The Sandman Summary

Written by Cindy Lynn Speer in May of 2002

Brief Lives

 

 

Neil Gaiman's The Sandman was launched in 1989. This extremely popular series was bound into ten collections. Following Dream of the Endless, also known as Morpheus, Onieros and many other names, we explore a magical world filled with stories both horrific and beautiful.

What do you need to know to enjoy the series? Only that there are seven brothers and sisters who have been since the beginning of time, the Endless. They are Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Despair, Delirium who was once Delight, and Destruction who turned his back on his duties. Their names describe their function and the realms that they are in charge of. Several years ago, a coven of wizards attempted to end death by taking Death captive, but captured Dream instead. When he finally escapes he must face the changes that have gone on in his realm, and the changes in himself.

Preludes and Nocturnes

Preludes and Nocturnes begins the series. In it, Dream, escapes his prison. He must go on a quest to find the tools of his office: his helm, pouch and ruby. The journey will take him - and us - through the gates of hell itself. It will also teach Dream an important lesson about relying on tools, and introduce us to the other star of the series, Death.

The Doll's House shows us that the Dream King has not yet resolved all of the problems caused by his imprisonment. Three dreams have escaped The Dreaming, the villainous pair Brute and Glob, and the kindlier Fiddler's Green. This story is intertwined with another about a young woman named Rose Walker and her search for her little brother. As the characters are drawn together, a vortex is discovered, a force that could destroy all dreamers and, therefore, the world. Will Dream choose mercy over responsibility? Or is there another way?

Dream Country is the first story arc made up entirely of different tales. We meet the mother of Morpheus's son, and find out what cats dream about. We also discover the origins of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. (The latter issue, number 19, is the only comic book ever to have won a World Fantasy Award.) Death has her own bittersweet story, as she attempts to help out an agoraphobic ex-superhero.

Season of Mists

We return to the regular series with Season of Mists. In it, Lucifer has grown tired of being the lord of hell. He kicks everyone out and locks it up solid, then gives the key to Dream. Dream must decide who of the many supplicants will get the key. This is considered the most popular story arc, filled with a cast of thousands as beings from many pantheons and myths vie for this instrument of power.

In A Game of You, old witchcraft and fantasy mix together to create an adventure featuring Barbie from The Doll's House. She discovers that her vivid dreams are truly a gate to another world, where she is a princess trying to save her subjects from the clutches of the Cuckoo. Her unlikely and wonderful cast of friends, both in the world of her dreams and in the real world, are highlights of characterization, a group of people you can truly feel a connection to.

Fables and Reflections

Fables and Reflections is another story collection. We meet many extraordinary characters, including The Emperor of America, a director who must choose whether to fly or fall, a werewolf in search of his dreams, Joanna Constantine in search of Dream's son, Marco Polo, Caesar Augustus and many more.

In Brief Lives, Dream's little sister Delirium convinces Morpheus to go on a quest for their missing brother, Destruction, but the price of finding the prodigal may be more than Dream can bear.

In World's End, the characters are drawn together by a reality storm, caused by dramatic changes rippling across reality. They find shelter in a tavern, where they pass the time with their own tales, both wondrous and mysterious. We find ourselves in many places: in the dreams of a city, discovering the secrets of Necropolis where burial is a way of life, joining Cluracan on a swashbuckling adventure, running away to sea. The tales never focus on the Sandman himself, but tell us about the nature of tales and dreams just as keenly as the ones where he is in the center.

In The Kindly Ones, Dream is faced with the repercussions from his actions in Brief Lives and The Doll's House. Lyta Hall's son is kidnapped and perhaps killed, and she blames Dream for his death. She goes insane, calling on The Kindly Ones, also known as The Furies, for revenge. They enter his realm and force Morpheus to make a sacrifice that will change The Dreaming forever.

The Wake is the final chapter of this landmark series. Whenever someone we care about, as we learn to care about so many of these characters, dies, we must mourn, have a funeral and a wake. This final book ties up some loose ends, and leaves us with the message that dreams never really die.

This description fails to describe the intricate twinings of story, the threads that run through each book as we revisit past characters, as past events blossom into new ones. It also does not give credit to the magnificent collection of artists that lent their talent, their own distinctive voices and styles, to Neil Gaiman's words. The scope of this series is broad, touching on aspects of our own brief lives. To read this series is not to curl up with a simple comic book, but to take a journey beyond the shores of reality and into a world we may only visit when we close our eyes.

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Last edited Sun Oct 01 18:49:24 2006.

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