Mr. Sandman, Bring Me a Dream

In between other things, I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and I’ve finally finished all eleven volumes. They were mostly pretty quick reads, being comics (I’m sure some people would call them “graphic novels,” but most of them were really more sets of related graphic short stories), but there were so many of them that it took me a little while to get through them all. The main character was Dream, also known as Morpheus, ruler of the realm of dreams and one of the Endless, anthropomorphic personifications even older than the gods.

He’s really not a particularly likeable character. Dream is brooding, often rather self-centered, and the kind of guy who seems to be able to attract women despite being a jerk to them. He sends one woman who refuses to marry him to Hell, and only feels remorse for it many years later. Part of the point of the series, however, is that he eventually DOES start to understand human emotions and gain a sense of sympathy, and ends up being unable to deal with this. I often tend to compare Gaiman’s work to that of Terry Pratchett, a friend of his and collaborator on Good Omens. In Pratchett’s Discworld series, Death (not to be confused with Gaiman’s own Death, who’s Dream’s sister) also becomes more human over time, but while he does have his occasional identity crises, he mostly takes it more in stride.

The series includes characters from many different mythologies, including Greek, Norse, Egyptian, and fairy lore. Within the Sandman universe, Orpheus is revealed to be Dream’s son. A few Biblical characters also appear, including Cain and Abel, whose personalities were largely taken from their roles as hosts in earlier DC horror comics.

The brothers are neighbors with a dysfunctional relationship, with Cain constantly killing Abel, who comes back to life not long after. They still care about each other, though, and I like the bit after the Furies killed Abel, when Cain insisted only HE was allowed to do that. That sums up a sibling relationship pretty well, I’d say. I generally found myself enjoying the stories that made heavy use of traditional mythology the most. I think the ones with modern settings suffered a bit from characters who weren’t that easily distinguishable. I’d often remember that a character had appeared in a previous story, but essentially had to ask myself, “Wait, which angsty character with a sordid past was this one?” Overall, though, I did like the series. I guess you could say I wouldn’t have read the whole thing if I hadn’t, but then I’m also usually able to stick with things that are entertainingly bad. It’s boring books that I can’t finish. Anyway, I know quite a few people who are fans of the series, and I guess now I’ll know what they’re talking about when they discuss it.

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8 Responses to Mr. Sandman, Bring Me a Dream

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  4. Joe says:

    Been considering getting this in the two oversized-volume editions, but your review doesn’t inspire me with confidence. For one thing, I don’t care for the admixture with elements of the DC universe (e.g., Cain and Able), which I find diminishes the authenticity of the world (particularly since I see the costumed superheroes of the DC and Marvel universes as utterly unbelievable). Also, you don’t seem terribly impressed with the overall story or characters. Three years since this review, do you find it’s a worthwhile endeavor?

    • Nathan says:

      You might want to check it out before purchasing it if you’re not sure. From what I remember, I liked it pretty well, but I didn’t find it to be essential reading. The DC universe elements weren’t all that prominent, but they did show up on occasion. From what I recall, the only costumed superheroes to make significant appearances were the Martian Manhunter and an earlier Sandman character.

      • Joe says:

        Good idea because they’re not cheap! Looks like they keep the DC universe mostly at bay, which is fine by me. It’s one of the things that annoyed me about the otherwise amazing Swamp Thing run (of which I speak of the Len Wein/Alan Moore series). I can’t think of a better way to destroy the verisimilitude of a story than to have a caped crusader show up (that said, the Batman and Green Lantern appearances in that series were handled well under Moore’s reign).

      • Nathan says:

        I think Gaiman even admitted that putting superheroes into the same continuity might not have worked that well. I think it was effective in that it touches on a lot of different mythologies, and the world of superheroes is one of those unto itself. Then again, that raises the question as to whether it also fits in with everything else in the DC universe.

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