Character Reference is a weekly spot where I provide a letter of recommendation for a series you should try, kicking off with a selection of comics! Every Thursday will have an overview of a fantastic comic book series that you might otherwise have missed, covering a range of genres, styles and characters. Enjoy!
In anticipation of Halloween, this week’s comic recommendation is suitably spooky and supernatural, starring a mythical family called the Endless who are the dysfunctional personifications of Death, Destruction, Destiny, Desire, Despair, Delirium and our titular protagonist, Dream. These beings control their associated realms with various levels of success; when we first meet Dream he has been imprisoned and stripped of his totems of power.
The Sandman is one of the most critically acclaimed comic series of all times, outselling Superman and Batman titles by the time the run finished in 1996, making the New York Times bestseller list and smashing the traditional demographics of comic readers thanks to its enduring popularity with women, twenty-somethings and non-comic readers.
The writer of The Sandman, Neil Gaiman, is possibly better known for his other works; Stardust, Coraline, episodes of Doctor Who, Neverwhere and American Gods were all penned by Gaiman, and carry his distinct style. Gaiman likes to provide a wry look at the dark and unknown places that lurk just out of the corner of your eye.
Part of The Sandman’s appeal is that the series isn’t afraid to go to some very dark places; issues take place in Hell, a Serial Killer Convention and perhaps the darkest storyline takes place during 24 hours in a diner. This comic book isn’t for the weak stomached, but if you relish stories that explore dreams, nightmares and human nature, and consider Black Mirror followed by American Horror Story an enjoyable night in, this series is definitely for you.
Fans of DC comics lore will enjoy cameos from the likes of John Constantine, and history buffs will relish appearances from figures such as Shakespeare, but Gaiman also creates an iconic cast of original characters, with notable examples including the personification of Death as a chilled Goth teenage girl, the alluring, androgynous Desire who owes a lot of their appearance to David Bowie (comic artists all seem to love the Thin White Duke) and poor Delight’s descent into the colourful, chaotic Delirium.
The Sandman will remain a classic amongst regular comic readers and fans of literature of all kinds. If you’re feeling brave this Halloween, give it a try, but beware of nightmares!
Title: The Sandman
Genre: Epic Dark Fantasy
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artists: Various, covers by Dave McKean
Publisher: Vertigo (previously DC Comics)
Status: Completed (occasional additional content/spin offs do appear)
Words: Heidi Teague
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