Re-Blogging Sandman: Issue #1 Sleep of the Just



Well guys, I realized to my immense sadness and horror that it has almost been a full ten years since I first picked up Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes on the whimmiest of whims, and fell in love with an entire universe forever.

Deep in the throes of Tori Amos obsession, I wanted to know more about "Neil and the Dream King", until then merely characters in one of my favorite songs, "Tear In Your Hand." (Though I had already read Neverwhere a year or two before at the insistence of my high school librarian, and somehow forgot about Neil Gaiman since.)

Well the Tori obsession has faded (albeit slightly), while Neil Gaiman's star has risen to stratospheric levels since I first encountered his work.

My friends have dressed as various members of the Endless, in countless costume parties. The memory of the characters is fully alive, but I realized, sadly, that I had forgotten much of the Sandman story, the details, the episodes.

And so I begin again. Starting at the beginning.

#1 - Sleep of the Just

The purpose of this issue is to introduce Sandman himself. It's a fantastically clever introduction; we learn about Dream's importance through the impact caused by his absence; he influences many key events in the 20th century.

Dream has been captured and imprisoned by a coven of magicians who were actually seeking to capture another immortal, Death, in order to secure their own immortality (I would dearly, dearly love to see a follow-up series where it is in fact Death who is imprisoned for 100 years).

The magicians have no idea how to access Dream's power, so they just lock him up and periodically beg and/or torture him to work for them.

In Dream's absence, of course all manner of shenanigans occur between the humans -- love affairs, power plays, and the ill effects of old age. Vigilantes step up to fill in the vacuum left by Dream's imprisonment. But there's a terror lurking behind everything: what happens when Dream is finally freed? It all builds up to this moment, and you know that his revenge will be tremendous.

There's not much to say in the way of analysis, as this is the introductory chapter to the Universe. But we are introduced, if only by mention, to the broader mythology of the Endless. We are embarking on the journey of getting to know them. And I cannot begin to express how excited I am. On some level, I'm glad I waited this long, as I'll be seeing so much of it with fresh eyes again.

See you next issue!

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4 Responses to “ Re-Blogging Sandman: Issue #1 Sleep of the Just ”

  1. I'm coming back to this after a gap of five years. It's better than I remember. I always think of Preludes as the bit to slog through before the good stuff starts, but there's so much here to enjoy.

    The striking thing is how much we don't learn about the Sandman from the first issue. We know he's that he's powerful, and proud, and ruthlessly vengeful. Clearly he plays some important role in the cosmic order of things, but is he the hero or the villain?

    For that matter, what kind of book is this going to be? The first issue has an act of brutal revenge (eternal waking), gross-out horror (headsplosion!), and a Lovecraftian cult that's frequently close to pastiche (with that dread grimoire the Paginarum Fulvarum, or as we know it: the Yellow Pages). That mixture of tone is reflected in the artwork. It should be a mess, and yet it's not. It's more like a bundle of unresolved possibilities - a cat shut in a box.

    After thirty pages and seventy years have passed the box is opened. The prisoner is loose - and would you believe, he takes the form of a cat?

  2. Ha! Oddly enough, I mention this in post #2 or #3, about how Morpheus is a bit of a blank slate that gets filled in slowly across the series.

    You're right though, about how it should be a mess, but isn't. Gaiman is in full control of the plotting from the start, even when he has to accede to publisher demands on various other points.

    I have a lot more appreciation for this issue than some of the other issues in P&N. It's allowed to be enigmatic, since it's the introduction.

    (also, I do believe the paginarum fulvarum reappears in Good Omens?)

  3. It does indeed appear in Good Omens, as well as Pratchett's Discworld stories (where it's also known as the Necrotelecomnicon).

    I live in hope that Teresa Nielsen Hayden will one day resume her own readalong. After finishing the first and only installment, I can see why she might not have the time on her hands.

    I'm amazed to find I'm still missing details that are staring me in the face. I thought those prison guards looked familiar...

  4. Finally just reread P&N. So, catch-up will begin. I really do enjoy the way he introduces Dream. You're filled in about him (at least somewhat artificially) by that void in the world he left. I hadn't remembered much of this (as it was years, too, since I had read it).

    One of the more striking images in the first chapter - for me - was the frame-by-frame aging of the captors. You see them aging and the people around them changing. It's the flow of life around Dream that struck me. To him, really, this is normal. As an immortal, this happens all the time, but the readers are given a taste of it through this artfully convenient setting. As Dream would normally be among the immortals or in and out of dreams, trapping him forces the reader to see time as he might see it, passing effortlessly by.

    As the waitress says in the later volume of P&N, if you let the story run on long enough, it will always end in death. We just get to see the story moving rapidly along that way. Fascinating to reread, I must say. Love the visuals and the storytelling.

    - Peter


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