A Sandman fan at SDCC is excited about Neil Gaiman's prequel!
As announced to a shocked and elated audience at San Diego Comic-Con, writer Neil Gaiman is returning to his most famous work, The Sandman, for a prequel mini-series next year. But one large question remains, particularly for those of you who have never read the book: who is The Sandman?
The first thing you need to know, actually, is like Jason Bourne, there was never just one. The Sandman is a classic DC comic book character who has gone through a number of iterations. He’s been a mystery man character with a gas mask who put people to sleep. He’s been a guy literally made out of sand. But the most famous version is probably the one by Neil Gaiman, which ran for 75 issues first in DC Comics, then moving over to Vertigo - the mature readers imprint.
In fact, Gaiman’s originally pitch for the title was radically different, and involved the regular old DC Universe Sandman... But he was unavailable, so DC asked Gaiman to come up with someone new. Tasked with creating a whole new character, Gaiman invented Morpheus, the Lord of The Dreaming - a dimension where all dreams come from.
When Sandman kicked off, Morpheus was captured - accidentally - by humans, and held captive for decades. When he finally escaped, he wreaked terrible, Twilight Zone-esque vengeance on them, before regaining his powers, and returning home to the Dreaming. There, he found things in massive disrepair, and set about making dreams right again... And returning some particular horrible nightmares (and unwilling to return dreams) home again. Over time, Morpheus grew into being more than just a vengeful spirit, and in a certain sense, a hero; though with forces conspiring against him, he was eventually killed. The last few issues of the series were the funeral of Morpheus, and that book was closed forever... OR WAS IT?
There’s a few more important details you should know about Sandman:
- Remember where we said that Gaiman was forced to leave the regular ol’ Sandmen on the table? Well, he didn’t: in the first half of the series, particularly after the title left for Vertigo, Gaiman set about reconciling all the various Sandmen in continuity, and how they all related to aspects of Morpheus himself.
- In fact, unlike many other Vertigo series, Sandman is technically set in the DC Universe. In earlier issues, Superman and Martian Manhunter appeared. Later, Fury - a member of Infinity Inc. - became a recurring character. Morpheus has also appeared in a few other titles, but since his demise, mostly in the background sort of like Waldo.
- Some of the forces conspiring against - and occasionally aiding - Morpheus were his sisters and brothers, the Endless. They are: Death, Despair, Destiny, Destruction, Desire, and Delirium. Sadly, Gaiman never got around to including Double Dog Dare.
The other major thing you need to know about Sandman is that Gaiman’s world-building has pair immense profits for DC ad Vertigo, both financially and creatively. Not only has every volume stayed in print, but there have been a ton of spin-offs from the title. The most prominent are: Lucifer, which focused on the titular fallen angel after the end of Sandman; and two mini-series focusing on Dream’s baby sister Death, both written by Gaiman. There are many, many more minis and series worth your valuable time from the Sandman universe, and even Gaiman has journeyed back for some short stories from time to time.
Yet, and here’s another critical detail that makes Sandman unique: Gaiman basically retains the rights to Sandman, despite DC owning the ideas and properties. It’s a little more complicated than that, but when it comes to Morpheus, DC cannot make more without Gaiman’s permission. That’s why we haven’t seen a Before Sandman, or a TV series, or a movie... Until now. With the first item on that checklist marked off, is it only a matter of time - particularly given this is the 25th anniversary of the book - before we hear about a TV show and movie? If we do, at least you'll be ready...