Comic History 101: The Sandman

A couple of weeks ago I talked about how Matt Fraction’s Sex Criminal and Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim helped open up the mainstream comic book readership to the independent comic book market. However, that’s not the entire story. Way before Image Comics and Oni Press even came into existence, right back in 1989, Neil Gaiman was proudly flying the independent flag in the world of comics with the comic book juggernaut that would be known as The Sandman. With help from some of the greatest comic book creators of the time, Gaiman managed to create an entire splinter division of DC Comics and kick-start a bend of comics away from the standard capes and cowls of the golden age. This is the big one. The grand daddy.

But Gaiman Was A Novelist…


The eighties had been a pretty big decade for young Neil Gaiman. He had managed to publish several novels whilst growing a large enough cult following and critical acclaim to make a living as an author. Gaiman had met several other creators and artists, including Alan Moore who was one of the biggest names in comic books at the time, this had lead Gaiman to consider moving into the medium of comic books. After learning some techniques from Moore and writing a brief run on the Miracleman comic book series under his mentors watch, Gaiman was offered the chance to work on a Black Orchid comic book series for DC comics. The series was a success, with positive reviews and sales, and it provoked Gaiman to pitch something a little more bold. Gaiman wanted to have a go at one of DC’s older heroes ‘The Sandman’ but the company were trying to modernise. The heads of DC were concerned the book may not sell and so they wanted a new version of the character. After several pitches, Gaiman settled on the idea of an imprisoned pale man outliving all of his captors. The man was Morpheus, also known simply as Dream.

It’s All About The D


Gaiman created a world inhabited by the Endless, a group of metaphysical beings who helped manipulate and govern the world. Dream is a member of the endless and across Gaiman’s series he goes from a captive to a man trying to restore his lost power. Gaiman continually played with characters from the DC Universe and metaphysical concepts to create stories that were just as appealing to high-minded literary critics as they were to teenage comic book geeks. It’s really important to note that Sandman never directly fights and of his enemies and almost none of his stories follow typical super hero-eques plots. While the book started out on the fringe, The Sandman created a new type of mainstream comic book that many different readerships could enjoy. However it was one particular readership which sparked the beginnings of a revolution in the world of comic as suddenly girls were reading comic books.

The Fairer Sex And Graphic Fiction


From their days as wartime propaganda comics never really seemed to shake the idea that they were exclusively for young boys and men. There were attempts at making the audience broader, most notably in series with female protagonists, but most felt cloying or they attempted to still keep the key young male demographic. I’m not going to claim that it was Gaiman’s work that brought about the change in audience but it is notable that a much larger percentage of his readers were women than almost any other series at the time. This started to show the comic book industry that the main young male demographic was no longer the sole group of readers looking for comic books.

A Legacy Of Dreamers


The Sandman, along with work from Frank Miller, Alan Moore and several others, caused the industry to expand in ways it had never before and contributed to the nineties comic book boom. As receptions go, it’s pretty obvious that Sandman had the desired effect on the comic book world and more and it left a legacy that is still felt to this day. Gaiman would go on to work on several big comic book projects, including Marvel 1602 which would see him win another slew of awards. The Sandman cemented Gaiman’s standing in the world of comics and showcased to the world that it was time for comics to change. Next week I’ll be looking at Ultimate Spiderman and how Brian Michael Bendis changed the Marvel Universe for ever!

…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back over the weekend for a new BearSleuth Spoiler Free Comic Book Bundle (it might actually be on time this week folks) !!!

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