The Sandman: Overture #1
The Sandman: Overture #1

The Sandman returns

'The Sandman: Overture #1', the prequel to 'The Sandman', is a tale worth waiting for

The comic or graphic novel canon of the 1980s, a period when the genre was reinvented with works targeted at adults (or “mature readers" as the books themselves say) that sparkled with complex and sophisticated plots, beautiful writing, and—because the medium is, after all, visual—top-class illustrations, is dominated by three works.

The first is Alan Moore’s Watchmen, a comic singled out as one of the 100 best books of the 20th century by Time magazine that is about absolute power corrupting absolutely.

The second is Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returnsthat lifted Batman out of the campy purgatory he seemed destined to, into the high noir to which Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies owe a lot.

And the third is Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman a series of graphic novels that ranks right up there with the best literary fantasies of J.R.R. Tolkien and Ursula K. Le Guin, and Stephen Donaldson.

The Sandman lasted from 1989 to 1996, but the popularity of the series gave rise to several offshoots (like the delightful Beyond Sandman mini-series, including my favourite Love Street, featuring a young John Constantine) and reissues, such as the superbly recoloured and produced Absolute hardcover editions (five books).

The Sandman’s protagonist is, obviously, the Sandman, also called Morpheus or the Lord of Dreams or, simply Dream. He is one of the Endless—the others are Destiny, Death, Destruction, Despair, Desire, and Delirium—and, despite the mini-series devoted at least to some of them (Gaiman himself wrote the Death books, and there is a Absolute Death hardback too; Destiny had his own three-book series), I have always felt that Gaiman could have done more with his other-worldly pantheon. There were no loose ends, but there were a hundred unanswered questions about origins and ends and in-betweens.

And then, in 2012, as if to answer the many what-is and then-whats, Gaiman announced he would be writing The Sandman: Overture, a sort of prelude, for Vertigo. The first of the comics, illustrated by J.H. Williams III (whose work on Alan Moore’s Promethea was, in hindsight, an early indication of what was to come with The Sandman), came out last week. Since I read the book on my ComiXology app, I didn’t really get the feel of the four-page foldout, but the illustrations are at once both aesthetically pleasing and filled with detail—the ideal accompaniment to Gaiman’s story that promises to add detail, fill in the gaps, answer some questions, and, maybe, raise some more.

It is difficult to comment on a series based on the first issue, and even more difficult to critique the first part of a prequel to a story that many readers are very familiar with, but The Sandman: Overture #1 has enough beginnings (I counted at least four different strands) to suggest that it will be a tale that has been worth waiting for—and some readers have waited almost 25 years.

We will come back to it once the tale is done and told.

R. Sukumar is Editor, Mint.

Also Read | Sukumar’s previous Lounge columns