Ah, Sandman, I believe we’ve met before?

Sandman-Overture-CV1_SOLICIT_sxvqsdoynu_Today I bought my first comic book in virtually aeons.  I truly cannot remember the last time I bought a comic BOOK as opposed to a graphic novel or zine.  What was that comic that finally convinced me to buy a new issue?

SANDMAN OVERTURE #1

Like many, I believe that Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN series (and various tie-ins and one shots) is one of the best written series in comic book history.  Gaiman’s ability to re-create old DC comic characters was amazing and, soon after the first dozen issues, Gaiman created a new mythology unlike any we’ve seen before.

I’ve been critical of DC recently (with fair reason) but they actually did something right when, in 1996, they decided to cancel the SANDMAN title when Gaiman left rather than continue it with far weaker writers.  (Although, I can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to follow Gaiman on this title.) Kudos to 1996 DC which no longer exists in the DC of 2013.  Apparently characters weren’t the only thing rebooted with the New 52.

Anyway, I was one of those readers who started with SANDMAN #1 way back in (Cthulhu help me) 1986.  I was instantly captivated and I hoped against hope that this odd new title would not get cancelled because it was truly something unique.  Thankfully, the entire comics community recognized the brilliance of Gaiman and his many artists and the title had a healthy 75 issues.

So, obviously, like everyone else, I was surprised and thrilled when it was announced that Gaiman would be writing a prequel to SANDMAN and now we have the first issue.

But, how is it?

Not surprisingly, I have mixed feelings.  The mini-series sets out to answer the question as to what had happened to Dream before the events of SANDMAN #1 where he is captured and imprisoned.  (I’ve never been bothered by this question as much as others apparently have.)

Gaiman’s writing is, as always, wonderful to read and it feels as if the 17 years since the last issue of SANDMAN were only moments instead of an eternity.  It is comforting to see a writer once again providing TEXT that has to be read.  I am so tired of comics that take roughly about 3 minutes to read like some sort of four-color popcorn snack.  But this is, after all, the first issue of a mini-series so it’s difficult to pass judgment at this point.  Also, a great bulk of this issue is spent in foreshadowing which makes it hard to tell what is going on here.

Probably the greatest failing of this issue is the fact that you really have to know the characters and history of the old series to get many of the references and nuances.  We see Death here but she is not identified as such nor do we know her or Destiny’s relationship to Dream.  The same can be said for the Corinthian, Merwyn and Lucien.  Neither is the nature of the Endless and Dream’s own ability to ‘regenerate’ mentioned.  Which points to the series being written specifically for the fan of the old comic.  If you didn’t read it (and there are probably readers out there, somewhere, that HAVEN’T read all of it), you’re probably pretty lost.

As I wandered through the comic store, looking at the new titles and issues, this concept struck me rather hard.  Because I haven’t read new comics in so long, I am now the equivalent of a new reader with no idea who anyone is or what is going on.  What is worse is that, at these prices, I have little inclination to find out.

SANDMAN OVERTURE is $5.  I don’t care if it says $4.99, it’s bloody FIVE DOLLARS!  For ONE 36 page comic book that includes 8 pages of ads.  Why so much?  Is it because DC knows that they can charge that much and fans will pay it?  If so, it’s not unreasonable logic as it made me part with $5 which I didn’t really want to give to DC.  But it still grinds my gears.  I grew up in the age of .20 cent comics when it was unheard of to charge $1 for the DC giant comics or $1.50 for the tabloid sized comics.  At this rate, you can’t buy everything or even very many comics so, instead of attracting new readers, they’re chasing them off with sticker shock.

The art?  Well, the art by J. H. Williams III is spectacular.  It is truly amazing and matches the lyricism of Gaiman’s prose perfectly.  The art alone makes this worth buying… even if that $5 price tag sticks in my craw like a bit of undone potato.  Humbug.

Will I buy the other issues?  Of course I will.  Any new SANDMAN comic by Gaiman is an automatic must read.  I’m intrigued by the four page fold out spread and want to see what happens and, like all good comic geeks, how Gaiman wraps it up to the beginning of SANDMAN #1.

But I’ll be bitching about the price every bit of the way.

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About Sam Gafford
My name is Sam Gafford and I've been doing critical work on William Hope Hodgson for many years. I wrote the article "Writing Backwards: The Novels of William Hope Hodgson" in which I presented evidence that WHH wrote his novels in the reverse order in which they were published. I've recently written an article on Hodgson's confrontation with Houdini and am currently working on a book length study of WHH.

One Response to Ah, Sandman, I believe we’ve met before?

  1. trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

    You summed up a lot of my feelings as well, which I elaborated on in my own review (I think you saw that already?). It does require foreknowledge of the characters and a basic understanding of the original series’ premise re:Morpheus being trapped, and it doesn’t work at all as a “stand-alone” issue as so many of the better installments of “old-school” arcs in the original “sandman” did, but the art is beyond gorgeous, and right now it feels so good to have this book back, even for just six months, that I can definitely forgive this issue’s minor flaws.

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