When Neil Gaiman's Sandman began in 1989, I made a conscious decision not to buy it. I wasn't looking to add any new titles to my pull & hold at the time; if anything, I was looking to cut back on a few. When I learned that the new Sandman would have nothing ("virtually nothing" as it turned out) to do with any of the previous characters of that name it made my decision that much easier. A couple of years later, my roommate gave me an issue to read. At the time, I was concerned with replacing my issues of Marvel Spectacular with the original issues of Thor they reprinted. As I replaced them, I gave the reprints to my roommate.
The first storyline reprinted in that series dealt with Pluto, the Greek Lord of the Underworld, tricking Hercules into taking his place (a classic!). It just so happened that the story in Sandman at the time was structured along similar lines. The issue my roommate loaned to me was #24, third chapter in the ongoing "Season of Mists" storyline, because it featured versions of Odin, Thor and Loki which were closer to their mythological roots than the Marvel versions. As the third chapter in an ongoing series, #24 was not a great "jumping on point."
The issue he should have loaned me (a former English major and teacher) was #19, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," winner of the highly-prized H.P. Lovecraft trophy for "Year's Best Short Story" at the 13th annual World Fantasy Convention in Tucson in 1991. That one would have hooked me immediately. (The FantasyCon rules have since been changed to prevent a lowly comic book from ever being nominated again, much less winning.) I don't recall what eventually did convince me to start collecting the series (maybe I asked to read the storyline from the beginning or maybe I finally succumbed to the good word-of-mouth the series had been receiving all along), but by the time I did (with #29), "Season of Mists" had already been collected in hardcover.
Also available was a slip-cased set of the first three volumes (in trade paperback format), "Preludes & Nocturnes," "The Doll's House" and "Dream Country," which I also bought. "The Doll's House" was the first story to be collected in tpb, and the first to cross over and enjoy mainstream success. Fans and critics alike agree that it was with "The Doll's House" that Gaiman first found his narrative voice. At the time the tpb was to be published, the best-selling issue of the comic book had been #8, "The Sound of her Wings," which introduced Death.
Although #8 was actually the last chapter of the first story, DC's marketing people insisted that it be included in "The Doll's House" paperback, over Gaiman's objections, which prompted Gaiman to write an introduction to the tpb which summarized the first seven issues and also gave readers a little more than was actually revealed in "Preludes & Nocturnes." (More recent collections of "The Doll's House" begin properly with #9.)
Every once in a while I take it upon myself to reread the entire series from the beginning, most recently 13 years ago (starting on page 10 of "What Comic Books Have You Read Today?"). Unfortunately, I sometimes exhibit the tendency not to finish what I start. More unfortunately still, when I decide to return to an abandoned reading project, I often start over at the beginning. Consequently, I have read the early volumes of Sandman many time, later volumes as few times as once. Volumes 5-7 I have probably read twice each: once in periodical and once in collected format. Volumes 8-10 (and beyond) I think I've read only once each, on a monthly basis.
When I last abandoned my Sandman reading project (in 2009), I made a vow to myself that when I returned to it, I would pick up where I left off. Now, inspired by the recent Netflix TV series, I've decided to continue. Netflix left off with "The Doll's House" and I left off with "Dream Country" (close enough), so I'll be picking up with "Season of Mists." Also, our (non-comic book-reading) friend has expressed an interest in the comic book after seeing the TV show, so Tracy and I will likely read along with her if she follows through. Barring that, Tracy will likely read along with me if I follow through.
When I first learned that our friend was interested in reading Sandman, I immediately offered to put together a sampler of "key" issues, including #1, #8 and (for her) #18 ("Dream of a Thousand Cats"). (Like Tracy, she's a cat freak.) But she was more interested in reading the whole thing from the beginning, plus she wants to read it in a hardcover edition of her own in case she decides to keep it. Still, being wholly unfamiliar with the comic, she was reluctant to take the plunge so we offered to accompany her to our LCS on Saturday to inventory what's in stock. That fell through but I ended up going by myself.
What I found was a format for (almost) every taste and budget. First, the ten original volumes are available in individual tpbs for @ $20. In addition, there are five (tpb) volumes which collect the entire series @ $35, the first of which reprints the first three storylines ($35 rather than $60). The contents of these are the same as the five-volume slip-cased "Absolute Sandman" @ $99. There is also a three-volume "Sandman Omnibus" set @ $150, not to mention a five-volume hardcover set of "The Annotated Sandman." "Absolute Sandman" features all-new coloring, which was carried over to the tpb set. If I were to upgrade, I would be perfectly willing to give my slip-cased set of the first three tpbs to our friend with the caveate that the coloring (and paper stock) sucks.
I guess I didn't realize how hard it did suck until I saw the recolored version. Now I want to upgrade... just the volume collecting the first three storylines, though, since I already have all the other volumes in individual hardcover editions. Volume one of the "Absolute Edition" really is too expensive, but I prefer the permanence of a hardcover. Too bad there's not a regular-sized, medium-range hardcover edition (at least not as far as I am aware); I'd snatch that up in a minute. As I mentioned yesterday, I don't think Gaiman found his voice until "The Doll's House" (or #8), but including "Preludes & Nocturnes," "The Doll's House" and "Dream Country" in the same volume makes good sense to me.
The early editions of all these sets were pretty well picked over, and recently, too, because they haven't yet been restocked. I've always been doubtful that superhero movies draw new readers into comic book shops, but the Sandman television show certainly has!
I often like to embellish my head-canon with unofficial, inter-company crossovers. For example, I like to think of the unnamed scientist from "This Man, this Monster" as the Lex Luthor of the MU; Doomsday is a hideously mutated grey Hulk; Nightmare is a fugitive of The Dreaming. Another one has just occurred to me: the Shaper of Worlds is also a fugitive of The Dreaming. Many of these characters were eventually given their own official origins that differ from mine. that doesn't matter; I like mine better.
I realize that, since I started this thread, I've done very little discussion of "Seasons of Mist" (although Dream is referred to as "Lord Shaper"). "Season of Mists" immediately became my favorite storyline, and it remained such until Overture. I suspect that may change during this readthrough when I get to the stories I've read only once, on a month-to-month basis. I will say that, back when I was reading it for the first time, "Season of Mists" had far-reaching consequences on other Vertigo titles (Preacher, for example) as well as mainstream DCU ones such as Supergirl (later Fallen Angel).
There hasn't been such a shake-up in the status quo of Hell since Milton's Paradise Lost.
Ah, yes... "A Brush with Death."
Believe it or not, that exact same brush turned up again just this month in Genis-Vell: Captain Marvel #1. (Rick Jones needed to provide some of Marlo's genetic material to Tony Stark so that he could bounce "search algorithms" off one of his satellites to find Rick's missing ex-wife.)
Makes sense that Peter David would remember his own pun. I, however, did not, even having read that issue of Incredible Hulk when it came out, and the Sandman issues when they came out. Thanks for reminding me!
A GAME OF YOU:
Chapter One - I remember now. After the momentum of "Seasons of Mist," I had a hard time maintaining interest in #32. Even today I contemplated skipping this story. Then i got past the first three pages and everything was okay. I have an extreme aversion to traditional fantasy: The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, "anything of "anything else" I guess. All that fairy tale crap. I suddenly realize I will never read Fables despite the fact Tracy owns the entire run. I decided to read the rest of "A Game of You" skipping the "funny, talking animal" crap (at least until it becomes integral to the story).
There. That felt better.
I didn't realize, first time through, that Barbie was the same character from "A Doll's House." I guess I wasn't supposed to until page 16. She almost is a different character her, "A Doll's House" Barbie being so one-dimensional.
I remember all the "Hyperman/Lila Lake, Weirdzo" stuff and wished they had just used Supoerman/Lois Lane/Bizarro. I know Sandman ostensibly takes place in the same universe as Superman, but it would have made for a better story if Wanda's dream would have been based in the real world (in which Superman is a comic-book character). Would anyone who read both Sandman and Superman have cared? (Probably.) I wish DC would have put out two editions. "Bizarro" would have been alien enough to non-comic-book-readers of Sandman, believe me.
Chapters 2-6 - In chapter two, Hazel confides to Barbie that she's pregnant. Hazel seems hopelessly naive. Barbie give her some good advice and admits that she had an abortion in high school. We learn that "Foxglove" was once Donna, the girlfriend of Judy from "24 Hours." Foxglove in linked to Barbie via Rose Walker, Judy's "straight friend." That night, the entire household begins to have bad dreams. Thessaly, more than she seems, takes charge. Chapter four was mostly fairy tale, which I skipped. Only four pages were worth reading: two set in The Dreaming and two in reality. Chapter five is mostly fairy tale as well, but this one was drawn by Colleen Doran rather than Shawn McManus and was more integral to the story. the Cuckoo (the villain of the piece) stands revealed. It is from chapter five that the story takes its title. Still, I would rather the references to "Perry Porter" and "Clint Clarke" be changed to their intended referents. Honestly, it would be possible to skip chapter five in its entirety and pick up with chapter six, from Barbie's POV.
If "Season of Mist" is my favorite Sandman story, "A Game of You" is my least favorite.
It's all uphill from here.
This was actually one of my favourite arcs at the time. I ultimately read Bones of the Moon. They are remarkably similar, but I prefer Gaiman's take. I wonder if the comics in the TV adaptation will, in fact, be Superman and Bizarro. It's fairly clear we're not in the DCU in the TV version, though we see DC superhero toys in their version of Doll's House. Of course, that section might be dropped entirely.
The "A Game of You" story arc of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic book is similar to this novel, as acknowledged in the preface to the graphic novel of the same name. The two stories were written separately, with neither author having knowledge of the other's work. When Gaiman read Bones of the Moon, he considered scrapping the storyline, but Carroll told him to go ahead. This is why there is a copy of Bones of the Moon visible in the lead character's bookcase in the comics
I followed up "A Game of You" with the "A Game of You" chapter from The Sandman Companion. Gaiman says pretty much the same thing about Bones of the Moon as Wikipedia does, that Gaiman initially scrapped his idea for "A Game of You" after reading Jonathan Carroll's book. Carroll, however, was following Gaiman's Signal to Noise which was being serialized at the time and wrote a postcard to tell Gaiman that "he was finding a number of very scary similarities between my story and his as yet unpublished novel, A Child Across the Sky." Carroll concluded, "We;re like two radio sets tuned to the same goofy channel." Gaiman wrote him back and told him of the similarities between Bones of the Moon and "A Game of You," and Carroll urged him to go for it: "I would very much like to see a Gaiman approach to that kind of story."
Regarding the "Weirdzos" Gaiman said, "They were Bizarros in my script, but some of DC's Superman people caught sight of the story and wouldn't green-light it."
Sometimes I will say things on this board I don't really mean with the intention of provoking a reaction. If no reaction is forthcoming, I usually just let them slide, but I would like to point out that I did, in fact, read the "fairy tale" section of "A Dream of You" this time through. (I just think I would prefer it without them, and will probably skip them next time.) I felt justified to learn that: "For some readers, 'A Game of You' really didn't fly; for them, its unsettling blend of high fantasy and harsh reality have made it the least popular of the Sandman collections." He later refers to it, again, as "easily the least liked collection in the series." It is, however, on of Neil Gaiman's favorites, so what do I know?
I very much enjoyed the "A Game of You" chapter of The Sandman Companion, however. It chock full of little behind-the-scenes factettes, far too many to mention here. I mentioned yesterday that Foxglove and Barbie both knew Rose Walker, separately, before "A Game of You" began. Here are two background tidbits that didn't make it into the story. First, the owner of the building, Scarlett, is mentioned but never seen. According to Gaiman, she was "a very short, very fat drag queen who used to sing in shows with Hal--who, in turn, was Barbie's landlord in 'The Doll's House'." Second, Maisie (the "I-don't-like-dogs" lady), mentions in chapter five that her grandson Billy was a preoperative transsexual who was murdered before being able to get the operation. Gaiman reveals that Billy was murdered by the Connoisseur, who discusses his obsession with transsexuals in the "Collectors" story.
FABLES AND REFLECTIONS: "Fear of Falling"
As I am reading these stories in the collected editions, this discussion now moves away from a strict chronology of the issues' release order. (Actually, it already has, come to think of it.) Anyway, Fables and Reflections, the sixth volume of "The Sandman Library" series, comprises issues #29-31, 38-40, 50 and Special #1, although not in that order. It will be interesting to discover why the stories are presented in the order chosen and whether of not they "read" better that way. The collection begins with a ten-page story which originally appeared in Vertigo Preview #1. The story is presented before even the introduction (which is written by Tom Wolfe, BTW), and serves pretty much the same function.
"Three Septembers and a January" - (#31):
This story is about Norton I (self-proclaimed "Emperor of the United States"), Samuel Clemens ("Mark Twain"), and a challenge set before Dream by his siblings Despair, Desire and Delirium: can Dream keep the Joshua Norton out of their respective realms until Death comes to claim him? The conclusion "foreshadows" events from "The Doll's House" as well as from "The Kindly Ones."
I first read about Emperor Norton when I was in junior high school from The People's Almanac which my sister had given to me as a gift (either Christmas or my birthday, I forget which), but I really didn't hear or read much about him other than that until Sandman #31. I remember being pleased at the time that I was already familiar which the "character."
"Thermidor" - (#29):
Sandman engages Lady Johanna Constantine to rescue his son Orpheus (or his son's decapitated, living head, anyway) from the authorities during the French Revolution. "The Song of Orpheus" is featured in Sandman Special #1 and, although this sequel happens centuries later, it is presented first in the Fables and Reflections collection. (I don't recall which was released first, and the indicia of the original issues is no help.) Perhaps the reason will become clear as I continue to read. ("Thermidor" is the more "enlightened" name for "July," which is the month the main action of this story takes place, in 1794).