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OK, so you've read Sandman, and you enjoyed it, but now it's over. What next? Well, the good news is that although the Sandman series itself has finished, there have been several spinoffs, which continue to explore that world. In fact, lots of these come under the banner of The Sandman Presents..., which gives a fairly good indication of where their origins lie. This is a brief list, taking you on a tour of what's available. A couple of these comics have free issues available online, as pdf documents; I recommend downloading these to your hard drive, then reading them, rather than reading them through your web browser, as it's quicker to scroll through them that way.
Terminology: TPB = Trade Paperback - this is a paperback collection of several issues.
Sandman: Book of Dreams. This is a prose anthology, with short stories from various authors, so it resembles a novel more than a comic. I wasn't very impressed by most of the stories, but there are a couple of good ones in there.
Sandman companion. Written by Hy Bender. I haven't read this, but apparently it's along the lines of a commentary.
Sandman: King of Dreams. Written by Alisa Kwitney, who was the editor on the original series. This is a hardback, which I think would be described as a "coffee table book", since it's taller/deeper than normal comics, and on glossy paper. Allegedly it's a history of the comic, illustrated with pages from the issues. In practice, I flicked through, and it seemed to be 99% reprinted pages, with very little text. So, if you've already got the original issues/paperbacks, this seems like a waste of time. I'd recommend spending the money on something new instead.
Dream's big sister, who was a recurring character in Sandman, has taken the starring role in a few stories.
The High Cost of Living. Written by Neil Gaiman. A 3 issue mini-series, which I think is the best Death story he's ever written (or at least published). Basic idea is that you have a day in the life of a girl who looks like Death. She claims that she is Death, made mortal for a day, so that she can experience life. Alternately, she may just be delusional, after the recent loss of her family. This has been collected as a TPB.
The Time of Your Life. Written by Neil Gaiman. A 3 issue mini-series, which features Foxglove and Hazel (from Sandman: A Game of You), who go on a quest with Death to barter for the life of their daughter. This has been collected as a TPB.
The girl who would be Death. Written by Caitlín R. Kiernan. a 4 issue mini-series. I really wasn't impressed by this at all - it had all the worst goth qualities.
"Hey, look how grown up I am, I say fuck every other word". Bah. Anyway, this story doesn't actually feature Death of the Endless at all - it centres around a girl called Echo, who finds Death's ankh sigil, and decides that she wants to become Death herself. Also features Eblis O'Shaughnessy from Sandman: The Wake (the golem guy).
At Death's Door. Written and illustrated by Jill Thompson. This is a non-canon story (according to Neil Gaiman), which runs parallel to Sandman: Season of Mists. Basically, it shows what Death might have been getting up to while all the other events were going on. I haven't actually read this, but it's very much in the manga style, i.e. the book is shorter (in height) than the standard comic paperbacks, but it's also thicker, and it's all black and white.
A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold. Written by Alisa Kwitney. A 3 issue mini-series, which has been collected as a TPB. This is a slightly odd case - I think it achieves what it sets out to do, but it doesn't particularly interest me. Basically, it's a story about plagues, past and future, and how they affect people. The writer says in her introduction that you really need to be a hypochondriac to properly appreciate it.
This was an ongoing series, which finished with issue 60. It had a few different writers over the course of the series, but it wound up with Caitlín R. Kiernan (writer of The girl who would be Death, see above). I haven't read any of them - it sounds like they had some interesting/significant stuff going on (e.g. Dream getting a new raven), but the writing style put me off. This series has been collected into multiple TPBs.
4 issue miniseries, Written by Mike Carey. This is an interesting story, following the undertaker character from Sandman: World's End. He meets his client after her death (as you would expect), then joins her in a quest, which may come as more of a surprise! As with Carey's later work (see below), he doesn't spoon-feed the reader - there are a few Latin sentences scattered around, with no translation provided.
3-issue mini-series, followed by an ongoing series (up to #45 at the time of writing), and a graphic novel (Nirvana), all written by Mike Carey. There have so far been four TPBs: Devil in the Gateway, Children and Monsters, A Dalliance with the Damned, and The Divine Comedy. A fifth TPB (Inferno) is due to be published in January 2004.
This is an excellent series, and one of the few titles where I buy the individual issues and the TPBs. It follows Lucifer in events after the end of Sandman (where he was last seen running a club called
"Lux"). He is very much the protagonist rather than the hero - the character has a lot of charm, and many admirable qualities, but every so often he behaves in a completely ruthless manner.
There's a free excerpt from the first mini-series online.
One-off, written by Bill Willingham. This is emphatically not a psychological text! It's a series of short scenes (each one a few pages long), which provides answers to questions like
"Why do some people dream in black and white?", based on how The Dreaming has been portrayed in Sandman.
I found it very funny, and here are a couple of great quotes:
"When dreams dream we create extra work for our already overworked colleagues. Bad gargoyles. Bad, bad gargoyles."
"The thirty-seven sets of siamese twin lesbian ballet-dancing zombie nuns in the chicken suits represents the need to find love amidst chaos."
A one-off comic, written by Bill Willingham, which has Merv Pumpinhead doing a James Bond riff. I thought it was quite entertaining, and it's left up to the reader to decide how much of it is "true" (as much as that term applies to fiction), and how much of it is Merv exaggerating.
The Little Endless appeared during Sandman: Fables and Reflections, and they have a full length story here, written and illustrated by Jill Thompson. It's slight, but it's enjoyable - maybe not worth buying, but certainly worth reading.
2-issue mini-series, with lots of tie-in comics in between. Written by Neil Gaiman. Basic plot is that Edwin and Charles (the two dead schoolboys from Sandman: Season of Mists) have set up a detective agency, and they investigate the mysterious disappearance of various children. Also features Tim Hunter (from The Books of Magic).
4-issue mini-series. Written by Ed Brubaker. Stars Edwin and Charles again (as above), along with Mad Hettie and Hob Gadling.
3-issue mini-series. I haven't read this, but it basically deals with the period just after the Corinthian escaped from the Dreaming, and started wandering around the waking world (while Morpheus was imprisoned).
4-issue mini-series, featuring Thessaly, from Sandman: A Game of You, who is still far more dangerous than she looks. Written by Bill Willingham. It's a fun story, which plays with narrative conventions, and has some nice cameos.
There's another 4-issue mini-series coming out next year (due in February 2004), as a sequel to this, which I'm looking forward to. That one is called Thessaly, Witch for Hire.
This is a one-off graphic novel, written by Mike Carey, which is available in both hardback and paperback formats. This story follows Lyta Hall, three years after she lost her son Daniel (if you've read Sandman, you'll know what happened to him).
One interesting thing about this is that there's not much expository dialogue - for instance, the story refers to Baucis and Philemon, and expects you to either know who they are, or be able to find out. (Their story is in Ovid's Metamorphoses.) It also mentions Orestes and Iphigenia. Similarly, there's some Greek dialogue in there, which isn't translated. But, thanks to a handy Lexicon, I've been able to work it out.
"ΤΕ ΦΙΛΩ, 'ΥΙΕ. ΕΡΡΩΣΩ." roughly translates as
"And I love you, son. I will leave now." I think this approach suggests that the people at Vertigo have a high opinion of their readers' intelligence, which is quite refreshing in this age of dumbing down, but it does mean you have to work for your entertainment!
A 3 issue series about the Egyptian cat-goddess Bast. It's written by Caitlín R. Kiernan, so I've avoided it, but some people may like it...
A graphic novel which was published in hardback in 2003. It consists of seven stories, one for each of the Endless. These are all written by Neil Gaiman, but a different artist has drawn each one. The Dream story was also published as an individual comic, in order to give retailers a sample of what the whole thing was like. I thought there were some good stories there, and I was impressed by the choice of artists. For instance, I'm not normally a fan of Bill Sienkiewicz, since I find his art unclear, but it worked very well in the Delirium story. Similarly, I think that Frank Quitely often has trouble drawing feet (so lots of his characters resemble apes), but that wasn't a problem when he drew Destiny (who wears monks robes).
This is a TPB collecting together various Sandman spinoffs that have been written by Bill Willingham. It includes:
I'm cheating a bit by including this, since it doesn't really have anything to do with Sandman. However, it is a very good series, and if you like Sandman then you'll probably enjoy this too. It's published by Vertigo (the same comics company), and written by Bill Willingham. The basic premise is that you have characters from various fairy tales (i.e. fables) living in present day New York, after a mysterious Adversary invaded all their lands. So, you have Snow White crossing swords with the Big Bad Wolf, for instance. It's vaguely similar to Shrek, in terms of overlapping stories, but it takes a slightly different direction. The first issue is free online.
There have so far been two TPBs (Legends in Exile and Animal Farm), which collect the first two story arcs (issues 1-10), and a graphic novel (The Last Castle) which should be read prior to issue 19. The series is up to issue 20 so far, and will hopefully continue indefinitely.
I think that Neil Gaiman has pretty much moved on from Sandman now, aside from a very occasional project. However, Mike Carey and Bill Willingham seem to be the new rising stars, and they are certainly worthy successors to his world. In particular, it is significant that Mike Carey has been allowed to use Death and Daniel in his stories.
This page was last updated on 2003-12-29 by John C. Kirk