is a comic book
series written by Neil Gaiman
and published in the United States
by the DC Comics
. It chronicles the adventures of Dream
of The Endless
, who rules over the world of dreams, in 75 issues from 1989
The Sandman was one of Vertigo's flagship titles, and is available as a series of ten trade paperbacks. It is also being reprinted in a recolored four-volume Absolute hardcover edition with slipcase. Critically acclaimed, The Sandman was the only comic to ever win the World Fantasy Award, and is one of the few comic books to ever be on the New York Times Bestseller List, along with Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Norman Mailer described the series as "a comic book for intellectuals.
's main character is Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, 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 revenging 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 initially 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 was 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 story-lines 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 used 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, with one exception: Lyta Hall, formerly Fury of the 1980s super-team Infinity Inc., figures prominently in the "Kindly Ones" story arc. Various characters from the series did appear in other DC Universe comics however, including an appearance by Daniel during Grant Morrison's JLA run.
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.
grew out of a proposal by Neil Gaiman to revive the 1970s Sandman
series illustrated by Jack Kirby
. Gaiman had considered including characters from DC Comics' "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, 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' protagonist did not need to appear on every cover.
The debut issue of The Sandman was 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 while working on the third issue; he was replaced by Dringenberg as penciler, who was in turn replaced by Malcolm Jones III as inker.
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 character Superman. 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.
was initially published as a monthly serial, in 32-page comic books (with some exceptions to this pattern). As the series quickly increased in popularity, DC Comics began to reprint them in hardcover and 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 isn't 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 in the process. Guest starring several DC Comics characters including John Constantine, Scott Free, J'onn J'onzz, Scarecrow, Etrigan the Demon, and Doctor Destiny. It also features the introduction of Lucifer.
- 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 the 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.
- A Game of You (collecting The Sandman #32-37, 1991-1992): 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, 1992, 1993): A collection of short stories set throughout Morpheus' history, most of them originally published both before and 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): 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): 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.
- The Kindly Ones (collecting The Sandman #57-69 and Vertigo Jam #1, 1994-1995): 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): The conclusion of the series, wrapping up the remaining loose ends in a three-issue "wake" sequence, followed by three self-contained stories.
Neil Gaiman, on his blog, announced plans for an Absolute Sandman
which would compile all 10 volumes. The DC Absolute Edition series are large 8" by 12" prints of a considerably higher quality than the library edition, and include a leather-like cover and a slipcase
. Many of the early stories have been extensively retouched and/or recoloured with Gaiman's approval.
In October 2006, the first volume of the Absolute Edition Sandman was published; it collected the first 20 issues (that is, 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. Volume 2 of The Absolute Sandman was officially released October 31, 2007 The third volume was released on June 11, 2008 , and the fourth (and final) volume is scheduled for release November 5, 2008
Additions & Coda
In 1998, the cover images from The Sandman
were released as one compiled volume:
In 1999, some years after Gaiman completed The Sandman, he wrote a lavishly illustrated Sandman novel, Sandman: The Dream Hunters with art by Yoshitaka Amano. Like many of the single-issue stories throughout The Sandman, Morpheus appears in Dream Hunters, but is a supporting character at best. In Gaiman's afterword to the book, it is claimed that 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" out of whole cloth.
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.
Owing to critical acclaim and commercial success (at the time of its conclusion, it was DC’s best-selling series), Sandman
spawned a number of spin-off volumes
. Subsidiary works include:
- Death: The High Cost of Living (1993), a three-issue, Gaiman-penned limited series starring Morpheus’ older sister. Takes place roughly nine months after A Game of You.
- Sandman Mystery Theatre (1993 - 1999), a 70-issue series written by Matt Wagner and illustrated by Steven T. Seagle featuring the Golden Age Sandman Wesley Dodds in a film-noir like setting. The character was revived due to the popularity of Gaiman's series. The two Sandmen met in Sandman Midnight Theatre (1995), below.
- The Children's Crusade (1993 - 1994), a seven-part Vertigo crossover starring Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine, the Dead Boy Detectives, which ran through the annuals of the then-Vertigo titles.
- Sandman Midnight Theatre (1995), in which Wesley Dodds, the Golden Age Sandman, meets Lord Morpheus of The Endless, the Modern Age Sandman. Published between issues #71 and #72 (but taking place during the span of issue #1), the latter of which showed Dodds out of costume.
- Death: The Time of Your Life (1996): another three-issue, Gaiman-penned Death limited series, also featuring supporting characters from A Game of You. This one takes place after the end of the series.
- The Sandman: Book of Dreams (1996), an original anthology of prose short stories co-edited with Ed Kramer, featuring the world of The Sandman in some way. It contains work from some notable contributors, among them Caitlin R. Kiernan, Tad Williams, Gene Wolfe, Tori Amos and Colin Greenland. Publisher DC Comics imposed restrictive copyright terms on contributing authors, leading to a few withdrawing their stories.
- The Dreaming (1996 - 2001), a monthly series set in Morpheus’s realm but revolving around the supporting characters with little interaction from the Endless and focused largely on Cain and Abel, who have been DC stalwarts since the late 1960s. It was written and illustrated by a variety of writers and artists; Caitlin R. Kiernan wrote the largest number of scripts for the series.
- Vertigo: Winter's Edge (1997, 1998, 1999), an annual one-shot issue featuring short stories from multiple Vertigo series, including short stories featuring Desire (twice) and Death by Gaiman with Bolton, Jones and Zulli respectively.
- The Sandman Presents (1999-2004): a collection of limited series by various authors and illustrators featuring secondary characters from The Sandman.
- Lucifer (1999) (3 issues)
- Love Street (1999) (3 issues)
- Petrefax (2000) (4 issues)
- Merv Pumpkinhead, Agent of Dream (2000) (1 issue)
- Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Dreams...But Were Afraid To Ask (2001) (1 issue)
- The Dead Boy Detectives (2001) (4 issues)
- The Corinthian (2001-2002) (3 issues)
- The Thessaliad (2002) (4 issues)
- The Furies (2002) (2 issues)
- Bast (2003) (3 issues)
- Taller Tales (2003) (1 issue)
- Thessaly: Witch for Hire (2004) (4 issues)
- Marquee Moon (written in 1997, published online in 2007)
- Sandman: The Dream Hunters (1999): a prose novella that incorporates a so-called Japanese folk tale into the Sandman mythos, written by Gaiman and featuring illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano. It is not actually based on any existing Japanese folklore, but rather incorporates elements of Chinese and Japanese folklore and mythology into a new "myth". It was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Related Book in 2000. Neil Gaiman announced at Comic-Con 2007 that P. Craig Russell will adapt the story into comics form.
- The Sandman Companion by Hy Bender (2000), a non-fiction work providing extra information about the series. Its first section discusses the ten Sandman collections sequentially, analyzing their meaning, explaining some of Gaiman's myriad references and sometimes providing information on the writing of the comics. It also features a lengthy interview about the series with Gaiman himself.
- The Little Endless Storybook (2001), a one-shot comic/story book which depicts The Endless as toddlers and follows Delirium's dog Barnabas as he attempts to find the missing Delirium, written and illustrated by Jill Thompson.
- Lucifer (2001 - 2006): a monthly series written by Mike Carey continuing the story of Lucifer following the events of the fourth collection, Season of Mists.
- 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 Bestseller list.
- Death: At Death’s Door (2004): a manga-style graphic novel, written and illustrated by Jill Thompson, showcasing Death’s activities during Season of Mists. This may become part of a series of manga novels starring Death.
- The Dead Boy Detectives (2005): a sequel to Death: At Death's Door, also by Jill Thompson, featuring the two young ghosts from Season of Mists. (The title was previously used for a The Sandman Presents limited series about the same characters by Ed Brubaker.)
Awards and recognition
issue #19 "A Midsummer Night's Dream" won the World Fantasy Award
in 1991 for Best Short Fiction. Also, Sandman and its spin-offs have won eighteen 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 one for Best Graphic Album:Reprint. 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
Throughout the late 1990s
, a movie adaptation of the comic was periodically planned by Warner Brothers
, 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 (1989)
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 Brothers would send him "...not only the worst Sandman
script I've ever seen, but quite easily the worst script I've ever read. Gaiman also has 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
Gaiman is currently working on a movie adaptation of The High Cost of Living.
- Bender, Hy (2000). The Sandman Companion : A Dreamer's Guide to the Award-Winning Comic Series. DC Comics. 1-56-389644-3.
- Gaiman, Neil; Sam Kieth (Illustrator), Mike Dringenberg (Illustrator), Charles Vess (Illustrator), Michael Zulli (Illustrator), Kelley Jones (Illustrator), Chris Bachalo (Illustrator), Malcolm Jones (Illustrator), Danny Vozzo (Illustrator) The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1. Vertigo Comics -(imprint of DC Comics). ISBN 1-4012-1082-1.
- Stephen Rauch, Neil Gaiman's The Sandman and Joseph Campbell: In Search of the Modern Myth (2003) Holicong, PA : Wildside Press; ISBN 1-592-24212-X.
- The Sandman Papers: An Exploration of the Sandman Mythology, edited by Joe Sanders, preface by Neil Gaiman (2006). ISBN 1-560-97748-5. Seattle, WA : Fantagraphics.