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Neil Gaiman's Sandman
a new world in which to dream
Reviewed by Kenn McCracken, ©

Format: Comics
By:   Neil Gaiman
Genre:   Fantasy / Horror / Superhero
Review Date:  

DC's Vertigo line was launched with the intention of bringing a line of titles to grown-ups who still wanted to read comics. The books were a departure from the spandex world of Batman and Superman, instead exploring magic, fantasy, and horror. One of the first books in the line, Neil Gaiman's Sandman, was perhaps completely representative of the line, exploring all of the above-mentioned areas and more, all the while keeping a toe in the mainstream DC Universe, allowing long-time comic readers a reference point for the series.

Sandman was launched in 1988, and nearly immediately garnered critical praise, followed soon by a fairly large fan base. The seventy-five issue series focused on the Endless, a group of seven entities that oversees such realms as Desire, Delirium, Death, Destiny, and most notably, Dream. The title character is Morpheus, king of the Dream realm (later replaced by Daniel). It is not a comic book in the classic sense, featuring a villain or earth-threatening catastrophe that spans an issue or two, but rather a number of short stories featuring the title character in graphic novel form.

The comics remain among the most groundbreaking in the history of the industry. While the stories focus on areas other than superheroes, there is a link to the proper DC Universe, with Batman, the Martian Manhunter, and others appearing throughout the series. The art is wide and varied, by such creators as Sam Kieth, Charles Vess, and Dave McKean.

What truly makes the series special, though, is Gaiman's gift as a storyteller. The series at times reads like one of the Canterbury Tales, at others like a Shakespearean play, at others like a classic of the future. Always, though, the characters are compelling, the plots complex, and the dialogue real and believable. Gaiman drew compliments from people ranging from Stephen King and Clive Barker to Tori Amos, and the compliments are well deserved. The impact of the book was such that, even after the end of the series, the concept carried on, both in one-shot specials and a series called The Dreaming.

While the series has since drawn to a conclusion, with Gaiman working only occasionally in the comics field (instead working on novels, movies, and other pursuits), the books have all been collected in trade form, both hard and soft cover. Each is well worth purchasing, if only for the masterful writing. The books are for anyone and everyone old enough to grasp the material (and at times, it is challenging); there is no emphasis on super powers, despotic villains, or hopeless love triangles, but instead an exploration of modern day myths and fairy tales -- subjects that the Vertigo line was created for. Or perhaps it was Sandman itself that inspired the line -- it is, truly, in a class of no classes.

Kenn McCracken is Comics Editor for RevolutionSF.

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