I hope you’re having as much fun reading these as I am researching and writing them.
If this is your first time reading them, it is imperative that you take this SPOILER WARNING seriously. I am discussing every issue as I read it, but if a panel in issue 2 plays into the finale of the series (and I remember that), I am going to point it out because I consider that part of learning how a series of this magnitude was organized.
Warning over, on to the good stuff:
I want to take a moment and mention something that we need to applaud DC Comics for.
I do not believe any publisher in today’s market would have allowed Sandman 2 to be written. There is so much intriguing stuff in this issue, but basically zero action.
Here’s the plot. Sandman returns home tired. He sees that the Realm of Dreaming has decayed without him. He calls upon The Hecate (The Maiden, The Mother and The Crone)
to give him clues as to where his tools of power (helm, ruby and bag of sand) are. They, sort of, do and that is all the action in the comic.
Please don’t get me wrong, Sandman #2 is a compelling read. I just don’t fathom a mostly unknown creator could get this script green-lit in today’s comic market. Basically, I’m telling you not to try this at home kids.
THE BEAUTY OF THE PAGE FLIP
One of the amazing thing comic readers intuitively know, and comic creators MUST use correctly, is the page flip.
I first read about it extensively in Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics Vol 1 (published in 2003 – if I’m reading the Amazon page correctly – I think it stands with Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics as the best two* books for comic creators to bone up on creating comics):
There’s yet to be a Vol 2, which stinks because I learned a lot in it. But it’s also perfect because Alan Moore is (and I say this with respect and admiration) a maniac. Naimg a book Vol 1 without any intention of following up with a Vol 2 is the Alan Mooreiest thing Alan Moore could do.
Anyway, Moore talks about using that moment in time when a reader is flipping from one page to another to change scenes. It’s basically a natural edit point in a comic. So whenever possible (and you should write to create that possibility), end a scene on one page, and start the next scene after the “page flip.” Even if you aren’t breaking to a new scene, use page flips if you have a really big reveal.
This practice protect information you want revealed at a specific time, and allows your reader to do a lot of the work for you.
While reading Sandman #2, I was reminded of Moore’s advice because he mentions feeling quite clever when he can use a bit of dialogue from one page to lead into the next scene (full disclosure, he does say that he’s gotten tired of this lately, but I personally always like it).
I couldn’t tell you what Gaiman thinks of the trick nowadays, but when he wrote this script he dug it. Check out this beautiful transition in Sandman 2, page 7 and 8
Gaiman ends Page 7 with a character asking Dream where he has been:
Dream continues his answer on Page 8 leading into a scene at Arkham Asylum:
“I have been imprisoned.”
I know that the first comic script Neil Gaiman ever read was an Alan Moore script because he wrote Moore and asked what comic scripts look like. I found this interview with Gaiman explaining the process (There are probably plenty others, but my google powers aren’t firing on all cylinders today):
So to see him use Moore’s magic trick so beautifully tells me he either picked it up organically, or Moore pointed it out in his script.
I’ll talk about how Neil plants some very important seeds in issue 2 which pay off many issues in the future in the next post which should be available Friday.
All images Copyright DC Comics. Used within the Fair Use Doctrine.
* I’m probably going to get angry letters from comic purists because I neglected to mention Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art as one of the top books for learning how to create comics. If you are an illustrator looking to break in, I recommend Eisner’s book wholeheartedly. As a writer, I learned things from it, but a lot of it went over my head. McCloud’s book spoke about illustration in terms even a stupid writer could understand.
PS – I am available for hand modeling if anyone is reading this and realize how beautiful my thumbs are.