The groundbreaking, award winning, much loved The Sandman series from Vertigo Comics ended quite some time ago. Over fifteen years ago, actually. But that fact hasn’t gotten in the way of Vertigo Comics (an offshoot of DC Comics) publishing ancillary, off-shoot material this past decade and a half. The Sandman was an immensely popular series when its seventy-five issues were first circulated from 1989 through to 1996, pushing the boundaries – and some might even say creating them – of what a comic book could be.
And DC quickly realized that there’s money to be made in them ‘thar new boundaries!
Since the series debuted, the company has released a plethora of trade paperback collections, hardcover collections and reprints of the series; numerous Absolute (oversized hardcover) editions – my personal favourite – and various periodicals, all starring obscure characters from the original stories in order to cash in on The Sandman zeitgeist. Truth be said, most of that stuff was pretty well put together, too.
Neil Gaiman, the man who conceived and wrote The Sandman for the entirety of its monthly run, moved on to other challenges – namely becoming a world-renowned, best selling novelist. Maybe you’ve read Stardust, American Gods or The Graveyard Book? Well, The Sandman is where it all started.
The Sandman truly made its mark in the early 1990’s when it, along with higher forms of comic book fiction (like Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Art Spiegelman’s Maus) were put on the required reading lists for college and university literature courses.
Comic books on a syllabus?
At the time, I thought it was crazy. Here were courses I could take where, instead of writing the essays for professors, I could actually give the lectures! Moreover, I had already bought the various texts and could pocket some extra money for recreational use at my local university pub (does anyone out there remember the tin shack called “The Blind Duck” at U of T Erindale?).
More now than ever before, comics like The Sandman still find themselves on the syllabus list of higher education facilities around the world. The first volume of The Annotated Sandman (three others are still to be published) comes equipped with a 560 page, pane-by-panel breakdown of the first twenty issues of the original The Sandman series. It provides commentary, historical and contemporary references using original scripts from the series as well as interviews with Neil Gaiman himself. The editor, Leslie S. Klinger, is no stranger to this kind of work. The expert researcher and award-winner has done it before with both Sherlock Holmes and Dracula.
So make the run today. If you’re reading the series for the first time, handy notes will only deepen your appreciation for the stories. If you’re reading The Sandman again, learn something fresh and new about what you loved so much the first time around.
Besides, before you know it, essays will be due and there will be no greater resource in your footnotes than The Annotated Sandman – so says Professor JP!
Every Wednesday, JP makes the after-work run to his local downtown comic book shop. Comics arrive on Wednesdays you see and JP, fearful that the latest issue will sell out, rushes out to purchase his copy. This regular, weekly column will highlight a particularly interesting release, written in short order, of course, because JP has to get his – before someone else does!