Diana, David, Holly and I started discussing a run of Sandman posts for Comparative Geeks back in February, and those are coming soon. Since we’re publishing so many Sandman posts this summer, here’s an introduction to the series for those of you who haven’t read it yet.
The Sandman is a comics series by Neil Gaiman with various artists published by DC Vertigo between 1987 and 1996. It defies categorization. Fantasy-Horror-Supernatural epic is the best I can do for a descriptive label. The original run was 75 issues. It spawned various spinoffs, derivative works, etc.
Dream of the Endless, known to the Romans as Morpheus, is the central character. He is one of seven anthropomorphic personifications. He has two older siblings – Destiny and Death – and four younger ones – Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium. The Endless are aware that they are anthropomorphic personifications. They are as powerful as gods and demons.
Each of the Endless has a realm, which is also an aspect of themselves. So, for example, when Dream has a bad breakup and shuts himself away to wallow in self-pity, his realm is wracked by storms. The realms of the Endless are bounded but infinite. They are omnipresent and virtually invincible in their realms.
Time flows for the Endless the same as it does for the rest of us — they don’t do the timey-wimey jumping back-and-forth through history thing that Doctor Who does. They experience every moment in order. But in this series, future events echo into the past. Confused yet? Good!
The series itself is a collection of multi-issue arcs interspersed with 8- to 12-issue runs of stand-alone stories. The whole thing is woven together into coherent narrative that spans the history of the universe, but is set mostly in 20th Century Great Britain and the U.S. The Book Wars has a brief synopsis that covers the basics of the series with a discussion of its literary and social significance.
This is a story with loads and loads of characters, including not only the Endless, but many gods of the ancient pantheons, angels, demons, faerie, a few superheroes, normal humans who have gained supernatural longevity in various ways, and many historical figures. It’s a delicious concoction of folklore, modern tropes, and shoutouts to various classic fantasy, horror, and comics works.
The Endless have the ability to travel to any world or plane, except the Silver City, and to manifest visibly or invisibly in the waking world. Their appearance changes – sometimes from one panel to the next – based on their situation and on who is observing them. They function at three distinct levels of reality.
- The macro level: Each of the Endless defines, and is defined by, their opposite concept. There is no free will without Destiny, no life without Death, etc.
- The paranormal political level: The Endless are nobility, and are recognized as such by Asgard, the king and queen of Faerie, the rulers of Hell, etc. They have diplomatic relations, alliances, and conflicts with various other entities.
- The family level: They don’t just call themselves siblings. They act like siblings, and the birth order makes sense. Like most families, they are a bit dysfunctional when it comes to relationships with one another.
Diana and I will each have three Thursday Thirteens covering our favorite Sandman characters, places, and stories here this summer. We didn’t consult one another in the building of the lists, so the similarities and differences should prove interesting. I also have a run of four character studies of the Endless in the works – one for Dream, one for Destiny and Death, one for Desire and Despair, one for Destruction and Delirium.
Want to join us for #SummerOfSandman? Here’s how: Write a blog post about Sandman between now and Aug. 1. Long or short, any format. Share your link with us on a Sandman thread here at CompGeeks or on Twitter using the hashtag #SummerOfSandman. It’s that easy.