28 October 2006

Absolute Sandman

Oh, my God. I haven't picked up Sandman in years, probably since first publication, actually. I'm a big fan of Neil Gaiman, but have had a sort of odd relationship with his writing. Let's put it this way...I own Black Orchid, but I didn't remember/realize it was a Gaiman until a couple of years ago(1). I read Sandman back in the day, as I said, but owing to my disenchantment with comics during most of the '90s, it didn't completely register that the author of American Gods and Neverwhere and Anansi Boys was that comic book writer(2).

So, I've been reading Gaiman since the dark ages. I've read him in a wide variety of formats and media - comics, short stories, novels. And now it's time to go back.

Like I said, I owned BO, but I didn't own any Sandman. My gf from college had the big double crush on Dream and his big sister Death, so she owned those. I just read her copies...liked them well enough, but wasn't completely hooked. Now, this is practically blasphemy. One reads Sandman and falls in love immediately. That's the way it's supposed to work for all geeks. Worked that way for Wesley Crusher, should have worked that way for me. But it didn't.

Instead, over the last ten years or so, Neil Gaiman the fantasist has been worming his way into my brain. Each book, better than the last. I now read his blog religiously (unlike reading religion bloggously) and have been patiently waiting all year for Absolute Sandman. It's strange. Something I liked a bit in the '80s, by an author I grew to love in the '00s(3), that I've been aching to reread for the better part of a year. Every time I'd go to Nerd-a-rama, I'd spot the various Sandman TPs and contemplate buying them...but I wanted the recolored pages! I wanted the HUGE format! I wanted the leather binding and the character sketches and the script pages and the...artifact(4) I'm not patient. I'm shocked I made it.

What's worse? I didn't pre-order and get it the day it was available. I'm not completely sure how I managed to keep my Veruca Salt-y self contained.

It came on Friday. Friday was a crappy day. I left work early (that's not what made it crappy, obviously) with a sore knee. It hurt like a mofo. That meant no tennis Friday night, no tennis Saturday, and who knew beyond that. I had some GI distress in the afternoon - I guess my gut didn't really want the Double-Double I picked up at In-N-Out on my way home. So when UPS came knocking, I just didn't care.

Better a few hours later, it was time to hang with the wife. Then it was time for BSG. Finally, I cracked open the book. And kept reading. And kept reading.

Did I really only sort-of like this back in college? Was I insane? It's all here - everything that makes Gaiman, Gaiman. The man can create mythology from whole cloth. While the crossover stories with the DCU are a little labored - less so with the Constantine than the Dr. Destiny/Arkham story - his storytelling is otherwise pitch perfect. Issues where Dream is central but nearly unseen still flow with the power of Morpheus. When Death appears, well, yah I've got a crush on her.

If you don't appreciate comics, it's either this or Watchmen as entree. If neither does it, then comics are a closed book (pun, as bad as it is, intended) for you. This is as literate as it gets; this is as profound as it gets. If you do appreciate the graphic form, and have never read Sandman or haven't read it in some time, do yourself a favor and read it. It holds up, well enough that I love it as an adult where I liked it as a boy.

1 Of course I knew it was a Gaiman at the time, and probably remembered so in some recess of my mind, but associating the comics guy with the literary fantasist took some effort.

2 What's with all the Amazon links?!? Well, I figure if I'm going to mention the books (all of which I own and love) I might as well provide links to them. And if I'm going to that effort, as well as trying to get my three or four regular readers excited/intrigued enough to read these books, I should try to make money off their susceptibility to peer pressure.

3 I'm amenable to calling this decade either the "aughts" or the "naughts". While the former has its merits, I prefer the parodic attributes of the latter. This is truly the decade in which we've accomplished naught as a race. And, it looks like "naughty", so it's got that going for it.

4 I'm no longer a collector, but that doesn't mean I've forgotten what that feels like (or sold any of my Ellison first editions.) For me, there's something very mystical about putting your signed, numbered, limited edition book back into its slipcase...the book you won't ever read because you might rub the dustjacket or smudge a page. It's honestly not healthy. Absolute Sandman isn't that rare, but it still has the feel of a limited edition.


Angela said...

Way cool. I also own Black Orchid, as well as the Death series. High cost of living indeed.

My last Gaiman purchase was The Books of Magic, which I had only leafed through before.

Have you seen MirrorMask? Shockingly, I haven't yet.

Angela said...

By the way, Watchmen is great, but some of my other personal faves are Preacher and Swamp Thing.

R.A. Porter said...

I haven't seen Mirrormask. Figured I'd just stick it on my Netflix queue and get around to it eventually. In fact, right now I've got disc 1 of the BBC production or Neverwhere...I'm just not sure about it. I started it, but it was a bit...odd.

I strongly recommend Anansi Boys. Great, great novel.