Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Sandman Library: Dream Country, Season of Mists, A Game of You ~ Neil Gaiman et al.

Every time I read a volume in this series, I think it's the best one ever, until I get to the next one, which is even better, and so on. You get drawn in to these eerie Wonderland fantasies, all swriling around the enigmatic Sandman himself, Morpheus. It's hard to believe that Gaiman was orignially recycling an old superhero who fought crime while disguised behind his WWI gas-mask. Gaiman's Morpheus is one of the Endless, a personification and embodiment of abstraction. Morpheus is an apt name, he's always shifting, both in space and time and character as well, both just and cruel, wise and selfish, powerful and vulnerable. He's pretty much an angst-filled Hamlet figure, in black jeans and t-shirt. If the Dream King ever did smile, it would only make you nervous.
I love the snarky black humor in this series. Cats dream of a world where humans are the pets (and prey); Lucifer decides to retire from his position as Ruler of the Damned and saddles Morpheus with the keys to an empty Hell. The Devil ends up sunbathing on a beach in Perth, Australia while Morpheus is mobbed by an assortment of deities and demons, all trying to blackmail him into giving them the Underworld. Who knew Hades was such a prime piece of real estate?
Samuel R. Delaney's introduction to A Game of You really is the best one so far; he not only praises Gaiman's work but tells you why it's great, giving the volume a Lit Crit once-over. For me it was really fascinating, as Delany analyses not only the story but the physical structure of the comic itself, explaining the interaction between words and pictures, revealing the depth and richness of it. For me that was when The Sandman when from an intelligent, marvelously entertaining comicbook to a piece of literature. God, think of the papers I could write on this thing! Like "A Midsummer's Night Dream" in Dream Country, where Shakespeare and his men perform the play for a Faerie audience, with Auberon and Titania and even Peasblossom in attendance. Puck, of course, causes trouble. Ten year old Hamnet Shakespeare tags along, and at the end you get an idea of the price Shakespeare may have paid for his genius. If I really sat down and studied it and researched the references and themes, you could do a lot of great stuff with this series.


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