It is never “only a dream”, John Constantine. Here less than other places”–Dream, Sandman #3: “Dream a Little Dream of Me
Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite writers. One of his best works ever was his comic book series Sandman. Sandman takes place in The Dreaming, the same realm we enter when we sleep. It’s ruled by a family called the Endless. Each member of the family is an anthromorphic personification: Dream, Death, Destruction, Delirium, Destiny, and Desire. Dream, also known as Morpheus, is the primary protagonist.
What I like best about Dream is that he is resigned to his station. He is neither good nor evil, but neutral. His deeds only serve to preserve the realm of dreams, which is neither good nor evil. (Although Sandman does do heroic deeds on occasion, they are done for his own purposes)
The first story arc, Preludes and Nocturnes, covers the first 8 issues of the comic. In my opinion, it’s the strangest arc in the series. The Vertigo line rarely interacted with DC’s main comic book universe, and Sandman is no exception. (In fact, many titles, like Invisibles and Y, the Last Man had nothing to do with DC’s universe at all) Characters like Cain, Abel, Martian Manhunter, and Doctor Destiny all appear in the story. Iechnically, Cain and Abel were really only the hosts of DC’s House of Mystery comic and were based on their biblical namesakes. They are immortal to an extant. In this version, Cain constantly murders Abel, not that it matters. I don’t get these appearances. However, I do like the way Sandman retrieves his dreamstone from Doctor Destiny by goading him into fighting him in the realm of dreams, where Dream is more powerful.
One of my favorite moments is when we first meet Lucifer in Hell. Lucifer would later become a key player in the comic’s main story and eventually got his own spin-off soon after Sandman ended. (and yes, I am considering reviewing that series as well) Here, one of his demons, Chronozon, has stolen Dream’s helmet, one of the three totems he is searching for in the story in order to regain control of his realm (OK, technically Chronozon is Beelezebub’s demon, but he and Azazel share hell together with Lucifer.) They meet each other in a challenge to determine who can create the strongest manifestation. The battle ends when Chronozon becomes “…anti-life, the Beast of Judgement. I am the dark at the end of everything. The end of universes, gods, worlds … of everything.” Dream’s counter? “I am Hope.” At the end of the battle, Lucifer and Dream have this exchange:
Lucifer: The million lords of Hell stand arrayed about you. Tell us, why should we let you leave? Helmet or no, you have no power here–what power have dreams in Hell?”
Sandman: “You say I have no power? Perhaps you speak truly. But–you say dreams have no power here? Tell me, Lucifer Morningstar…Ask yourselves, all of you, what power would Hell have if those here imprisoned were not able to dream of Heaven.
Hate and evil are weak against the light.
My other favorite moment is the final chapter, “The Sound of Her Wings”, in which we meet another member of the Endless, Death (who eventually received two one-shots: The High Cost of Living and The Time of Your Life). Death is perhaps my favorite character in Sandman. She is not a chilling grim reaper or a brooding ruler like Hades. She is a vibrant, lively woman who is pleasant to all she encounters. I would much rather meet her when my journey on this realm ends before I meet Jesus. Her introduction is excellent and like Dream, we are meant to ponder why we fear such a charming woman.
Next month, I will review the second arc, The Doll House.