The Sandman (Netflix, 2022- )
It's actually quite hard for me to remember a time before I knew Sandman. The graphic novel, that is, not the TV series. That's pretty new to all of us, I suppose.
Neil Gaiman: World's End (1994)
And yet, I do dimly recall getting out a single volume of The Sandman Library out from the Auckland Central Library. Sometime in the late 1990s, it must have been. The book in question was No. 8: World’s End, which was, in retrospect, not a bad introduction to strange and intricate world of Neil Gaiman's comic.
Neil Gaiman: World's End (1994)
After that I read odd volumes as they came to hand - mostly completely out of sequence, unfortunately - until I had more or less grasped the whole thing. At which point I realised that I really had to own it all myself, and started buying the ones available in Borders, then online, until I had a complete set and could read the whole work from start to finish.
According to Wikipedia, The original series ran for 75 separate issues, each with a cover by Dave McKean, from January 1989 to March 1996. When collected subsequently for book publication, it was divided into the following volumes:
- Preludes and Nocturnes, illustrated by Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg & Malcolm Jones III, coloured by Robbie Busch, and lettered by Todd Klein, collects The Sandman #1–8 (1988–1989)
- The Doll's House, illustrated by Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli & Steve Parkhouse, coloured by Robbie Busch, and lettered by Todd Klein, collects The Sandman #9–16 (1989–1990)
- Dream Country, illustrated by Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran & Malcolm Jones III, coloured by Robbie Busch & Steve Oliff, and lettered by Todd Klein, collects The Sandman #17–20 (1990)
- Season of Mists, illustrated by Kelley Jones, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Matt Wagner, Dick Giordano, George Pratt & P. Craig Russell, coloured by Steve Oliff & Daniel Vozzo, and lettered by Todd Klein, collects The Sandman #21–28 (1990–1991)
- A Game of You, illustrated by Shawn McManus, Colleen Doran, Bryan Talbot, George Pratt, Stan Woch & Dick Giordano, coloured by Daniel Vozzo, and lettered by Todd Klein collects The Sandman #32–37, 1991–1992)
- Fables and Reflections, illustrated by Bryan Talbot, Stan Woch, P. Craig Russell, Shawn McManus, John Watkiss, Jill Thompson, Duncan Eagleson, Kent Williams, Mark Buckingham, Vince Locke & Dick Giordano, coloured by Daniel Vozzo & Lovern Kindzierski/Digital Chameleon, and lettered by Todd Klein, collects The Sandman #29–31, 38–40, 50; The Sandman Special #1; and Vertigo Preview No. 1 (1991–1993)
- Brief Lives, illustrated by Vince Locke, Dick Giordano & Jill Thompson, coloured by Daniel Vozzo, and lettered by Todd Klein, collects The Sandman #41–49 (1992–1993)
- Worlds' End, illustrated by Michael Allred, Gary Amaro, Mark Buckingham, Dick Giordano, Tony Harris, Steve Leialoha, Vince Locke, Shea Anton Pensa, Alec Stevens, Bryan Talbot, John Watkiss & Michael Zulli, coloured by Danny Vozzo, and lettered by Todd Klein, collects The Sandman #51–56 (1993)
- The Kindly Ones, illustrated by Marc Hempel, Richard Case, D'Israeli, Teddy Kristiansen, Glyn Dillon, Charles Vess, Dean Ormston & Kevin Nowlan, coloured by Daniel Vozzo, and lettered by Todd Klein, collects The Sandman #57–69 and Vertigo Jam No. 1 (1993–1995)
- The Wake, illustrated by Michael Zulli, Jon J. Muth & Charles Vess, coloured by Daniel Vozzo & Jon J. Muth, and lettered by Todd Klein, collects The Sandman #70–75 (1995–1996)
Simply put, the writer supplies a blow-by-blow account of what they have in mind (there are sample scripts in some of the Sandman reprints, if you're curious to see what these look like). The penciller does a rough sketch of each panel and page. The inker then draws in a final version of these images (with revisions, if necessary). The colours are then added by a further artist, after which the dialogue and captions are lettered into each speech balloon and inset panel.
This sounds like - and, I gather, is - quite a laborious process. Individual comics auteurs tend to take care of most or all of these levels of production all by themselves. But that's one reason why lone wolf comics take such an inordinate amount of time to create.
The work involved is staggering, and when one adds the information - supplied by Gaiman himself - that each page of his comics requires about four pages of description, the true scale of such enterprises as The Sandman begins to come into focus: 3,000-odd pages of comic = roughly 12,000 pages of writing.
What, then, of the TV series, revealed to us finally after 30 years in development limbo? Well, fans will immediately note some changes and elisions: John Constantine has been replaced by his ancestor Lady Johanna Constantine, and a number of characters (including Death) have changed their ethnicity. All in all, though, such shifts are less notable than the number of things which have remained intact.
And one can already detect, at the end of the first series (roughly covering the first two volumes of the comic) the plotlines lining up for more momentous developments in Morpheus's journey. Overall, I'd say I liked it a lot. It's rather schmaltzy at times, but then so is the comic. It's also gruesome - which I liked less - but then that's true to the spirit of the original, too.
One thing I particularly appreciated was how slow-moving most of the episodes were. There was none of that break-neck, frenetic pace which such shows as Dr Who have increasingly adopted as their trademark technique for engaging with 'youth'. Morpheus, by contrast, speaks slowly and deliberately and has long, detailed conversations with his collaborators (and victims) before making each of his moves on the celestial chessboard.
It was, in other words, written for people with a brain - whether they happened to be young or old - rather than the guppy attention-spanned audiences generally courted by streaming providers. The special effects are rich and (for the most part) well realised, and the episodes nicely balanced between atmosphere and action.
If the overall intention was to hook us on yet another epic fantasy serial like Game of Thrones, with its year-long waits between series, I'm afraid that they've been only too successful. I, for one, will be waiting impatiently to see where they go next with it. Bronwyn is so anxious to know what happens next that she may have to resort to reading the comics!
Neil Gaiman et al. The Sandman: Overture (2013)
There's a large number of spin-offs, sequels and part-sequels to The Sandman, some written by Gaiman himself and some by other people. Few of them could be said to be really essential reading, but there are some exceptions.
The most extended example, Mike Carey's Lucifer - which I suspect will survive its dreadful TV adaptation (even worse than the one of Gaiman's novel American Gods, which is saying something) - is, imho, a bona fide masterpiece which challenges comparison even with its original:
Mike Carey: Lucifer (1999-2007)
- Lucifer 1: Devil in the Gateway. The Sandman Presents – Lucifer 1-3: 1999 & Lucifer 1-4: 2000. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2001.
- Lucifer 2: Children and Monsters. Lucifer 5-13: 2000. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2001.
- Lucifer 3: A Dalliance with the Damned. Lucifer 14-20: 2001. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2002.
- Lucifer 4: The Divine Comedy. Lucifer 21-28: 2002. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2003.
- Lucifer 5: Inferno. Lucifer 29-35: 2003. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2004.
- Lucifer 6: Mansions of the Silence. Lucifer 36-41: 2003. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2004.
- Lucifer 7: Exodus. Lucifer 42-44, 46-49: 2004. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2005.
- Lucifer 8: The Wolf beneath the Tree. Lucifer 45, 50-54: 2004. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2005.
- Lucifer 9: Crux. Lucifer 55-61: 2005. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2006.
- Lucifer 10: Morningstar. Lucifer 62-69: 2006. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2006.
- Lucifer 11: Evensong. Lucifer – Nirvana: 2002 & Lucifer 70-75: 2006. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2007.
Some of the others, such as the 2013 "Overture" to The Sandman are also worth a look. I've provided a partial list below, but for more information, you could do worse than look here.
There's even, now, an annotated edition compiled by the indefatigable Leslie S. Klinger.
Leslie S. Klinger: The Annotated Sandman (2012-15)
Neil Gaiman (2013)
Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman
- [with Dave McKean] Violent Cases (1987)
- [with Dave McKean] Black Orchid (1988–1989 / 1991)
- Sandman (1989-1996)
- The Sandman Library I: Preludes & Nocturnes. 1991. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1995.
- The Sandman Library II: The Doll’s House. 1990. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1995.
- The Sandman Library III: Dream Country. 1991. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1995.
- The Sandman Library IV: Season of Mists. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1992.
- The Sandman Library V: A Game of You. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1993.
- The Sandman Library VI: Fables & Reflections. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1993.
- The Sandman Library VII: Brief Lives. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1994.
- The Sandman Library VIII: World’s End. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1994.
- The Sandman Library IX: The Kindly Ones. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1996.
- The Sandman Library X: The Wake. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1997.
- [with Yoshitaka Amano] The Sandman: The Dream Hunters. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1999.
- The Sandman: Endless Nights. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2003.
- The Sandman: Overture. 2013-15. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2016.
- The Books of Magic (1990-1991)
- The Books of Magic. 1990-91; 1993. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 2001.
- Death (1993-1996)
- Death: The High Cost of Living. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1994.
- Death: The Time of Your Life. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1997.
- The Last Temptation (1994-1995)
- [with Alice Cooper] The Last Temptation. Illustrated by Michael Zulli. 1994-95. Oregon: Dark Horse Comics, 2000.
- [with Dave McKean] The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch (1994-1995)
- Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days (1999)
- Midnight Days. 1989-95. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1999.
- Marvel 1602 (2003-2004)
- Marvel 1602. Illustrated by Andy Kubert. 2003-4. New York: Marvel Worldwide Inc., 2013.
- A Study in Emerald (2018)
- A Study in Emerald. Illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque. Milwaukie, Oregon: Dark Horse Books, 2018.
- [with Terry Pratchett] Good Omens (1990)
- Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. A Novel. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1990.
- Neverwhere (1996)
- Neverwhere. 1996. New York: HarperTorch, 2001.
- Neverwhere: Author's Preferred Text, with How the Marquis Got His Coat Back. 1996 & 2014. William Morrow. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2016.
- Stardust (1999)
- Stardust. London: Headline Book Publishing, 1999.
- American Gods (2001)
- American Gods. London: Headline Book Publishing, 2001.
- American Gods: The Author's Preferred Text. 2001 & 2004. Review. London: Headline Book Publishing, 2005.
- Anansi Boys (2005)
- Anansi Boys. London: Headline Book Publishing, 2005.
- [with Michael Reaves] InterWorld. InterWorld Series 1 (2007)
- The Graveyard Book (2008)
- The Graveyard Book. Illustrated by Chris Riddell. 2008. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2009.
- [with Michael Reaves & Mallory Reaves] The Silver Dream. InterWorld Series 2 (2013)
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013)
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane. London: Headline Publishing Group, 2013.
- [with Michael Reaves & Mallory Reaves] Eternity's Wheel. InterWorld Series 2 (2015)
- The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish. Illustrated by Dave McKean (1997)
- [with Gene Wolfe] A Walking Tour of the Shambles. Illustrated by Randy Broecker (2002)
- Coraline. Illustrated by Dave McKean (2002)
- Coraline. Illustrations by Dave McKean. 2002. New York: Harper Trophy, 2003.
- The Wolves in the Walls. Illustrated by Dave McKean (2003)
- Melinda. Illustrated by Dagmara Matuszak (2005)
- MirrorMask. Illustrated by Dave McKean (2005)
- Mirrormask. Illustrated by Dave McKean. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2005.
- Odd and the Frost Giants. Illustrated by Brett Helquist (2008)
- The Dangerous Alphabet. Illustrated by Gris Grimly (2008)
- Blueberry Girl. Illustrated by Charles Vess (2009)
- Crazy Hair. Illustrated by Dave McKean (2009)
- Instructions. Illustrated by Charles Vess (2010)
- Chu's Day. Illustrated by Adam Rex (2013)
- Fortunately, the Milk. Illustrated by Skottie Young, US / Chris Riddell, UK / Boulet, France (2013)
- Chu's First Day of School. Illustrated by Adam Rex (2014)
- Hansel and Gretel. Illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti (2014)
- The Sleeper and the Spindle. Illustrated by Chris Riddell (2014)
- Chu's Day at the Beach. Illustrated by Adam Rex (2016)
- Cinnamon. Illustrated by Divya Srinivasan (2017)
- Pirate Stew. Illustrated by Chris Riddell (2020)
- Angels and Visitations (1993)
- Smoke and Mirrors (1998)
- Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fiction and Illusions. 1999. Headline Feature. London: Headline Book Publishing, 2000.
- Fragile Things (2006)
- Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders. 2006. London: Headline Publishing Group, 2013.
- M is for Magic (2007)
- Who Killed Amanda Palmer (2009)
- A Little Gold Book of Ghastly Stuff (2011)
- Trigger Warning (2015)
- Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances. London: Headline Publishing Group, 2015.
- The Neil Gaiman Reader (2020)
- The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction. Foreword by Marlon James. London: Headline Publishing Group, 2020.
- Duran Duran: The First Four Years of the Fab Five (1984)
- [with Kim Newman] Ghastly Beyond Belief (1985)
- Ghastly Beyond Belief. Ed. Neil Gaiman & Kim Newman. Introduction by Harry Harrison. London: Arrow Books, 1985.
- Don't Panic: A Biography of Douglas Adams (1988)
- Adventures in the Dream Trade (2002)
- Make Good Art: A Commencement Speech Given at the UArts on 17 May 2012 (2013)
- The View from the Cheap Seats (2016)
- The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Non-fiction. London: Headline Publishing Group, 2016.
- Norse Mythology (2017)
- Norse Mythology. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2017.
- [with storyboards by Dave McKean] MirrorMask: The Illustrated Film Script (2005)
- [with Roger Avary] Beowulf: The Script Book (2007)
- Bender, Hy. The Sandman Companion. New York: Vertigo/DC Comics, 1999.
Hy Bender: The Sandman Companion (1999)