SWAMP THING – EP. 10 “LOOSE ENDS” REVIEW

Having escaped from Dr. Woodrue’s lab with the help of Abby and Liz, Swamp Thing is trying to come to terms with the  truth that he is not Alec Holland. In fact, he is a sentient plant possessing the memories of Holland, created by the mutagen in the swamp. While Swamp Thing and Abby barely get a moment’s peace, a group of mercenaries (led by Shaw, played by Jake Busey!) and hired by Ellery are sent to retrieve Swamp Thing.

Meanwhile, after Jason’s wife Caroline overdosed on her medication,  she remains mute and defenseless due to “locked-in syndrome”.  Jason is preparing to treat her with what he harvested from Swamp Thing, namely his heart and organs. He will duct tape her to a chair and force-feed her pieces of his organs (trying hard not to make a Vegan joke!). But of course, like any mad scientist he tries it on himself first!

Matt Cable is in the hospital after his drunk driving accident, Sheriff Lucilla goes to visit him and runs into Avery, who tries in vain to offer her a fresh-start with him. Maria is still in the psychiatric hospital and Avery’s business deal with the Conclave has fallen through. Swamp Thing faces the mercenaries during the night. Abby goes to Woodrue’s house and discovers what he is doing to Caroline, in the hope of stopping it before it’s too late!

Without giving away any spoilers for the show, the revelation made about Swamp Thing’s existence in the last episode,was really no surprise to many people. For those fans that have been following the story of Swamp Thing, particularly Alan Moore’s “Saga of the Swamp Thing” in the 1980’s and 90’s. But for those that are new to the story, the show gave away that fact quite early in the promotional material featuring Swamp Thing carrying a decomposed body. While many had much speculation of what this meant, even DC’s own “DC Daily” talk show had their own predictions. But to me, (and I hope many others) it was plainly obvious from the beginning.

Ironically the final episode is titled “Loose Ends” which doesn’t even begin to address many of the loose ends in the show’s story, especially of their ancillary characters like Daniel/Blue Demon, Matt Cable, and Madame Xanadu. It would have been nice to have seen other characters within the realm of DC Comics’ extensive supernatural and mystical characters. Cameos from John Constantine and the Spectre, could have been a much-needed addition to the show. I would have loved to have seen one of my favorite characters as well, Etrigan the Demon, who appeared in many “Swamp Thing” comics.

The show most likely gets its name from issue #20 of “Saga of the Swamp Thing” (January, 1984) which was also the first issue that Alan Moore wrote. The best twist (and acting) comes from Dr. Jason Woodrue (played by Kevin Durand), who brings a sort of gravitas to the role with just the right amount of dark humor and even some sympathy to the character. His ultimate fate is worthy of his comic book counterpart.

While this is the final episode of Swamp Thing, it is unfortunately also the series finale as well. As I had mentioned in my review of Episode 2, there had been many rumors surrounding the cancellation of the series, involving everything from budget and production issues, to problems with a grant issued by the state of North Carolina, and DC Universe’s streaming service shutting down. But so far, no official reason has been given for the show’s cancellation. The “Swamp Thing” series had such promise to be a provocative and effective series. Unlike any other DC Comic dramas such as” Arrow” or “Flash”, and the streaming service building up its catalog with the likes of “Doom Patrol”  has already been renewed for Season 2.

I will say one good thing. I was not wholly disappointed with the ending of the show, as it did bring Swamp Thing and Abby together again and even left it open for some hope of continuation. With an exciting post-credit stinger (No Spoiler!), and paying some service to Blue Devil fans in the episode as well.

Fans like me have a few things to look forward to, but perhaps not from the DC Universe streaming service. While it does provide a lot of content, including many TV shows, cartoons, movies and comic books, I feel that it will be short-lived, and may even be taken over by Warner Media’s own service coming soon. Not to mention the new “Pennyworth” series on EPIX, the upcoming “Watchmen” series on HBO and the highly anticipated Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series from Netflix. Until then, Swamp Thing will have to return to the swamp, hoping not to be lost in its murky depths of the DC Universe.

“Love is the flower of life, and blossoms unexpectedly and without law, and must be plucked where it is found, and enjoyed for the brief hour of its duration.” – D. H. Lawrence.

SWAMP THING – Ep. 9 “The Anatomy Lesson” Review

After Swamp Thing was frozen and captured by Sunderland’s mercenaries, they take his body to Sunderland’s old concrete factory where he has Dr. Woodrue set up with a laboratory to study him. Meanwhile, Daniel is still in the hospital under restraint when the “studio man” comes to visit him and brings his Blue Devil mask. He also shows Daniel a vision of Abby and Liz getting shot by Sunderland’s mercenaries and leaves him little choice to try and save them to prevent the vision from coming true. Now that Dr. Woodrue has Swamp Thing, he lets him thaw out a little and begins to forcefully vivisect him and remove his organs. During the process, Swamp Thing awakens to the realization that Woodrue is dissecting him, but due to green spectrum lights, he is unable to regenerate and is at the mercy of the cruel doctor.

Now that Avery Sunderland is “back from the dead” he confronts Maria about her plans to take over his company with the Conclave, and has her committed to a psychiatric hospital. Having told Liz (and several others) about Alec, Abby and Liz discover where Sunderland is keeping him. But while Dr. Woodrue continues to analyze Swamp Thing’s body, he makes a surprising discovery about what Alec has really become.

This episode is by far the closest adaptation to the “Swamp Thing” comic book the show has presented, particularly Alan Moore’s 1984 story, also called “The Anatomy Lesson,” in ‘Saga of the Swamp Thing’ #21. For fans and readers of the original Swamp Thing, this issue marked a turning point in what would become Alan Moore’s seminal story arc. After taking over the series from writer Martin Pasko with issue #20, in which Sunderland (then a General) arranges to have Jason Woodrue (already a supervillain known as the Floronic Man, where he is instructed to examine the remains of the Swamp Thing after having been shot and thought to be dead.

Without spoiling the show or the comic reveal, know that this confirmed the changes that were made in volume 2 of “Saga of the Swamp Thing” which began in 1982 with the retelling of his origin, which also coincided with the release of the low-budget 1982 movie directed by Wes Craven (before making “A Nightmare on Elm Street”). As Swamp Thing has gone through several incarnations, including the New 52 storyline in 2011. This also shows that the series is following the comics closer to the comics than any previous series or movies have before, with some slight character changes.

“The Anatomy Lesson” is both the most intense and revealing episode in this short series, and with only one episode left, it’s hard to speculate where the show will leave off or if there will be any possibility of continuation or appearances in any other DC Universe show or movie in the future. I will be awaiting next week’s season/series finale with bittersweet anticipation.

SWAMP THING – Ep. 8 “Long Walk Home” Review

Before Sheriff Lucilia and Deputy Matt Cable attempt to kill Avery and dump his body in the swamp, Avery made a last-ditch effort to stall by telling Matt that he was his father, although it proved unsuccessful, Avery managed to stab Matt in the chest before jumping in the swamp, but not before getting shot. Afterwards Lucilia took Matt to the Sunderland’s home and reveals that Maria and Lucilia had been plotting together all along. Now struggling to survive, Avery tries to make his way out of the swamp, all the while he is being watched.

Now that Abby has finally left Marais and made it to the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia, and reunites with Harlan, then she gets one of her colleagues to analyze the sample of The Rot and she is confronted by her superior who is not pleased with her results. Meanwhile, as Avery stumbles through the swamp, he begins to hallucinate and see Lucilia, but it turns out to be something else. Later that night he sees himself as a boy while out in the woods with his father and relives his father’s death, but then he finally encounters Swamp Thing standing over him. While Abby confides in Harlan about her experiences in the swamp, Avery has been taken to Alec’s lab in the swamp where he helps him to heal and to answer a few questions.

This episode begins a downhill slope tot the end with only 2 episodes to go as the supposed antagonist, Avery Sunderland, finally faces Swamp Thing, but with a confusing twist. Even though Avery is responsible for Alec’s murder, it still seems as though Swamp Thing doesn’t know it and he is convinced when Avery offers to help him be human again. Of course when Avery shows up at Dr. Woodrue’s door, we know that he desperately wants to study him, either dead or alive, to discover the origin of the mutagen. Without spoiling anything, this episode has probably the best cliffhanger ending aside from the first episode, which leaves me impatiently awaiting the next episode.

Swamp Thing – Ep.7 “Brilliant Disguise” Review

After Alec Holland’s human form has returned temporarily, thanks to some hallucinogenic spores, Abby finds it easier to talk with him about what’s been happening in the swamp. As Alec shows her the complexities of his new world and his powers, he introduces her to The Green, an elemental force that connects all life on Earth, as well as The Rot, a.k.a. “The Darkness”, which thrives on death. But when he takes her deep into the swamp to see the damage the Rot has done, she insists on taking a sample, despite his warning, and is attacked by a black tendril and infected.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Cable and Avery Sunderland go off into the swamp to deal with the situation after learning that Alec Holland is still alive, Maria Sunderland uses a dinner party for her guests Dr. Jason Woodrue and his wife, and the mysterious Nathan Ellery of the mysterious Conclave, to seize an opportunity.
While this may be the last time we see Andy Bean as Alec, it is a nice opportunity for Abby to finally get some closure. It is rewarding to finally see The Green as Swamp Thing sees it, and he finally gets to demonstrate more of his powers, everything from summoning plants to create fruit, to helping Abby to heal from her infection. The drama and intrigue intensify as well with the troubled relationship between Avery and Sheriff Lucilia Cable, whose son Matt was hired by Avery to kill Alec, as they take a boat to the swamp to search for Alec. And we get to see a whole new side of Maria Sunderland, as she has come from the brink of insanity to become a calm and composed schemer, equal only to Avery.
While there is mention of Daniel’s condition after Woodrue experimented on him, both he and Madame Xanadu are absent from this episode. And with only three episodes to go in this first (and only) season, there seems very little time for the plot to be resolved, with everything from The Green vs. The Rot, finding justice for the murder of Alec as well as the Conclave’s agenda, we’ll just have to wait and see.

SWAMP THING – EPISODE S1, Ep6 “The Price You Pay” Review

Since Dr. Woodrue needs a live specimen to study, Avery sends two hunters into the swamp to capture Swamp Thing. Although unsuccessful, the hunters end up injured in the hospital where Dr. Woodrue has been experimenting with a bio-regenerative mutagen. And now that Daniel is in a coma, Abby confronts Avery about all his dirty deeds.
In this episode, we get to learn more about the backstory of Daniel Cassidy and his former career as a Hollywood stuntman and also how he got the role of the “Blue Devil.” We also delve a little more into the Marais sheriff’s department, who Sheriff Lucilla Cable and her son Matt have also been involved in the corruption that surrounds the town. But when Dr. Woodrue introduces a mutagen from Abby’s sample into Daniel’s bloodstream, it causes some unexpected side effects. While we feel some sympathy for Dr. Woodrue’s wife and her condition, the method in which he produces results is questionable as he essentially uses Daniel as a human test subject and awakens something dark and fiery within him.
It seems unfortunate however that Swamp Thing has become more of a background character (literally, since he spends most of his time hiding behind trees) in this series as we seem to spend more time with our human characters and the events that surround the swamp. While the swamp itself remains a central focal point to the show, all of the evil that befalls the citizens of Marais seem to come from the swamp. On the plus side, this episode does finally gives us some surprising revelations about Matt Cable.
I must comment on the direction of the show, while Swamp Thing himself hasn’t been on screen that much, he is a much more subtle and darker aspect to the show than he has been, particularly in relation to the campy 1990’s series. While the fate of the Swamp Thing has already been sealed, I hope the final 4 episodes will prove satisfying.

SWAMP THING EPISODE S1, Ep5 “Drive All Night” Review

As the “Darkness” in the swamp continues to grow, the ghost of Shawna Sunderland has now possessed the body of little Susie Coyle. However it appears as though Maria has no problem with it and is glad to have her daughter back (sort of), and wants her and her mother to be together forever. And while Swamp Thing struggles to come to terms with his transformation, he realizes he is able to form a link with the trees in the swamp through “the Green” and see their memories with the help of a mysterious unnamed stranger. Dr. Jason Woodrue shares his findings with Avery Sunderland and reveals he is close to discovering something, but Abbie is getting in his way. Meanwhile, Daniel Cassidy tries to leave Marais and he is unable to do so, due to some supernatural force which burns his arm.

This episode goes even deeper into the supernatural powers that the swamp continues to manifest in different and sometimes confusing ways. While the swamp and the regenerative formula did give Alec Holland his life back as Swamp Thing, it seems as though everyone involved is cursed in some way. And it looks as if it has been going on for some time now as we see what really happened between Abbie and Shawna those 15 years ago.

I was looking forward to this episode with the tease from DC Universe in its synopsis:

“Swamp Thing struggles to come to terms with his transformation with the help of a Phantom Stranger”

With that, fans of the darker side of the DC Universe like me will be reminded of a very important character known as the Phantom Stranger who has been around since the 1950s. Sadly while it does suggest that the character is like the Phantom Stranger (played by Macon Blair), he appears as an ordinary resident of the bayou. While the Phantom Stranger possesses many magical abilities, I don’t recall shape changing to be one of them? When Swamp Thing asks him who he is, he merely replies that he is “…just a passing stranger, maybe a phantom from a dream, trying to help you understand the things you already know.” Along with many other cryptic answers he does introduce Swamp Thing to “the Green” the elemental force that connects all the plants on Earth.

While I was somewhat disappointed that he didn’t appear like the traditional Phantom Stranger or we might even get a glimpse of him, it never happened. The last time a supernatural character had a cameo like this was in the Constantine TV series where we got to see Jim Corrgian/the Spectre in episode 5. On a side note we may get another Constantine TV show. As far as Swamp Thing goes, the possessed child scenario was especially creepy and brings Abbie’s tragic past to a head.

SWAMP THING EPISODE S1, Ep3 “HE SPEAKS” – REVIEW 6/14/19

After Swamp Thing revealed himself to Susie Coyle while saving her and killing her pursuer by ripping him apart, she told Abbie that he said that his name was Alec, which shocks her. The episode begins with a bizarre dream sequence of Alec seeing himself and Munson who he killed and he feels guilty for it. While Abbie wrestles with the new revelation that Alec could be alive, another CDC doctor arrives at the hospital to take over, but her friend Harlan contracts the disease as well. As we are introduced to the eccentric Dr. Woodrue, we also learn that his wife is suffering from some form of Alzheimer’s. Then when Abbie goes to Alec’s lab to try and learn more about what he found, she is confronted by the reanimated corpse of Munson, as well as Swamp Thing in person who saves her. After her encounter with Swamp Thing, he gives her the idea about the nature of the mysterious disease that is plaguing Marais. Later we get to learn more about Avery’s plans for Marais and his not-so-noble intentions regarding the swamp.

This episode really ramps up the horror elements as we see Munson’s body being swarmed and reanimated by insects, as well as Maria seeing visions of her dead daughter Shawna speaking to her from beyond the grave. The dark and supernatural elements harken back to the iconic days of writer Alan Moore’s stint on “Swamp Thing” during the 1980s. The ‘bug zombie’ is truly terrifying in this episode and the fight between it and Swamp Thing is especially exciting. As the title suggests, we also get to hear Swamp Thing speak as he protects Abbie from the ‘bug zombie’ and uses his newfound abilities to “release” Munson’s soul/spirit from the control of the disgusting insects.

Swamp Thing Episode #102 “Worlds Apart” – Review

After the pilot of “Swamp Thing” the latest streaming show from DC Universe shows much promise as they delve into a darker and more horror-oriented drama, but unfortunately as I will address later in the review. This show, while hopeful is fated to be short-lived.

Following the alleged death of Alec Holland in the swamp at the hands of an unknown assailant, Dr. Abby Arcane and the Marais sheriff’s department conduct a search for his remains. While Susie Coyle remains in the hospital, two more cases of the illness have been reported. And while the Swamp Thing emerges from the swamp and struggles to understand what has happened to him, Susie has an episode and seems to be somehow connected to the creature. And later, while Abby searches for clues as to what Alec was working on, she reluctantly approaches Avery Sunderland, who she hopes can provide her access to his lab. But when Susie goes missing from the hospital, Abby and Matt Cable follow her trail into the swamp, where she encounters a human monster as well as the Swamp Thing. Now as the plot thickens, the mysteries of the plant accelerant formula and Alec Holland’s fate are revealed.

As the second episode begins we finally get a fairly good look at the Swap Thing, and he is most impressive. No more B-grade rubber suits or overly campy performances, this is the Swamp Thing as he was meant to be. The costume, along with prosthetics and CGI effects are very realistic and add an otherworldliness to him that is very believable.

Also with this episode we are introduced to two new characters who will no doubt become an integral part to the story. One being the blind mystic Madame Xanadu (played by Jeryl Prescott), whose character has been a part of the DC comics magical world with characters such as the Spectre and Phantom Stranger since 1978. Also introduced is the botanist Dr. Jason Woodrue (played by Kevin Durand), who, without spoiling anything about his character, DC Comics fans will instantly recognize but who was previously but limitedly played by John Glover in Batman & Robin (1997). There’s even an appearance by Dan Cassidy (played by Ian Ziering) who fans will also know by another name, as the ‘Blue Devil’ but in a much different incarnation.

Overall, this show is slowly building up characters and backstories, but also doing a great job of adding both supernatural thrills and suspense that fans will come to expect. There is a particular two very horrifying scenes where Madame Xanadu tries a voodoo-like séance with Maria Sunderland (Virginia Madsen) and we also get to see a fairly bloody display of Swamp Thing’s powers in the climax of the episode.

On another note, before the airing of this episode, viewers received some shocking news that may have come to soon and which also may bring detriment to the future of the show and its continued audience. On June 4th, rumors spread on the internet that the new “Swamp Thing” series was in fact Cancelled! As more details emerged, the company announced that after filming had ended on the first season, that there will be no second season, due to a combination of production troubles, corporate bureaucracy, and money, along with the uncertain future of the DC Universe streaming service with the upcoming AT&T’s Warner Media streaming service. Before “Swamp Thing” emerged from the swamp it seems as if his fate was sealed with a $100 billion deal. Much like 2014’s “Constantine” TV show on NBC, which was also canceled after one season. The character of John Constantine (perfectly played by Matt Ryan) was able to live on in CW’s “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.” While it seems DC has always had a problem with their darker heroes, their more mainstream characters such as Green Arrow, Flash and Supergirl, have prospered on the CW Television Network. As for the other original shows on DC Universe like “Titans and “Doom Patrol,” their futures seem just as uncertain. I for one will continue to watch and review “Swamp Thing” for the next 8 episodes and hope that soon, after the fans on the internet have spoken, “Swamp Thing” will return!

Swamp Thing Episode #101, Pilot – Review

With the launch of DC Universe streaming service, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros., have produced a few original programs that feature exclusively on the digital platform. Along with its live-action series “Titans” and “Doom Patrol,” the highly anticipated “Swamp Thing” has finally been released this month. Having been announced last year along with “Doom Patrol,” this is the second attempt to bring the character of Swamp Thing to the small screen. Since the character’s creation in 1971 by writer Len Wein (Marvel’s Wolverine) and artist Bernie Wrightson (“House of Secrets”), the character has appeared in two low budget films in the 1980s, a live-action series on the USA Network that ran from 1990 to 1993, and a short-lived animated series in 1991, with an accompanying action figure line. For the most part, the dramatic adaptations of Swamp Thing have been disappointingly B-grade and overly campy attempts to truly represent the character, until now.

Upon the release of the first episode of “Swamp Thing” on DC Universe, the popular humanoid-plant creature returns to it’s horror roots and its intended incarnation in this dark and dramatic web television series. Created and executive produced by screenwriter Gary Dauberman, comic book writer Mark Verheiden and director James Wan (“Aquaman“), this new show hopes to do justice to one of the most unusual character’s of the DC Comics Universe.

When Dr. Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) of the CDC returns to her hometown of Marais (pronounced Ma-ray), Louisiana, to investigate a mysterious and deadly epidemic that is spreading throughout the bayou town, she meets an eccentric scientist named Alec Holland (Andy Bean), who is also trying to find the source of this swamp-borne pathogen. While Abby reconnects with her old friends, including Matthew Cable, a police officer and Liz Tremayne, a local bartender and reporter, she also runs into the mother of her college friend, Shawna Sunderland, who still bears a grudge against her for her involvement with her daughter’s accidental death.
As Abby and Alec join forces to find the cause of the disease, they find the decayed body of Coyle, a local fisherman, whose daughter has been hospitalized after contracting the sickness, who has been covered inside and out with strange plants and vines. As they come closer to finding out the origin of the contagion, Abby learns that Alec was once a prominent biologist, who was disgraced by the scientific community. But when Alec gets too close to finding out the truth, he is murdered by an unknown assailant and left for dead in the murky swamp.

While many are familiar with the character of Swamp Thing, especially due to his resurgence in the 1980’s with the work of British comic book writer Alan Moore (“Watchmen”, “V for Vendetta”), he has been rarely seen in the DC Comics universe since his series relaunched as part of the “New 52” from 2011 to 2015, plus a six-part miniseries in 2016, written by Len Wein and art by Kelley Jones (one of my favorite artists). The DC Universe service seems ripe to debut the latest incarnation of the character. Although unfortunately, both the creators died in 2017, this show will hopefully honor their creation and present a fresh, new perspective on a character that has been through so many incarnations over the years. And with visionary horror director James Wan (“Saw,” “The Conjuring”) on the production team, along with character/creature actor Derek Mears (“Friday the 13th”,”Predators”) portraying the Swamp Thing creature, this dark and suspenseful show is sure to blossom forth. The vine and plant CGI effects are impressive, and the first episode did a good job of building the main characters, particularly Abby and Alec. The transformation/creation sequence for Swamp Thing was considerably disturbing and shocking, but very effective. I am looking forward to the continuation of this series by next Friday.

Goddess Mode #1 Banner

Comic Review – Goddess Mode #1

Goddess Mode #1 Cover

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A highly advanced dystopia where the corporations own everything and technology is indistinguishable from magic. A dying Earth where life is cheap and humanity’s best days are behind it, despite the zeitgeist being built around the next big thing. A misfit struggles to get by, wanting to be more than just another cog in the machine, despite society being built around destroying the squeaky wheel.

It cannot be denied that fans of the cyberpunk genre will find themselves in familiar territory upon opening Goddess Mode #1. Comparisons to various Ridley Scott and Denis Villeneuve movies will be inevitable. Doubtless some will describe it as a feminist answer to Ready Player One in a desperate attempt to summarize its plotThe more well-read will reference Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson. All of this will ignore Goddess Mode #1 for what it is at its heart – a damn good read.

Cassandra Price is a brilliant young coder whose talents are wasted in the most lowly position possible at Heremeticorp – tech support. While other hackers are crafting brilliant new artificial intelligences that build off the Azoth Network that powers the planet, Cassandra is stuck patching up old code and taking out the trash. It’s not glamorous but it pays for the nanotech that purifies the air and water she ingests so she isn’t killed instantly by the polluted slum she lives in and provides the healthcare that keeps her father in cryogenic suspension until a cure is found for his condition. Then one day, Cassandra’s alterations to her personal network are noticed by her boss, who decides to promote her rather than fire her. This leads to Cassandra being sent to meet with the elites of her society and a stunning truth about the reality of things in a world where nanotechnology alters everyone’s perceptions.

Zoe Quinn’s script leans heavily on the usual cyberpunk tropes yet it does so in a way that will be pleasantly familiar – at least to those who remember the old Shadowrun game fondly. What makes Goddess Mode #1 seem like something brand new despite this is the character of Cassandra Price, who is far from the usual riot grrrl or manic hacker dream girl we usually see starring in this kind of story. Cassandra probably doesn’t even own a pair of leather pants or spiked platform boots.

As for the artwork, it is phenomenal. Spider-Gwen co-creator Robbi Rodriguez creates an image of cyberspace and the dystopian world Cassandra lives in that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. This unique imagery is further enhanced by the colors of  Rico Renzi. The final effect is a neon-filled hellscape that looks uncannily like what I imagined the first time I read William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

In short, Goddess Mode #1 is a brilliant read and a must-have for your subscription if you enjoy vivid artwork, dystopian fiction, magic girl anime and manga or just want something different this week when you pick up your comics.

10/10

Goddess Mode #1 releases on December 12, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

The 30th Anniversary of The Sandman

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!

Comic Review – Books of Magic #1

As part of the relaunch of DC Vertigo’s Sandman Universe, another one of Neil Gaiman’s memorable creations returns to comics with the long awaited “Books of Magic.” First published by DC Comics in 1990 as a mini-series, fan-favorite Tim Hunter began his long journey to becoming the world’s greatest magician, with the help of several mystical DC Comics alumni such as Phantom Stranger, Doctor Occult and John Constantine. The series was ongoing until it was discontinued after the short-lived “Books of Magick: Life During Wartime” in 2005. With this latest relaunch, the story catches us up (whether the reader be a longtime fan or a newcomer) in a fairy tale-like collage retelling of his origin:

Once upon a time…there lived a boy named Timothy Hunter. He seemed like a very usual sort of boy. Except.”

 Then we find Tim Hunter asleep in class, as a seemingly normal student who tries to impress girls with his amateur magic tricks. Getting bullied and of course getting into fights, he is pulled into one of his teacher’s office and we learn that Tim has “lost” his mother. But his teacher Dr. Rose is apparently has a connection to magic and knows that Tim is destined to become the greatest magician. As she gives him a book that appears blank to him at first she advises him to start reading and when he is ready, the magic will be visible to him. Despite his frustrations, Tim is certain he is ready, but as the book soon reveals its first lesson:

“Magic is neither good nor bad. Only its use determines its character. There are always consequences for its use.”

And upon opening his first book, we are given a glimpse of three mysterious cultist figures that are apparently watching him from afar as they decide that steps must be taken…and that some books must not be read.

Written by newcomer Kat Howard, known for her novel “Roses and Rot” and illustrated by Canadian artist Tom Fowlerm with colors by Jordan Boyd, the new “Books of Magic” has a promising start. While sharing the spotlight with other titles in the revived Sandman Universe, such as “The Dreaming” and “House of Whispers,” the new “Books of Magic” hopes to recapture the “magic” of a series that unfortunately fell into obscurity 13 years ago as it soon became marred by its similarities to the popular Harry Potter franchise in which tabloids claimed that Gaiman had made accusations of plagiarism against J.K. Rowling, which he went on the record denying. But hopefully time will tell if fans will return to this series as we see what the fates have in store for Tim Hunter.