It isn’t easy being a comic book/graphic novel fan in India. I say this even as I realize that two days ago, I made the shift from one of those into a collector.
Saturday was the day the owner of a Delhi bookstore called to say that he had, with great difficulty, secured a copy of The Absolute Sandman: Vol 1 for me. A little over two inches thick and over a foot long, this book, all 612 pages of it, captures the endless imagination of Neil Gaiman, no stranger either to the readers of this column or followers of graphic novels. The leather-bound book, which comes in a handsome case, essentially reproduces the first 20 issues of The Sandman comic, a story about Morpheus (Dream), the lord of dreams, and his siblings, The Endless—Death, Despair, Delirium, Destiny, Destruction and Desire.
I own the Sandman books, all of them already, but this reissue (there will be three more volumes) is leather-bound, large-format and 18 of the 20 issues collected here have been re-coloured, and re-coloured well. I’ll spare readers too much detail of either the tome or the series itself: Sandman, along with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books, is probably one of the finest works of fantasy. Ever. Gaiman also has an Umberto Ecoesque sense of allusion. History, science, mythology, other works of fantasy and literature, everything has a part to play in the charm of the Sandman books.
The wife, who turned a sport long enough to hop across to the store and pick up The Absolute Sandman—I work Sundays and this is one of those bookstores that opens when the owner wants it to—believes I have fallen prey to marketing spin. “You have the books already, don’t you?” she asked.
I do, but not in this format and not with the original covers. The £7.35 (Rs625) tome is so beautiful that I didn’t even bring it to work to be photographed on the day I was to file this column. Reason: It’s raining in Delhi and despite the car and the protective plastic cover and all, I just didn’t want to risk damaging the book. My editor will likely not be pleased.
“You forgot the book?”
“No, it was raining today and I didn’t want to run the risk of getting the book wet, even damp.”
Sorry, but you see, I have just become a collector.
(Write to R. Sukumar at email@example.com)