I also promised to post some thoughts on The Sandman series of graphic novels by Neil Gaiman. This post contains some spoilers, so if you haven’t read the series, you may want to skip this post. Here goes. The top five things I did and didn’t like about Sandman.
What I didn’t like:
1) Overall, IÂ enjoyed the series, but it didn’t turn me into a raging Gaiman fangirl. I doubt that I will ever be a raging Gaiman fangirl. I admire his style, his mechanics, his storytelling, but I just don’t connect with it on a deep level like other people do.
I suppose it’s because when I read I primarily want to be entertained — not be treated to deep theories about the nature of existence and dreams — which is what Gaiman and Sandman is all about. Deep thoughts … deep emotions … deep ideas. Not what I would pick up first to read. I’m more of an action-adventure reader at heart — I like folks like Ian Fleming and Donald Westlake and David Eddings (the Sparhawk series). Entertainment, pure and simple, that’s more my style.
2) Also, I thought the end of the series was a big, bigÂ cop-out. Instead of killing Dream for good, Gaiman resurrects him by turning a kid into the next Dream. Yeah, yeah, I get that Dream is really an idea and that you can never truly kill ideas. But still. You had all this buildup, all these showdowns, all these dramatic deaths, and then — poof! Everybody comes back to life, more or less.Â I admire how Gaiman tied everything together and hinted that the same story will play out in endless cycles, but still, it’s a bit of a cop-out. I doubt very few people besides Gaiman could get away with something like that, as far as readers are concerned. And he didn’t get away with it for this reader.
3) The introductions. At the beginning of every novel, we are treated to a lengthy intro talking about how visionary Gaiman is.Â Yes, we all know how great Gaiman is and how many awards he’s won. I don’t need to read several pages telling me that over and over again. The gushing intros got old after a while. (My significant other pointed out that if they were gushing intros about me, I might feel differently.Â True. But I’d probably still get people to tone it down a little bit. Some of the intros went on for more than five pages!)
4) The rape scene. One of the Sandman stories is about a writer who can’t write anymore, so he goes and gets a captive muse named Calliope to help him pen his second novel. In the story, Calliope is a real woman, instead of a construct.Â One of the lines in the story goes something like this –Â His first act was to rape her hesitantly.Â The art in that panel gives a hint of the rape itself.
I don’t like stories about people, especially women, being victimized, but I understand what Gaiman was trying to do here (in order to get the muse to work for him, the writer has to make her his). My biggest quibble is with the word hesitantly. What about rape is hesitant? Nothing, to my mind.Â
5) And finally, the boobsÂ – oh, the boobs. The various artists who drew the series were really, reallyÂ into naked boobs. They were on practically every single page. In contrast, there were very few naked men running around. I know most of the artists were men, but still, they’re just boobs, guys. Every other person has a pair. Get over it.
Okay, on to what I did like about the series:
1) The recurring characters. Gaiman brought in a cast of hundreds and tied them all together very nicely throughout the course of the novels. He managed to bring back people from the very first novel and show them in the finale in a way that made sense. Very impressive.
2) Robert (Bob) Gadling. He was probably my favorite character. We first see Bob in England in the 1300s or so (I’m fuzzy on the exact century). He loudly proclaims to a group of men at a bar that all you have to do to escape Death is to simply not die. And he does it. Every century, Bob goes back to the pub to have a drink with Dream and talk about what he’s seen and done in the last hundred years. And, at the end of the series, Bob refuses to go with Death and decides to keep on living. A cool guy all the way around.
3) Merv the pumpkin. He’s one of the caretakers in the world of Dreams. He does stuff like paint the volcanos and see to the backdrop scenery. He has a pumpkin head and is usually smoking a cigar.Â Merv probably has the best line of the series — I’m a pumpkin with a machine gun. I’m your worst nightmare. Hysterical stuff.
4) The idea of the Endless. In addition to Dream, there are six other Endless beings or constructs that make up Gaiman’s world — Death (my favorite), Despair, Desire, Destruction, Delirium, and Destiny. A very cool idea for a world, and the execution/art of each character was terrific most of the time.
5) The other gods. Bast, Loki, Thor, Odin … Gaiman threw just about every deity into Sandman, and the various depictions were interesting and entertaining. Especially Thor, who was depicted as a muscle-bound drunkard. Funny stuff.
Whew! So, that’s it. Those are some of my thoughts on Sandman. Feel free to agree, disagree, or add your own thoughts if you’ve read the series.