Seeing the Endless Dream (Morpheus) in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Dark Nights: Metal #4, had me reminiscing about the excellent old Neil Gaiman Sandman series.
Warner Brothers has apparently been planning a ‘Sandman’ feature film since 1996. That’s a long time. According to those in the know, this project has gone in and out of development since the late nineties. After the departure of the latest screenwriter hired by New Line, Eric Heisserer, Neil Gaiman himself was quoted as saying he’d like to see his 1989 comic adapted not for the big screen but for TV. That might just be the better option, since no two hour film could ever do justice to the Universe Gaiman created in his Sandman series.
Sandman was loosely based on the old DC Bronze Age horror comic format, and it even took characters from earlier DC horror titles, such as House of Secrets (Cain and Able), Weird Mystery Tales (Destiny) and Tales of Ghost Castle (Lucien the Librarian) to use in its stories.
The premise of Sandman was simple but brilliant. The Endless, parts of the fabric of reality, are both archetypes and immensely powerful beings. They are seven in number counting among their membership: Destiny, Delirium, Destruction, Despair, Death, Desire, and Dream. The Endless each oversee a realm and from their realms can interact with lifeforms in the universe as well as each other. Over the course of the Sandman series, the Endless would often have family squabbles and were characterized as having important duties to fulfill, but also displaying personalities and even having some degree of free will (to the extent that they occasionally became depressed or even went on strike). When the Endless failed to fulfill their functions, consequences were felt in the world. So basically, the Endless, although they had no existence beyond the function they fulfilled in reality, were essential aspects of the cosmos and in the DC Universe acted as tropes and story-telling devices. With the Sandman series, Gaiman managed to indeed tell some excellent stories by using these mythical characters as both protagonists and anthropomorphic narrative devices reflecting universal themes.
Sandman was a critical success and a fan favorite since its first issue appeared back in 1988. Right now, all these old Sandman issues with their beautiful Dave McKean covers are languishing and not actively sought out (for example, I picked up a CGC 9.0 copy of Sandman #1 for 27 dollars plus shipping on Ebay just over a month ago). This means that now is the time to grab up these classic comics and either complete your run or add the key issues to your collection before these characters are used in some project or other and prices begin to rise.
This is the one that starts it all. Originally there was a Golden Age character named the Sandman in DC comics, but in this series the titular character is not a man in a suit, but the Eternal known as Dream. In the premiere issue Dream or Morpheus has been captured by mistake after a ritual performed by occultist Roderick Burgess, along with the members of the Order of Ancient Mysteries, misfires. Using a powerful text called the Magdalene Grimoire, the Order intended to capture the essence of Death (Dream’s older sister) but caught Dream instead. After holding Dream for 68 years in a magical crystal dome, with an ensuing ‘sleeping sickness’ effecting the world, Dream escapes from Burgess’s son Alexander, who now maintains watch over him. Since his father has died, Dream punishes the younger Burgess by casting him into a perpetual nightmare called the Eternal waking. The younger Burgess is forced to experience an endless series of nightmares from which he can never awake. This causes him to lapse instantly into a coma. Talk of a movie had pushed high grade prices of this comic up over the last fourteen years or so but not to the point where it was ever out of reach. Currently a 9.8 can be found for under $300.00 and prices are mostly down in all grades lower than 9.8. Now is the time to buy.
Having regained his freedom at the end of the first issue, Dream is tasked with finding his missing pouch, helm and amulet. The helm is being held by a demon in Hell named Choronzon. After meeting Etrigan the Demon, Morpheus is presented to Lucifer Morningstar the current co-ruler of hell, along with Azazel and Beelzebub. Dream wins a contest of wits and, besting Choronzon, and gets his helm back. Lucifer at first refuses to let him leave, but after Morpheus points out that without dreams of heaven, hell would lose its power, he relents and Dream departs. The character of Lucifer portrayed here just completed the third season of his own TV series on Fox and the show has been picked up by Netflix for a Fourth season. This comic shows the same pattern as the issue #1. Prices are currently trending downwards in all except 9.8 graded copies.
Finally in this issue we meet Death. A fan favorite since her appearance here, Death is Dream’s sister and surprisingly upbeat given her duties of taking souls to the ‘sunless lands’. This issue is surprisingly popular, with returns up on almost all grades and 9.8 copies having broken the $300.00 barrier. A testament to the popularity of Dream’s older sister.