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 appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics' imprint Vertigo. The character is the protagonist of the 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 stars in place of eyes. Most often they are silver, blue, or white, but when he becomes angered, they have been shown to turn red.
Morpheus' appearance ranges widely: People generally perceive him in 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 similar characters, but the people of Tales in the Sand's primordial African city see him as dark. 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 in the shape of a flaming Martian skull and identifies him as Lord L'Zoril; but Mister Miracle, looking at him simultaneously, sees Morpheus as a man. 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, set in ancient Japan, Morpheus appears as a Japanese man to a Buddhist monk and as a fox to a fox spirit.
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. 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 is sometimes slow to understand humor, occasionally insensitive, often self-obsessed, and very slow to forgive a slight. He has a long history of failed amours, and is both shown and implied to have reacted harshly to the women therein. As Mervyn Pumpkinhead remarks: "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 possible involvement in the failure of one of Dream's amours (seen in Endless Nights). It is implied that before his imprisonment he was 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 at the notion made by Hob Gadling that he seeks companionship.
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 thus: "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 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.". However, Death suspects Dream allowed himself to become vulnerable to the Kindly Ones (by leaving his realm, when summoned by a fairy). This would imply Dream accepted change enough to knowingly and willingly allow himself to be killed and reborn as another aspect of himself - a different one. One might argue, however, that this whole "die and be replaced by the Daniel version of himself" plot was just Dream playing his own role, as he already knew some of it would happen, when he met the Daniel Dream and retrieved the Saeculum (both events happening in The Sandman Overture). Thus, change was maybe never an option, but an imperative.
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, 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 his 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 dreams and nightmares he has created, as well as entities from other realms. These include the narrators from older DC horror comics, including Cain and Abel, and Fiddler's Green, who emulates G. K. Chesterton in human form. Morpheus 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 stated in the series, Gaiman has said that he "always assumed" Morpheus had once been alone in the Dreaming and that he populated it for want of company.
Other than Morpheus himself, the most important inhabitant of the Dreaming is Lucien, the first of Dream's ravens and now the Librarian of the Dreaming. Dream gives Lucien authority over the Dreaming on several occasions. 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 assists the physical maintenance of the Dreaming.
- A Faery named Nuala who has unrequited affections for Morpheus, 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. Gaiman used Matthew as a way to explain some background information to the readers.
Morpheus' realm at any moment is also full of all creatures 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 the concept '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. 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 the Greek deity of that name (in DC Comics continuity, another version of this god, clearly not Dream, appears in George Pérez' 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: thus 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.
- 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.