The 30th Anniversary of The Sandman
By Dave Whiteman
On November 29, 1988, the first issue of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman went on sale from DC Comics. Soon to be published under the new DC Vertigo imprint, The Sandman received critical acclaim and was one of the first graphic novels to be featured on the New York Times Best Seller list. Although originally advertised as a horror series, the comic would go on to break boundaries in the dark fantasy genre and would set the standard for mature-themed comics and graphic novels for years to come. Then a relatively unknown writer, Neil Gaiman started out writing articles for many British magazines, but after forming a friendship with comic book writer Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta), Gaiman started writing comics including Miracleman and Black Orchid.
Gaiman had proposed to revive the 1970’s Sandman character by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (after they left Marvel) but he soon created a new treatment for the character that would evolve into the series that we know. With unconventional cover artwork by Dave McKean, the series featured a variety of artists, including as Charles Vess, Sam Keith, Kelley Jones, Mike Dringenberg and Jill Thompson, which allowed for an assortment of styles and talents. The main character was Morpheus, also known as Dream, who was one of the seven Endless that personified certain aspects of existence, including his siblings Destiny, Destruction, Desire, Despair, Delirium, and of course Death. Death herself became equally popular among fans, especially women as she would heavily influence the Goth culture as well.
“We of the Endless are the servants of the living — we are not their masters.
We exist because they know, deep in their hearts, that we exist.” – Dream
The series featured a variety of stories which involved complex, multi-genre stories that even included references to William Shakespeare, one of which became the only comic book ever to win a World Fantasy Award. While The Sandman became a cult success for DC Comics, it also attracted an even larger audience, many who had never read comic books before. It would soon launch Gaiman’s highly-prolific career in both comics, graphic novels, novels, television and film. Although the original series lasted only 75 issues, concluding in 1996, the series would spawn a number of spin-offs, long-running series such as The Dreaming and miniseries, including titles under the newly released The Sandman Universe.
The legacy of The Sandman has surpassed all expectations of the comic medium and has earned many awards and soon would find its way into the mainstream of not just comics, but in the literary world as well. What makes the series stand the test of time and to be revered all over the world, is its uniqueness and its ability to address a diverse range of mature topics and darker subjects that comics had never addressed before. In a world dominated by superheroes, The Sandman became the flagship title for Vertigo Comics that would inspire other writers and artists to experiment with many themes and stories, to which has gone on to today.
Dave “Chernobog” Whiteman is a life-long comic book collector, metalhead, part-timer writer, Funatic and a die-hard Star Wars fan!