The Dreaming (comics)

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The Dreaming
The Dreaming #1 (June 1996). Art by Dave McKean.
Publication information
FormatOngoing series
Publication dateJune 1996 - May 2001
No. of issues60
Main character(s)Cain and Abel
The Corinthian
Matthew the raven
Creative team
Created byNeil Gaiman (writer)
Sam Kieth (artist)
Written byTerry LaBan
Alisa Kwitney
Bryan Talbot
Caitlin R. Kiernan
Artist(s)Various Artists
Penciller(s)Various Artists
Inker(s)Various Inkers
Letterer(s)Todd Klein
Colorist(s)Various Colorists
Collected editions
Beyond the Shores of NightISBN 1-85286-904-6
Through the Gates of Horn and IvoryISBN 1-56389-493-9

The Dreaming is a fictional place, a comic book location in the DC Universe. The Dreaming first appeared in the Sandman vol. 2 #1 (January 1989), and was created by Neil Gaiman and Sam Kieth.[1] The Dreaming is the domain of Dream of the Endless.

Publication history[edit]

The Dreaming was a monthly comic series that ran for 60 issues (June 1996 to May 2001) and has since been completely rebooted in 2018. [2] It is set in the same dimension of the DC universe as The Sandman and the stories occurred primarily within Dream's realm, The Dreaming, concentrating on characters who had played minor roles in The Sandman, including The Corinthian, Matthew the raven, Cain and Abel, Lucien the dream librarian, the faerie Nuala, Eve, and Mervyn Pumpkinhead (janitor of The Dreaming). It also introduced a number of new characters, most notably Echo and a new (white) dream raven, Tethys. There were brief (but often important) appearances by The Endless during the series, including cameos by Dream (both Morpheus and Daniel), Death, Destiny, and Desire.

The series was initially conceived as an anthology series edited by Vertigo editor Alisa Kwitney,[3] and as such it was written, drawn and inked by a variety of artists. The covers were all painted by former Sandman cover-artist Dave McKean, and Sandman's writer Neil Gaiman acted as creative consultant on the series - having a notional right of refusal on scripts and plotlines (which he never exercised) and suggesting developments or characters for exploration.[3]

However Gaiman was quick to undo events of The Dreaming comics with the publication of Endless Nights, just one year after The Dreaming ended. Endless Nights ultimately ignored events from The Dreaming, such as the death of Matthew the raven, and later the new Sandman Universe version of The Dreaming (2018) would quietly ignore all the events and new characters from the first iteration of The Dreaming. [4] [5]

Kwitney contacted several writers inviting them to submit stories for the new anthology, amongst them Peter Hogan on the basis of his work for British comic 2000 AD. He suggested the story that eventually became "The Lost Boy" (Issues #4-#7).[6]

Following the completion of Al Davison's "The Dark Rose" story (issues #20 - #21),[7] The Dreaming underwent a change of direction: it changed from an anthology series to an ongoing series concentrating on a small group of core characters. Kwitney decided that the series needed to develop its own internal continuity, with irregular The Sandman Presents mini-series being introduced to present stories told outside of that continuity.[6] Gaiman explained the need for the change by saying:

The main thing is making it [The Dreaming] a story that is going somewhere, that feels like it's going somewhere and it will be one huge story that is going somewhere rather than these sorts of little stories that basically go 'Person A, who you've never met before nor do you care about, has a problem. They are going to go into The Dreaming and come out and their problem will be ... resolved from their experiences ...,' which was becoming the default plot. You didn't really feel that anything was necessarily going anywhere even though a lot of these stories were competently written. They also didn't display an awful lot of feeling for the characters. Many of them were very, very forgettable.[7]

Initially, the writing duties on the revamped series were to be shared between Caitlín R. Kiernan and Peter Hogan,[3] who had recently impressed with their stories "Souvenirs" (Issues #17 - #19) and "Ice" (Issue #16) respectively.[7] However, Hogan's increasing commitments with other work[3] and the perceived pre-existing fanbase that Kiernan had brought with her to the title meant that she was offered the position as sole writer from the "Many Mansions" story (issues #27-#34),[3] despite Kiernan herself admitting that there did not seem to be much crossover between the two readerships.[8] Peter Hogan would be made a semi-regular writer for the series The Sandman Presents by way of compensation.[9]

The series suffered from its ties to the original Sandman series throughout its run, with Kiernan saying "from the start, The Dreaming has been saddled with living up to what Neil Gaiman did with The Sandman. It doesn't take long to get puking sick of hearing 'It's just not the same,' or 'It's not as good as The Sandman,' or 'Why is it so much darker than The Sandman,' or even 'It's almost as good as The Sandman.' I know the comparisons are inevitable, and even logical, but it's been an uphill battle trying to get readers to look at The Dreaming as a series separate from The Sandman, with its own tone and atmosphere and concerns."[8] Kiernan received strong criticism for the direction she took the series in, with commentators placing the blame solely on her.[10]

However, Kiernan found the experience genuinely satisfying - despite the stress and comics not being her first love - and the series continued for 60 issues before being cancelled[8] to focus on the more successful The Sandman Presents and Lucifer series.[7] Kiernan contributed a story to this new post-Dreaming era, the three issue The Sandman Presents: Bast featuring the cat goddess introduced in the Season of Mists storyline.[11]

The Dreaming comics have since undergone a complete reboot, written by Si Spurrier, starting in 2018 as part of the Sandman Universe reboot, celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Sandman. [12] Many of the events in Kiernan's The Dreaming run seem to have been either undone or retconned.

The Domain[edit]

The Dreaming is the world where people go to dream, and is a vague, shifting realm of symbol, belief, and imagination. It is named after another name for the Dreamtime, a central concept in Australian Aboriginal mythology.[13]


Merv Pumpkinhead[edit]

Mervyn "Merv" Pumpkinhead is Dream's jaded, street-wise, cigarette-smoking janitor who first appeared in The Sandman #5 in May 1998. While his appearance can vary based on who is viewing him (for example, William Shakespeare saw a turnip-headed version of Merv in Sandman #75 (March 1996)), Merv is generally portrayed as having a pumpkin for a head. His appearance is based on Jack Pumpkinhead, a character in L. Frank Baum's Oz books.

Mervyn's first appearance in The Sandman #5 (May 1989) had him driving a bus, helping to transport Morpheus on his quest. Pumpkinhead later claims this was his job during Morpheus' absence. Merv seems to be in charge of the construction and demolition of the Dreaming, though he often complains that his job is superfluous since Dream can change any of it at will.[14] He takes up arms to fight the Furies in The Kindly Ones and is killed, but he was returned to life by the new Dream in The Wake.

Mervyn also appeared in his own spin-off to The Sandman series called Merv Pumpkinhead: Agent of DREAM, published in 2000. In this publication, Merv goes on a James Bond-esque adventure in which he attempts to foil the schemes of a would-be world conqueror, and along the way meets beautiful women and evil villains.


The Dreaming is vast, and its landscape varies greatly from place to place. Some of the important locations of The Dreaming include:

  • The House of Mystery and the House of Secrets, Cain and Abel's homes.
  • The Gates of Horn and Ivory, two gates carved by Dream; "the dreams that pass through the gates of ivory are lies, figments and deceptions. The other admits the truth..." (Gaiman). This is a direct reference to Virgil's Aeneid, in which Aeneas passes through the "realm of sleep" and encounters two similar doors with similar functions.
  • The Castle, Dream's abode at the center of the Dreaming. The front gate is guarded by three mythical beasts, a gryphon, a wyvern, and a hippogriff (often mistakenly drawn as a winged horse). It includes Lucien's library, which contains every book that anyone ever dreamt of writing. The library allows its users to read any of its books whether or not the reader speaks the language it was written in or indeed can even read. When one of the dreamed of books is actually written in the real world, the copy in Lucien's library bursts into flames and is destroyed.[15]


The following is a list of the stories published over the series' 60 issues.[7]

  • "The Goldie Factor" (Issues #1 - #3)
Goldie (Abel's pet golden gargoyle) runs away, as a result of Cain's constant abuse of his brother, and almost falls prey to Mephisto in Eden. Goldie remains in Eden and does not return to The Dreaming until issue #26. Scripted by Terry LaBan.
  • "The Lost Boy" (Issues #4 - #7)
Features an aged Johanna Constantine as well as Mad Hettie, working with Destiny and Cain. A story of a man losing his life and then finding a better one. Scripted by Peter Hogan.
  • "His Brother's Keeper" (Issue #8)
Features the long lost brother of Cain and Abel, Seth, who wishes to uncover the truth behind the mystery of Cain's first murder of Abel. Scripted by Alisa Kwitney.
  • "Weird Romance" (Issues #9 - #12)
Scripted by Bryan Talbot.
  • "Coyote's Kiss" (Issues #13 - #14)
Scripted by Terry LaBan.
  • "Day's Work, Night's Rest" (Issue #15)
Scripted by Jeff Nicholson.
  • "Ice" (Issue #16)
Scripted by Peter Hogan.
  • "Souvenirs" (Issues #17 - #19)
A Corinthian storyline, introducing Echo. Scripted by Caitlin R. Kiernan.
  • "The Dark Rose" (Issues #20 - #21)
A tale of the Corinthian set in the Victorian era. Scripted by Al Davison.
  • "Unkindness of One" (Issues #22 - #24)
A sequel to "Souvenirs". Scripted by Caitlin R. Kiernan.
  • "My Year as a Man" (Issue #25)
The story of Aristeas of Marmora's return to life after being Dream's raven. Scripted by Peter Hogan.
  • The Dreaming: Trial and Error (One-shot Special)
Focuses on Abel accusing Cain of murdering him again and again before Judge Gallows. Scripted by Len Wein.
  • "Restitution" (Issue #26)
Scripted by Caitlin R. Kiernan.[16]
  • "Many Mansions" (Issues #27 - #34)
The House of Mystery burns down. Scripted by Peter Hogan and Caitlin R. Kiernan.
  • "Kaleidoscope" (Issue #35)[16]
A story of W. B. Yeats and Christina Weston, a woman from Lucien's past.
  • "The Gyres" (Issues #36 - #38)
    "The Lost Language of Flowers" (Issue #39)[16]
Features an introduction by Neil Gaiman.
  • "Fox and Hounds" (Issue #40 - #43)
Features an appearance by Daniel, the new Dream.
  • "Homesick" (Issue #44)[16]
    "Masques & Hedgehogs" (Issue #45)[16]
    "Mirror Mirror", "Trinket", "Scary Monsters", "Shatter" (Issues #46-49)
    "Restoration" (Issue #50)
The House of Mystery is rebuilt by Merv Pumpkinhead, while Eve and Abel attempt to convince Cain to return to The Dreaming.
  • "Second Sight" (Issue #51)
    "Exiles" (Issues #52 - #54)
    "The Further Adventures of Danny Nod" (Issue #55)[16]
Goldie and Danny Nod are featured, interrupting historical and literal moments.
  • "The First Adventure of Miss Catterina Poe" (Issue #56)
Featuring Edgar Allan Poe's cat.
  • "Rise" (Issues #57 - #60)

Collected editions[edit]

Two English-language trade paperbacks have been published:

  • The Dreaming: Beyond the Shores of Night (ISBN 1-85286-904-6). Collects The Dreaming #1-8.
  • The Dreaming: Through the Gates of Horn and Ivory (ISBN 1-56389-493-9). Collects The Dreaming #15-19 and #22-25.


  1. ^ [1] Archived January 9, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Article in Entertainment Weekly.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kallies, Christy (February 1999), Traveling Through Dreams: Caitlin R. Kiernan, Sequential Tart
  4. ^ Vertigo Comics.
  5. ^ article in Polygon.
  6. ^ a b Kallies, Christy (January 1999), Peter Hogan, Sequential Tart
  7. ^ a b c d e Darius, Juliani, The Continuity Pages: The Sandman - The Dreaming Era (1996-2001), retrieved 28 November 2008
  8. ^ a b c Guran, Paula (April 2000), Caitlin R. Kiernan: Refusing to Surrender Passion and Sincerity, Universal Studios Horror Online
  9. ^ Handley, Rich (October 2007), The Sandman Presents: Marquee Moon by Peter Hogan - Putting It All in Perspective: An Interview With the Author (Oct. 2007), retrieved 28 November 2008
  10. ^ Kiernan., Caitlín R. (August 14, 2003), Low Red Moon journal
  11. ^ Darius, Juliani, The Continuity Pages: The Sandman - The Lucifer Era (2001-Present), retrieved 28 November 2008
  12. ^ Article in Entertainment Weekly.
  13. ^ Irvine, Alex (2008), "The Dreaming", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The Vertigo Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, pp. 64–65, ISBN 0-7566-4122-5, OCLC 213309015
  14. ^ Irvine, Alex (2008), "The Dreaming", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The Vertigo Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, pp. 64–65, ISBN 978-0-7566-4122-1, OCLC 213309015
  15. ^ Gross, Peter (August 1998), The Books of Magic: A Thousand Worlds of Tim, DC Comics
  16. ^ a b c d e f The Dreaming (vertigo comic book), comicvine, retrieved 4 December 2008

External links[edit]