One Issue At a Time: Sandman #1

I need to confess, I love serialized fiction in whatever form I can get it, (hell, I am watching General Hospital as I write this,) and in this age of collected editions, I wonder sometimes if the experiance of reading a series episodically, with pauses between each issue doesn’t change the reading process.

For a while now I have wanted to go back and revisit some comic runs and read them one at a time, and I have decided, now that I am writing this blog, I have the reason to read one of my favorite comic runs of all time, The Sandman by Neil Gaiman and a lot of other artists through the course of the series, with breaks inbetween each issues, and this becomes even easier because for my birthday, my wonderful girlfriend bought me the Sandman in issue form.

My original intent was to read one issue a month, but then I got to thinking that it would take around seven years to make my way through the whole series, so I have decided to read one a week. So without further preamble….

Sandman #1 is where this great series all begins, and while I originally set out to try to read these issues with virginal eyes, I quickly realized that this was an impossibility, and that I should embrace the knowledge that I already had of this series to appreciate what is happening in this issue.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the “Johnny DC” column that was on the interior cover of the issue. While it is a very cheesy little column, it really helped to place the comic into its proper time. The headline was all about the filming of the Batman movie, you know the one staring Micheal Keaton.

When it actually came to the comic, what really blew me away was the art. Sam Kieth really does an amazing job in this issue, and in many ways, as much as I love the Maxx, a comic he would do later, I actually find this to be his most impressive issue. I love the way he subtlety mixes his more stylized figures with a some more photo realistic panels. His images of Unity Kincaid show this wonderfully.

Heck, that Gaiman had the game plan to HAVE Unity in this issue, and to have her raped and have a child, is just wonderful, and as an aspiring fiction writer myself, I must take off my hat to the man.

The other really neat thing I noticed about the art, is that Dream is basically a black and white character, and Kieth uses this to his advantage very nicely, by pulling in close to the characters face and having whole panels that are in black and white, amid color all over the rest of the page. it helps to visual reinforce the isolation the Dream must have felt in his cage.

Gaiman actually peppers in another idea that I know runs through the whole series, and this is the idea that all of the Endless have dual purposes. He hints at this when, in a caption speaking about the elderly in a nursing home, writes “The elderly wait for death, as they’d wait for an old friend.” Freakin’ brilliant.

I also really dig the way that Gaiman justified the existence of the Wesley Dodds, the Sandman from the golden age. The idea that the universe is attempting to correct for the absence of Dream is a really neat idea, and it leads up to believe that there is a power greater then the Endless.

As far as first issues go, I have to admit that if I was to have bought this new, the only thing that would have brought me back would have been the end. The punishment dished out by Dream, Eternal Waking, may be the creepiest, most horrifying idea I have ever come across.

Interestingly, I am not really excited to read the next issue, and in a lot of ways I want to just skip ahead to issue eight, but I am going to hold out, and read issue two next week, I think it is only right thing to do.

About John Kalogerakos

John Kalogerakos is a freelance writer living in Detroit. He bought his first comic off a spinner rack when he was 11 years old and hasn't stopped reading them since. Check out his webcomic, Kara and Eric's Five Year Plan.

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