Approaching Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series is always kind of intimidating. On one hand, it’s this break-through work of one of our best writers. It’s moody and dark and sets the tone for so much of Gaiman’s later pieces.
But, see, it’s also a comic that so many people have gravitated towards for their first comic book experience. It absolutely smashes apart comic book virginities, if you will. Enough so that many people have elevated it to a higher level than a mere comic book. It’s obviously a graphic novel note some readers or award committees.
Of course, there’s also the need to discuss the art that twists and turns across the pages. Art that shocks and disgusts. Art that is firmly a part of the comic book world, but then again, not quite.
Perhaps it’s how we always think of exceptional things. It is of this thing, but it’s more and better than the sum of those parts. Or maybe it’s only how we think of great things that come from more seedy backgrounds. (Please stab me in the eye for the next person who says that an amazing sci-fi or horror novel can’t really be considered genre, because it’s actually Literature. As if both things exist entirely separate.)
Maybe that’s how I’ll think of Sandman then–a Comic Book, with a capital C.
It was my first comic. The art scared the hell out of me, but at the same time, taught me how to chase words across a page. The characters moaned. The mythologies mixed and mingled as they are wont to do when Gaiman gets a hold of them. In it, I journeyed to Shakespeare’s time, to the 1980s, to mythic Africa, to hell. In all, Gaiman’s words kept pulling me along, the somber face of Morpheus, the Dream Lord, leading the way.
I’m re-reading it now as part of Insatiable Booksluts’ Morpheus Monday read-along and am just about half-way through it again. While I zipped through it the first time, eager to figure out what happened next (or merely to get past the “cereal” convention), I’m now trying to take my time. Hopefully now that I have some more comics under my belt, I can better appreciate exactly what the author and illustrators of Sandman were doing here.
If you’re planning on reading it, you’ll likely need a drink that has a bit more of a disreputable past as well.
Beer, of course, is now more than the sum of its Coors Light and Bud Light parts as you well know if you’re reading this blog. For Sandman, I recommend a beer that’s as dark and rich as the series–Atwater Brewery’s Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale to be exact.
The beer is almost black. It smells deeply of dark chocolate, though the taste is more balanced and approachable. It goes down smooth, with just a bit of sweetness from the chocolate and a hint of coffee at the end. It’s an immensely drinkable ale that will hopefully delight you as much as Sandman does.
Go on. Enjoy.