Neil Gaimans The Sandman is a multifaceted miracle. Part pulp horror, part urban fantasy comic, crammed full of Shakespearean and mythological cameos, the comic covers a lot of ground with a variety of characters that are both mundane and otherworldly. What begins as a story about Morpheus, the immortal king of dreams, and his quest for redemption gradually evolves into something even greater: a story about the nature of stories themselves and their essential relationship to humanity.
The original 75-issue series, along with its assorted constellation of spin-off series and books, is a diverse anthology of beautifully illustrated and brilliantly told stories, ranging from the spooky to the adorable.
In celebration of the long-awaited live-action TV adaptation of The Sandman, which premiered on Netflix this weekend, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite volumes and issues from the comic for those who want to explore the universe of the original series in more detail. Sweet dreams and happy reading.
24 Hours (Issue #6)
The Sandman started life as a horror comic before becoming much more. “24 Hours” is the horror version of sandman at the height of its power: mean, haunting and haunting at first hand, a one-act play in which the diner guests slowly go mad together.
The story is mostly standalone: John Dee, a D-List DC Comics villain, has been given Dreams Ruby, which contains much of his powers, to help realize the dreams of others. Already a twisted soul, Dee is further corrupted by the Ruby, which warps his body into his current spooky appearance. Recently freed from custody, Dee sneaks into a diner and makes his customers his first victims – using the powers of the Ruby to manipulate their desires and turn them into monsters or subject them to bondage and flattery.
Right from the start sandman
The Sound of Her Wings (Issue #8)
No other edition of The Sandman definitely stands out more than Issue 8, The Sound of Her Wings, in my opinion. This has very little to do with the details of the story itself, which stands alone as a more or less insignificant side effect in the larger story of Dream’s return to power after a century of captivity. “The Sound of Her Wings” is significant because it marks the point when the then fledgling fantasy comic finally found its own voice, or rather, the moment when Neil Gaiman stopped trying so hard to to write a DC Comics story, and instead took the liberty of writing a full-length Neil Gaiman story. Take it from Gaiman himself who said in a last job interview“I’m still incredibly sweet ‘The Sound of Her Wings,” the first encounter with death, because that was the first time I felt like I sounded.”
The issue follows Dream listlessly in the wake of his quest to recover his lost insignia, he follows his sister – the anthropomorphic personification of Death – as she fulfills her duty to lead the recently departed to the “sunless lands” of the afterlife. It’s a medley of tones that are at once whimsical and melancholic, macabre and life-affirming, heartbreaking and achingly poignant. The Sound of Her Wings is the story of an immortal being who gains perspective through a close observation of humanity and a reaffirmed understanding of the value and meaning of both lives and Death. – Toussaint Egan
Men of Fortune (Issue #13)
“Men of Good Fortune” has one of my favorite premise for what is essentially a fairly simple short story: In 1389, Robert “Hob” Gadling, a loud, brash innkeeper, brags about his latest idea to all who will hear. Death, he says, is a “criminal game,” something people only do because everyone else is doing it, and they’re all crazy about it. But Hob Gadling, he’s not a chump like the rest of us. He just won’t die.
Unbeknownst to him, Tod and her brother Dream are also at the tavern and they decide it would be amusing to see Hob keeping his word. So Dream sits down and calls Hob about his rampage and says if Hob intends not to die he has to tell Dream about it and meet him in the same pub in 100 years. So that’s what they’ve been doing for centuries.
Brought to life by Michael Zulli, whose rich pencils kept popping up The Sandman‘s run, “Men of Good Fortune” does something The SandmanThe standalone short stories of were uniquely good at taking the cosmic, eternal dimensions of the endless and using them to make smaller stories all the more resonant. For all his power and wonder, Dream’s story is only compelling in the way it intersects with ours, even if he’s just walking into a bar and leaving with a friend. —JR
Seasons of Mists (Vol. 4)
Spoiler alert for a likely upcoming season of The Sandman: Casting Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer is a pretty sure sign that the creative team is hoping to do more with the character. And that would mean stepping into the stellar Season of Mists story, where Lucifer throws everyone out of Hell, demons and souls of the damned alike, then locks everything up tight and hands Dream the key. It’s a particularly sophisticated plan of revenge aimed squarely at Dream’s unwavering sense of duty: he can’t escape the responsibility of owning Hell, but it turns out it’s a prized piece of unreal possession, and everyone from deceased divine pantheons to to the forces of chaos want it and want to bribe, blackmail or murder him to get it.
The way Dream overcomes the situation season of fog Collection tells us much more about who he is and how he handles his responsibilities and empire than we previously knew. But the real fun of the bow is learning so much more about it sandman
Short Lives (Vol. 7)
There are very, very few duds in the 10 volumes that make up the whole sandman, and each of them is slightly different. But none of them bring together the best of all aspects of the comic as a vol. 7, short lives. There is an endless family drama. The awakening world. Old gods in modern settings. Amusing and disturbing interactions between mortals and immortals. A talking severed head and a sarcastic dog.
Best of all, it’s a road trip story about two estranged siblings looking for a third, and the siblings are at the same time nearly omnipotent beings beyond human perception and don’t know how to drive a car. —Susana Polo
An Epilogue, Sunday Mourning (Issue #73)
The best character in The Sandman is Hob Gadling, the 14th-century Englishman who swore he would never die and ended up not doing so. Its two feature issues are great in their own way. But there’s a special place in my heart for the last issue he appears in, where this real medieval-born guy goes to a Renaissance faire and is grumpy and homesick at everything he sees. Of course, there’s an emotional core to the story of Hob’s tireless zest for life and his own grief at having outlived everyone he’s ever loved – but every time I go to a Renaissance faire, Hob Gadling is on my mind and complain about the beer being served cold, nothing covered in shit and no one walking around with untreated facial cancer. —SP
The Sandman: Overture (Limited Series)
While the six-issue limited series The Sandman: Overture serves as a direct prologue to the first edition of sandmanit is best read as an epilogue to the 10-volume series. overture details the story of the “great battle” that left Dream in the weakened state we find in “Sleep of the Righteous” and chronicles his journey to a distant galaxy to investigate the murder of one of his aspects at the hands of a rogue star , whose madness has metastasized into a “dream whirlpool” that threatens all existence.
It’s a gripping odyssey through a vast cosmos of primeval oddities and strange allies, rendered through the impeccable visual storytelling of JH Williams III (Batwoman, Promethea), whose grandiosely expansive panels and layouts sum up the artistic ambitions of the original series in stunning detail. The Sandman: Overture is a beautiful elliptical bookend to a saga more than a quarter of a century in the making and a brilliant capstone to Neil Gaiman’s magnum opus. -THE
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