This is it. The kick-off for our reading Sandman post. It was written by our very own Glyph and THANK YOU GLYPH!

Our assignment was to read the first four issues: Sleep of the Just, Imperfect Hosts, Dream a Little Dream of Me, and A Hope in Hell.

Now, given that most of us have read most of these, I don’t know that using the same spoiler rules that we have for Fringe are appropriate. I’m wondering how we think that spoilers ought to be encrypted… on the one hand, there’s the school of thought that says “rot13 *EVERYTHING*!” but on the other there is the school that says there’s no problem with pointing out such things as “pay attention to the speech given by this character, it *REALLY* comes back to haunt all of us” or “look at the details of this picture because we’ll see this, this, this, and this again.”

Here’s my idea for the absolute spoilers, though: please rot13 them. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them. As for the less absolute spoilers, I’ve rot13ed them for this post but want to hear from you whether I’ve overdone it (note: all rot13ing was me rot13ing the footnotes that glyph included. If you don’t like that part, blame me and not him).

We good? We good! Everybody who has done the reading, see you after the cut!

Preludes and Nocturnes

#1 Sleep of the Just

First line of the story: “Wake up, sir. We’re here.”

June 6, 1916. A museum curator arrives at a gothic mansion for a meeting with an Aleister Crowley stand-in named Roderick Burgess. He provides an occult book, which Burgess and his “Order of Ancient Mysteries” intend to use in a ritual to bind Death.

June 10, 1916. We see a series of 1-panel simultaneous vignettes; children all over the world, in scenes that pertain to dream or nightmare, either literal or figurative – the one that gets me each time is poor Stefan Wasserman, a German soldier preparing to re-enter the meatgrinder at Verdun. As if “He lied about his age to enlist. He’s 14” wouldn’t be bad enough, Gaiman prefaces Stefan’s age with the word “almost”. Foreboding –

Midnight – Roderick Burgess and his young son Alex descend stairs into the mansion’s basement for the ritual. There’s several character moments here – Burgess notes that whether the ritual succeeds or fails, Hathaway’s ethical lapse subjects him to Burgess’ future manipulation; and his reference to a rivalry with Crowley lets us know that Burgess’ motives and character are not pure.

More revealing is the moment when young Alex mistakenly addresses him as ‘Father’ and is brusquely corrected to ‘Magus’. The image of Alex, wide-eyed and illuminated only by candelabra as he descends into the unknown, with the only thing more terrifying the bald, robed ‘magus’ behind him, is extremely effective in not only letting us know what kind of childhood Alex has probably had, but in giving us in Alex a relatable window into the…

Basement, occult ceremony. As he performs the ritual, Burgess realizes that “…he couldn’t stop now. Not even if he wanted to.” If we doubted before that Burgess was more than just a fraud, or that what he intended to do was a bad idea, we no longer doubt these things.

The ritual appears to be a success – a humanoid black-robed figure appears in the magic circle, and collapses. It has a head that looks like Giger’s ‘Alien’ wearing a steampunk gas mask. This is quickly revealed to be a helmet, with Burgess and his acolytes remove. The figure also has a small pouch and a red gem. Burgess disappointedly notes that this is not Death, and takes the 3 aforementioned items.

We return to the children in the previous vignettes – the children we saw before are now suffering chronic sleep disturbances, either not sleeping at all, or not waking up. Something is clearly wrong.
A page of Burgess addressing the prisoner, from prisoner’s POV. We see the prisoner’s thoughts, white text in black thought bubbles. Their terseness (“Trapped.” “Observe.” “Threats.” “Patience.”) starts to give us some window into the prisoner’s mind – alien, cold, analytic.

We jump forward 10 years – in the interval, museum curator Hathaway commits suicide amidst scandal and attempts to expose Burgess in the process, but Burgess escapes punishment via black magic; the sleep-disturbed children we saw before, were just the vanguard of an epidemic of sleepy sickness. There was a real-world epidemic of this illness at roughly the time of the events in the comic (some victims were the subject of the book/movie Awakenings). Poor Stefan Wasserman commits suicide.

August 1926 – Alex locates a picture of the prisoner in the occult book Paginarum Fulvarum (a bad joke – “Yellow Pages”) identifying him as Dream. We get foreshadowing when Burgess’ second-in-command Ruthven Sykes idly picks up a photo of Burgess’ mistress Ethel Cripps (inscribed “Your slave in love”), as Burgess pontificates on the prisoner’s identity as one of the “Endless” and naming one of the Endless as “Desire”. (Vs Qrfver vf va snpg oruvaq gur ebznagvp nssnvef gung yrnq gb gur Beqre’f fpuvfz, guvf jbhyq or gur svefg gvzr jr frr Qrfver zrqqyr va Qernz’f nssnvef.)

1930, Sykes and Cripps are now lovers, and abscond with the helmet, ruby and pouch. Sykes and Burgess engage in magical war (this is also loosely based on Aleister Crowley, who had a falling out with a former friend named Samuel Mathers and suspected him of using magic against him). Sykes trades the helmet to an unseen, presumably non-human entity (based on its speech), for an amulet of protection. However, Cripps leaves Sykes in 1936 and takes the amulet with her, at which point Sykes is magically, gruesomely killed ‘Scanners’-style by Burgess.

1939 – we revisit the remaining surviving sleep disorder victims; we learn that one, Unity Kincaid was raped and delivered a girl, all while asleep. The baby was given up for adoption and the scandal hushed. We also see a new character, Wesley Dodds, who is compelled by his dreams to become a masked crime fighter who puts criminals to sleep with gas. This character is the original DC Comics Sandman, who may have been inspired in part by the Mad Gasser of Mattoon. What we are seeing here is both a retcon of the original comics’ Sandman origin story; and also a hint of what will be a recurring theme in this story – that stories and archetypes must repeat; it is a fundamental rule of this universe.

1955. Roderick Burgess is 8 years dead and his son Alex runs the Order of Ancient Mysteries, on through the psychedelic sixties. He is no more successful at manipulating his prisoner than his father was. He grows old.

1988. One last attempt to threaten or cajole the prisoner. Alex’s wheelchair breaks the mystical circle entrapping Dream, and he escapes. We see him travel through the dreams of one Mort Notkin, and help himself to some of Col. Sanders’ fried chicken, and clothe himself. He seeks REVENGE.

The victims of the sleepy sickness begin to wake up.

An elderly Alex Burgess dreams. He follows a black cat through halls and up stairs, growing younger in appearance as he goes, so that by the time he reaches a throne in a tower, he appears to be the young boy that we first saw. The cat is, of course, Dream. (Zbecurhf jvyy nccrne ntnva nf n png yngre va gur frevrf.)

Dream chastises Alex, telling him “I was…I am…the Lord of this Realm of Dream and Nightmare” and “Lord, what fools these mortals be”. Upon learning that Roderick Burgess’ original plan was to ensnare Death, he identifies himself as Death’s younger brother, and implies that had the attempt to capture Death been successful, the human race and/or planet would have been wiped out. (Abgr gur ercuenfvat bs grafrf orgjrra “jnf/nz”.  Vf Qernz fvzcyl bhg bs fbegf nsgre fhpu n ybat pbasvarzrag?  Be vf ur nyernql dhrfgvbavat uvf rkvfgrapr & ebyr? Naq gubfr bs lbh gung unir nyernql ernq gur frevrf xabj jul guvf dhbgr sebz N Zvqfhzzre Avtug’f Qernz vf fb ncg.)

He then takes his revenge, giving Alex “Eternal Waking” – presumably, Alex will sleep the rest of his life, chain-smoking one nightmare after another after another; each time he “wakes”, it will only be into the next nightmare.

Last words of the story, from Alex’s lover Paul to Alex – “Please wake up. Please…?” bookending the story’s first words nicely.

As a first issue, this is interesting for a couple of reasons. We are not given an origin story for our protagonist – we open in media res. We learn some things about him primarily via the effects that his imprisonment has on the rest of the world in his absence.

#2 Imperfect Hosts

I’m going to skim a bit here, as this is a place-setting issue more than anything else.

We are introduced to two brothers, Cain and Abel, who are DC universe characters. When I first read these stories I was unaware of that, and only knew them as versions of their biblical namesakes. Abel is fat, and stutters; Cain is thin, and quite mean to Abel (more on that in a moment). A gargoyle named Gregory brings an exhausted Dream (named by Abel as “The Prince of Stories” and by Cain as “Prince Morpheus”, and I’ll call him that from here on out) to their doorstep.

As Morpheus recovers, we learn through his thoughts that the punishment of “Eternal Waking” that he gave Alex Burgess used up the last of his strength, and he fell exhausted in the Shifting Zones. (Gur obeqreynaqf bs Qernz’f ernyz; gurfr jvyy pebc hc ntnva yngre.) Morpheus asks Cain and Abel for any objects he may have created, and after some hemming and hawing that establishes Cain as both the smarter and the less-honest of the two brothers, receives their letters of commission, which have Morpheus’ signature. Morpheus destroys the letters to release the power he placed into them at their creation. This concept of objects imbued with the essence of their creator is appropriate thematically to a story about stories, since any author or creator leaves a piece of himself in his creations. (Vg jvyy nyfb cebir gb or vzcbegnag gb gur erfbyhgvba bs guvf fgbelyvar.) Abel asks Morpheus where he has been; he replies “I have been imprisoned”, and a cut takes us to…

Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane. I am going to go out on a limb and assume this location needs no introduction. A 90-year old woman named Ethel Dee is seeking her son, John Dee, AKA “Doctor Destiny”. I’ll let others more familiar with Dr. Destiny’s history fill in the blanks in comments; suffice to say that if he’s in Arkham, he is both extremely dangerous, and extremely insane. We are told that he no longer sleeps nor dreams, and this is presumably one cause of his hideous physical appearance. Gur uvfgbevpny Wbua Qrr jnf na vagrerfgvat sryybj.

Cut back to Morpheus’ realm, referred to by Abel as “The Dreamtime”.. Having been nursed back to health by Cain and Abel, Morpheus makes his way through the “The Gates of Horn and Ivory” where he discovers his castle in ruins. He encounters his servant Lucien; we know that Lucien is faithful and trustworthy, as he appears to be the sole remaining caretaker. He fills Morpheus in on the whereabouts of some of his realm’s denizens(Bs gurfr, Oehgr naq Tybo jvyy ghea bhg gb or vagrteny gb yngre riragf), and we see, presumably simultaneously, Cain murder Abel (Ur trgf orggre) for failing to give Cain’s gift – a baby gargoyle – a name appropriately beginning with the letter‘G’.

Back to Morpheus and Lucien – Morpheus unmakes his castle, then summons the Hecate for assistance in locating his helmet, pouch and ruby.

Now, a bit about the Hecate (or Fates, or Weird Sisters, et al)– these 3 gals pop up in various guises all over the place in Roman, Greek, Norse, English and Welsh mythologies (and probably others for all I know) – you may have encountered them as the witches in Macbeth. I first encountered them as “Orddu, Orwen and Orgoch” in Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. Their Sandman depiction is very, very close to Alexander’s depiction in appearance, speech patterns, personality and behavior (constantly-shifting personas between maiden/mother/crone, eating disgusting snacks), so they were familiar to me here. Amongst their other aspects, they are fortune-tellers. But they are never to be fully trusted, as their answers are often misleading or incomplete.

Morpheus asks each one for the location of one of his missing objects, and they each provide one answer. The pouch is with an Englishman, John Constantine. The helmet is with a demon, no longer on the mortal plane. The ruby was passed from Ethel Cripps (Dee) to her son, John Dee, who used it to ill-ends, until he was stopped by superheroes. The superheroes may know where it is.

So, we have our quest! Morpheus chooses to go after the pouch first, reasoning that its last known possessor is only a human, not a superhero or demon, so presumably it will be the least difficult task; once the pouch is in his possession, he will be better-equipped to take on bigger challenges. Here again we get a glimpse into his character – he is methodical and cautious, ordering his next steps in what appears to him to be the safest, soundest strategy.

#3 Dream a Little Dream of Me

Suburbia, row house. A mostly-unseen woman has Morpheus’ pouch; from the squalid images and description we are given, it is apparent she is using the sand in the pouch like a drug, and is hopelessly addicted to it.

New location & character – London, John Constantine. Again, I will let others more familiar with Constantine expound on him in the comments. I myself was only passingly familiar with this character, but he is an archetype – the rumpled, seedy PI from a noir novel transplanted into the world of the occult – so you’ll know him immediately anyway. Sardonic, cynical, cocky, usually at a disadvantage, drawn to trouble, always on the lookout for the angle. Think Rupert Giles in young ‘Ripper’ mode, with a bit of Spike’s tendency to stave off boredom by picking hopeless fights.

Constantine is going about his day but a series of strange coincidences – overheard songs all about dreams and an encounter with a bag lady named ‘Mad Hettie’ – who claims to be 247 years old (and Constantine agrees) – indicate that Morpheus (also referred to by Hettie as ‘Sandman’ and Oneiromancer) has returned. Constantine makes a mental note to look into it, but doesn’t get around to it.

3 days later, Morpheus shows up on Constantine’s doorstep, seeking the pouch, which Constantine purchased at a garage sale and says is in storage. They will go retrieve it, but he asks Morpheus to change clothes so they don’t draw attention, and makes a reference to the ”big green bloke”. Constantine’s characteristic cockiness is toned down just enough to let you know that he respects/fears Morpheus (though this doesn’t stop him from making “Dr. Livingstone, I presume” jokes).

While searching the storage space for the pouch, Constantine finds a photo of himself and a woman, and realizes he knows where the pouch may be.

Constantine and Morpheus travel by cab to the suburban home we saw at the issue’s outset, while Constantine’s narration tells us of the woman: Rachel, an old lover and a junkie. She stole many of Constantine’s possessions, and presumably the pouch as well.

They arrive at the house; Morpheus confirms the pouch is there, and that the house is dangerous. He tells Constantine to leave, but Constantine declines – he claims to be intrigued because of his past history with Rachel, though it’s clear he’s a naturally curious person anyway, and probably a bit of an adrenaline junkie himself.

They pass through darkened room after darkened hallway (Morpheus can see in the dark, natch), encountering various horrors caused by the presence/use of the pouch – a burglar on the floor being mentally consumed by dreams; Rachel’s still-living father, exploded inside-out on the living-room walls and ceiling; some sort of weird monstrous dream ectoplasm which recognizes Morpheus as lord and master.

They reach the master bedroom. Rachel is here. She is horrific, wasted from her addiction to the dream-sand; naked, with sores, hair gone in clumps, yet Constantine (and we) can still see the beauty she once was.

Morpheus retrieves his pouch and prepares to leave, his objective met. Constantine tells Morpheus he can’t just leave Rachel in her current state, but Morpheus sees no reason why not – he bluntly states that she will die soon, naturally, and painfully. Not particularly concerned with mortal suffering is our Morpheus at this point (in this, he reminds me a bit of Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen).

Constantine explodes at his callousness, and Morpheus assents, asking Constantine to leave. Morpheus doses her with some of the dream-sand, and in her mind she’s whole and young again, with Constantine, in “the best of all possible worlds”.

In our world, Morpheus pulls the sheet over her body. (Guvf vf gur svefg vafgnapr jr frr bs Zbecurhf serrvat n cevfbare; guvf jvyy or n erpheevat gurzr bs gur frevrf – cerfhznoyl nf n erfhyg bs uvf bja rkcrevraprf va vffhr #1, Zbecurhf trarenyyl qvfyvxrf gur vqrn bs vzcevfbazrag.)

Sniff. Hang on. I don’t know why that scene is so effective for me – maybe it’s because Constantine and Rachel are archetypes – the seedy PI and the femme fatale, who loved him in her own way, yet inevitably comes to a bad end. In any case the shorthand we get here easily evokes their whole romance.

Anyway, Morpheus prepares to leave, but Constantine asks him for a favor – for 10 years, ever since unspecified events at “Newcastle”, he’s been plagued by terrible nightmares. He asks Morpheus for relief, which Morpheus grants, then leaves. Constantine walks back to the cab, singing. We get the sense that this is probably as close to a “happy ending” as Constantine’s adventures ever get.

#4 A Hope In Hell

One of the more common criticisms against the stories collected in “Preludes and Nocturnes” is that they are a little unsure because Gaiman was still finding a voice for himself and the series. I personally disagree with this critique, and this issue, #4, is part of why. Not only does this issue serve as setup for the ‘Season of Mists’ arc, widely recognized as one of the great ones, it is a terrific story in its own right, and the first one to really blow me away.

So, Morpheus is going to Hell to retrieve his helmet, and he is not hopeful that it will go well. It’s not entirely clear to me why he chooses to go after the helmet next, rather than the ruby; after all, the ruby is on earth, where he just was – maybe Lucifer is a known quantity, but superheroes are not, having risen to prominence during Morpheus’ captivity.

He’s greeted at Hell’s gates by 2 demons, and we learn that rhyming is an indication of status amongst demons. One of the demons, Etrigan, takes Morpheus to meet Lucifer. On their way thorugh Hell, they pass the Wood of Suicides, from Dante’s Inferno, and Morpheus notes that it has grown since his last visit, from a grove, to a forest. It is unclear how long it has been since Morpheus was last in hell, so I am unsure if this is a reference to simple population growth, or an explosion in suicide rates during the interval.

Etrigan also appears to have ulterior motives as the route he chooses takes them past souls imprisoned on a cliffside. One of these prisoners, Nada, apparently a former (on the order of “ten thousand years”) lover, recognizes Morpheus (calling him “Kai’ckul” and “Dreamlord”), and begs him for release; Morpheus (who appears to Nada as dark-skinned, so we know now that he appears to different people in different ways) refuses to grant forgiveness or freedom. Ten thousand years – the man can hold a grudge, it seems. (Vg jnf abg pyrne gb zr hcba zl vavgvny ernq gung Anqn, nf yngre erirnyrq, vf srznyr. V jbaqre vs gung jnf fhccbfrq gb or nzovthbhf ng guvf cbvag, be vf vg whfg onq neg be zl bja snvyvat?)

They proceed to the hellcity, Dis. I originally didn’t catch this as another Dante reference; I simply thought of the prefix “dis-“, indicating reversal or negation/lack/deprivation, which works well for a hellcity too.

There Morpheus meets Lucifer Morningstar, who’s supposed to look like young David Bowie but to me looks more like young Mick Jagger. Maybe it’s the hair. Lucifer fills Morpheus in – Hell is now ruled by a triumvirate. Morpheus explains he is here to retrieve his helm, but cannot identify the demon who has it, so Lucifer summons ALL of them. Oops.

Morpheus is able to use his sand to identify the demon in possession of the helm, Choronzon. But since Choronzon got the helmet fair and square in a trade, Morpheus must fight him for it. As Choronzon is the challenged, he chooses the battlefield:

A dank dive called The Hellfire Club, which is among other things a reference to this. Choronzon and Morpheus are now dressed in spiffy suits. They engage in a contest similar to transformation combat, but instead of actually transforming (as in the Disney movie “Sword in the Stone’ or the book on which it’s based) players simply speak their turns – so, sort of like a rap battle – and as in a rap battle, hesitation or lack of imagination or nerve means a loss of the contest.

This leads us to the first truly great line of the series – Morpheus shifts tactics mid-game and lets Choronzon go on the offensive, each turn ramping up the physical measures and countermeasures, until Morpheus sets a
metaphysical trap and Choronzon, a denizen of Hell for whom “hope” is an alien concept, walks right into it.

Our hero gets his helm, but he’s not home free yet. Lucifer asks why they should let him leave, and Morpheus springs the same trap again, since “dream” can be synonymous with “hope”:

LUCIFER: The million Lords of Hell stand arrayed about you. Tell us, why should we let you leave? Helmet or no, you have no power here. What power have dreams in Hell?

MORPHEUS: You say that I have no power? Perhaps you speak truly. But, you say that dreams have no power here? Tell me, Lucifer Morningstar, ask yourselves, all of you. What power would Hell have if those imprisoned here could not dream of Heaven?

So Hell lets Morpheus go; but Lucifer, stung by the loss of face (for what is Lucifer Morningstar if not proud?), swears his destruction.

Now that is an exit, folks.

Epilogue: Back at Arkham, we learn Ethel Dee has died and left John Dee an amulet, which sharp-eyed (ha!) readers will recall as the amulet of protection that Ethel took from Ruthven Sykes when she left him, and which Sykes had obtained in trade for Morpheus’ helmet. This is probably not good.

So, what do we know about Morpheus so far? He’s extremely old (10,000 + years); cold to the point of callous; proud and vindictive; stubborn, cautious and calculating. And he has a million names & faces. As far as modern ‘heroes’ go, he’s an unusual one.


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


  1. Holy cow!

    Where to begin? Well, I was entranced with Sam Keith’s art. Jumping from dream to nightmare to reality and back in a way that flowed like it made sense… he does his best stuff when he’s dealing with stuff that is not supposed to feel really “real”.

    Cain and Abel always bugged me. I always wanted Abel to finally pull a “Beware The Nice Ones” and… well… we know what happened when that happened.

    Gaiman’s Lucifer is one of my favorite Lucifers.

    • Thx for interpolating the endnotes JB, I’ll just do it that same way if/when I do another.

      One ‘art’ thing I forgot to mention (and I am hoping that you and Patrick and people who notice that sort of stuff will definitely tackle that angle much more deeply for my edification) was a sort of ‘meta’ bit – when Dream is captured in the ritual in #1, he is not only not in a panel, his cloak actually crosses the page’s ‘frame’ – signalling that a boundary has been broken, and what was outside is now inside.

      And as I said in my overlong (one might say Endless) intro, I am not sure how much Gaiman knew going into this thing, but even this early, when you know the whole story, there is a real elegance to the overall structure, things like gur jnf/nz guvat, cbgragvnyyl vaqvpngvat gung Zbecurhf vf nyernql nzovinyrag nobhg uvf rkvfgrapr naq ebyr; naq gur jnl gung gur irel svefg jbeqf bs gur fgbel ner rpubrq ol gur irel ynfg jbeqf bs gur fgbel, va “Gur Jnxr” (un!) cebcre, cevbe gb gur 3 fgnaqnybar rcvybthrf.

    • JB, I have sort of a personal ‘Lucifer anecdote’ (which sounds more interesting than it actually probably is), but I don’t want to contravene the MD ‘no religion’ rule. It occurs to me that this could happen a few times over the course of the series.

      What is yr thought on allowing any exceptions to the rule? Would rot13’ing be OK? Or best just to leave it alone, and mostly stick to the ‘literary’ aspects of religious personae or concepts? Was how I handled Lucifer/Hell and Cain/Abel above OK?

      • I’d say that if you think you’re going to step on someone’s toes, rot13 it. That said, we’re going to be talking about gods a lot and a lot of gods. If you’re inclined to say “I don’t think that Loki would do that, the Loki I know is more of a *THIS* kinda guy”, that should be okay… and that should be fine for, ahem, more literary treatments ofmajor characters from faiths closer to home.

        I’m pretty sure that all of us know the difference between someone trying to be offensive and someone trying not to be.

        • OK. I don’t *think* this would step on anyone’s toes, it’s an anecdote about me and the way I see the world and ‘Sandman’, and contains no spoilers, but I will rot13 just in case:

          Fbzrjung nccebcevngryl, Yhpvsre jnf n pngnylfg va zl bja rcvcunal gung gur eryvtvbhf oryvrsf V unq orra oebhtug hc jvgu, zvtug abg or orfg gnxra 100% yvgrenyyl. V jnf gnhtug nf n puvyq gung gur Ovoyr nf vg rkvfgf gbqnl (jryy, ng yrnfg gur XWI) jnf 100% yvgrenyyl gehr naq pbzcyrgr. Vs vg’f ABG va gurer, vg’f rvgure snyfr, be haarprffnel/erqhaqnag.

          Fb naljnl, jr nyy xarj gur fgbel bs ubj ‘Yhpvsre’ orpbzrf ‘Fngna’, evtug? Tbq’f evtug-unaq zna, tebjf cebhq, jnagf gur ovt wbo sbe uvzfrys, eroryf, naq vf pnfg bhg. Jr’q urneq guvf nf fznyy puvyqera va Fhaqnl Fpubby.

          Rkprcg, jura V ybbxrq va *zl* Ovoyr, *gung fgbel’f abg va gurer*. Naljurer, ng nyy. Bu fher, gurer ner n srj cnffntrf gung zvtug cbffvoyl or vagrecergrq nf nyyhqvat gb gubfr riragf, ohg guvf uhtr puhax bs Fngna’f bevtva fgbel vf zvffvat.

          Naq guvf thl vf gur ‘ovt onq’ bs gur jubyr fgbel V unq orra gnhtug? Ubj pbhyq uvf bevtva or yrsg bhg? Frrzf cerggl vzcbegnag, ab?

          Vg’f yvxr lbhe sevraq qrfpevovat gb lbh gur cybg bs gur svefg ‘Fgne Jnef’ (juvpu jvyy nyjnlf naq sberire or “N Arj Ubcr”, qnzzvg) orsber lbh frr vg, naq gura lbh tb frr vg, naq gur jubyr gvzr lbh xrrc jbaqrevat, “Jurer gur urpx vf guvf ‘Qnegu Inqre’ thl V xrrc urnevat nobhg?”

          Fb, lbh pbzr gb svaq gung gung fgbel vf onfrq ba guvatf gung qvqa’g znxr vg vagb gur zbqrea znvafgernz Puevfgvna Ovoyr – gur Ncbpelcun, naq inevbhf Uroerj (naq cer-Uroerj) zlguf naq yrtraqf, rgp.

          Naq gura lbh yrnea nobhg ubj gur pbaprcgvba bs Yhpvsre inevrf sebz eryvtvba gb eryvtvba naq frpg gb frpg, naq ubj ur vf inevbhfyl fbeg bs n Ybxv/pblbgr gevpxfgre svther; be fbeg bs n “Q.N.” haqre fbzr Wrjvfu fpubbyf bs gubhtug (gur thl jub jbexf qverpgyl sbe Tbq, nf fbeg bs gur ‘cebfrphgbe be pebff-rknzvare’ bs uhznavgl orsber Tbq’f whqtrzrag); be ur’f onfvpnyyl Cebzrgurhf, gur xabjyrqtr oevatre jub vf chavfurq sbe uvf uhoevf orsber Tbq.

          Naq “Orrymroho” znl or n gbgnyyl qvssrerag thl, abg whfg nabgure anzr!

          Fb gb gel gb jenc guvf nyy onpx nebhaq gb Fnaqzna – Yhpvsre’f bevtva, qrfcvgr abg orvat va gur XWI Ovoyr V ernq, be gung zl cneragf ernq, be gung gurve cneragf ernq – *jr nyy fgvyy xabj gur fgbel*. Be bar irefvba bs ‘gur fgbel’, naljnl.

          Gur fgbel fheivirf (V’q jntre ybgf bs crbcyr jub jrera’g rira oebhtug hc va n eryvtvbhf ubzr xabj vg), qrfcvgr gung fgbel univat orra nkrq ng fbzr cbvag sebz gur obbx V ernq.

          Jr *arrq* gurfr cnegf bs gur fgbevrf – naq lbh pna gel gb phg gurz, ohg gurl trg svyyrq onpx va naljnl, fbzrubj. Bar guvat ‘Fnaqzna’ vf terng ng, vf guvf frafr gung gurer ner n zvyyvba ovyyvba fgbevrf, naq irefvbaf bs gubfr fgbevrf – naq lrg, va gur raq, vg vf nyy bar fgbel, naq vgf birenyy funcr erznvaf pbafgnag.

          • Gur ribyhgvba bs Fngna vf bar bs gubfr guvatf gung vf ernyyl, ernyyl snfpvangvat.

            Va Wbo, ur vf gur Cebfrphgvba… ohg ol Mrpunevnu, ur’f n thl jub vf cebfrphgvat sbyxf ur fubhyqa’g or be vf bgurejvfr birefgrccvat uvf obhaqf. Bs pbhefr, ol Wrfhf, ur vf Gur Rarzl.

            Fb urer’f zl crefbany gurbel: Fngna vf eryngrq gb Tbireazrag. Gur zber nanepuvp gur fbpvrgl, gur yrff crefbany Fngna unccraf gb or. Vs gurer’f n sybbq, gung nva’g crefbany. Vs gurer’f n yvtugavat fgbez, gung nva’g crefbany. Guvatf unccra. Znlor jr’er orvat grfgrq, znlor… ohg vg nva’g crefbany.

            Bapr gur Ebznaf gnxr bire, gubhtu, Fngna punatrf. Ur’f znyvtanag, vg’f crefbany, naq lbh’ir tbg n pubvpr orgjrra orvat ba Tbq’f fvqr naq abg orvat ba Tbq’f fvqr. Gur Ebznaf, bs pbhefr, jrer *ABG* ba Tbq’f fvqr.

          • Naq bs pbhefr, jr trg onfvpnyyl n ‘Wbo’ fgbel yngre va Fnaqzna.

            Shegurevat zl bja crefbany narpqbgr, jr jrer gnhtug gung natryf, hayvxr uhznaf, unq ab serr jvyy. Bs pbhefr, guvf yrq gb yvggyr Tylcu nfxvat ubj Yhpvsre jnf noyr gb erory gura. Ab fngvfslvat nafjre jnf sbegupbzvat.

            V nterr gung gur Yhpvsre urer (naq va uvf bja frevrf) vf n tbbq bar. Znlor nf tbbq nf Zvpx Wnttre’f, orpnhfr V qb unir flzcngul sbe uvz 🙂

          • Zl gurbel vf fvzcyre guna gung. Whqnvfz vf zbabgurvfgvp, fb gur jbefg Fngna pna or vf na biremrnybhf freinag. Puevfgvnavgl vf rffragvnyyl cbylgurvfgvp (Tbq, Wrfhf, Znel, nyy univat fbzr zrnfher bs qvivavgl), juvpu yrnirf na bcravat sbe na Rarzl.

  2. Also, any feedback is appreciated. Too long? Too heavy on the recap portion? Too many links to wikipedia, where you can easily get lost chasing down all the literary and historical Easter eggs (I know I do, one link leads to another, and all of a sudden you realize it’s midnight and you are somehow reading about the history of Welsh sheep-herding)?

    • I’m *THIS* close to making the executive decision to say that we’re moving to 2 issues per week. I understand that it’s excruciating to read that few… but these stories are, what? 25 pages long? Devoting a mere 20 words per page would give us a 4-page paper if we stick to reading four comics.

      • Yeah, I know I argued against that – but after doing 4 at a whack, I lean toward agreeing with you. Maybe it was just my not knowing what best to cut or having tighter focus, or maybe it’s because we are just starting out with the story, so there’s a lot of place-setting and background; but this definitely took me longer than I expected.

  3. Things I would add: note the mother/maiden/crone combo, because they pop up a LOT, sometimes in odd ways (Unmry/Sbktybir/Gurffnyl, nalbar?).

    Mad Hettie later has a prominent role in Death: The High Cost of Living, but we’re several books away from that. (I think it was published when the main action of Sandman is in the inn where everyone’s telling stories.)

    This was the first time reading through that I knew “sleepy sickness” was an actual thing that actually happened.

    • Jason – Regarding yr rot13’d part, that is an interesting thought that had not occurred to me. I’ll be looking for them elsewhere now too.

    • It pops up in Pratchett, except there it’s Mother/Maiden/Other One because no one dares use the C-word about Granny Weatherwax.

  4. I’m coming to this book from an odd perspective, having read the second, third and fourth ones before it. The plot of this one was basically summarized at the beginning of Book 2, so it loses a bit, but I still enjoyed it.

    This is the first one that made it apparent to me that the story is actually occurring in real comic-book world (gur arkg unys bs gur obbx znxrf vg rira zber boivbhf, jvgu gur Whfgvpr Yrnthr naq Znegvna Znauhagre) – I knew of Constantine from having heard of the terrible movie of it, though this one isn’t much like the Keanu Reeves version. It also took me a while to process that yes, Arkham is the Arkham, and seeing Fpnerpebj in the second half of the book came as a surprise. It’s neat to see those connections, though.

    It’s not clear why everyone in the Dreaming (Cain, Abel, Lucien) has Wolverine-style hair taken to the next level.

    The bit with the Three Fates is great, and the art is very well done (the bit with all of them eating some horrible thing – one grabs it, one eats it, one burps – is a great way of simultaneously illustrating their creepiness and the fact that they’re basically the same person). Also, they’re very tricky about questions, and not just in terms of a person having to phrase them carefully – the Maiden answers before Morpheus has actually phrased a question, and the Crone gives him clues but doesn’t tell him exactly where his ruby is despite him specifically asking “Who has [it] now?” The latter in particular seems like it should be against the ‘rules’.

    Constantine’s imagined conversation with London (“Full of people. Raining. You?”) keeps making me laugh.

    I really like the duel, and the way Dream wins.

    Regarding the review, I think it could be shorter, but it’s really good in pointing out all the little details and what they tell us about the characters and setting. And I hadn’t realized that the Gates of Horn and Ivory weren’t Gaiman’s own invention (I’m not very good at picking this stuff up).

    It has a head that looks like Giger’s ‘Alien’ wearing a steampunk gas mask.

    Re-watching Prometheus a couple days ago, it was very noticeable that the Engineers’ masks looked almost exactly like Morpheus’.

  5. Re: Wolverine-style hair taken to the next level.

    1.). That is hilarious.
    2.). After thinking about it, and considering Morpheus’ own ‘do, the answer is obvious: in the Dreaming, they purchase ‘Bed Head’ hair gel in bulk.

  6. One thing that strikes me about the guys who caught Dream at the beginning kept bargaining for stuff as if they were bargaining with Death. Hammering out that, oh, this was not Death should have resulted in serious redrawing of negotiation stances.

    • Yeah, at least Constantine knew what to appropriately ask him for (though they may have thought that holding Death’s brother hostage might give them leverage over Death).

  7. There’s an old Henry Kuttner story about a telepath who, hubristically, attempts to cure a psychotic through mind-to-mind contact. He winds up in coma filled with horrific nightmares. When he wakes up, he’s surrounded by his friends and family. Who turn into horrible nightmarish monsters. When he wakes up from that, a doctor tells him how worried they’ve been but he’s OK now. Then the doctor shoots him. Then he wakes up from that …

    • It wouldn’t shock me to learn Gaiman’s read that story. I think he may be the only person on earth who’s read more than you have.

      • I also recall an old Tales From The Crypt (or something… one of those) where a guy got cursed and, in a bit of a subversion, woke up the third or fourth time, went outside, saw a lion, ran up to it as if to hug it, and got eaten for his trouble.

        The zookeepers didn’t understand why a guy in his pajamas would run up to a lion instead of going back to bed.

        • I don’t think that’s a subversion — part of the curse is never being sure.

          • I can see that. When Bill Murray was in his suicidal phase in Groundhog Day, I kept thinking “What if this is the day the curse wears off?”

    • Holy crap, I thought that name Kuttner sounded familiar. Did you ever read this (I did, as a kid, in the library)? It’s about a genius inventor who gets blind drunk, then wakes up hungover and has to figure out what he invented and why.

      Looks like it’s out of print, but I added it to my list to look for a used copy, I’d like to re-read this.

      • That collections has also been published as Robots Have No Tails. It’s hilarious.

  8. This is the very first time I have read the Sandman and I am not sure what I think of it yet. It feels very abstract and very dark. Not sure if this will be something I like.

    • Dman, if you can, try to stick with it a while longer. It doesn’t stay quite as dark, a lot of other tones get woven in eventually (in fact by the end of this first book, it opens up quite a bit IMO). Maybe if you get through the last issue in the first book ‘The Sound of Her Wings’, and it still seems too grim, you’ll know it’s not for you?

      • Thanks. I do plan to stick with it for a while. Good to know it does do other things.

    • It is abstract. A lot of the abstraction comes threads that won’t resolve themselves/we’ll come back to at the very end. (Example: A few years ago, while reading The Wake, a speech by a certain witch made me realize “oh, she was the one” who had been referenced as the impetus for a quest earlier on.) Think of how Babylon 5 had threads that ran the entire show or made references to things that happened in previous seasons and triple that. The rest of the abstraction comes from, well, the thoughts and concepts being a little abstract.

      It isn’t dark all the time but large parts of it are.

      Remember, that, when Jay and I were initially reading it, Jay was in his Tori Amos phase and I was in my identity seeking phase. I’m not sure how much that helps but there is a certain mindset to get into when reading it. You can’t really approach it with the same mindset that you would approach something like Dredd where everything is pretty much laid out and is what it seems to be.

      • Another thing to keep in mind that the mainstream superhero stories going on at this point in time were The Infinity Gauntlet, The Death Of Superman (and the fallout thereby), and Marvel’s 2099 stuff.

        While there was some seriously edgy stuff out there on the periphery (Cerberus, some of the Dark Horse stuff, indy press books), Sandman (and the other Vertigo titles) were the first really mainstream stories that were allowed to be told in the shadow of Watchmen.

        • I don’t know as those parts were all that relevant. Remember, Crisis was 4 years prior to Sandman’s start and Crisis rearranged everything (in a far more gutsy manner than New 52). In contrast, Infinity Gauntlet really didn’t change anything from a publishing standpoint nor did 2099 due to both focus and internal politics. Death of Superman did change the business but it did so by flooding the market with issues made for speculators as opposed to Sandman. Sandman was never really part of that movement.

          Dark Horse was probably one of the contributing factors because, unlike other companies that Marvel and DC could sue out of existence, Dark Horse built it’s base on semi-indie titles and the holy trinity of Aliens/Predator/Terminator. All of these were things that the Big Two couldn’t legally touch both due to the non-superheroic stories being told and because hitting the big properties would have had the Big Two taking on 20th Century Fox and Orion Pictures (which, at the time, meant taking on Warner Bros). While Dark Horse never hit more than 11% market share (I believe), it’s existence paved the way for the other indies. I believe that this was probably one of the key factors in DC telling Karen Berger to take some of the more square pegs that she had hired and create what would become Vertigo.

          Regardless, that’s mostly nerd history and it’s nerd history that Dman really doesn’t share. My comment is more to give Dman a bit of a context into how to approach the series.

  9. I’m still not sure whether I’m enjoying it or not. Not being a comics aficionado, I would have missed all those references (OK, I would have caught the Justice League) without Glyph’s help, so, one vote for keeping the full recaps.

    • I really only got a lot of them after the fact. I was familiar with Arkham Asylum, of course. But I didn’t (still don’t) know much about Constantine, or Swamp Thing, or Cain/Abel, or Etrigan other than what I have read on wikipedia (I think I have read 1 or 2 Swamp Things).

      After this first book, it really breaks away from the DC comics universe, and there are only a couple more instances of other DC Universe characters showing up; and for the most part when they do, they are not really consequential to the overall story. So my advice would be, don’t even worry too much about them – IMO the Sandman story itself is good enough, that not knowing the complete history of every character doesn’t really detract from the enjoyment. Also, if there was anything that still wasn’t clear, LMK…

  10. Just getting started on the post but some feedback ~I found the encrypting to be a massive nuisance. Who on earth would be reading a post like this if they had a fear of spoilers?

    • Does everybody agree with this?

      My take is this I do think that there is a place for spoilers but… much like in comments, we should have them in large readable chunks rather than a sentence here and a sentence there.

      There are a lot of things that are being set up in these books (and the next books) for a lot of stuff down the road. A Game of You, The Kindly Ones… Mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm. I can totally see someone wanting just to have stuff like “when Dream puts the item in the chest, look at the other stuff in the chest!!!” not be encrypted but have stuff like “the bike horn in the chest is an important plot point in the ‘Daisy Daisy’ storyline that takes place in Vietnam!” be encrypted (note: there is no bike horn in the chest, there is no ‘Daisy Daisy’ storyline that takes place in Vietnam).

    • Hey North, I originally had them as endnotes – so I could put spoilers all in one spot and encrypt there – then realized that the endnote numbering was getting lost when I encrypted. So JB kindly and patiently interpolated all of them, encrypted. I can work on a better way next time.

      Probably wouldn’t have been so painful, if my piece wasn’t so long to begin with (gung’f jung fur fnvq!)

    • I don’t know what browser you’re using, but I’m on Chrome, and I found d3coder to be useful. Highlight text->right click->d3coder->rot13->pops up box with decoded text.

      There are other extensions for Chrome that do the same thing, and probably extensions for Firefox that do it, too.

  11. OK, so I can’t believe that 1.) I left these things out of this introductory post and 2.) I am so OCD that I must come back to this post, and add it in comments.

    But I did, and I am.

    Morpheus’ name is, of course, taken from this guy.

    And, especially interesting in light of the way his pouch of sand is misused as a drug by Rachel in issue #3, Morphine is named after (the original) Morpheus.

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