Dream in The Doll's House
|First appearance||The Sandman vol. 2, #1 (January 1989)|
|Created by||Neil Gaiman
|Team affiliations||The Endless|
|Notable aliases||Other names:
Oneiros (Ancient Greek)
Kai'ckul (by Nada's tribe)
Lord L'Zoril (by J'onn J'onzz)
Murphy (by denizens of the Land)
King of Dreams
Prince of Stories
Lord Shaper (by Faerie)
King of All Night's Dreaming (The Dream Hunters)
|Abilities||Nigh-omnipotent aspect of dreams and reality|
Dream is a fictional character and the protagonist of DC Comics' Vertigo comic book series The Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman. One of the seven Endless, inconceivably powerful beings older and greater than gods, Dream is both lord and personification of all dreams and stories, all that is not in reality (which, in turn, Dream may define by his existence). He has taken many names, including Morpheus and Oneiros, and his appearance can change depending on the person who is seeing him. Dream was named the sixth-greatest comic book character by Empire Magazine. He was also named fifteenth in IGN's 100 Top Comic Book Heroes list.
Morpheus usually appears as a tall, thin man with bone-white skin, black hair, and two distant stars looking out from the shadows where his eyes should be. Most often they are silver, blue, or white, but when he becomes angered, they have been known to turn red.
Morpheus' appearance ranges widely "depending on who's watching." People generally perceive him as wearing a style of dress appropriate to their region and era. In the Dreaming, he is often seen wearing a grey t-shirt and dark pants. He appears to be light skinned when interacting with white characters, but the people of Tales in the Sand's primordial African city see him as a star-eyed black man. Although he is most often seen in human form, Morpheus appears as a huge black cat when speaking to the lonely cat-pilgrim of Dream of a Thousand Cats and as a cat-headed god when addressing the Egyptian feline goddess Bast. The Martian Manhunter sees Morpheus as a Martian god in the shape of a flaming alien skull and identifies him as Lord L'Zoril, but Mister Miracle, looking at him simultaneously, sees Morpheus as a man. However in Season of Mists, he appears in the same form to all the Gods (Bast comments, "I much prefer you in cat form, Dream old friend"). In The Dream Hunters, which is set in ancient Japan, Morpheus appears as a Japanese man to a Buddhist monk and as a fox to a fox spirit. It is unclear whether Morpheus' appearance is determined by the expectations of onlookers or if he chooses to manifest himself in different forms. He does deliberately change the style of his clothing to be less conspicuous when he visits the waking world.
He customarily wears a billowing black cape, sometimes with a flame motif. In battle he wears a helm made from the skull and backbone of a defeated enemy god. This helm, which resembles a World War II-era gas mask, is also his sigil in the galleries of the other Endless, as well as appearing in the dreams (and at least once on the staircase wall) of Wesley Dodds. His face and physique is based on the amalgamation of Neil Gaiman in his twenties, The Cure's frontman Robert Smith and ballet dancer Farukh Ruzimatov. Dream's face and appearance is also based on Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy. In fact, Gaiman explained that Murphy was the original model for Morpheus. Gaiman also stated that Sandman artist, Dave McKean, based Dream's face in the cover of Sandman #1 on Peter Murphy.
Morpheus' speech is usually portrayed as white text in black, wavy-edged speech bubbles bordered in white. The text is capitalized normally (sentence case) in stark contrast to other characters' speech generally in block caps text.
Although he is ultimately a heroic character, Dream has many negative aspects to his personality. He is sometimes slow when dealing with humor, occasionally insensitive, often self-obsessed, and is very slow to forgive or forget a slight. He has a long history of failed romances, and is both directly shown and implied to have reacted very harshly to some of his breakups. As Mervyn Pumpkinhead remarks, after the end of one of Morpheus' romances, "He's gotta be the tragic figure standing out in the rain, mournin' the loss of his beloved. So down comes the rain, right on cue. In the meantime everybody gets dreams fulla existential angst and wakes up feeling like hell. And we all get wet." Near the end of the Brief Lives story arc, Desire says of Dream, "He's stuffy, stupid, and thinks he knows everything, and there's just something about him that gets on my nerves." There is a long-standing enmity between Morpheus and Desire, stemming from Desire's involvement in the breakup of one of Dream's romantic relationships (seen in Endless Nights). It is implied that before his imprisonment he was in some ways crueler and more blind to his flaws, and much of The Sandman is focused on Morpheus' desire to atone for his past behavior (e.g., helping past lovers Calliope and Nada). Morpheus has a great pride that does not tolerate damage, examples include banishing Nada to Hell for rejecting him and being angry (originally) at the notion made by Hob Gadling that he seeks companionship and is lonely.
Morpheus is constantly aware of his responsibilities, both to other people and to his territory, and is detailed and exacting in their fulfillment, as noted in Season of Mists, where Morpheus is described as, "Of all the Endless, save perhaps Destiny, he is most conscious of his responsibilities, the most meticulous in their execution." He shares a close, reciprocal bond of dependence and trust with his elder sister, Death. He consistently strives for understanding of himself and of the other Endless, but is ultimately defeated by his most tragic flaw, his inability to accept change. In The Wake, when asked (by Matthew, the raven), "Why did it happen? Why did he let it happen?", Lucien remarks, "Charitably... I think... sometimes, perhaps, one must change or die. And in the end, there were, perhaps, limits to how much he could let himself change."
Morpheus is noted in Season of Mists as "accumulating names to himself as others make friends, but he permits himself few friends." He is given more names in The Sandman than any of the other Endless, far beyond the many translations of Dream.
Morpheus lives in a castle at the heart of his realm, "the Dreaming". Both the castle and the rest of his realm are mutable and change often, often at Morpheus' will, although the realm is itself an aspect of Morpheus, whose resistance to change (and difficulty changing) is a theme throughout the series. Morpheus maintains both the castle and the realm, as with all aspects of his appearance, in a half-accommodating, half-terrifying state, simultaneously acknowledging both the courtesy due to others and the attention due him as the realm's master, and indeed the pleasantness and terror of dreams themselves.
Morpheus is the only one of the Endless known to populate his realm with speaking characters — a multitude of beings, dreams and nightmares he has created as well as entities from other realms, live in the Dreaming. These include the narrators from older DC horror comics, including Cain and Abel, and Fiddler's Green, a sailor's dream of paradise who emulates G. K. Chesterton when in human form. He recruits or creates (or re-creates) servants to perform roles he could easily carry out himself, including the reorganization of the castle and the guarding of its entrance. Although this is not explicitly stated in the series, Gaiman has said that he "always assumed" Morpheus had once been alone in the Dreaming and that he populated it because he wanted company.
Other than Morpheus himself, the most important inhabitant of the Dreaming is Lucien, who was the first of Dream's ravens and is now the Librarian of the Dreaming. Dream gives Lucien the authority to manage affairs in the Dreaming on several occasions when Dream must travel outside to the waking world. The character originally appeared in the 1970s DC comic Tales of Ghost Castle, which lasted for only three issues (and was apparently killed off in Secrets of Haunted House #44). Lucien and Cain have a similar appearance as both were originally created by the same artist.
Other notable inhabitants include:
- A pumpkin-headed scarecrow named Mervyn who carries out errands around the castle and helps with the physical maintenance of the Dreaming.
- A Faery named Nuala who has affections for Morpheus that are not returned, and who plays an unwitting part in his downfall.
- A raven named Matthew who travels through the waking world on errands for Morpheus, usually as a scout or spy. Matthew was formerly a mortal man (Matthew Cable) and a character in DC Comics' Swamp Thing who died in the Dreaming. As a new inhabitant of the Dreaming, Gaiman used Matthew as a way to explain some background information to the audience.
Morpheus' realm at any moment is also full of all creatures who are dreaming at that moment, although these seldom appear in the comics panel. Several comics in DC's Vertigo line have been set in the Dreaming, most notably a series of the same name (chief author Alisa Kwitney).
Aspects of Dream
The events of The Kindly Ones and The Wake reveal that Morpheus is only one aspect of Dream of the Endless. After his death, the human child Daniel Hall is transfigured into a new aspect of Dream, physically resembling Morpheus, but with white hair and predominantly white clothing. Such a passing and rebirth is not new to the Endless; Despair is also a second aspect. One character at Morpheus' wake, perplexed by the question of who exactly has died, is told by Abel that the purpose of the wake is to mourn "a p-p-point of view." The new Dream instructs his followers to use the name "Morpheus" only for his predecessor.
Dream and mythology
The Sandman Special #1 implies that Morpheus is one and the same as the Greek deity of that name (in DC comics continuity, another version of this god, clearly not Dream, appears in George Pérez's Wonder Woman #11 (December 1987) — what relation this figure, an old man dressed in purple vaguely resembling Agatha Harkness, has to this aspect of Dream is unclear). Morpheus is the father of Greek hero Orpheus by the muse Calliope, and once-patron of Aristeas of Marmora, taking the role given in legend to Apollo, with whom he is often confused.
In DC continuity
Since the creation of the Vertigo imprint (itself largely inspired by the success of DC Comics' increasingly mature titles such as Swamp Thing, Watchmen, Hellblazer, and The Sandman), DC's horror/occult characters such as Morpheus have drifted progressively further away both from DC continuity and from each other. Dream originally began as a mainstream DC character able to interact with DC superheroes, and Gaiman's versions of Dream have appeared in DC superhero titles written by Keith Giffen and by Grant Morrison, as well as in Gaiman's own The Books of Magic series and in a Rick Veitch-authored issue of Swamp Thing (where he meets Matthew Cable). Morpheus also appears briefly during Kevin Smith's run on Green Arrow in a flashback showing him in Alexander Burgess' basement, still imprisoned in Roderick Burgess' glass globe prison. He also appeared occasionally as the inspiration for the Golden Age Sandman (Wesley Dodds) in the pages of Sandman Mystery Theatre.
Note: Dream does not appear in every issue of The Sandman, nor did he appear in the first DC Comics The Sandman series, although several supporting characters in the Vertigo series did.
- The Sandman vol. 2, #1–2 (January–February 1989)
- Hellblazer #19 (June 1989)
- Swamp Thing vol. 2, #84 (March 1989)
- The Sandman vol. 2, #3–19 (March 1989 – September 1990)
- The Books of Magic #3 (February 1991)
- The Sandman vol. 2, #21–31 (December 1990 – October 1991)
- The Sandman Special #1 (November 1991)
- The Sandman vol. 2, #32, (November 1991)
- Swamp Thing vol. 2, #118 (April 1992) [voice only]
- The Sandman vol. 2, #36–37 (April–May 1992)
- Vertigo Preview #1 (1992)
- The Sandman vol. 2, #38–40 (June–August 1992)
- Ambush Bug Nothing Special one-shot (September 1992)
- The Sandman vol. 2, #42–49 (October 1992 – May 1993)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre #1 (April 1993)
- The Sandman vol. 2, #50–51, 53–54, 56 (June–July; September–October; December 1993)
- Vertigo Jam #1 (August 1993)
- The Sandman vol. 2, #57–61 (January 1993 – July 1994)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre #12 (March 1994)
- The Sandman vol. 2, #63–69 (August 1993 – July 1995)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre #22, 25 (January; April 1995)
- Sandman Midnight Theatre (September 1995)
- The Sandman vol. 2, #73–75 (December 1995 – March 1996)
- JLA #22–23 (September–October 1998)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre #68, 70 (December 1998; February 1999)
- Sandman: The Dream Hunters (1999)
- The Sandman Presents: Love Street #3 (September 1999)
- Death: At Death's Door (2000)
- The Little Endless Storybook (2001)
- Green Arrow vol. 3, #9 (December 2001)
- Lucifer #21, 31 (February; December 2002)
- The Sandman: Endless Nights (2003)
- JSA #80 (February 2006)
- Lucifer #75 (August 2006)
- The Sandman: The Dream Hunters #1–4 (January–April 2009)
Dream's helm has a cameo in Sandman Mystery Theatre #17, where it is seen alongside variations of Wesley Dodds's masks.
- Jimenez, Phil (2008). "Endless, The". In Dougall, Alastair. The DC Comics Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. p. 115. ISBN 0-7566-4119-5. OCLC 213309017.
- "The 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters". Empire Online.
- "Dream of the Endless - #15 Top Comic Book Heroes". IGN.
- Jonathan Curiel (April 18, 2014). ""The Sandman" Speaks: Neil Gaiman and Mike Dringenberg on the Glories of Their Graphic Novel". SF Weekly. Retrieved 26 April 2014. "Mike Dringenberg: "The Sandman himself is even more of a composite. Certain well-known people influenced the design -- his mop of hair came from Robert Smith and ballet dancer Farukh Ruzimatov was always in my mind for his dramatic physique,...""
- Peter Sanderson (February 11, 2005). "Comics in Context #72: F. O. G. - Neil Gaiman and Charles Addams.". Retrieved 22 September 2012. "Artist Kelley Jones says, "I know Neil always said [the Sandman] was based on Robert Smith of the Cure,..."
- Dave McKean; Neil Gaiman (1997). The collected Sandman covers, 1989-1997. Watson-Guptill. p. 1. ISBN 9780823046324. "The Sandman image was inspired by Peter Murphy, the ex-Bauhaus singer and Maxell tape model, because when artist Mike Dringenberg saw the original sketches for the character he said "He looks like Peter Murphy from Bauhaus.""
- Joseph McCabe, ed. (2004). Hanging out with the dream king: conversations with Neil Gaiman and his collaborators. Sophia Quach (photographer). Fantagraphics. p. 92. ISBN 9781560976172. "['Sandman' artist Kelly Jones talks about the inspiration behind Dream's appearance] I know Neil always said [the Sandman] was based on Robert Smith of the Cure, but I just hated the Cure. I didn't want to hear that. I was really into Peter Murphy at that time, the guy from Bauhaus. I didn't like Bauhaus, but I liked him on his own, and he had a song called “Cut You Up" or something; it was on the radio at the time. I bought the CD, and I said, 'You know, with that big poufy hair, he looks like that guy.' At that time, Murphy was very gestural. I don't think the guy ever had a picture taken of him that wasn't angled and in deep lighting. So I took that, too. I said, 'Whenever I do him, I'm gonna do that kind of thing. And get into his face, don't just keep him in deep shadow all the time. He will be in deep shadow all the time, but I want to put across a guy who's clueless. Not stupid, but he's not understanding things.' Because he's an immortal guy who..."
- Neil Gaiman (February 16, 2013). "The official Neil Gaiman Tumblr". Tumblr. Retrieved 10 July 2013. "The original idea-model for Morpheus was Peter Murphy from Bauhaus."
- Neil Gaiman. "Neil Gaiman - FAQ - Comics". Retrieved 22 September 2012. "If I remember correctly Dave based the face on the cover of Sandman #1 on an image of Peter Murphy."
- Gavin Baddeley; Paul A. Woods (2006). Paul A. Woods, ed. Goth chic: a connoisseur's guide to dark culture (2nd ed.). Plexus. p. 1941. ISBN 9780859653824. "Sandman inker Mike Dringenberg observed, '"Hey, [he] looks like Peter Murphy from Bauhaus.'" Cover artist Dave McKean and Gaiman 'got some Bauhaus videos and immediately saw that Mike was right; and Dave ended up making the central image on the cover of Sandman [number one] a Peter Murphy-like face."
- Bender, Hy (1999). The Sandman Companion. New York: Vertigo (DC Comics). p. 52. ISBN 1-56389-644-3.
- Bender, p. 244.
- Bender, p. 246.
- Dream at the Comic Book DB