Hey, here’s a brand new, never before seen anywhere post! Enjoy it while it lasts.
When I was in college in the 1970s, I was introduced to the work of Dan O’Neill, not exactly the first graphic novelist, but the first to capture my attention. (You can see samples of his work at his website and blog, and even follow him on Facebook!) This was before the term “graphic novel” came into wide use. In those days, O’Neill’s work was “comics”, collected in “comic books”. We’ve come a long way since those days.
Gaiman’s Sandman series actually began in serialized DC comic books, and is now available in a 10-volume collection. The illustrations range from stark black-and-white to brilliant color, the work of several artists. In Vol 1, these are Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg and Malcom Jones III (artists), Daniel Vozzo (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). That’s a lot of collaboration and leaves me wondering — what was Gaiman’s contribution?
Obviously, the story. And it’s a beaut. Gaiman states he wanted to revive the superhero world, and when DC asked him to create a new character, he chose the Sandman. We meet Sandman when he’s captured and imprisoned by Mr. Burgess, who actually was hoping to imprison Death (a bid for immortality) but got the lesser brother instead. During the capture, Sandman loses his helmet, amulet and bag of sand — the sources of his power. And what is his power? Well, he’s the Sandman. He puts people to sleep, works on their dreams, and then wakes them later.
That doesn’t sound like much, until you realize the importance of sleeping and then waking up again — something we hardly think about. Macbeth calls sleep “the death of each day’s life”, but we welcome sleep at the end of the day (rarely do we welcome death).
When Sandman frees himself after decades in lockup, he must search and retrieve his objects of power, and this quest brings him into contact with all sorts: demons, humans, the dead, the near-dead, and the living. The most frightening of his enemies is Doctor Destiny, who holds the amulet. People die gruesome deaths before Sandman bests the evil Dr Dee, so be prepared for graphic violence.
I’m unsure whether I want to read more of these. The violence is horrifying and senseless (much as it is in real life). But the story line is intriguing, and the Sandman is — let’s face it — cool. With his gaunt figure, shaggy hair, black coat and jeans, he’s the ultimate punk/goth superhero.