Our assignment was to read issues six and seven: 24 Hours and Sound and Fury. Glyph was kind enough to write the recaps. (Warning, these issues were intense. If you’ve read them already, you already know that. If you haven’t, just watch out while reading the recaps. This *IS* a horror series I keep having to remember.)

To re-read our posts from the first five issues from the Preuludes and Nocturnes book, just follow the links: Glyph and Patrick tackled the first four issues, I tackled the fifth.

It’s very difficult to discuss this book without discussing the next one (or the one ofter that, or the one after that), if you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. 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.

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

Sandman #6 – 24 Notes on “24 Hours”

“24 Hours” is exactly 24 pages.

“24 Hours” is also the name of a song by seminally-bleak British postpunk band Joy Division (later to become the arguably even more influential dance-rock band New Order, after the epileptic and depressive original singer’s suicide). At that same YouTube link you can see the lyrics, containing several references to “Destiny”. Given that Judy has a Joy Division logo on her jacket, and Gaiman’s a gothy Brit who would have been a young man when Joy Division was big, this is all unlikely to be coincidental. (If you really want to get further depressed, this is the source of the band’s name; this will not be the last Nazi-related Note you find here.)

“24 Hours” is structured around a narrative clock. This technique pretty reliably unsettles me, because horror often works by juxtaposing the mundane/banal/dispassionate with the terrifying – and what is more dispassionate than a narrator simply ticking off horrifying events on a timeline? Events are either inevitable; or they have already occurred. There will be no escape, because clocks don’t care. Stephen King (hey, remember Morpheus’ guards in issue #1 reading It?) used a similar ‘diary-entry’ trick in the grisly short story Survivor Type (about a shipwreck victim who resorts to auto-cannibalism) and IIRC, the first part of The Stand does something similar, methodically detailing various days as ‘steps’ in the world’s collapse due to the accidental release of a deadly biological agent (this will not be the last King-related Note you find here.)

Since Dee walks to the diner from the storage facility, it seems safe to assume the diner is also in Mayhew. I guess flipping the final letter of the town’s name upside-down would be just a little too on-the-nose for what we are about to see – or, leave the spelling as-is, with “hew” defined as “chop or cut”. Either way, the town’s name seems like wordplay.

“24 Hours” has some meta-commentary on writing, as Bette, and later Dee, (and ultimately Gaiman) use the victims in the diner as raw material, manipulating them to their own ends.

Note the sheep picture that appears at or near our introduction to each victim. It appears to be the same picture, but if it is ‘real’ it is either posted all over the diner, or it moves around. SYMBOLISM!

Judy is a punk. Whql’f hafrra ybire Qbaan, jvgu jubz fur unf unq n svtug, jvyy nccrne yngre va gur frevrf.

Hour 8: Stephen King again – in Bette’s (Gaiman’s?) fantasy, she (he?) has dislodged King from the bestseller lists.

Hour 11: “The Amazing Herschel and Betty” are awesome, and I want to read about their adventures (“Well, me and Betty, we figure it’s probably rays.”)

Hour 12: Kate Fletcher’s confessional story here is likely based on that of an infamous Sacramento necrophiliac named Karen Greenlee. If you have a strong stomach and so desire, you can see some similarities in their stories (WARNING: DISTURBING TEXT IN THE LINKED INTERVIEW THAT FOLLOWS) here.

Hour 13: “The Addams Family”. Ha! But note the hammer & nails…

Hour 14: Hey, it’s the Fates/Weird Sisters again. I am unsure if they are really speaking through the women; it seems they may be (one seems to describe Arkham Asylum), but Dee keeps demanding his fortune until he gets the answer he wants.

Hour 14: The table clock (under a glass dome) appears to be the same one that Lucifer had in Hell. I have no idea what that means, unless it’s meant to be a “Hell is now on Earth” kind of thing; or if the image of the clock’s inner workings trapped under glass, like an insect, represents the victims and events in the diner; either way, looks like more SYMBOLISM!

Hour 15: “He gave them back their minds for a little while.” The victims ask “Why?”; Dee’s response is a simple, “Because I can.” Completely horrific to me, and evokes again the Holocaust. From here:

Many know the anecdote from Survival in Auschwitz, Levi’s famous memoir of Auschwitz that was published in English as If This Is a Man. Levi, a young prisoner in Auschwitz suffering from thirst, noticed an icicle through his cell window and sought to grab it. A Nazi guard knocked it out of his hand. “Warum?” (“Why?”), asked Levi. “Hier ist kein warum” (“Here there is no why”), answered the guard in a phrase that became symbolic of the Holocaust’s careening away from rationality itself.

Hour 16: Murder in the Dark – 4 solid black panels do so much with so little.

Hour 17: Remember the hammer & nails? Now we get a crucifixion of sorts.

Hour 18: “The old male gnaws at his trapped front leg. It has followed the pack at a distance for years, hunting for scraps.” The whole “beast” sequence, narrated like a nature documentary, is harrowing; but for whatever reason this first part gets me the most. How many broken people are out there that you will see this way, once you start thinking of “humans” in terms of “dog packs” or “baboon troops”? It’s an image that, once seen, is very hard to un-see.

Dee has entertained himself by putting his victims through many varieties of transcendent human experience – sex, truth-telling/catharsis, story-telling/fantasy, religious ecstasy/worship/sacrifice, and pure animal violence.

Dee then grows bored, and finishes early…all victims appear to be dead by Hour 22, and Dee then spends 2 more hours waiting for Morpheus – in a universe ruled by mad god Dee, not even the predetermined schedule is reliable. Also – and I am so, so sorry to point this out – but Kate’s fantasy for Garry, as described in Hour 12, appears to have been realized. I am assuming those are entrails/viscera.

Hour 23: After killing all of his metaphorical flies, Dee catches and eats a real fly, like Renfield.

How ballsy a narrative choice is it that our “hero” doesn’t arrive in the nick of time? He’s two hours too late to save anyone at all.

And when Morpehus arrives, he is not particularly concerned about the victims anyway; only with retrieving his ruby. If clocks don’t care, neither do gods.

Completely specious theory that I can’t quite make work: Do the 7 occupants of the diner (6 victims + Dee) somehow represent the Seven Deadly Sins? I can get a pretty easy fit for all of them except “envy”. I am probably reaching here.

“24 Hours” is a pretty hard issue to read, let alone ‘enjoy’ in the usual sense of the word. But structurally and narratively, it’s really a risky and memorable piece of work. These are flawed – in some cases deeply flawed – characters, yet in 24 pages Gaiman manages to make us care about their fate anyway. And any worries that the next villain after Lucifer and demons would seem anticlimactic are thoroughly quashed here – John Dee is shown to have godlike power and to be beholden to no morality, causing horrific suffering and death solely for his own entertainment.

Sandman #7 – “Sound and Fury”

OK, I need some help from you guys on this one.

On one level, this issue is just a ‘fight scene’.

A lot of times on TV shows or movies you can sort of tune out the fight scenes, enjoyable as they can be, because all you usually *really* need to know from a story perspective is, “who won/lost, and what did it gain/cost them?”

Likewise, I think I largely have glossed over a lot of this issue each time I have read it before.

So here’s what jumps out to me, now that I look closer.

The issue is called “Sound and Fury”.

The first and (almost) last word of the story is “Listen” (=Sound).

But when Dee is wrecking up the Dreamtime (=Fury), his dialogue contains multiple and repeated variants of the verb “to see/watch/show” (“Show yourself; Can you see me? (3x); Look!; Watch me! (2x); Mother, if you could only see me now”). And when Dee is returned to Arkham, Scarecrow at first cannot see him, until he adjusts his spectacles.

So there is seemingly some implied contrast between ‘seeing’ (which Dee is interested in) vs. ‘listening’ (which the narration, and by implication Morpheus, are interested in).

But I can’t neatly tie this observation into the actual events or Dream’s eventual victory (which originally seemed like a bit of a story cheat to me – but on this re-read, I noticed how Gaiman set up the idea that the destruction of Dream’s objects causes him to regain their power, all the way back in issue #2!)

Any ideas? Am I missing something obvious? Or did Gaiman not fully follow through on this thematic setup?

Random notes:

It’s striking to me how slow Dream is to comprehend what it is that Dee is doing with the ruby, and why. He just can’t bring himself to believe someone would do such a thing – drive the world mad, just because they can. Just as Dream does not know much about superheroes, he also doesn’t understand super-villains – their motives are incomprehensible to him. Both superheroes and villains arose to prominence during Dream’s imprisonment – in fact, given the timeframe and the retconned “Wesley Dodd Sandman” origin story we got in issue #1, we may be meant to infer that the rise of both was largely because of Dream’s imprisonment. Dream himself is methodical and orderly, but “The sleep (or imprisonment) of reason produces monsters”. Less abstractly, Dream’s capture and loss of his ruby can be said to have helped “create” John Dee as we see him now.

The Fates/Weird Sisters show up again, giving the Macbeth (natch!) quote that provides the issue’s name. They may have Dee’s mother’s face, as Dee/we can see from the Ethel Cripps “slave in love” picture that Roderick Burgess had, which also shows up again.

Dee enters the Dreaming dressed as Caesar and speaks of a dream in which he raped his mother (this is apparently from Plutarch) – his ‘mother’ responds that she should have strangled Dee at birth.

The Charlie Manson lookalike holding the decapitated dog’s head wears a “Norman Lives” button. Later, after Dee’s seeming victory, he mentions that people “die when you still need them”. Are we getting a clear picture of John Dee’s probable relationship with his mom just yet?

Given these clues about Dee’s feelings toward Ethel, and the “Hamlet” references, and the fact that Dream can in some way be considered John Dee’s “father”, whom Dee is attempting to kill – well, the whole issue becomes more than a bit Oedipal, doesn’t it?

When I googled “Genessee Hotel” I found this.

A couple of instances of the kind of wordplay/free-association beloved of writers and dreamers alike: “Coward/custard/mustard/bastard” and “Beware the ideas of March / Beware the march of ideas / Beware the brides of Frankenstein”.

Dee sings a snatch of “Death Takes a Holiday” – a callback to Roderick Burgess’ intent back in issue #1?

First sighting of Destiny. I also like the brief shot of Cain, Abel and the gargoyles hiding while the battle rages, because where else would nightmare creatures hide when things get hairy, but under the bed?

In the end, after brief consideration, Dream is merciful to Dee. Whether this is due to gratitude for Dee returning Dream’s power to him (albeit inadvertently), or sympathy for the damage the ruby caused Dee, or empathy for Dee the prisoner, or Morpheus just listened to Dee’s monologue and was moved – it’s an interesting choice. Going back to the idea of “Dream as Dee’s notional father”, perhaps now that Dee’s tantrum (“Watch me!”) is spent and he has gotten his “father’s” attention, all is again right with the world. Note how childlike Dee is, at the issue’s conclusion.

Upon his return from the Dreaming to Arkham, Dee (“D is for lots of things.”) tells Scarecrow(!) “There’s no place like home.”

Again returning to the ‘Endless as godlike beings’ theme; like gods they appear somewhat capricious from our perspective – we desire to see the guilty punished. But sometimes the evil man not only escapes punishment, he may be shown mercy or even blessing – so Dee and Arkham get a good night’s sleep; maybe the only one they ever get.

So… what did you think?


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. These were very tough episodes for me. 24 was grusome and unsettling (of course it was meant to be), yet in some ways Sound and Fury was worse, because of the ending. I do not like that they was no justice handed out in the end for what Dee did.

    A slight side track, Right after reading these I watched Superman vs The Elite. I found the story compelling in that I rooted for the Elite more than Superman (until the very end when the Elite went overboard). They made the Atomic Skull incedibly un symathetic and I was routing for his death. I was in the exact same mode with Dee. In one I got what I wanted, in the other I did not.

    • On one level, I’m sure that there was some dynamic of “you can’t kill Doctor Destiny! You made him interesting! We need him to fight against the Justice League next year! Why, Grant Morrison has already told us that he wants to use Doctor Destiny in next year’s ‘Arkham Asylum’!”

      So, like the Batman’s response to the Joker’s innumerable victims, Dream just plops Dee back in Arkham.

      For what it’s worth, by the time Doctor Dee shows up in the aforementioned Arkham Asylum, he’s in a wheelchair. Batman kicks him down the stairs.

      • Batman’s response to the Joker’s innumerable victims…

        This really hit me hard in ‘Killing Joke’, one of only a handful of Bats comics I am familiar with, and my first exposure to Alan Moore.

        • Looking at wiki, KJ was in ’88, and Sandman started in ’89, and Moore is sort of Gaiman’s mentor; so it’s maybe unsurprising that, as in KJ, by the story’s end I have a weird sort of sympathy for Dee, despite the horrible things we see him do.

          Making a great villain is hard; making them somewhat 3-dimensional is harder; making us have some sympathy or understanding for them despite their evil and madness is probably hardest of all.

  2. For those who found these two hard to read, make sure you stick around for “The Sound of Her Wings.” I think you will have a better understanding of why people enjoy these books so much.

    The bit about destroying the ruby seemed pretty obvious. I remember when I first read it, I could not understand why destroying the ruby would harm dream, so I just attributed it to Dee’s madness. On top of that, Dee would no longer have the tool that gave him power.

    No justice for Dee? One could argue that he had been suffering for years due to his exposure to the Ruby. Look at his horrible body. He has not slept in decades. His mind is shattered. What more is there to do to him at this point?

    • I think that the argument would go that he was in the dreaming and squeezing the ruby made Dream feel squeezed, then doing worse would do worse. I could see what Dee was going for, there. (I can also see why it wouldn’t work.)

      What more is there to do to him at this point?

      I think that prevention of recidivism is something that is much more meaningful with regards to supervillains than when we’re talking about someone who keeps getting caught with a quarter-ounce.

      • I will never be able to hear or read the word ‘recidivism’ without thinking of this:

        Parole Board chairman: They’ve got a name for people like you H.I.; that name is called “recidivism.”
        Parole Board member: Repeat offender!
        Parole Board chairman: Not a pretty name, is it H.I.?
        H.I.: No, sir. That’s one bonehead name, but that ain’t me no more.
        Parole Board chairman: You’re not just telling us what we want to hear?
        H.I.: No, sir, no way.
        Parole Board member: ‘Cause we just want to hear the truth.
        H.I.: Well, then I guess I *am* telling you what you want to hear.
        Parole Board chairman: Boy, didn’t we just tell you not to do that?
        H.I.: Yes, sir.
        Parole Board chairman (pauses): Well, okay, then.

  3. The one thing that really stuck out to me here was how dissonant Dream’s morality and idea of what does and doesn’t warrant punishment is from the human norm. He exacted a terrible punishment on the son of the man who captured him, but for Dee, who killed a bunch of people horribly and continues to pose a serious threat to the public (and came pretty close to killing Dream), he just takes him back to Arkham and leaves him there.

    It’s like he’s got two categories, offenses against the Endless and offenses against humanity, and only the former really matter.

    • He does have an odd since of morality, though I think it develops over the series. Dee’s misuse of Dream’s Ruby could be seen as an offense against the Endless.

      I think Dream sees himself as responsible for Dee’s condition. Dream made the Ruby. Dream lost the Ruby. The Ruby corrupted Dee. Responsibility is VERY important to Dream. He also owes Dee a debt for (however unintentionally) restoring his power.

      On top of the Dream is not a superhero. His responsibilities have nothing to do with balancing moral scales and meting out justice. His responsibilities do not involve protecting humans. His responsibilities are dreams and stories. He has to protect his kingdom. The earth is just one world in the universe whose inhabitants visit his realm.

    • Well yeah, once you read the story about Dream and his lady any inclings that he’s a ~good~ being go out the window. Dream is at best a neutral sort of entity.

      • I think he’s ‘good’ in the sense that, as RR notes, he appears to take his responsibilities very seriously – while he doesn’t seem to take much note of the corpses in the diner, he does repeatedly entreat Dee to stop because he is ‘hurting the dreamers’, Dream’s true ‘subjects’.

        But Dream is certainly a proud SOB. And we all know where pride goeth.

        • Sure he’s proud but I’d say it goes beyond that. The way Dream dealt with his lady, well I feel that goes beyond proud and puts the being squarely in neutral territory. He’s an orderly and responsible creature but by no means a good one. Lawful neutral if I were to use the D&D system.

          • Fair enough at this point (though I don’t know anything about D&D). Not sure how far along you are in the series, but a big chunk of the overall story is about exactly what kind of ‘person’ Dream is, or is capable of being.

          • That’s fairly vague, but for the sake of possible spoilers (nobody around here seems hyper-sensitive about it, but still), might want to go with rot13’ing…

            So, at or near end of second book then. You still liking it?

            There’s much more to come, obvs. 😉

          • Oh yes, I wouldn’t comment on it if I didn’t not merely like but love it.
            It’s gone down on the list of wonderful things that the League in General and Jaybird in particular has introduced me to. Along with Harry Potter and the Methods of rationality.

  4. It’s striking to me how slow Dream is to comprehend what it is that Dee is doing with the ruby, and why. He just can’t bring himself to believe someone would do such a thing – drive the world mad, just because they can. Just as Dream does not know much about superheroes, he also doesn’t understand super-villains – their motives are incomprehensible to him.

    This, I think, is more of Gaiman’s framing of what it means to be Endless (at least, this particular Endless, at this part of the story).

    Morpheus can’t comprehend what Dee is doing because it does not have a Purpose. It’s Dee’s purpose, and in spite of the fact that Morpheus is an embodiment of a Purpose (and thus, really, the ultimate expression of an individual incarnation of purpose), the idea that Dee’s purpose has no Purpose is utterly confounding.

    This, as well, explains Katherine’s observation

    It’s like he’s got two categories, offenses against the Endless and offenses against humanity, and only the former really matter.

    and Dman’s

    I do not like that they was no justice handed out in the end for what Dee did.

    Offenses against the Endless are ones in which Morpheus must act as a judge (plus jury and executioner, if necessary), because Morpheus is an Endless and the Endless have Purpose. Offenses against the Endless are offenses against that Purpose. Of course. Such cannot be permitted to stand.

    Offenses against the humans are ones in which Morpheus cannot act as judge because Morpheus is an Endless and he’s neither Destiny nor Death. That’s not his job, not as he currently understands his job.

    More on this when we get to the next issue.

    • Dee’s purpose has no Purpose

      “Because I can / Here there is no why”.

      It may or may not be relevant that Neil Gaiman is of Eastern European Jewish extraction. Not saying he is intentionally or explicitly making any kind of Dee/Holocaust connections…but wikipedia’s entry on Klara Hitler says: “Adolf Hitler had a close relationship with his mother, was crushed by her death and carried the grief for the rest of his life”. Sound at all like John Dee as we see him in Sound & Fury?

      We also know that, like Dee, Adolf probably didn’t sleep a whole lot, being an amphetamine user and all.

      Patrick, as a comics guy, do you think there is anything to my speculation that, as Dream’s imprisonment is responsible for Wesley Dodds, we may infer that it may have also influenced the rise of superheroes/villains more generally? Or is that a stretch?

      • Oh, I think it’s pretty explicitly a Holocaust story, and that this parallel is actually made more poignant by Morpheus’s inability to grok what Dee is doing. It’s all meta. “Here, ” says Gaiman, “is a being utterly, literally, inhuman… and he doesn’t understand humankind’s capability for inhumanity to itself”.

        I’m not enough of a DC guy to comment on Sandman’s integration into the greater mythos. I think Gaiman puts Morpheus’s absence into an integral part of his conceptualization of how the DC universe works, but I don’t know that this generalizes to other DC writers.

        • Sorry, yeah, I meant within Gaiman’s Sandman universe, not generalized (it’d be pretty hubristic of any single writer to unilaterally retcon the whole dang DC universe, but Gaiman’s nothing if not ambitious in this series).

          I wonder too if other major 20th century ‘real-world’ events like WWII etc. are meant at all to be at least partially a result of an imbalanced universe while Dream was imprisoned, or if those events are more due to Qrfgehpgvba’f noqvpngvba bs uvf onvyvjvpx.

          • There’s a standalone called “Endless Nights”. One of them focuses on Dream, and in two panels of it, Gaiman creates the ultimate (in every sense of the word) origin story for Superman. Ambition’s gotta be his middle name.

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