The Sandman — An Espousement of Love

Sit a spell with John Burton as he details his love for the fantastic series The Sandman from Vertigo Comics


I’ve re­cent­ly been delv­ing into my back cat­a­logue of graph­ic nov­els to re­mind my­self of why I love com­ic books. Recent ti­tles have been mired in some form of con­tro­ver­sy or an­oth­er, from cen­sor­ship over death threats re­ceived be­cause of a par­tic­u­lar­ly di­vi­sive al­ter­nate cov­er to the, frankly ap­palling, lev­el that ill-themed so­cial com­men­tary is be­ing forced into Thor. I need­ed a brief re­fresh­er into why comics en­vel­op me so much. Looking through my shelves, there’s a lot to choose from. The grit­ty harsh­ness of The Walking Dead; the alt-cyber-punk neon world of Transmetropolitan; the bit­ing hu­mour of Chew — there was a lot to choose from. However, one caught my eye more than most. Ten vol­umes of a graph­ic nov­el I hadn’t read for years. One that I read for the first time in my late teens. One that changed me and the way I think about sto­ry­telling. This would be The Sandman.


Spanning seventy-five is­sues, with a six is­sue pre­quel be­ing pub­lished now, The Sandman is an ut­ter tri­umph of telling a sto­ry span­ning myth, leg­end, lore and love. Centering on the main char­ac­ter, Dream, The Sandman is a tale of sev­en sib­lings who per­son­i­fy the core  of what spends the most time oc­cu­py­ing the hu­man brain. Destiny, Delirium, Despair, Desire, Destruction and Death. It is a tale is about how some­one can ul­ti­mate­ly change. Not in a mas­sive way, nor even in im­me­di­ate­ly no­tice­able ways, but in a ways that can res­onate and rip­ple through­out all they have come into con­tact with over time. The Sandman is a tale of re­demp­tion, from the per­spec­tive of a char­ac­ter who doesn’t re­alise he has any­thing to re­deem him­self over.


blog_sandmanhairThe gen­e­sis of the sto­ry takes place in Victorian England, where the oc­cult seams be­hind so­ci­ety plot to cap­ture the en­ti­ty Death, mean­ing they can claim im­mor­tal­i­ty for them­selves. However, a mis­take, or more like­ly Destiny, re­sults in them cap­tur­ing Death’s younger broth­er Dream. The ram­i­fi­ca­tions of this mis­take are felt through­out the next seventy-five is­sues, with is­sues time-shifting be­fore and af­ter, echo­ing what’s about to hap­pen. Going back and read­ing it now, know­ing what’s go­ing to hap­pen, is ab­solute­ly mind-blowing. The fore­shad­ow­ings of the fi­nale are present in the very first is­sue, with off-hand com­ments from the most mi­nor of side char­ac­ters be­com­ing omi­nous cries of what is to come. Taking place in the DC uni­verse, the sto­ry is in­ter­wo­ven with cameos from Clark Kent to John Constantine, with a par­tic­u­lar­ly hor­ri­fy­ing ap­pear­ance from Batman vil­lain Dr. Destiny. In the first vol­ume, there’s an is­sue en­ti­tled 24 Hours which is, with­out a doubt, one of the most har­row­ing, dis­turb­ing and down­right chill­ing sin­gle is­sues of a com­ic book I’ve ever read. Shifting tone seam­less­ly from hor­ror to com­e­dy to dra­ma and back, it’s an ut­ter­ly phe­nom­e­nal tale of an ut­ter­ly dys­func­tion­al fam­i­ly and how you can ul­ti­mate­ly nev­er choose the peo­ple you love.


Reading the Sandman was with­out a doubt one of the best de­ci­sions I’ve made in re­cent times. It re­mind­ed me of just how great comics can be. Telling a sto­ry which veers from the lit­er­al depths of hell to Wisconsin, from the ut­ter highs of a per­fect night’s dream­less sleep to a con­ver­sa­tion with Death over a pint of ale, The Sandman is a sub­lime ex­am­ple of sto­ry­telling. Allow me to of­fer a quote from the penul­ti­mate is­sue which I hope will res­onate with some peo­ple. If it does, I im­plore you to check out this in­cred­i­ble story.


Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vul­ner­a­ble. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that some­one can get in­side you and mess you up. You build up all these de­fens­es, you build up a whole suit of ar­mor, so that noth­ing can hurt you, then one stu­pid per­son, no dif­fer­ent from any oth­er stu­pid per­son, wan­ders into your stu­pid life…You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did some­thing dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own any­more. Love takes hostages. It gets in­side you. It eats you out and leaves you cry­ing in the dark­ness, so sim­ple a phrase like ‘maybe we should be just friends’ turns into a glass splin­ter work­ing its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imag­i­na­tion. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.”

Sandman, The Kindly Ones.

You can read The Sandman at Vertigo Comics web­site, or find them at your lo­cal com­ic book shop.

[Disclaimer: SuperNerdLand has no af­fil­i­a­tion or as­so­ci­a­tion with Vertigo Comics]


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John is a tat­tooed as­tronomer. He hearts games, movies & beardy mu­sic. He also bakes a lot and looks through tele­scopes less of­ten than he’d like. Helps with GamerGiving char­i­ty stream­ing as well!

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