Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Return of the Sandman: Revising the Revisions

As difficult as it may be to do so, try to return to the halycon days of 1989, when the Rob Liefields and Jim Lees of the world were starting to push superhero comics into a new artistic paradigm, and when how novel the concept of finding anyone to actually follow up Alan Moore on Saga of the Swamp Thing would be. And a sweet little goth book showed up on the stands with some very interesting covers. And it was really anything but sweet.

Years later, and one great revolution of Vertigo later, with millions of copies in print in tons of different permutations, Sandman started to actually look quaint. And a bit coy in places. At least to some. While I'm unable to find the link now, somewhere around 2007, a comics roundtable came together, of reviewers that i generally respected even if I didn't always agree with, to reassess Gaiman's Sandman. The result was a beatdown that made Liefield's New Mutants look fairly good by comparison. I thought that they were spectacularly wrong. While not faultless, Sandman was brave and bold and interesting and managed to pull off way more than it didn't, and slagging off the series showed more than a little of the biases of the reviewers more so than it did the faults of the series. One quote I remember was, "With some distance, the whole series is looking slightly embarassing."

In 1990 I moved in with a girl who had never read comics before, so i gave her a stack of material that she promised to read. A mix of stuff i personally enjoyed, including the just published Doll's House collection. The rest of the comics she could have cared less about. the Doll's House? She came back demanding more. The collection she'd already loaned out to a girlfriend, who would loan it out to more friends. It was the perfect collection of horror and drama and fantasy and sex and otherworldliness to hit a whole chunk of females directly in the head. She didn't become a comic fan, but she did become a Sandman fan.

I hated to tell her that there wasn't, right then, a whole lot more.

The guardian has a nice write up, with spoilers for the just released Sandman Overture, as well, and it always sounds like those music beat writers who can tell you exactly where and when they first heard Hendrix/Sex Pistols/Nirvana. It was profoundly different, it was moving, and it changed everything.

So for all the reviewers who look back, and with the somewhat brilliant and snarky hindsight of 2007 or 2013, and find the adventures of Rose Walker, or the giddy introduction of Death (holding an infant who died in its crib slightly plaintifly asking, "Is that all there is?"), or the brilliant little bits of the city who slept and dreamed away its citizens, slightly cloying. Please note that there are far more of us who were moved and touched by the beauty of the series than will ever be embarassed by it. And while none of us were clamoring for the prequel, the fact that it exists as drawn by the very best artist working in comics in the last couple of years, is a testament to the fact that neil must have a story that wanted to be told, as opposed to a check that he wanted to cash.

And I can't wait to read it.

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