Archive for the '#SandMN Readalong' Category

SANDMAN readalong week 7: v 10 The Wake

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015


Welcome to the last Sandman readalong post, for volume 10, The Wake! 76 issues, whew!

At the end of the issue #72 script, Gaiman noted:

Last page of The Wake. Which is, more or less, the last page of the story that began in the first issue of Sandman. The last three issues are small codas. Scary. I never thought I’d make it this far.

For those finishing the series, did you ever think you’d make it this far? Had you tried the series before and given up, or not started feeling that 75 issues was too much of a commitment?

In a perfect world, I think a Sandman readalong would do about 5 issues a week, so take about four months. We crammed ours into 2 months.

Remember, join in the conversation by adding comments to this post, or by posting on Twitter with the hashtag #SandMN.

The 10th and final collection of the series, The Wake is six issues, but really only three of them are The Wake. The final issues of the series, 73, 74, and 75, are codas. 73 is a coda to The Wake, and 74 and 75 to the series. In these last six issues we meet again with SO MANY of the myriad characters we’ve encountered over the previous collections.

First off, a giant kick in the ass to whomever the designer of volume 10’s introduction was. What size is that font? Negative 2? Also, the 9’s look like 0’s. Bad font, unreadable size, but it’s a good intro, though I think Gilmore’s hyper-bitter dislike of one female character was perhaps influenced by personal baggage.

In The Wake, as he has done more and more throughout the series, Gaiman plays with multiple meanings. Those echoes and layers are what makes reading this series again so satisfying for me.

In the first issue of The Wake #70, wake means the aftermath, in the wake of previous events. I’m assuming Delirium got a crow as her winged messenger, since she’s butchering the counting-crows rhyme when she and Barnabas appear.

Delirium, as always, has some of the best lines:

Delirium: I want to name him! Plippy ploppy cheese nose?
Death: Mm. NO. Try again.
Delirium: Eblis O’Shaughnessy?
Death: Okay.

Then again, Gilbert’s scene is pretty amazing, too. I love Gilbert. Such a class act.

#71 means the wake after a funeral. Everyone starts to arrive. Rose’s brother Jed looks like Shaggy from Scooby Doo!

Often in these collections/storylines, Gaiman gives us the essence of it in the middle. Here, perhaps, is as good a summary of the series as any other:

Lucien: Sometimes, perhaps, one must change or die. And in the end, there were perhaps, limits to how much he could let himself change.

Next we get Thessaly’s side of the story, and while Dream’s version made him sound like a victim, this version makes it more like they just weren’t right together, and both were hurt.

This sadness is followed by a HILARIOUS PANEL with Clark Kent, Batman, and Martian Manhunter discussing whether they dream of being on TV, followed by a funny panel of the trio in trench coats for the DC nerds in the audience:


Another funny panel is when Matthew arrives and tries to figure out who’s who, using the D motif:

Matthew: Hello. let’s see: You two I know. Delirium…Death… let’s see: Desire, Despair. Destiny. And uhm…Dog?

In #72, there is no body, but the cerement has a shape under it, hinting perhaps that Dream was an idea made into a shape, but not a physicality in the conventional sense.

Another good nugget in the interchange between Jed and Rose:

Jed: Families rock.
Rose: Aren’t you the one that told me “families suck.”?
Jed: They do both. They rock AND they suck.

Destruction shows up to give advice to Daniel. He already said goodbye to Morpheus. Eulogies are said, even by bears. The reincarnated Nada as a Chinese boy throws flowers on the river, and in the end, Daniel pardons Lyta and releases her from the punishment for killing his predecessor and other Morpheus victims: Burgess, Nuala, Madoc, Lyta, all wake, restored. Then in the last panel, Daniel meets the family, and there is very distinct body language for each of them.

#73, in which Hob goes to a Ren Fair, is like an epilogue to The Wake. We see how Hob goes (and chooses to keep going) on. His young lovely African-American girlfriend is a sign to us that the horror that Morpheus inflicted on Nada, then Ruby, then Carla, is ended.

#74 is lovely, but serves more as a conceit in which it’s one issue that both the old and new Dream appear.

And #75, The Tempest, is a piece of work, is it not? I love the issue, but most of all, I love how it ends the series, and the echoes among how Shakespeare, Prospero, Dream, and Neil Gaiman have all chosen their ends, though they could not have foreseen the details of getting what they wanted.

Todd Klein’s lettering for Shakespeare is such a small detail that adds so much.

This is also a great example of how this series enriched and even changed my life. I had no idea Shakespeare had worked on the Psalms, this taught me the Guy Fawkes rhyme, and this made me seek out The Tempest, which has become my favorite play of Shakespeare’s. This series also probably was what ignited my initial interest in Shakespeare, which has gone on to become a love.

For those who’ve been reading along, I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride, and I hope the posts have been helpful as post-reading recaps and guides.

If you’re left wanting more Sandman or Gaiman, choose your follow up s with care. There’s a lot of middling stuff out there. Both of the Death miniseries are good (not great, though, IMO). Sandman Dream Hunters is in the spirit of #74, if you liked that fable-y type story. I also recommend Gaiman’s Books of Magic and Stardust for things in a similar vein. Currently, the Fables series and Unwritten are similar in subject and spirit to Sandman, but for me they don’t have its heft and resonance. You can email or comment, and I’ll give customized comic recommendations.

So, what did everyone else think?

Previous posts:

Sandman Readalong week 6 v. 9 The Kindly Ones: link

Sandman Readlong week five v. 7 Brief Lives and v. 8 Worlds’ End: link

Sandman Readalong week four, v. 5 A Game of You and v. 6 Fables and Reflections: link

Sandman Readalong week three v 3 Dream Country and v 4 Season of Mists: link

Sandman Readalong week two v 2 A Doll’s House: link

Sandman Readalong week one v 1 Preludes and Nocturnes: link

Sandman Readalong schedule: link

SANDMAN Readalong week 6: The Kindly Ones

Sunday, January 18th, 2015


Welcome to week 6, the penultimate week of the Sandman readalong. You can comment on this blog or tweet with the hashtag #SandMN.

The Kindly Ones is the penultimate storyline of the series, and contains its climax, the death of Dream.

I was going to do a whole spoiler spacing thing, but c’mon, these issues came out 20 years ago. The spoiler period is OVER.

Originally planned as 6 issues, this story more than doubled that, and also if I remember correctly, started coming out less and less monthly as it went. I remember many, many people complaining at the time that they hated the art and didn’t like the storyline.

What I noticed on this re-read is that this is a storyline full of assholes, and in which lots of beloved characters die. (But do they die fer real? We’ll have to see next week, with The Wake.) It is mostly illustrated by Marc Hempel, whose iconic, seemingly simplistic art wasn’t a fan favorite. I liked it then, I like it more now, and think it does a great job moving us through this long, echoing story to the climax of the series. Dream is drawn about as reductively as he has been throughout the series, and he still is by far the saddest, worried-est looking he’s ever been until the very end, when he looks, to me, at peace.

The opening story, The Castle, was part of a Vertigo promo piece, and does a good job of re-situating us in the series and reminding us of a lot of the minor players.

Each issue opens with an image of a thread, and comments that can relate to Dream, to knitting, as well as to the process of creating the Sandman itself.

Is it ready yet? Are you done?


1. Lucifer and Mazikeen! Daniel kidnapped.

2. Lyta meets the three-in-one, Cluracan strays from the path and is an ass, Nuala is wimpy Dream is an ass,

3. Loki and Puck. Hob, Destiny, Delirium, “And she went off to look for [Barnabas], trailing occasional fish.” Lyta goes nuts, flashback to Doll’s House and other issues.

4. Remiel is (still) an ass. Lyta bops between fantasy and “reality” but both are real enough, in this series. Rose Walker! Catches a peeping Abel, and oh, SHE was the sleepy sitter. Hey, who are these two sisters that look like Chantal and Zelda? So many echoes! Note: grey background is dream-y, white is realer. Corinthian 2.0!

5. “Can I have more water please? My hair drank most of it.” Rose passes Lyta, and visits Zelda, dying of AIDS, who now speaks because Chantal is dead. Rose is sent back to England, Corinthian 2.0 and Matthew are sent to find Daniel. Poor dead Carla. I feel like we’ve got a whole list of dead nice people that litter the path of this comic.

6: No strings, and we’re echoing Doll’s House again, and the first time Rose flew to England. I love Glyn Dillon’s version of Rose. Cute solicitor, 3 old ladies (the one who says she killed someone after destroying his life is Lyta’s birth mother, the first Fury), a creepy old-school fairy tale, and we find Paul and Alex from the beginning of the series. Alex has Ethel’s picture on the nightstand, and has the original Piglet with him (did he nick it from Christopher Robin Milne?)

7. Love the snake cover. It’s Dave McKean’s favorite. Hey, we know this woman, but not by “Larissa.” And what does she wnat with Lyta? Thessaly kills a little lamb (she really is a humorless bitch through this) and Lyta finally finds her way in the dreamscape to the Furies, I mean, The Kindly Ones, and while they can’t avenge Daniel, they can go after Dream who killed Orpheus in Brief Lives.

8. A day in the life of Dream. Delirium tries to recruit Dream to find Barnabas but he’s not going. Rose gets some action, the Corinthian eats eyeballs to find Carla’s killer, and the poor dead Gryphon. “Larissa” eats lamb stew (stone cold, that one) Nuala pines, Rose gets dissed: “Very perceptive”.

9. “Almost time. Nearly. Very nearly.”

Rose meets her grandfather on a grey-backed page, and her heart is returned, just as it’s learning to break. (Readers of Wicked + Divine, were you reminded strongly of Luci with this scene?) Corinthian battles Loki. Oh, poor dead Gilbert. I loved him so, even if he was a place, not a person. And we finally learn who the woman is who broke Dream’s heart, or vice versa, and their talk does not go well, as was previously prophesied (by Destiny?)

10. “There.” Puck, Loki trying to get Thor to kill him, why does that poor skinny woman stay with Loki? (what is it with women in servant roles?) Poor dead Abel, boring Faerie, badass Merv Pumpkinhead goes out like Rambo alongside his bats with bowler hats. Nuala meets Delirium, Rose flies back and gets chatty with Ethel Cripps’ niece (I was very fond of Judith Krantz books when I was young, and don’t recall having to look up words. I preferred Mistral’s daughter to Princess Daisy, though. Less rape-y.) Shirley Jackson We Have Always Lived in the Castle reference, and now I get it, woo hoo! “I am here, Nuala.”

11. Which McKean illustrated with a fish on a string and a music stand even before Gaiman wrote 12 which had both those things. Weird. No more string as it was cut last issue. “Who’s there?” Hamlet reference! In case you hadn’t guessed, this is a tragedy. Goldie! Oh, Nuala. Barnabas! Lyta realizes she’s made a terrible, terrible mistake.

12. Penultimate issue of penultimate story line. Dream prepares for battle (again.) Delirium meets Satan! “Down the road I go, following my fishie.” Matthew takes a stand, and we see Hempel’s version of Death which I really like, and Dream sheds all his stuff (but keeps his pants on, and finally doesn’t look scared.

13. Unlucky 13. “What are you doing? “Waiting for you.” Indeed.

Hal is less of an ass. Rose is knocked up. (Again, echoes of Unity).

The nurse is reading a paper with the headline “Local Solicitor Kills Himself when Gay Lover Walks Out.” Could this be Rose’s Jack?

Alex wakes finally so perhaps there is hope for sinners after all. Daniel grows up fast, and the Kind Ladies have tea.

“There. For good or bad. it’s done.”

The Kindly Ones
. I laughed. I cried. It was better than Cats, because as Lucifer said about the song ‘Memories,’ “the melody is trite, while the awkward paraphrases of lesser Eliot poems in the lyrics are grating in the extreme.”

What did everyone else think? I found it immensely satisfying as a whole story, though I am left with a nagging feel that the women characters in this: Larissa/Thessaly, Nuala, Lyta, the Kindly Ones, are more dastardly than they need to be.

Previous posts:

Sandman Readlong week five: link

Sandman Readalong week four: link

Sandman Readalong week three: link

Sandman Readalong week two: link

Sandman Readalong week one: link

Sandman Readalong schedule: link

SANDMAN Readalong wk 5: “Brief Lives” & “Worlds’ End”

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Welcome back to the Sandman Readalong. We’re in week five, reading volume 7: Brief Lives and volume 8: Worlds’ End. Note the placement of the possessive apostrophe in the last volume, that’s the end of Worlds, plural.

Again, we’re on a rigorous reading schedule. The nice thing about Sandman is that it is possible to jump in anytime. There’s enough backstory given, or enough info out in the world (or you could just ask this particular blogger) to give you what you need to dive in anytime. And you really should, because this comic book series, Sandman by Neil Gaiman, is a wondrous thing. Not flawless, mind you, not from the pen of a god, though many fans pedestal-ize him. But still, tremendous and awesome, in the full meanings of those words.


Brief Lives is a road trip story, primarily focused on Delirium’s quest to find her brother Destruction, who abandoned his realm 300 years ago, on the verge of Newton’s science and question “are not light and gross bodies intraconvertible?”

The art is by Jill Thompson, who draws herself in the character Etain of the Second Look. (What does that MEAN, of the second look?) We first saw her work in the story “Parliament of Rooks” from Fables and Reflections. Thompson’s Delirium is younger and more childlike than the version we saw at the start of Season of Mists.

The first time I read the series, when it came out in the 90’s, I was fixated on the backstory of how Delight become Delirium. It was one of the questions I asked Gaiman when I went to my first signing (which I chronicled in My Neil Gaiman story), and one he brushed off. “Oh, someone else is going to write that sometime.”

But in the notes he gives in Season of Mists, which I read either in Hy Bender’s excellent Sandman Companion, or the, to me, less useful Annotated Sandman, Gaiman notes that Delirium is a pre-adolescent urchin, the kind who experiments with sexuality, clubs, and drugs before she’s whatever ready might mean. Once I read that description, I no longer wondered. Of course, I thought. Delirium is what happens to any delightful girl who gets shown too much too fast.

In Thompson’s hands and in Gaiman’s version for this story, she’s cuter and funnier. In fact, she gets most of the best lines. It’s hard to choose just one to quote. When the receptionist asks for a name, and she responds in surprise that the receptionist doesn’t have a name, that she wouldn’t want hers (Delirium’s, that is), and this is just before she starts summoning colored frogs, one of my favorite moments of the series. Then when she asks if Dream ever spends time thinking of ice cream flavors like telephone or green-mouse flavors. Later, when she says she’s going to grow up to be a kangaroo. But if I have to pick one, I’ll go with the one that illustrates the center of this story and maybe the series:

Delirium: Um. Whats the name of the word for things not being the same always. You know, I’m sure there is one. Isn’t there? There must be a word for it…the thing that let’s you know TIME is happening. Is there a word?

Dream: Change.

Poor Ruby. Poor Bernie Capax. Poor confused Danny Capax, eh? So much death throughout, but then again, as the lady says, we get what everyone gets, right? A lifetime. And no matter how much it is, they all feel brief and precious.

The character who has the healthiest view of life, probably is Andros, who always notices it’s a beautiful day. He’s the caretaker of Orpheus, who longs, like Rainie Blackwell, for death.

In the end, Dream makes a momentous decision, one that will have repercussions we see in the next volume and beyond.

Gaiman sneaks in yet another reference to the wizard of Oz (among a ZILLION other references, which are like delightful treats throughout that enhance the reading experience, but aren’t necessary to it), when Destruction asks whether they wants a heart, a brain, or a balloon ride. He gets the balloon ride into the sky by himself, while Delirium gets a brain in Barnabas and Dream gets a heart, one that he has not shown too often. (Though his apology to Delirium earlier in this story, and when he admits he went with her at first so he could do an earthly drive by of the lover who left and made him so delightfully Morrissey-ish at the beginning, what with the rain on the balcony are both lovely moments.)

OK, on, on, on to the next one, as the Foo Fighters sing.


Volume 8, World’s End. This is a great example of why I’m baffled when people say of the Sandman series, “I don’t like the art.” WTF? There are like twenty different artists in this one short volume! You can’t dislike ALL of them!

So here’s a question for you, kind readers. Who’s your favorite inker in this volume?

I can’t decide. I love Allred’s iconic Prez story, plus Zulli’s spread of the sea monster, plus the 14-15, and 16-17 spreads of the last issue #56, (note how there are an unprecedented THREE full spreads in this collection.) and am at my satellite office and didn’t bring the Bender book, so I don’t have the artist for those pages.

Gaiman is doing an homage to Chaucer (who appeared earlier in “Men of Good Fortune”) with travelers telling tales. Somewhere else in the past I read that it was also an homage to Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, which I subsequently read and didn’t love and can’t recall if I found a connection. Here, let me go check… AHA. From 2008, my comments on If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller.

There are stories within stories within stories, but perhaps my favorite is the one that is ostensibly NOT a story, Charlene’s after she notes this about the previous stories:

Charlene: There aren’t any WOMEN in these stories. Did anyone else notice that?

Jim“: But, well, what about me, missie? There’s ME. There was MY story. That was a woman’s story.

Charlene: Oh, PLEASE. Look, girl, the whole POINT of your story is that there WASN’T a WOMAN in it. Just a ship full of sailors and a giant dick thrusting out of the ocean…I mean, there aren’t any real women in any of the stories I’VE heard tonight. We’re just pretty figures in the background to be loved or avoided or obeyed or…whatever.

Charlene goes on to tell a heartbreaking and utterly plausible story of her mundane life. In the end, she chooses to stay. I gotta say, Charlene is right about the Boys-Own nature of the tales, and having her stay to be a domestic sticks in my craw. Just because Gaiman acknowledges there are no women in the stories, doesn’t absolve him of the lack, and making her a domestic? Works my nerves, it does.

So, that’s more than enough from me. Join us next Monday for the longest arc of the series, volume 9 The Kindly Ones. (And speaking of art that people hate, whooee. I don’t, but MANY did.)

You can comment here, or tweet with the hashtag #SandMN.

What did everyone else think?

Previous posts:

Sandman Readalong week four: link

Sandman Readalong week three: link

Sandman Readalong week two: link

Sandman Readalong week one: link

Sandman Readalong schedule: link

Gearing Up for the “Brief Lives” Post

Monday, January 12th, 2015

I just scared my writer tablemates by taking a picture of my chestular region; the photo booth did a really loud countdown that sounded like my machine was going to blow up. I’m wearing my Delirium T-shirt, given to me in the 90’s when my now-husband was courting me.


Slightly disappointed that there are no colorful frogs, as in the Farrell travel office, but the Jill Thompson images are still charmingly bat$hit.


Monday, January 5th, 2015

sandman5 sandman6

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Sandman winter readalong! This week we’ll be talking about both A Game of You v5 #32-37 and Fables and Reflections v6 #29-31, 38-40, 50 and Special #1. At 14 issues this is our biggest chunk so far. If you’re reading in the graphic novel collections, then this was a pretty straightforward jump from volume 5 to 6. But if you, like me, are reading the issues in order in the Absolute Editions, this week required some jumping around. A$$loads of SPOILERS AHEAD.

By all accounts, A Game of You was one of the least popular Sandman storylines. People didn’t like the art, or the story. Retailers didn’t like the covers, since A Game of You was writ large, and Sandman small. Also, many readers were troubled, including the GN collections introduction writer Samuel R. Delany, by the deaths of two characters at the end of the story, Wanda the transexual, and Maisie Dobbs, the homeless “I don’t like dogs” woman. Delany (spot on, IMO) calls out Gaiman for killing off the two outsider characters. He concludes, though, that if you read the story, carefully, in the details, that what’s being put forth isn’t easily reducible.

I’ve read this story many times. Every time it makes me cry. I absolutely love the detail of the cute frog mug. So many, many lovely characters die in it, but none of them are white and hetero-normative. (Or human, for that matter.)

I’ve come to terms with all the deaths but one. Wanda, based on the set up of the story, had to die. Alas, she had to die in order for Barbie to learn, and this is not just an unfortunate trope, it’s a terrible one. But in terms of the story, in which the moon won’t allow Wanda to travel because she has a Y chromosome, and she is left behind in the brownstone in a hurricane, it makes sense that she dies, and her funeral and Barbie’s memoriams to her (including her dream) give Wanda a lovely rich, well-deserved goodbye.

Here are the things that make me not pissed (though always sad) about Wanda’s death: Barbie’s scribbling Wanda’s name on her grave with pink (which echoes her heaving of the pink Porpentine at the grey stone Hierogram in the skerry), and Wanda’s appearance in the dream, which in the context of this story, in which all the dreams are real, and all that’s real is artificial and constructed and shifting, is her true self, as Death encounters her, as a lovely person and woman. I do not see her as conflicted in her identity, which Delany scolds Gaiman about, nor do I see that the moon’s opinion about Y chromosomes is the author’s. Wanda is simply afraid of surgery; she KNOWS her identity and claimed it by leaving Kansas and becoming a New Yorker named Wanda who spouts Yiddish.

Gaiman says his aim in the story was to show that all of us, no matter how boring and bland on the outside, contains worlds of wonder within. Mission: accomplished.

The death I cannot and won’t forgive is that of Maisie Dobbs. Wanda’s character is deepened when she goes to help Maisie, and Wanda dying is part of Barbie’s character, but Maisie’s is not necessary, and killing a black homeless character for slight story reasons (unlike Wanda’s which I read as major) to protect a pretty white cisgendered girl is an cruel, thoughtless cliche. Shame on you, Neil Gaiman, and I hope you now regret that story choice.

Now, to see if I can sum up (ha!) Fables and Reflections. Courtesy of Wikipedia:

Fables and Reflections collecting The Sandman #29—31, 38—40, 50; Sandman Special #1; and Vertigo Preview #1: A collection of short stories set throughout Morpheus’ history, most of them originally published directly before or directly after the “Game of You” story arc. Four issues, dealing with kings and rulers, were originally published under the label “Distant Mirrors,” while three others, detailing the meetings of various characters, were published as the “Convergences” arc. Fables and Reflections includes the Sandman Special, originally published as a stand-alone issue, which assimilates the myth of Orpheus into the Sandman mythos, as well as a very short Sandman story from the Vertigo Preview promotional comic.

I’ll write a little about each.

“Fear of Falling” Gaiman says this refers to a dream he had as a child.

“Thermidor” Lady Johanna Constantine, who we first met in “Men of Good Fortune” and Orpheus on whom more later.

“August” The story itself is OK, but Talbot’s art is the thing for me, with its changing shadows and accumulations of garbage as the day progresses.

“Three Septembers and a January” Never knew about this guy. Lovely story.

“The Hunt” Another one of those seems like a “real” myth but Gaiman made it up.

“Soft Places” More history, with Marco Polo. Best line: I remember when I was just a vicinity. Hints of things to come: who’s hanging out, cooing in him?

“The Song of Orpheus” Gaiman says readers on book tours weren’t familiar enough with the story of Orpheus, which is why he did more of a straight telling of the myth than a series of riffing short stories. Hey, it’s the missing sibling!

Back in the pre-internet days, I nerded out by calling the Classics department at a local university to ask him what Olethros meant after the issue came out to confirm it meant Destruction.

Note: the other Endless never call her “Death,” just our sibling, perhaps a reference to the birth visit Olethros refers to. Also, probably not a good idea to set out on a path that Destruction sets, eh? And, Calliope’s comment about Dream not changing, and maybe even not being able to change, and finally, the ending, which shows again: old-school Dream is a jerk.

“The Parliament of Rooks” Another appearance of Goldie, yay! Also, the first appearance of the Lil Endless. Death laughing at Dream tripping on his cape is hilarious.

“Ramadan” So, so pretty, the art, the colors, the letters. Russell illustrated this from a prose story Gaiman wrote rather than a traditional script. We saw the city in the bottle when Dream put Azazel away in the Season of Mists storyline.

I’m reading the Absolute Edition, which includes a short story about a satyr, beautifully painted by John Bolton and featuring Desire in a non-jerky aspect.

Whew! I think that’s it for this week. Join us on Twitter with the hashtag #SandMN or in the comments. I’ll be here next week to talk about Sandman: Brief Lives v7 #41-49 and Sandman: World’s End v8 #51-56 (15 issues).

What did everyone else think?

Previous posts:

Sandman Readalong week three: link

Sandman Readalong week two: link

Sandman Readalong week one: link

Sandman Readalong schedule: link

Sandman Readalong Week 3: “Dream Country” & “Season of Mists”

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

dream_country1 season_mists

I was toodling along last week after finishing Sandman v3: Dream Country, getting my holiday cards addressed and sent out, reading Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming which I got from the library and had to return soon, when I consulted the Sandman readalong schedule, you know, the one _I_ made, and realized with a jolt that I had scheduled TWO of the Sandman graphic novels to discuss today. So I had to get cracking. I finished the Cumming book and returned it to the library, and finished Sandman v4: Season of Mists as well as reading the chapter on it in Hy Bender’s Sandman Companion and the relevant covers in Dustcovers.

I know reading both these books in one week is a lot; we are cramming 75+ issues/10 graphic novels into a 2 month period with a week off for busy time. How is the reading process going for everyone? Too fast, or are the stories devour-able enough to keep to this hectic pace?

To the books, then. Dream Country is four short stories. Gaiman says that while he’s writing the longer story arcs, he has ideas for these shorts, that he “holds” and writes them in between times.

“Calliope.” I went down a rabbit hole by starting to re-read the comments from a readalong NPR’s Monkey See blog did a few years ago. Then I realized I’d never get done. I enjoy this story, while it also disturbs me. It’s more graphic than I’d like, especially the rape and naked stuff. There’s always the question of: is it a critique, or does it automatically implicitly condone nakedness/rape by showing it at all. Yes, Madoc is a tool, and Fry was before him. Not just a tool, but a rapist, kidnapper, and all around horrible person. But there’s this thing that happens with Gaiman fans where they worship him and say he’s such a feminist writer, (ditto for Joss Whedon, who gets called a feminist when he wrote a space prostitute, for heaven’s sake) and I don’t buy that–I think Gaiman is poking fun at himself in this comic, too. I hope he’d acknowledge that there’s some Madoc in him. But, I liked all the Greek myths, and meditations on Rules, and forgiveness, in contrast to how Dream left Burgess in volume 1.

“Dream of a Thousand Cats” is one of the most accessible of Sandman stories, I think, and highlights how Dream shifts radically in appearance depending on who sees him.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” This is Shakespeare Nerd nirvana. LOVE IT. One of my favorite issues. Funny, sad, and beautiful, with Vess’s Arthur Rackham inspired art perfectly suited to the fair folk.

“Facade” Yay, we get to see Death again! Poor Rainey. All those ashtray face masks. A very different artist, Doran, and one who draws a good, real, female anatomy, IMO.

Season of Mists. Holy cats, people, how am I supposed to summarize this? The art in this one is all over the place, perhaps due to its having four different artists and four different inkers, all in different pairings except for Chapters 1 and 2, and even those had different colorists.

Episode 0: Family meeting (awkward!) The 3 ladies, again. Questions: how did Delight become Delirium? Who is The Prodigal (Pet peeve: Prodigal means wasteful, not “s/he who goes away” though that’s how most people use and understand it.) Love how Death calls Dream on his $hit. Also, favorite lines:

Death to Dream: Have a grape.
Dream. I do not want a grape.
Desire: I could MAKE you want one.

Episode 1. Dream prepares
Episode 2. The return to hell. Things don’t go as planned. How about that splash page spread of pages 2 and 3?


Hey, have you watched the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune? Well, you should, as it’s awesome. One of the last things it does is shows how some of the design elements from the film that was never made nonetheless came into being in other creative works. Thus, I was reminded of this by the splash page:


Though the Sandman art could also have been influenced by the HR Giger interpretation that appeared in Alien:


Wow, I am totally never going to finish this post but I am having fun GEEKING OUT.

I enjoy when Luficer asks Mazikeen for her knife, and we think he’s going to cut her, but instead slips her something else, his tongue, on the page turn and has Dream use the knife otherwise.

Episode 3: Lots of Gods! Again with the skinny, nearly naked blond woman. Boo. I love how Kelly Jones draws Dream’s robes, though, as here:


See that shadow over Dream’s shoulder, on the reader’s right? Rumor has it that’s a nod to Dave Sims’ long-running character Cerebus the Aardvark.

[OK, I have to stop here to go home from my satellite office at the coffee shop to my small children, who I left at home while my husband G. Grod works from home. But more, later, because giving this complex storyline short shrift would be sad, no?]

Edited to add on 12/27: Episode 3: Death looks disturbingly like Sean Young on page 12. Silver city looks like it’s made of phalluses p 14. Thor is a drunk asshole! I am amused that the lord of order incarnates as an empty box.

Episode 4: Poor, poor Charles Rowland. This is another horror story, and these really stick with me, alas. Illustrated by Matt Wagner, known to comic geeks for Mage, Grendel, and the Sandman sorta-spinoff Sandman Mystery Theater. Gaiman contends that his portrayal of boarding school is a mix of his own experience and others he’s read. Obviously not Harry Potter-ish. Yikes. Death in exercise gear on p. 21 is amusing. Rowland and Paine go on to have adventures outside of the Sandman series, but as with most of the related material, the quality is up and down, IMO.

[Stopping here. Must go pick up Guppy from karate. Will I ever finish this?]

Edited to add AGAIN.

Episode 5: Starved naked woman again, sigh. Why does Nada look so different from on page chapter 3, page 17, though Kelley Jones is credited as the artist for both? The issues do have different inkers: P Craig Russell on 3, and George Pratt on 5. But, drunk Thor on p13 with champagne bubbles within his word bubbles: hilarious!

Episode 6: In which Dream gives the key to someone who doesn’t want it. Ha! Also, Azazel foolishly refuses hospitality, and Dream shows Choronzon a mercy he wouldn’t have previously in the series.

Epilogue: (slightly confusing, as shown as Episode infinity sign, which could be seen as a double entendre of 8, but it’s 7. Sigh.) Loki and Cluracan pull some tricks. (Giving a female as property. We already knew Cluracan was an ass, but Titania pimping out one of her own troubles me.) Nada is reborn as an Asian boy, and Lucifer makes a friend and enjoys the sunset. And Remiel seems to take a little too much enjoyment out of his new role in hell. Season of Mists closes with a fictional excerpt from Lucien’s Library of Dreams, by G. K. Chesterton, the author who was the model for Gilbert, Fiddler’s Green in The Doll’s House.

AND, that’s all I have. What did everybody else think? Remember, you can comment here, or tweet with the hashtag #SandMN.

Previous posts:

Sandman Readalong week two: link

Sandman Readalong week one: link

Sandman Readalong schedule: link

Sandman Read Wk 2: THE DOLL’S HOUSE

Sunday, December 14th, 2014


It is 9:30 on Sunday night, and I’m staring at this page, and it’s staring back to me, and I wonder, how on earth can I do justice to the sprawl of flaming crazy awesomeness that is volume 2 of The Sandman, The Doll’s House?

If you’re on twitter, join us with the hashtag #SandMN. If you’re not, then follow along here on Mondays. The reading schedule is here.

This collection opens with #9 “Tales in the Sand”, an African “folk tale” made up entirely by Gaiman, and refers to other tales, which he also made up.

(You really have to watch out for Gaiman. In American Gods, he made up some Slavic goddess, Zorja Polunochnaya, and depending on how you look her up online it’s really easy to believe that she was an actual goddess, and not something Neil just pulled out of his…head.)

We get the story of Nada, the woman we briefly met in #4, A Hope in Hell, who had been imprisoned there after rejecting Dream, or Kai’ kul, the incarnation of her people. If this is the men’s version, how much more scathing must the women’s version of it be? We got some indication of this before, but Dream can be a real jerk. Also in this story, we get images of hearts, as well as the difference between men’s and women’s stories, both of which will be themes throughout the series.

#10, “The Doll’s House” in which we meet the twins, Desire and Despair, as well as Rose Walker, who learns she is the granddaughter of Unity Kinkaid, who was impregnated and had a baby while she slept in issue #1. When Rose dreams, the page goes sideways. We get to see one of my favorite recurring characters, Goldie the gargoyle, who adorably says “meep” and “aarkle”. We get yet another appearance of the three witches, one of Gaiman’s favorite myths that he deploys throughout his work. And we meet the Corinthian, an escaped dream, and a very bad man.

#11 “Moving In.” Rose moves into a house in Florida so she can track down her younger brother Jed. She’s watched by Matthew, Dream’s talking raven, who used to be Matthew Cable in the series Swamp Thing. Jed is in a very bad place, and is having odd dreams that are homages to Windsor McKay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland.

#12 “Playing House” we meet Lyta and Hector Hall who have been playing Sandman under the tutelage of two escaped dreams. Hector is really a ghost, but Lyta has been in a suspended pregnancy. Dream, being a jerk again: “The child you have carried so long in dreams. That child is mine. Take good care of it. One day I will come for it.” And then he lets Jed get away and fall into the hand of the Corinthian.

#13 “Men of Good Fortune” seems plopped in there, but it’s the prior engagement Dream mentions when he runs off after telling Lyta he’ll be back for the child. We meet a guy named Hob, but even better we meet some hack playwrite named Will. Dream talks to them both, and interesting things happen. This is one of my favorite issues (all the ones with Shakespeare are.)

#14 “Collectors.” That’s Neil Gaiman modeling for the Corinthian on the cover. If you didn’t like the horror in issue 6, 24 Hours, this one is pretty horrific too. But Dream unmakes the Corinthian, so while he may be a jerk, he’s pretty badass. Plus Gilbert comes back with Jed, yay!

#15 “Into the Night.” Barbie has the coolest dreams, doesn’t she?

#16 “Lost Hearts.” That’s Neil Gaiman again on the cover. Does it bug anyone else that he is his own Mary Sue/model for the King of Dreams?

Gilbert turns out to be a place, Fiddler’s Green, and while he can’t stand in for the death of Rose, Unity can. I love this exchange:

Dream: I don’t understand–

Unity: Of course you don’t. You’re obviously not very bright, but I wouldn’t let it bother you.

And we learn that the whole thing has been a long game played by Desire to bring down Dream, and he threatens Desire, whose house is a doll.

I love this, too:

Dream: We of the endless are servants of the living–we are NOT their masters. WE exist because they know, deep in their hearts, that we exist. When the last living thing has left this universe, then our task will be done. And we do not manipulate them. If anything they manipulate us. We are their toys. Their dolls, if you will.

So, what did everyone else think?


Monday, December 8th, 2014


Welcome readers to the online readalong of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic-book series! We’re reading one of the 10 main graphic novel collections a week over December and January.

This week we’re discussing Sandman Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, or issues 1-8 of the series. I’ll be posting here, and we’re tweeting under the hashtag #SandMN.

This post will be to start the conversations.

I was hooked by all the literary references and the comic-book ones too, even if I didn’t know who Scott Free and the Martian Manhunter were. (AND, guess what–you don’t need to!) BUT, that said, “24 Hours” is one of the most horrific issues I’ve ever read. I shudder when I remember it, and it’s one that friends have told me stop them from continuing through the series.

It certainly is one of the most overtly horrific issues of the series. Also, it’s the first after artist Sam Kieth (of The Maxx) dropped out. (Makes me wonder if he dropped out because of the script of “24 hours”.)

I advise people to read through issue 8, ‘The Sound of Her Wings’, before bailing. That issue, with its dramatic reveal, is one of my all-time favorites both of the series specifically, and comics in general.

A note about editions: I’m reading from the Absolute Edition Sandman Volume 1 which reprinted the series in large, lovely slip-covered editions, and what sold me on buying something I’d already owned twice (first in single issues and then in the 10 issue of graphic novels.)

Below is a good example of how wonky the color was in the original series and GN reprints. The original of p. 11 in issue 1 is on the left, the recolored version on the right. I’m not a color expert, but looks like an oversaturation of Yellow that made poor Stefan Wasserman’s face green. In the recoloring, it doesn’t look so weird.


Please note that when you send a comment it goes to moderation till I approve it. Otherwise, we’d be slammed with spam, and no one wants that.

What did everyone else think? What version/edition are you reading?

Start Your Engines: Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” Readalong

Monday, December 1st, 2014


My friend Jeff K, who leads Twin Cities’ Books and Bars, the folks of Beer + Comix at Wild Rumpus, and I are doing a readalong of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comic-book series. (Original post was here.)

(This is in addition to my Odyssey readalong, because I’m a glutton for punishment.)

The original series was 75 issues plus some specials. They’re most commonly collected in 10 graphic novels. Full-price retail is about $20 each though they can be gotten for less at and other retailers including your local, independent comic shop. Digital copies are available for $12.99 each at Comixology. Most libraries have the ten volumes as well as some of the other collections (Absolute, Annotated, and Omnibus). They are also fairly easy to find used.

I’ll have weekly posts here at Girl Detective on Mondays, plus both Jeff and I will be tweeting about each week’s issues starting Monday, too.

On Twitter, Jeff is @BooksandBars and I’m @kjboldon. We’ll use the hashtag #SandMN for our discussions.

We’re reading over December 2014 and January 2015. The dark of winter will be a great time to read or re-read this intricate, atmospheric work.

12/1/14 start reading Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes v. 1 (issues 1-8)

Blog post and tweets go live on 12/8/14 about Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes v1, #1-8 (8 issues)

Blog post and tweets go live on 12/15/14 for Sandman: A Doll’s House v2, #9-16 (8 issues)

Blog post and tweets go live on 12/22/14 for Sandman: Dream Country v3 #17-20 and Sandman: Season of Mists v4 #21-28 (12 issues)

BREAK for holidays and to catch up

Blog post and tweets go live on 1/5/15 for Sandman: A Game of You v5 #32-37 and Sandman: Fables and Reflections v6 #29-31, 38-40, 50, Special #1 (14 issues)

Blog post and tweets go live on 1/12/15 for Sandman: Brief Lives v7 #41-49 and Sandman: World’s End v8 #51-56 (15 issues)

Blog post and tweets go live on 1/19/15 for Sandman: The Kindly Ones v9 #57-69 (13 issues)

Blog post and tweets go live on 1/26/15 for Sandman: The Wake v10 #70-75 (6 issues)

Meet up! We’ll meet in person on Monday January 26, 2015 at 6pm at Wild Rumpus bookstore in Minneapolis to discuss the series and celebrate.

Are you interested in reading along? Do you have questions, or need advice? Email me at girldetective (at) girldetective (dot) com, or ask in the comments, or tweet at me. I hope you will join in!