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Saturday, February 14, 2009
Whatever You Want: Sandman or how I became a comic dork
Back in the before time, there was a group of friends who used Neil Gaiman’s Sandman as a test of friendship. “It’s not peer pressure; it’s just your turn.” Being the dutiful friend I am, I took the series home and read it. What followed was a weird trip through the life of Morpheus, also known as Dream of the Endless.
The series opens with a group of magicians summoning Death in the hopes of living forever and using him as a weapon. Instead they get a weird man, who we later find out is Dream. They keep him trapped inside a crystal ball, hoping he will give them power in exchange for his release. Dream is a patient man and waits until someone accidentally smudges the wards holding him in. He then steals some sand from a daydream of one of his guards and makes good on his escape. After many years of being imprisoned, Dream is weak, clutching at passing dreams to gather food and clothing. He then goes off in search of his tools and revenge. His revenge for the years of captivity is Eternal Waking, constantly dreaming you are waking up from a nightmare.
Upon returning to the Dreaming, the realm in which he is lord over, Dream has to regain some of his power by releasing it from something he created, in this case Letters of Commission he gave to Cain and Abel. He finds his castle in disrepair and a great number of the servants turned back into the dream stuff that formed them. He enlists the help of John Constantine to gain back his bag of sand, which is in the possession of John’s ex-girlfriend. We get to see some of Dream’s mercy as he allows her to die in her sleep, dreaming of John.
Next, Dream is off to hell to regain his helm. He is challenged to a battle of reality by the demon that has it. In the battle of reality they have to constantly one up each other, hunter killing wolf, horsefly killing horse, etc. Dream wins back his helm, and Lucifer asks him why he should be allowed to leave seeing as he has no powers in hell. To which Dream replies, “What power would HELL have if those here imprisoned were NOT able to DREAM of HEAVEN?”
That just leaves his last tool, the ruby, which is in the clutches of John Dee. Dream touches the ruby and falls unconscious. Dee follows Dream into the Dreaming and starts hurting the dreamers. Dee crushes the ruby, believing that it will kill Dream along with it, but really, he allowed all of the power to be released back to Dream. He returns John Dee back to Arkham Asylum.
The final story in Preludes & Nocturnes is called the Sound of Her Wings. This is the story where we start meeting the rest of Dream’s family. It opens with him feeding the pigeons while kids are playing soccer behind him. A super happy Goth girl (I know there’s a contradiction in there somewhere) comes up and starts talking to him about fat pigeons and Mary Poppins. She then gets serious and asks him what’s wrong because he’s sitting and moping. He tells her that he feels disappointed now that his vengeance is over. She calls him “the stupidest, most self-centered, appallingest excuse for an anthropomorphic personification.” And then she throws bread at his head because he feels sorry for himself that his game is over and he hasn’t found a new one yet. Dream goes with her as she goes back to her work, gathering up the dead and ushering them to their next step. After each death, he hears the sound of her wings as she takes them on. As she works, Death tells Dream how it sometimes gets her down how people aren’t happy to see her because they fear the next step. Somehow this is just the medicine Dream needs to find solace.
OK, this started out as me talking about the entire series of Sandman, but somehow I forgot just how much information is crammed into each of the ten trades (four if you get the absolute additions). It’s been years since the first time I read this series, and it remains my favorite to this day. It gave me love for the author, Neil Gaiman, and for the cover artist, Dave McKean. I have also taken the passing along of this series very seriously; most of my friends have read it at my insistence. Which allows me to end this with a challenge to Rob: I have all ten books for you to read, all you have to do is get over the fact that it uses the same name as another series. And when you come over to my way of thinking, you can stop making fun of my favorite writer. I’ll even read Sandman Mystery Theater for you.