Searching Sandman, Issue 1, Part 2

If you read the last post ( Found here if you did not: ) you know I had to break off before I finished the issue. Actually before I finished the PROLOGUE!!!

I figure you’re like me. I want to pop in get a little info and pop out to the next shiny internet object. I had written as much as I personally would have wanted to read and was less than one fourth through the project. Which scared me. Luckily, in my opinion the majority of the lessons we can learn from issue one were packed into the beginning, so I believe we can get through issue one in just two more posts. But we won’t be able to do that unless I start, so…

I will talk about Neil Gaiman a lot as we progress. So I wanted to shine a light on Sam Kieth for a bit. Kieth left the series after the fifth issue. Depending on your taste, Sam Kieth lands somewhere on the Genius, Mad Genius, or Mad Man spectrum of illustrators in comics.

I personally have a soft spot for Kieth because when I got back into reading comics in 2002 his series Wolverine/Hulk…

… was one of the first limited series I bought. I’d been enticed back in with the announcement of the impending series Origins (blah) and DK2 (terrible). Luckily, before they came out I read this. It was so unique, and interesting, and quirky, and entertaining I decided comics just might be for me again (any wonder I’ve stayed on the indie side with my reading and have grown less and less enamored with The Big 2). I barely remember what I liked about the series, but remember that I loved it.

I can imagine that the page I’m about to show you was written from the Point of View of Sandman in his glass cage, and I can also imagine that it was written from a completely different view point and Kieth went crazy. I tried to find the original script on the interwebs, but failed to do so to satisfy my curiousity, but if anyone knows, please comment below.

In theory it’s a pretty standard six panel grid. But the demented angles created by the fish eye lens are absolutely incredible.

As a writer, I look at this page and remind myself to try to remember to let the artists go wild. Whether it’s with my prompting (if this was Gaiman’s original visual intent) or on their own (If Kieth came up with the idea). Comics are a visual medium. Someone who has spent their life creating images will usually come up with a more interesting way to communicate the information than I will.

There is however, one moment of brilliance on this page that I know is Gaiman’s.

Let me stop for a moment and explain something you might already know. If you do, it’s always good to remind yourself. If you don’t, it is extremely important information to have.


Sci fi and fantasy are pretty closely linked. They’re almost always next to each other, if not intertwined, in book stores and libraries. And many of us in the comic reading community like both (heck a lot of our super groups pull heroes from both sources: Captain America-Sci Fi, Thor-Fantasy). I gravitate a little closer to fantasy than sci fi, but still enjoy them both. Why do I/most of us enjoy them both? I think it’s because they both tell us stories about people living in, around or interacting with, impossible things. The Enterprise struggling to defeat their most fearsome foe: an Assimilated Captain Picard. Two hobbits climbing a mountain struggling to destroy a ring with all the power of Sauron. These touch us, inspire us, and scare us in many of the same ways.

But what is the actual, factual difference between the two?

The difference is that a sci fi story MUST hew to science, at the very least, THEORETICAL SCIENCE. Time travel is not possible (we think), but if Captain Kirk needs a whale or two, THEORETICALLY he could travel back in time if his ship could just achieve a specific speed. Everything in a science fiction story, no matter how improbable it seems, must be plausible using the scientific rules of the universe as we understand them.

Fantasy, does NOT have to listen to science. It gets to make up it’s own rules. Daenerys Targaryen, can not burn because she is blood of the dragon. Want proof she can’t… well I’m not going to put the naked photos up of Emilia Clark, but the show proves it (over and over again). And the only justification they need to show it is that they tell us it’s true (also, cuz GOT really likes the naked!).

So fantasy is easier to write than sci fi, right? Well, yes and no. Fantasy takes less knowledge, but much more memory and discipline. You see, when you have science to fall back on you rarely break your own rules. But when you’ve created a rule for your character in fantasy, the easiest way to lose your audience is to break that rule.

Your vampires burst into dust when they are hit by the sun? But they walk out to meet the mailman at noon to grab a package without covering themselves. You have just lost your audience.

Okayso, that seemed like a fun thing to talk about, back to Sandman. Sandman creates a world where seven ENDLESS siblings embody the essence of things like Dreams, Destiny, Delirium (oh why can’t it be Delight) etc. We’re obviously reading a fantasy. Let’s check out a rule being created:

“You won’t get out unless the circle is broken…”

Some 70 years (and 14 pages) later, after that geezer has died, what happens?

The seal is broken. Rule created. Rule followed. Audience rewarded. That is fantasy done right. Gaiman fills this entire series with tidbits like this, many coming dozens of issues and (since they came out monthly) years later. The more removed a rule can be to it’s eventual necessity, the more fulfilling it is to the reader. The closer the rule is the it’s necessity, the closer you’re audience gets to feeling like you cheated.

I have one more post on issue 1 (probably could have finished, but I went on a sci fi/fantasy rant. I hope that’s ok). Click here to read the next post:

Search Sandman – Issue 1, Part 3


All Sandman images Copyright DC Comics, used within the Fair Use Copyright doctrine.

Wolverine/Hulk cover Copyright Marvel Comics, used within the Fair Use Copyright doctrine.

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