- Dream a Little Dream of Me: The search for the pouch of sand takes Morpheus to John Constantine, the man who possessed the pouch which was later taken by
his girlfriend who is now consumed by the sand. She sprinkles the sands on herself and drifts away into a world of dreams that keeps her happy but has over the years disintegrated her mortal body completely. Her home is infested by other ungodly beings that have no work there. Morpheus collects his pouch and on Constantine’s request grants his girlfriend one last dream that keeps her happy in her final moments.
- A Hope in Hell: The search for his Helm takes Morpheus to Hell where he at first gets into a verbal tussle with Lucifer. Lucifer, the enchanting beauty, but also the goddess of the underworld tells him that he must find the demon who took his helm and take up the matter with him/her directly. Morpheus finds the demon and beats him at his challenge but before he leaves hell, he incurs the wrath of Lucifer that will sting him someday in the future.
- Passengers: The final artifact that dream must responses is the ruby that he has puts a considerable amount of his power in. it was in the possession of one of the mistresses of the Burgess and changed hands to reach her son Dr. Dee also known as Dr. Destiny. Dee is now imprisoned in the Arkham Asylum and has changed the ruby and redesigned it to suit himself. As Morpheus travels through people’s dream to reach the location of the Ruby at one of the stashes of the old justice League, Dee escapes from prison to reach the very same Ruby. Once they arrive at the location, The Ruby knocks out Dream and re-posses a large chunk of his power. Dee walks free with the Ruby.
- 24 Hours: Dee waits in a dinner for 24 hours and uses the Ruby to not only affect the people in the dinner but also souls all across the globe. Morpheus wakes up to realize the chaos and destruction that Dee must be letting loose on the world and he arrives at the dinner to stop him.
- Sound and Fury: Dee and Morpheus face off to posses the coveted Ruby. Dee uses the Ruby to bring Morpheus down on his knees. Morpheus realizes that he had put way too much more power than what he should have in the Ruby. As the two fight for the possession of the coveted object, the Ruby is in the end destroyed. The destruction of the Ruby lets looses the power that it was encompassing back to its true master and now Dream becomes stronger than he ever ways. Dee ends up where he belonged; The Arkham Asylum.
- The Sound of Her Wings: Dream has finally captured all his lost artifacts but he is sad. He seems to be without a purpose and he is morose and sour about what he needs to do next. It is at this point that his sister, Death walks in to cheer him up. As death reiterates Dream’s usefulness and his purpose to exist as one of the endless, she picks up the souls that she must on that day as a regular household chore. However, she doesn’t forget to cheer up Dream even as she picks up people both young and old.
I finished these 8 stories in about two nights and then went over them again just in case I missed something. On the second read, I realized that I indeed did. This, I believe,
will be the case if I read these stories again and yet again. This is the greatest thing about these stories. They are so literate, so multidimensional and so not linear that you are bound to be in awe of them. What I came to learn from the introduction to the book by Karen Berger was that Gaiman came into his own from the 8th issue which introduces us to Death. I was in awe of the first 7 issues just as much as the 8th. However, if that is true and I am really hoping it is, then I am really in for a treat from the rest of the series that I now set out to read.
It is not just the story or the dialogs or the pacing that gets your attention. It’s the art work, the coloring, and the uniqueness. There have been many comics that have had good stories to tell, but they were not particularly well drawn. Then there were those that had great artwork but didn’t necessarily have a great story to tell. The Sandman, to me, is a seamless amalgamation of thrilling story and haunting artwork. I am going ahead with this series with a hope to be amazed and bedazzled by its literate yet entertaining storytelling and spectacular artwork. More as I go along…