Welcome back to the Blogger Dome! Here, bloggers will argue different topics involving the comic book market and industry. This will be a combination of the Big Bang Theory meets the WWE. Smack talk mixed with comic book debates. Bloggers going at each other to amuse and educate our readers. And we want to hear what YOU have to say about it. Today’s topic is Saga vs. Sandman. So, tune in, get comfy, and let’s get… it… on!
Ding ding! Allow me to present your newest fighters in the Blogger Dome ring… DOUG and ALAN! Fight!
DOUG: Two of the greatest contemporary works of graphic fiction going up against each other? I just had to be a part of this Blogger Dome!
We’re talking seminal comic books here, the kind that are taught in college courses. However, one stands out as the mightiest of them all and routinely tops the heap of greatest comics ever… Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.
This will be a close fight – although I’m sure Alan will come up with some oddly-placed metaphor to try to convince you that he’s going to crush it. Ignore Alan’s bloviating. Just keep in mind that, while Saga is a very, very good comic, it’s going up against the greatest of all time in this Blogger Dome, and Sandman will put Saga down for a very long nap.
While the competition will be very heated this time around, I implore you, dear reader, to check out both Sandman #1 and Saga #1. As collectible comics go, they’re both top-notch. They may not have reached the upper echelons in terms of value, but they are steady climbers that deserve your attention. Moreover, they’re fantastic reads. Crack them open and peruse. You won’t be disappointed.
ALAN: Thank you, Doug, for that introduction of Blogger Dome.
As fights go, this has all the makings of Doug using cavalry and I get to bring a fleet of helicopters (DOUG: What did I tell you?), but the fight must go on. Today, we debate the merits of perhaps the two greatest fantasy/sci-fi first issues ever. One clearly wins and a quick hint – it involves wings and horns.
I have been reading fantasy and comics my entire life but just recently discovered both Sandman and Saga in the last year. Neil Gaiman has a wonderful MasterClass (https://www.masterclass.com/homepage) on writing and from watching this I simply had to get around to buying and reading Sandman. I was disappointed.
About that same time, I was talking with a member of a virtual graphic novel book club I’m in and we were trying to find a new book to read. He said, “Maus is classic of course.”
I said, “yes, I read it long ago.”
He said, “The Watchmen” is always worth reading.”
“Genre breaking, great book but my cover is already dog-eared.
“Saga is an amazing space opera but everyone has already read that too,” he said. “Ah… sure… of course we all have,” trying to cover my embarrassment. I rushed to buy a 6th printing copy of Saga at my local comic store and have been in love ever since.
Round #1 First Blood!
DOUG: I love Brian Vaughan’s work.
Whether it’s Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, or Paper Girls, he’s a truly gifted writer who inhabits worlds with unique characters. I’m a big fan of his work and I’ll pick up anything that he writes. That being said, Neil Gaiman is a genius.
There is both power and subtlety in his work. Slow builds that crescendo in mind-blowing payoffs. Yes, he’s dealing with some ancient mythic tropes here – the best stories do. That’s one sign of his genius, (ALAN – just saying ‘genius’ over and over doesn’t make it so!) being able to take stories that you think you know really well and being able to make them completely fresh and new.
In Dream, Gaiman created a character who was perfect for his time yet timeless. And in Dream’s sister, Death, we are given a view of the fate we all must eventually face embodied in a character equal parts noble, humorous, and empathetic.
And here’s the thing Alan won’t tell you – if it weren’t for Sandman, Saga wouldn’t exist. Neil Gaiman burst open a door of creativity with Sandman that brought new and diverse audiences to the world of comic books. It also raised the expectations of what comic books could be. No longer did they just have to be about the long underwear crowd and their fans.
With the success of Sandman, comic book creators were able to throw off the confines of one genre – that being super-heroes – and venture out into the great unknown. There were plenty of cerebral graphic works prior to Sandman but none with it’s level of success, and we are all the beneficiaries of that success, perhaps none more so than one Brian Vaughan.
ALAN: Let’s just get this out of the way –
Neil Gaiman is a fantastic writer. Sandman is a good story but it is a familiar one. Gaiman says the great thing about doing comics is that people call it a genre, but really it is a medium. Within the ‘comic’ genre you can write almost anything. But we have seen this all before. We humans have been reading about gods who are mixed up in the affairs of humans for… hmm… approximately as long as storytelling has existed. I have leant out my copy and I’m not worried if I get it back.
If you want new and mind-blowing, Saga is for you. The author of Saga, Brian Vaughan, springs such a host of surprises in the first issue that it was destined to be either a hot mess or glorious. The good news for us all is that it is glorious. There are robot royals with computer monitor heads, a partially disembodied ghost babysitter, an assassin that is half woman and half spider and yet amazingly sensuous; there is sex and blood and drama all rolled into a story that is somehow easy to understand.
At its core, it is just two kids from different sides of war trying to escape it all with their baby. There are powerful mothers and sensitive fathers and kick-ass space warriors. And, there is a Lying Cat. Try telling me you don’t want one! For sheer innovation, imagination, and storytelling, Saga is the clear winner.
Round #2 Second Swing…
DOUG: From its inception, Sandman was a lush landscape of artistic wonder.
Whether it was Sam Keith, who penciled the first five issues, or Mike Dringenberg – responsible for the artistic vision of the character, Death – or later contributors like Jill Thompson and Shawn McManus, Sandman always was a pleasure to view. These were artists able to take Gaiman’s vision and bring it to life – no easy task. But as glorious as the interiors were, it was the covers by Dave McKean that were the throughline for every issue of Sandman.
His truly amazing works – part collage, part painting – won him the prestigious World Fantasy Award for best artist. Look, Fiona Staples is great, no question about it. Saga would not be what it is without her fantastic work. But you, Fiona Staples, are no Dave McKean.
ALAN: It is hard to imagine the Saga story and characters working without the artwork of Fiona Staples. The artwork is stunning, realistic, graphic, and pure fantasy at its best. Sandman looks and feels like a comic book from 1979, not 1989. The series has a revolving door of artists, not-new-to-comics fans, but there may be a small violent uprising if Staples did not continue to draw Saga (currently still under production but on hiatus since 2018).
It is drawn in large panels with brilliant colors. Staples gives us powerful images for powerful, unique characters. Even the lettering adds to the storyline with baby Hazel’s narration. Hands down, Saga is the winner here. No lying.
Round #3: Third Strike!
This is where Alan’s dream of glory gets put to bed. Get it? Dream? Bed? Oh, never mind. The simple fact is that Sandman #1 is a more desirable comic for collectors than Saga #1. Whether it’s the higher FMV for a 9.8 – $975 compared to $425 for Saga #1, the relative scarcity of 9.8 graded copies – 917 for Sandman vs. 3,047 for Saga, or the upcoming Netflix series, Sandman #1 wins this round hands down.
This is a comic with room to grow and make some truly enormous gains once the series is released. Saga #1? Vaughan is adamant that there will never be a film or TV series based on this work. Meaning we might have to wait until he’s dead before we see Saga in another medium. Vaughan is only 44 years old. Feel like waiting that long to see a comic make a big jump?
ALAN: Doug makes some very strong points about the obvious catalysts for value increasing on Sandman, likely to come from the pending Netflix series.
Vaughan has repeatedly said that Saga is not going to be turned into a movie and you can’t blame the guy. How could these characters already, so beautifully crafted, be done well on film? But, eventually, Lord of the Rings found its way to cinematic magic. The nice thing is that a 9.8-grade copy of Saga #1 (first printing) is routinely half of the comparable Sandman issue. As a fundamental belief, I hold that great works hold their value and will always be in demand. For this reason alone, I would want a top-grade Saga #1, but if you rushed out and bought a 6th printing, as I did, just to read it in all its glory, I can live with that. Even with that Saga wins this battle 2-1.
DOUG: I’m sorry, dear readers and Blogger Dome fans. I genuinely thought this was going to be more of a contest. Alas, poor Alan didn’t put up much of a fight. He did his best, though, so let’s applaud his effort. As he’s fond of cats, perhaps we should get him a kitten to make him feel better? Actually, let’s get him some Sandman issues. He claimed to be disappointed. Perhaps another read will allow him to see the wonder that is one of the most influential comic books ever created.
ALAN: Doug got to swing with two indisputable facts – Neil Gaiman is cool and trendy and a Netflix series will bring a lot of attention to Sandman. Let me just ask – do you remember being in an art museum, maybe as a kid, without knowing anything about art? You look at the walls and you see all these paintings and you think ‘good, good, great, good… wow, epic.’ We all know it when we see it. Saga is the Rembrandt of graphic novels. Doug’s probably reading it right now.
DOUG & ALAN: If you do nothing else after reading this epic Blogger Dome fight fest, go out and get ahold of copies of either of these books – first printings, 28th printings, graphic novels, whatever – and read them. These are fantastic works and what comic book storytelling is all about.