The Sandman (Vertigo)
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The Sandman is a comic book series written by Neil Gaiman and published by DC Comics. Artists include Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Jill Thompson, Shawn McManus, Marc Hempel and Michael Zulli, lettering by Todd Klein, and covers by Dave McKean. Beginning with issue #47, it was placed under the imprint Vertigo. It chronicles the adventures of Dream (of the Endless), who rules over the world of dreams. It ran for 75 issues from January 1989 until March 1996. Gaiman's contract stipulated that the series would end when he left it.
The Sandman was one of Vertigo's flagship titles, and is available as a series of ten trade paperbacks. It has also been reprinted in a recolored five-volume Absolute hardcover edition with slipcase. Critically acclaimed, The Sandman is one of the few graphic novels ever to be on the New York Times Best Seller list, along with Art Spiegelman's Maus, Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. It was one of five graphic novels to make Entertainment Weekly's "100 best reads from 1983 to 2008", ranking at 46. Norman Mailer described the series as "a comic strip for intellectuals."
- 1 Publication history
- 2 Summary
- 3 Collected editions
- 4 Spin-offs
- 5 Critical reception
- 6 Adaptations into other media
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The Sandman grew out of a proposal by Neil Gaiman to revive DC's 1974–1976 series The Sandman, illustrated by Jack Kirby and Ernie Chua and written by Joe Simon and Michael Fleisher. Gaiman had considered including characters from the "Dream Stream" (including the Kirby Sandman, Brute, Glob, and the brothers Cain and Abel) in a scene for the first issue of his 1988 miniseries Black Orchid. While the scene did not make it into later drafts because Roy Thomas was using the characters in Infinity, Inc., Gaiman soon began constructing a treatment for a new series. Gaiman mentioned his treatment in passing to DC editor Karen Berger. While months later Berger offered Gaiman a comic title to work on, he was unsure his Sandman pitch would be accepted. However, weeks later Berger asked Gaiman if he was interested in doing a Sandman series. Gaiman recalled, "I said, 'Um... yes. Yes, definitely. What's the catch?' [Berger said,] 'There's only one. We'd like a new Sandman. Keep the name. But the rest is up to you.'"
Gaiman crafted the new character from an initial image of "a man, young, pale and naked, imprisoned in a tiny cell, waiting until his captors passed away [...] deathly thin, with long dark hair, and strange eyes." Gaiman patterned the character's black attire on a print of a Japanese kimono as well as his own wardrobe. Gaiman wrote an eight-issue outline and gave it to Dave McKean and Leigh Baulch, who drew character sketches. Berger reviewed the sketches (along with some drawn by Gaiman) and suggested Sam Kieth as the series' artist. Mike Dringenberg, Todd Klein, Robbie Busch, and Dave McKean were hired as inker, letterer, colorist, and cover artist, respectively. McKean's approach towards comics covers was unconventional, for he convinced Berger that the series's protagonist did not need to appear on every cover.
The debut issue of The Sandman was on sale in October 1988 and cover-dated January 1989. Gaiman described the early issues as "awkward", for he, as well as Kieth, Dringenberg, and Busch, had never worked on a regular series before. Kieth quit after the fifth issue; he was replaced by Dringenberg as penciler, who was in turn replaced by Malcolm Jones III as inker.
The character then appeared in two of DC's "Suggested for Mature Readers" titles. In Swamp Thing #84, written by Rick Veitch, Dream and Eve allow Matthew Cable to live in the Dreaming, because he died there, resurrecting him as a raven. He then meets John Constantine in Hellblazer #19, written by Jamie Delano, leading into the latter's guest appearance in issue #3.
Issue #4 revisited Hell as depicted by Alan Moore in Swamp Thing, beginning with a guest appearance by Kirby's Etrigan the Demon guarding the gates of Hell. The issue introduces Hell's Hierarchy (as their entry is titled in Who's Who in the DC Universe), headed by Lucifer (who would spin off into his own series in 1999), Beelzebub (later adversary to Kid Eternity), and Azazel, whom Dream defeated later in the run.
In issue #5, Dream visited the Justice League International. Although DC superheroes appeared in the series as late as issue #72, this would not be the norm.
By issue #11, Gaiman began incorporating elements of the Kirby Sandman series, including the changes implemented by Thomas. Simon and Fleisher had treated the character, who resembled a superhero, as the "true" Sandman. Between Thomas and Gaiman, the character's existence was revealed to be a sham created by two nightmares who had escaped to a pocket of the Dreaming, who would later attempt this again on Sanderson Hawkins, sidekick to Wesley Dodds, the Golden Age Sandman (who himself made several appearances in the Gaiman series). Gaiman gave Jed Walker a surname and made him related to several new characters, and treated his relationship with Uncle Barnaby and Aunt Clarice as abusive rather than Cinderella-esque. The Thomas Sandman was Hector Hall, who married the already-pregnant Fury in the Dreaming in Infinity, Inc. #51. It was explained that Dr. Garrett Sanford, the original Brute/Glob Sandman, had gone insane from the loneliness of the Dream Dimension and taken his own life. Brute and Glob put the spirit of Hector Hall, which had been cast out of his own body by the Silver Scarab, into Sanford's body, and it eventually began to resemble Hall's. Fury, in her civilian guise as Lyta Hall after these issues, was the only major superhero recurring character in the series. Even at that, her powers had come to her via the Fury Tisiphone, and the Furies, under the euphemism, "the Kindly Ones" (a translation of "Eumenides", a name they earned during the events of Aeschylus's Oresteia trilogy), are major characters in the series.
The series follows a tragic course in which Dream, having learned a great deal from his imprisonment, tries to correct the things he has done wrong in the past. Ultimately, this causes him to mercy kill his own son, which leads to his own death at the hands of the Furies. Dream, having found himself a replacement early on in Daniel Hall, dies in issue #69. The remaining issues deal with Dream's funeral, Hob Gadling choosing to remain immortal in spite of Dream's passing, and two stories from the past. The series wraps with the story of William Shakespeare creating his other commission for Dream, The Tempest, his last work not in collaboration with other writers.
The Sandman became a cult success for DC Comics and attracted an audience unlike that of mainstream comics: half the readership was female, many were in their twenties, and many read no other comics at all. By the time the series concluded in 1996, it was outselling the titles of DC's flagship characters of Superman and Batman. Gaiman had a finite run in mind for the series, and it concluded with issue #75. Gaiman said in 1996, "Could I do another five issues of Sandman? Well, damn right. And would I be able to look at myself in the mirror happily? No. Is it time to stop because I've reached the end, yes, and I think I'd rather leave while I'm in love." By 1994, the book was not quite retaining a monthly schedule, having not released issues dated January, May, or October 1994; February, April, June, or October 1995; or February 1996. The final issue was dated March 1996.
More recently, Dream appeared in a flashback in Green Arrow vol. 3, #9, which takes place at a point during the 70 years of the first issue, as does Sandman Midnight Theatre, a 1995 Gaiman-penned prestige format one-shot in which Dream and Wesley Dodds meet in person after the events in the storyline, "The Python," which ended with Dodds's lover, Dian Belmont, going to England, which eventually brings both her and Dodds to Roderick Burgess's mansion.
The Sandman's main character is Dream, the Lord of Dreams (also known, to various characters throughout the series, as Morpheus, Oneiros, the Shaper, the Shaper of Form, Lord of the Dreaming, the Dream King, Dream-Sneak, Dream Cat, Murphy, Kai'ckul, and Lord L'Zoril), who is essentially the anthropomorphic personification of dreams. At the start of the series, Morpheus is captured by an occult ritual and held prisoner for 70 years. Morpheus escapes in the modern day and, after avenging himself upon his captors, sets about rebuilding his kingdom, which has fallen into disrepair in his absence. Gaiman himself has summarized the plot of the series (in the foreword to Endless Nights) as "The Lord of Dreams learns that one must change or die, and makes his decision."
The character's initial haughty and often cruel manner begins to soften after his years of imprisonment at the start of the series, but the challenge of undoing past sins and changing old ways is an enormous one for a being who has been set in his ways for billions of years. In its beginnings, the series is a very dark horror comic. Later, the series evolves into an elaborate fantasy series, incorporating elements of classical and contemporary mythology, ultimately placing its protagonist in the role of a tragic hero.
The storylines primarily take place in the Dreaming, Morpheus's realm, and the waking world, with occasional visits to other domains, such as Hell, Faerie, Asgard, and the domains of the other Endless. Many use the contemporary United States of America and the United Kingdom as a backdrop. The DC Universe was the official setting of the series, but well-known DC characters and places were rarely featured after 1990. A notable exception is Lyta Hall, formerly Fury of the 1980s super-team Infinity, Inc., who figures prominently in the "Kindly Ones" story arc, and her superhuman abilities are not ignored.
Most of the storylines take place in modern times, but many short stories are set in the past, taking advantage of the immortal nature of many of the characters, and deal with historical individuals and events such as in the short story "Men of Good Fortune."
The Sandman was initially published as a monthly serial, in 32-page comic books (with some exceptions to this pattern). The stories within were usually 24 pages long, with eight exceptions within the main story arc: issue #1, "Sleep of the Just" (40 pages); issue #14, "Collectors" (38 pages); issue #32, "Slaughter on Fifth Avenue" (25 pages); issue #33, "Lullabies of Broadway" (23 pages); issue #36, "Over the Sea to Sky" (39 pages); issue #50, "Distant Mirrors—Ramadan" (32 pages); issue #52, "Cluracan's Tale" (25 pages); issue #75, "The Tempest" (38 pages). As the series quickly increased in popularity, DC Comics began to reprint them in hardcover and trade paperback editions, each representing either a complete novel or a collection of related short stories.
DC first published "The Doll's House" storyline in a collection called simply The Sandman. Shortly thereafter, the first three volumes were published and named independently and also collected in an eponymous boxed set. (Death's debut story, "The Sound of Her Wings" from issue #8, appeared both at the beginning of early editions of The Doll's House and at the end of Preludes and Nocturnes, creating overlap between the first two volumes. This overlap is not present in newer editions.) Further collections would then be released shortly after their completion in serial form.
The Sandman library
A total of ten collections contain the full run of the series and have all been kept in print. They are as follows:
- Preludes and Nocturnes (collecting The Sandman #1–8, 1988–1989, ISBN 1-56389-011-9): Dream is imprisoned for decades by an occultist seeking immortality. Upon escaping, he must reclaim his objects of power while still in a weakened state, confronting an addict to his dream powder, the legions of Hell, and an all-powerful madman (Doctor Destiny) in the process. Guest starring several DC Comics characters including John Constantine, Scott Free, J'onn J'onzz, Scarecrow, Etrigan the Demon, and the original Sandman. It also features the introduction of Lucifer, with a cameo by Batman.
- The Doll's House (collecting The Sandman #9–16, 1989–1990, ISBN 0-930289-59-5): Morpheus tracks down rogue dreams that escaped the Dreaming during his absence. In the process, he must shatter the illusions of a family living in dreams, disband a convention of serial killers, and deal with a "dream vortex" that threatens the existence of the entire Dreaming. Features Hector Hall as the Bronze Age Sandman.
- Dream Country (collecting The Sandman #17–20, 1990, ISBN 1-56389-016-X): This volume contains four independent stories. The imprisoned muse Calliope is forced to provide story ideas, a cat seeks to change the world with dreams, Shakespeare puts on a play for an unearthly audience, and a shape-shifting immortal (obscure DC Comics character Element Girl) longs for death.
- Season of Mists (collecting The Sandman #21–28, 1990–1991, ISBN 1-56389-041-0): Dream travels to Hell to free a former lover, Nada, whom he condemned to torment thousands of years ago. There, Dream learns that Lucifer has abandoned his domain. When Lucifer gives Hell's key (and therefore, the ownership of Hell) to the Sandman, Morpheus himself becomes trapped in a tangled network of threats, promises, and lies, as gods and demons from various pantheons seek ownership of Hell. Wesley Dodds and Hawkman (Carter Hall) appear in one panel.
- A Game of You (collecting The Sandman #32–37, 1991–1992, ISBN 1-56389-089-5): Barbie, a New York divorcée (introduced in The Doll's House), travels to the magical realm that she once inhabited in her dreams, only to find that it is being threatened by the forces of the Cuckoo. This series introduces the character of Thessaly, who will play a key role in Morpheus' eventual fate.
- Fables and Reflections (collecting The Sandman #29–31, 38–40, 50; Sandman Special #1; and Vertigo Preview #1, 1991–1993, ISBN 1-56389-105-0): A collection of short stories set throughout Morpheus' history, most of them originally published directly before or directly after the "Game of You" story arc. Four issues, dealing with kings and rulers, were originally published under the label Distant Mirrors, while three others, detailing the meetings of various characters, were published as the "Convergences" arc. Fables and Reflections also includes the Sandman Special, originally published as a stand-alone issue, which assimilates the myth of Orpheus into the Sandman mythos, as well as a very short Sandman story from the Vertigo Preview promotional comic.
- Brief Lives (collecting The Sandman #41–49, 1992–1993, ISBN 1-85286-577-6): Dream's erratic younger sister Delirium convinces him to help her search for their missing brother, the former Endless Destruction, who left his place among the "family" three hundred years before. However, their quest is marred by the death of all around them, and eventually Morpheus must turn to his son Orpheus to find the truth, and undo an ancient sin.
- Worlds' End (collecting The Sandman #51–56, 1993, ISBN 1-4176-8617-0): A "reality storm" (see Zero Hour: Crisis in Time) strands travelers from across the cosmos at the "Worlds' End Inn". To pass the time, they exchange stories. Guest-starring Prez and Wildcat.
- The Kindly Ones (collecting The Sandman #57–69 and Vertigo Jam #1, 1993–1995, ISBN 1-56389-204-9): In the longest Sandman story, Morpheus becomes the prey of the Furies, avenging spirits who torment those who spill family blood.
- The Wake (collecting The Sandman #70–75, 1995–1996, ISBN 1-56389-287-1): The conclusion of the series, wrapping up the remaining loose ends in a three-issue "wake" sequence, followed by three self-contained stories. Features a guest appearance by Wesley Dodds, and cameos by Batman, J'onn J'onnz, Clark Kent, Darkseid, Phantom Stranger, Doctor Occult, John Constantine, and Black Spider.
In 2010, Vertigo began releasing a new edition of Sandman books, featuring the new coloring from the Absolute Editions.
The Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by J.H. Williams III, returned on October 30, 2013 bi-monthly to Vertigo comics. It tell stories of Morpheus' world before he was captured and have the title, The Sandman: Overture. It was in comic shops and digitally as well.
The DC Comics Absolute Edition series are large 8" by 12" prints of a considerably higher quality and price than the library edition, and include a leather-like cover and a slipcase. Many of the early stories have been extensively retouched and/or recolored with Gaiman's approval.
- The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1 (collecting The Sandman #1–20), November 2006, ISBN 1-4012-1082-1
- The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 2 (collecting The Sandman #21–39), October 2007, ISBN 1-4012-1083-X
- The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 3 (collecting The Sandman #40–56, along with Vertigo Preview #1 and Sandman Special #1), June 2008, ISBN 1-4012-1084-8
- The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 4 (collecting The Sandman #57–75), November 2008, ISBN 1-4012-1085-6
- The Absolute Death (collecting The Sandman #8 and #20, Death: The High Cost of Living, "Death Talks About Life" AIDS pamphlet, Death: The Time of Your Life, Vertigo: Winter's Edge 2, "Death and Venice" from Endless Nights, "The Wheel" from 9-11 and extras from A Death Gallery), November 2009, ISBN 1-4012-2463-6
- The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 5 (collecting The Sandman: Endless Nights plus The Dream Hunters and Sandman Midnight Theatre), November 2011, ISBN 1-4012-3202-7
The first volume of The Absolute Sandman was published in November 2006; it collected the first 20 issues (Preludes and Nocturnes, The Doll's House, and Dream Country). The volume also features a copy of the original series outline and other bonus features, such as a new introduction by the president of DC Comics, a new afterword, and a reproduction of the original comic draft and notes for "A Midsummer Night's Dream". In celebration of this reissuing, DC also issued a refurbished edition of the first issue of the series.
While initially hesitant about releasing annotated editions, Gaiman eventually changed his mind when he forgot a reference when asked about it by a reader. The task of annotating the series was undertaken by Gaiman's friend Leslie S. Klinger of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes who worked from the original scripts given to him by Gaiman.
The first volume of The Annotated Sandman was published by DC Comics in January 2012 as a large 12" by 12" black-and-white book with an introduction by Gaiman. The annotations trace the countless references to the characters, myths, and events in and outside of the DC universe while making extensive use of Gaiman's scripts for the comics. The second volume is scheduled to be released in 24 October 2012. A total of four volumes annotating issues #1–75 is expected to be released.
Additions and coda
In 1998, the cover images from The Sandman were released as one compiled volume titled Dustcovers: The Collected Sandman Covers. Dave McKean's covers use techniques such as painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, and computer manipulation.
In 1999, Gaiman wrote Sandman: The Dream Hunters, which was illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano. As in many of the single-issue stories throughout The Sandman, Morpheus appears in Dream Hunters, but only as a supporting character. In Gaiman's afterword to the book, he describes the story was a retelling of an existing Japanese legend. However, there is no trace of it in the primary source he cites, and when asked, Gaiman has stated that he made up the "legend". The novel was later adapted into a 4-issue miniseries by P. Craig Russell.
As the 10th anniversary arrived, Gaiman wrote several new stories about Morpheus and his siblings, one story for each, which were published in 2003 as the Endless Nights anthology.
Gaiman has announced that to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Sandman, a new volume will be produced; it will include a story about the victory that had exhausted Morpheus prior to the beginning of the original story.
Main Article: List of The Sandman spinoffs
- The Sandman: Endless Nights (2003): A graphic novel with one story for each of the Endless. They are set throughout history, but two take place after the final events of the monthly series. It was written by Gaiman and featured a different illustrator for each story. This collection is notable as it is the first hardcover graphic novel ever to appear on the New York Times Hardcover Best Seller list.
- The Sandman: The Dream Hunters (2008–2009): A series of 4 comics based on Neil Gaiman's prose novella of the same name, adapted by P. Craig Russell.
- The Sandman: Overture (2013): A prequel mini-series by Neil Gaiman and JH Williams III, telling the story (that was previously hinted in Gaiman's introduction to Season of Mists and in Brief Lives) of Dream's adventure prior to Preludes and Nocturnes which had exhausted him so much that it made Burgess' actions capable of capturing him. The comic will have 6 issues in total. Issue one was released on 30 October 2013, and although it was planned to have a bi-monthly release schedule, issue 2 was delayed until 26 March 2014, which Gaiman explained was "mostly due to the giant signing tour I was on from June, and me not getting script written on the tour, with knock-on effects". Special editions are to be released approximately a month after the original editions, which will contain interviews with the creative team, alongside rare artwork.
The Sandman #19, "A Midsummer Night's Dream", won the World Fantasy Award in 1991 for Best Short Fiction. Also, The Sandman and its spin-offs have won 26 Eisner Awards, including three for Best Continuing Series, one for Best Short Story, four for Best Writer (Neil Gaiman), seven for Best Lettering (Todd Klein), and two for Best Penciller/Inker (one each for Charles Vess and P. Craig Russell). The Sandman: The Dream Hunters was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Related Book in 2000. Both Endless Nights and The Dream Hunters won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Illustrated Narrative in 2004 and 2000, respectively. Also in 2004, Season of Mists won the Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for Scenario. IGN declared The Sandman as the best ever Vertigo comic.
Adaptations into other media
Throughout the late 1990s, a movie adaptation of the comic was periodically planned by Warner Bros., parent company of DC Comics. Roger Avary was originally attached to direct after the success of Pulp Fiction, collaborating with Pirates of the Caribbean screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio in 1996 on a revision of their first script draft, which merged the "Preludes and Nocturnes" storyline with that of "The Doll's House". Avary intended the film to be in part visually inspired by animator Jan Švankmajer's work. Avary was fired after disagreements over the creative direction with executive producer Jon Peters, best known for Batman and Superman Lives. It was due to their meeting on the Sandman movie project that Avary and Gaiman collaborated one year later on the script for Beowulf. The project carried on through several more writers and scripts. A later draft by William Farmer, reviewed on the internet at Ain't It Cool News, was met with scorn from fans. Gaiman called the last screenplay that Warner Bros. would send him "not only the worst Sandman script I've ever seen, but quite easily the worst script I've ever read." Gaiman has also said that his dissatisfaction with how his characters were being treated had dissuaded him from writing any more stories involving the Endless, although he has since written Endless Nights. By 2001, the project had become stranded in development hell. In a Q&A panel at Comic-Con 2007, Gaiman remarked, "I'd rather see no Sandman movie made than a bad Sandman movie. But I feel like the time for a Sandman movie is coming soon. We need someone who has the same obsession with the source material as Peter Jackson had with Lord of the Rings or Sam Raimi had with Spider-Man.". That same year, he also stated that he could imagine Terry Gilliam as a director for the adaptation : "I would always give anything to Terry Gilliam, forever, so if Terry Gilliam ever wants to do Sandman then as far as I'm concerned Terry Gilliam should do Sandman..." In 2013, DC Chief Diane Nelson says that a Sandman film will be as rich as the Harry Potter universe. It has been announced that David S. Goyer will be producing an adaptation of the graphic novel, alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Neil Gaiman. An additional writer will be hired to write the script. 
Due to the prolonged development period of the film, in 2010 DC Entertainment shifted focus onto developing a television series adaptation. Film director James Mangold pitched a series concept to cable channel HBO, whilst consulting with Gaiman himself on an unofficial basis, but this proved to be unsuccessful. It was reported in September 2010 that Warner Bros. Television were licensing the rights to produce a TV series, and that Supernatural creator Eric Kripke was their preferred candidate to adapt the saga. In March 2011 it was announced via Neil Gaiman's web blog that while he and DC liked Eric Kripke and his approach, it didn't feel quite right. The author hopes to launch the series in the near future.
- List of The Sandman characters
- Sandman (Wesley Dodds), the Golden Age DC character
- Sandman (Garrett Sanford/Hector Hall), the Bronze Age DC character
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- The Sandman at the Comic Book DB
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- The Annotated Sandman
- Gaiman's thoughts on a Sandman movie
- Re-reading The Sandman Issue-by-issue commentary by Teresa Nielsen Hayden
- Video interview with Neil Gaiman on the origins of Sandman at Spacecast.com
- Neil Gaiman and Chip Kidd: 20th Anniversary of Sandman, 92nd Street Y, 25 June 2009