The Sandman is a famous film that has been summarized in a single sentence. The Lord of Dreams learns that one must change or die, and makes his decision. Its funny in its lucidness.
Another helpful way to describe The Sandman is: a story about stories and their connections to our humanity. Shakespeare is mentioned. So does the Martian Manhunter, the mythological figure of Loki, Marco Polo, and Eve from the Garden of Eden, like,?
The Sandman is a multifaceted story, including pulp horror, mythopoetry, urban fantasy, a goths style handbook, Succession with anthropomorphic personifications, a flawed but sincere attempt to depict queer people struggling for actualization and safety in the 1990s, a graphic novel, and a DC Universe collection.
The Sandman is undoubtedly the greatest superhero film ever made, whether it be global or specific to comics. It's also worthwhile to turn back the clock to examine all of the ingredients that contributed to its huge popularity in superhero films, if only to clarify why?
The original Sandmans
The Sandman's existence begins in 1939. Superman was barely a year old when he was hired to portray the Man of Steel in costume. Attendees of the fair could get their hands on a free copy of New York Worlds Fair Comics, which introduced a new costumed crime fighter named the Sandman.
Wesley Dodds was a wealthy businessman, but by night he would scout the streets of New York City in search of criminals, who he would interrogate and anesthetize with the use of his gas pistol, sprinkling sand over their sleeping bodies as a summons for the cops. However, the world of comic book heroes never leaves a story when it can be revived decades later.
Captain America was rebooted in 1974 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the authors of which he was the inspiration for. This time around, the hero wore a bright red and yellow outfit, and prowled the Dream Stream in search of rogue nightmares, dispatching them with his magical pouch of dream dust lest they invaded the dreams of children.
This Sandman only lasted a few years, but a decade later his story was adapted into a story in Wonder Woman. Even later, it was turned into a story in Infinity Inc., a team book about the retired Justice League of Earth 2.
Hector Hall, the son of Hawkman and Hawkwoman, became trapped in the Dream Stream and took over the duties of the Sandman. Eventually, he brought his wife, Hippolyta Lyta Hall, the daughter of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, into dreams, where the couple had conceived a child.
The Sandman's black, elongated helm is an interpretation of Dodds 1940s gas mask, and the linking of Sandman to actual power over dreams comes from Kirby and Simon. But for the next stop on our tour of major Sandman influences, we need to go beyond the realm of fiction for a much more terrifying one: publishing history.
The Crisis on Infinite Earths
The second half of the 1980s at DC Comics was defined by major swings. The company's first full continuity reboot, Crisis on Infinite Earths, was a formal invitation for comics artists to reinvent and redefine the greatest, oldest, and most powerful characters in superherodom.
Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli created a sweaty, sleazy neon statue of Gotham City that will remain the same until 2022. In his Wonder Woman, George Perez gave the Princess of the Amazons a new origin story that most people would never know. Change was in the air, and no reimagining was too wild.
Karen Berger, DC editor, poured her creativity into this bursting pot of imagination. By the time the first issue of The Sandman was published, her editorial eye had already fueled storylines, such as Alan Moore's revamp of Swamp Thing, John Constantine's first solo series, and Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol and Animal Man, both instant classics.
Berger had already established herself in the realm of horror stories that doubled as postmodern twists on the superhero formula. She favored a group of writers from the United Kingdom who were familiar with American superheroes through the lucrative import trade, but perhaps less eager about flipping the applecart. At the moment, lets imagine her looking at the work of one of DCs brand-new writers.
This 27-year-old from the south of England has primarily been a journalist, but has also had some short fiction credits with a rather avant garde illustrator friend. He's also got a few issues of Marvelman with him, picking up from where writer Alan Moore left off. Perhaps he'd have done more if DC Comics hadnt gone bankrupt.
Berger decides to ask him if he'd be willing to do a reboot of perhaps the most obscure member of the Justice Society, a character that only Jack Kirby and Joe Simon could nab. And with the hubris of a 27-year-old, Neil Gaiman said yes.
The Sandman's origins are undoubtedly remarkable. However, the reason for its complexity and its complexity isnt complete without its author. Today, Neil Gaiman is an internationally well-known novelist, who has been adapted into award-winning films like Coraline and Stardust, as well as big-budget television shows like American Gods and Good Omens.
The Sandman comes into focus once you fix that lens into your head, and it becomes evident. A young writer had no idea if he would ever have a second chance at success, and so he packed every single detail that he liked into his work. Gaimans imagination and prose were always attracted the most attention.
Gaiman, a devotee of gothic horror and a keen reader of fantasy, offered Berger a great leap. Instead of another Sandman adventure, he'd create a six-issue yarn about a sentient personification of the human imagination escaping from captivity and solving a mystery. Over the six issues, his character would take a trip across the DC Universe, from the headquarters of the Justice League to the depths of hell itself.
From DC's own history of gothic horror, hed pull in Cain and Abel. Not the biblical figures (at least not at first), but the Cryptkeeper-style hosts of House of Secrets and House of Mystery, DCs midcentury attempts to steal the ravenous audience of Tales From the Crypt.
Next, from Gaimans buddy Alan Moore's Saga of the Swamp Thing, Dream of the Endless would travel to hell itself, populated both by biblical Lucifer and DC's Etrigan the Demon, and shortly after, wed meet Mister Miracle and the Martian Manhunter in the Justice League International's headquarters.
Gaiman only broadened his referential palette, recreating Hector Halls Sandman as Matthew the Raven, as well as Shakespeare's plays, historical figures, and movements in classic literature.
Gaiman created the Dreaming, a realm that contained every possibility that the human imagination may be capable of conceiving. And because doing otherwise would have been dishonest, his story treated all of those ideas as equally useful.
Ask a Sandman fan today about the Old Gods Do New Jobs concepts, which Gaiman would expand upon for American Gods; the urban fantasy elements that would crop up in Neverwhere; the return of folklore in Stardust; or the almost ineffable rules a la Coraline. All of them are correct.
Gaiman tells a story about creation, fiction, and history that is, if nothing else, about how creation is a continuous process fuelled by all of the fictions and selves we have access to at any moment. It was inevitable that The Sandman would also depict a young artist in the process of creating himself.