Why The Sandman is My Favorite Story Ever Told

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Posted November 11, 2013 by Jonah Mills in Nerdy Bits

I may not be the biggest comic book fan in the world. I’ve learnt a decent chunk of the stories from what I’ve read online, a Marvel encyclopedia, and the show Comic Book Men. Some people wouldn’t consider me a big fan of comic books, and I agree with them. I am not a huge comic book fan. I don’t own boxes of them, I rarely go to a comic book store, and I don’t cosplay as Batman every year at Comic-Con,(I will cosplay when I get the chance, but I won’t go as a superhero.) To be honest, I’ve really only read two comic book series in my life. These are The Walking Dead and The Sandman. I want to get deeply involved in comic books sometime in the future, I just can’t now. However, from those two titles alone I can say that I absolutely love comic books. They’re a fantastic medium with boatloads of potential. And while most of the stuff below is about The Sandman, some of it is about comic books as a whole.

I know I only have a minute amount of experience in the field of comic books, but that’s enough for me. As you can tell from the title, The Sandman is my favorite story ever told. I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than with a list of not five reasons, not ten, but eight reason why that’s so.

1. In the Sandman, Neil Gaiman chooses to explore some themes rarely discussed in any medium.
These range from the true definition of things like sanity, evil, or something as grand as life. It’s nice to have somebody tackle these things head-on, instead of delicately dancing around the subject. But the real appeal of these themes, is they aren’t displayed too straightforward. They have a nice blend of subtlety and bluntness. This makes it so the ideas don’t feel like they’re sprung on you because it forces you to do some thinking of your own to reveal the true meaning, but the outer layer is simple enough to reach. But once you see what’s behind the curtain two different things will happen. You will feel a rewarding sense of enlightenment for reaching that conclusion, and you will be forced to think about it even more. What is revealed to you will probably impact you deeply, and require some personal reflection.

2. The main characters are a race known as the Endless that transcend time itself, but that’s not the important part. What matters is the way they’re presented. It would have made sense to have them displayed as a condescending powerful group of people. Because that’s what’s expected of people with their powers, that’s a given for most stories. But they are instead the pure representation of humanity, but all in their different ways. Literally, they are all the embodiment of different human aspects. They are Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Despair, Desire, and Delirium. This allows you too see into humanity from several different viewpoints, and you may be shocked at what you find.

3. The Sandman has one of the best fantasy worlds ever designed.
If you haven’t read the Sandman before, let me say one thing. There isn’t just one fantastic realm in this mythos. Instead there are a multitude of worlds in the Sandman. These include Destiny’s realm of endless mazes, Delirum’s realm of pure insanity, Hell, and my personal favorite, our world known as the waking world. What’s interesting about this is you can feel all of these as living locations, and not just skins placed on the same location. All of them feel vastly different, and play by their own specific rule set. (Except for Delirium’s realm which isn’t bound by any pesky rules.) You just have to see these to see what I mean. And now on to #5, which plays off of this one a little.

These are just some of the realms you will find.

These are just some of the realms you will find.

4. The fantasy world is not used as the main location.
Despite the plethora of enthralling fantasy worlds, they are not the main setting for the stories. Instead it’s a nice mix of the fantasy worlds, and our world. By having it setup this way, the story exists in a middle ground between the two. Both of these also have an excellent set of ironies that come from playing off of each other. For example, one day every hundred years Death exists as a mortal, only to die as a mortal. While here she teaches a person the true meaning of life, which includes death. But Death herself is the one that teaches you to relish life, even though she is Death, and that’s not exactly what you would expect. Instead you would think of somebody who wants to collect souls, but Death grows a bit weary of that. That’s why she takes a day off, to better understand her job, and to lift her spirits per se.

5. There no true main character.
Sure you can say Morpheus exists as the main character, but that’s only true to a certain extent. You see, the story rarely focuses on him as the central character. Instead, the majority of the story is told through a large supporting cast. I like this because it allows you to see certain events through a different perspective. And due to this, not a single character in the story feels unrealistic. All of them feel instantly believable, and it isn’t long before you connect with them. So just when you feel like a change is due, a new character takes the lead. This is one of the most unique aspects in the Sandman, and it very well might be the most important.

6. Morpheus is neither a hero or a villain, merely the protagonist.
Nearly every story has a good guy or a bad guys as the main character.  But that is avoided in this story. Instead you are faced with a cold, nearly heartless man who isn’t all that likable. But you can’t say that anything he does is truly evil, because what he does is either the right choice, or you can emphatically feel what led him to that decision. For example, he throws a woman in Hell because she refused to become his lover and killed herself. This may seem like a cruel thing to do, but during this you can feel sorry for Morpheus, and the pain he went through. How would you feel if that happened? Odds are you might make a very rash choice, one that you eventually come to regret. In moments like this you learn that Morpheus is just a sad and broken person.

7. The fact it’s a comic book.
This probably seems like a standard answer to why people like comic books, for reasons like being able to see the action unfold visually. Simple enough. But for the Sandman it’s only half of that. This story really fulfills the true potential of a comic book. To paint a picture in a way words can’t perfectly describe. In a book for example the writer might to set a certain mood, but words can only go so far. Imagery is arguably the most important trait of any written word, and by definition it exists to imitate an image. Pictures are the best way to add a powerful emotional impact to any writing, and comic books help prove this point. Look at the picture below for example, and try to put it into words. It might look a little like this. “The man with the pale skin and elongated face contemplates his life to the soft pitter patter of the rain, while the Raven questions his recent decision. The man understands the Raven’s concern, but chooses to meet what is coming for him alone. That probably gave you a dark and ominous feeling if I’m correct. Now look at the picture again. The words couldn’t quite show you the exact look on his face, it can’t point out the finer details. Now that’s why comic books have a great advantage against the written word.

Words just can't do...this.

Words just can’t do…this.

8. Each individual story does something new unexpected.
The Sandman is almost like a new roller coaster at an amusement park. You sit down, buckle up, and get ready for the ride. The first slope approaches, and you think you know what’s coming. But once you drop down, you realize you couldn’t have been more wrong. You may be a bit confused at first, because you haven’t ridden anything quite like this before. But soon you think you get used to it, and you begin to greatly enjoy the ride, until it completely changes. Soon you truly realize what this ride is about, it changes when you don’t expect it, it doesn’t change when you expect it, only to change when you expect it again. And this is why I love the Sandman.


About the Author

Jonah Mills

I am quite a weird person. I put pineapple on whatever I can, literally. One of my greatest accomplishments is being able to recite every single word in Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. I will also force you to watch Doctor Who if you haven't for some strange reason.