Home Graphic novel How Neil Gaiman and Sandman turned the DC Universe into literary fiction

How Neil Gaiman and Sandman turned the DC Universe into literary fiction

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Along with The Sandman, Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg, Sam Keith, Dave McKean and their many creative collaborators have created one of the most groundbreaking and important comics ever written. Its rich history is full of magic and wonder, but steeped in reality.

It follows Dream of the Endless, an immortal being whose power eclipses even that of the gods but who is burdened by an unyielding code of conduct. The story challenges genres, weaving together elements of speculative fiction, comedy, history, and even road trip stories into an intricate narrative tapestry. On top of that, The sand man is firmly anchored in the DC Universe and, more than any other comic, has transformed mainstream comics into a form of top-notch literary fiction.


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In a 2006 interview with Talks at Google, Gaiman discussed this shift in perspective when he said he met a publisher with the The telegraph of the day while attending an exclusive literary evening at the start of his career. Upon learning that Gaiman had written comics, the publisher looked horrified but tried to cover it up with a few polite questions. Gaiman listed his work, including Sand seller, at which point the editor responded, “Wait! You’re Neil Gaiman. My dear, you don’t write comics. You write graphic novels.”

The distinction is subtle but important. Comics have historically been dismissed as low-level entertainment. The term “graphic novel” is often applied to comics that deal with more serious subjects, although this is a superficial distinction (and an abuse of the term). Gaiman acknowledges that his success is in part because Sand sellerThe monthly issues of are among the first comics to come together in one volume, making them easier to read. But they were collected specifically because it imbued the sensationalist elements of mainstream comics with philosophical and introspective emotional narratives.

The sand man wasn’t the first mainstream superhero comic to do this. In 1983, DC hired writer Alan Moore to screenwrite The Swamp Thing Saga, a horror comic about a sensitive plant monster. The young writer used floral prose and tackled heavy topics, exploiting gender conventions to explore real-world horrors like domestic violence and the legacy of plantation slavery. Throughout the 1980s, DC Editor-in-Chief Karen Berger hired other young writers from across the UK whose unique perspectives reshaped American comics, resulting in a period known as the ‘l ‘British invasion’.

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This laid the groundwork for Sand seller. Berger hired Gaiman while he was still finding his voice and worked with him on a number of pitches before deciding on an idea they both liked. The comic takes its name from an old vigilante from the 1930s who fought criminals with sleeping gas. However, Gaiman did not resurrect this obscure figure. Instead of, “The sand man“was referring to Dream, the King of Dreams, one of the seven immortal beings called the Endless who personify metaphysical concepts. This maximalist series covers so many topics that it can be difficult to sum up, so its protagonist is a good point. starting point.

First Sand seller Pocket commerce, Preludes & Nocturnes, Gaiman describes his first concept of Dream: “A man, young, pale and naked, imprisoned in a tiny cell … mortally thin, with long black hair and strange eyes: Dream. It was who he was. It was who he was. “

This bewitching gothic character is inspired much more by Japanese art and Greek myths about the god Morpheus than his namesake vigilante. He reigns over the Dream, a magical kingdom of personified ideas to which sleeping mortals travel. But it also inspires the metaphorical dreams of artists, storytellers and other visionaries. As such, Sand seller includes not only other comic book characters, but historical figures like William Shakespeare and Emperor Augustus, simultaneously grounding the narrative in history and myth. Of course, Gaiman has never shied away from tapping into mainstream comics. Even his versions of the Biblical Cain and Abel were based on their caricatured portrayal in older horror comics, but this syncretic approach actually adds to the work’s literary prestige.

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Its stories can take place anywhere or anytime, whether it’s a small town American diner, a 14th century English tavern, or the pits of hell. Sand seller‘s Lucifer looks like David Bowie and casually quotes John Milton’s lost paradise. William Shakespeare is portrayed as a moody amateur playwright. Other memorable characters include a young trans woman living in New York City, a woman who has completely stopped dreaming, and a pumpkin-headed janitor.

While Gaiman’s style is still not polished in early issues, the major turning point is number 8, “The Sound of His Wings”. Dream meets her sister Death, portrayed as a manic goth girl in love with Mary poppins. The two make up for it by feeding the pigeons in New York’s Washington Square Park and then go shopping together (that is, collect the souls of the recently deceased), but this story is so rich and filled with emotion that one can not help but fall in love with this.

A number of factors have contributed to the popularity of Sand seller, including the collection of its monthly issues as easy-to-read commercial paperbacks. He also built on the successes of the British invasion. But it’s a masterpiece in its own right, mixing genres, experimenting with story structures, and featuring absolutely gorgeous prose and character writing. The series is one of the great works of English literature.

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