Sandman Reread, part 3

When I was a little kid, my favorite superhero was Superman. I saw the Christopher Reeves Superman when I was about five and I believed a man could fly. I have found memories of running around my grandparents’ house with a great uncle who would pick me up in the air and yell, “It’s Superman!” as the cape on my pajamas would flap in the wind.

As I grew older, I started to identify more with Batman. (I, too, have had an emotion. Time to get dark and brood.) But you never forget your first.

However, as the films, TV shows, and comics went on, good Superman stories became rarer and rarer. A common, almost canonized, wisdom has sprung up around the character: “It’s difficult to make good Superman stories because he’s too powerful.”

After reading over 500 pages of comics concerning a character that has powers beyond that of most gods, I can assure you that the reason their are so few good Superman stories has nothing to do with the fact that he can punch dudes really hard.

Finished the first Deluxe Edition of The Sandman today. It’s held up solidly, but I’m not going to pretend that nostalgia isn’t dripping from every page. There’s great care in the storytelling, but I can’t stop myself from getting giddy over each new character introduction because of how great they are going to be.

It also got be thinking how much this series lives and dies on its supporting cast, both to be interesting, and to flesh out the world. For example there’s a character named Hob who sort of just gives up on the whole getting old and dying thing. (Reasonable thing to do, but for some reason I totally forgot about him.) Now that’s a cool character thing but Gaiman uses him to tell us the things in the last five hundred years that are important to not just the story but to Dream as we are given his reactions when Hob talks about what he’s been up to.

Smart constructions like that are one of the reasons I love the series, but it’s also the little details that don’t go too far but are just wonderful like the woman who dreams about having a love affair with a sentence and then forgets how to read. Little moments like that fill my soul.

And all of this is brought to us because of a character who controls dreams to the point where they are dreams, so I’m no longer interested in hearing that there’s a power level ceiling on good stories.

Sandman Reread Continues

Plowed through a large section of the book yesterday and will most likely pick it up again after this post. I’m currently in the “Doll’s House” storyline for anyone keeping track. The writing is as strong as I remember it, but the cleaned up art is really changing the story for me.

One of the things I love about comics is one of the things that everyone seems to forget about comics: you read the art just like you would the words. There have been simple little concepts delivered in the art alone that I missed on read throughs with the original printings.

It hasn’t drastically changed my interpretation of the text, but my eye can relax so much more and find what’s important in each panel.

I didn’t really read comics growing up, so I never got used to the traditional, chemical process of coloring that was used before the mid-nineties. I cut my teeth on digital inks. Now that they’ve used that process to retouch Sandman, I find the earlier issues much easier to read.

As for the actual content, there’s a section in “Doll’s House” where the character of Desire is introduced. That felt like coming home again. There was something about how they were presented – living in a giant artiface of themselves, the photo reprints in their main hall, and the fact that they were a gender fluid character in the 80’s – that had a profound impact on me. Something about all that seared itself into my brain, and I find myself thinking about that sequence every few months, and I’ve applied different concepts from it in my own work from time to time.

I knew it was coming yesterday and it still caught me off guard.

Not that the scene itself is that revolutionary. It’s your basic, villain in their lair, gloating about their new plan kind of thing. It’s only there to apply tension through dramatic irony for the following scenes that would fall flat without it. We’ve seen it a million times before. But all the concepts around it and the fact that this is finally expanding the mythology of the story simply by saying “things like this can happen with Endless,” make it into something more striking than it would seem at first blush.

So yeah, comic’s holding up so far.

Sandman Reread Begins

Over the last year I’ve been doing a lot of comfort reading for obvious reasons. This has consisted of me rereading a lot of old Vertigo comics, and now I’m left with the one I’ve been putting off: The Sandman.

This is the comic that has made the rounds so much in critical circles that it’s just considered to be Objectively Good. If you have an issue with any part of this book, the error is with you and no blame can be held with the writer, editor, or artists.

That makes it sound like I’m setting up to say I don’t like it. It’s not true; I dearly love this series. However, I got into it in early college at the beginning of my love for comics. (Hence my battered collection of trades, which is NOT depicted above.) There’s really no separating my discovering this series from my having my world-view expanded with the influx of all these new stories.

But I haven’t flipped open a Sandman book in the better part of a decade. I’ve changed a lot in that time and I’m wondering if I’ll still find anything in these pages now.

I’m only two and a half issues in but so far so good; the mystery of the story is still gripping and Gaiman’s relaxed yet highly stylized form of dialogue still makes for enjoyable reading.

The art has also been cleaned up, which for me is a blessing. The first trade of Sandman was one of the first three American comics that I bought, but it took me almost a year to read it because I found the artwork so off putting. Concepts in the art are much less garbled in this reissue even if the pages are a still little more busy than I would like.

Probably will get into a deeper review of the series later. This was just a first impression of what I’m reading right now.