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.