Neil Gaiman announced recently that he is working on a new The Sandman mini-series that will be set before the events of the first The Sandman comic, published waaaay back in 1988. Since The Sandman is my all-time favorite comic and one of my favorite literary creations bar none, I was pretty excited to hear this news. There haven’t been any new Sandman tales from Gaiman since 2003, when the story collection Endless Nights was published. This new set of stories will come out in 2013 and answer the questions set up by The Sandman’s opening, including how he was able to be captured by humans, and why he was dressed for war.
So why do I love The Sandman so much? Oh so many reasons. But here’s a couple. For one thing, Gaiman masterfully presents many, many characters, each with their own distinct characteristics and back-story. There’s the Endless, seven brothers and sisters who have existed longer than gods, and are more powerful. The Endless include Dream (Sandman), Death, Delirium, Despair, Desire, Destiny, and Destruction. There’s the inhabitants of the Dreaming, like Fiddler’s Green, the Corinthian, and Merv Pumpkinhead. There’s the gods and demons Dream encounters in his adventures, such as Bast, Lucifer, and the Furies. And finally, there’s the humans that Dream gets to know, including Rose, Hob Gadling, and Nada.
Gaiman juggles many characters in this series, but none of them ever bleed into each other. They are all clearly defined, and not only this, but intriguing and surprising as well. And because Gaiman’s characters are so strong, the story seems to grow organically from their interactions. The world-building here is as solid as rich soil beneath your fingers.
Of course, the story in The Sandman is a carefully planned out structure. Gaiman apparently knew where he was heading the entire time, and planned for his series to end around issue 75 (this differs from most comics, which aim to surge forward endlessly – Hellblazer is an obvious example of this, since it’s been published continuously since 1988). One of the wonders of this elegant structure is the implication that there are so many more stories to tell than The Sandman gives us. I always have the sense when reading this series that each character could tell me so much more about their lives than what is contained in the pages. That’s an extremely tantalizing feeling.
So now Gaiman is going to give us a little bit more of the story that’s been hidden beneath those pages. I can’t wait. And if you haven’t given The Sandman a try, I urge you to do so. It’s compelling, terrifying, moving, beautiful storytelling at its very best.