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The Sandman Omnibus Vol. 1 Hardcover – September 3, 2013
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Praise for Neil Gaiman's The Sandman:
"The greatest epic in the history of comic books"—The Los Angeles Times Magazine
"One of the few comics that segued from the comics crowd, entering the intellectual and art worlds, winning over a large non-comics-reading audience..."—The Hollywood Reporter
"THE SANDMAN is a modern myth, as well as a precis on why the stories we tell matter so much."—Playboy
"The landmark comic-book series that actually made Death seem . . . cool."—Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
Neil Gaiman is the New York Times best-selling author of the Newbery Medal-winning The Graveyard Book and Coraline, the basis for the hit movie. His other books include Anansi Boys, Neverwhere, American Gods and Stardust (winner of the American Library Association's Alex Award as one of 2000's top novels for young adults) and the short story collections M Is for Magic and Smoke and Mirrors. He is also the author of The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Traded My Dad for Two Goldfish, both written for children. Among his many awards are the Eisner, the Hugo, the Nebula, the World Fantasy and the Bram Stoker. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States.
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Many would consider DC's absolute editions to be the pinnacle of collected editions, for my part I've always found them a bit too cumbersome and more than a bit too pricey. This Sandman Omnibus is much more in line with Marvel Omnibuses (which is to say it's nearly identical), you get a sturdy hardcover filled with approximately 1000 pages of material for roughly the same price tag as a single absolute that holds half the material. The main difference between this and Marvel's omnibuses is that this addition does not come with a dust jacket, but instead the hardcover itself has been turned into a work of art. The binding is stripped in a way that resembles an old textbooks, the cover is stamped with silver and black in just the right amount of flourish, and even the ends of the pages are dipped black (in a manner all too clearly meant to imitate a bible). Presentation wise its the first graphic novel I've purchased since the Dark Tower Omnibus that looks like a genuine work of art without even breaking it open.
When you do get around to breaking it open you'll notice the book uses the recolored pages found in the absolute editions (or most recent paperbacks), this might be a drawback for some but having read both editions I found the recoloring to be a plus. The binding, which appears to be a combination of glued and sown, lays flat enough you don't lose chunks of the story even on two page spreads. The one addition I found to be something of an annoyance is the added issue number on the bottom left corner. This doesn't appear on all pages, it's done in a manner similar to adding a page number (just two or three times an issue) but its enough text to be distracting, at the very least they could have just put #1 instead of "The Sandman #1" each time.
There's really not much in terms of extras, enough pages in biographies to draw a little of your time but nothing else. That being said this is really, in my mind, the best edition of Sandman released so far. I wouldn't go so far as to turn your absolutes in and make a repurchase since there's really not much new here, but if you're interested in picking Sandman up for the first time or replacing your deteriorating first editions this omnibus offers tremendous value considering the price.
**Note as of this review Amazon is not displaying the correct title image for this book. Amazon shows an image of Morpheus on a white background, while the book itself is more of a cherry brown color with text reading Neil Gaiman the Sandman Omnibus Volume I instead of any prominent image.
The comics I read in those days mostly consisted of the likes of Morbius: The Living Vampire, The Midnight Sons, Legion of Monsters, Tomb of Dracula and the occasional Tales from the Crypt reprint when I could find it. I was lucky enough to have recurring access to a store called Dracula’s Comic Crypt on Long Island. But as a woman into all things Gothic (and most especially art in the style of Bernie Wrightson) I was recommended Sandman over and over again.
Part of what discouraged me was that I have always had poor eyesight. Today, of course, on a nice twenty inch computer monitor I can make the comic book images nice and big and keep physical copies mostly for collecting purposes. But mostly I just didn’t really know what Sandman was all about.
Well, fast forward over twenty years later… The TV show Lucifer has gained my attention and is both fascinating and fun for being different so I finally cave and decide to read the comics that he first came from… Sandman. I was particularly interested in the storyline where Lucifer quits Hell (Season of Mists) but I wisely decided to start from the beginning. I started at the beginning… It wasn’t long before I realized that I liked this thing… I really, really liked this thing. In fact I soon found I liked the protagonist, Morpheus, more than Lucifer.
My response was along the lines of “Why didn’t anyone tell me this was so good?” to which several friends practically shouted “WE DID!”
So for anyone who was or is in a similar situation to me, I’ll explain Sandman as best I can for you right now since no one properly explained it to me back when it was first recommended to me a almost a quarter of a century ago.
DC comics has had three characters named Sandman. The first was a gas mask wearing Noir character named Wesley Dodds. The second was a golden age style superhero who later passed his mantel on to another, the replacement character called Hector Hall.
And now for the third, the most important of DC’s Sandman / Sandmen. The literal Sandman AKA Dream of the Endless, otherwise known as Morpheus. Ruler of The Dreaming realm. Master of both Dreams and Nightmares. First published by DC and later concluded by Vertigo (DC’s adult content label) Sandman was a very unique kind of story, set in the DC universe.
Morpheus (AKA Dream) sometimes changes his form but he’s fairly easy to recognize because he is always depicted with black talk bubbles with white text, originally intended to indicate a psychic form of communication more than actually vocal (but I think that idea was mostly dropped after the first issue and only hinted at again in the storyline called A Game of You).
During the very first storyline of Sandman comics Morpheus was captured by humans.
Later it is revealed in a stand alone comic that the universe (in an effort to balance itself out) granted Wesley Dodds certain dream based abilities. Dodds had something of a psychic link with Morpheus while Morpheus was in captivity.
Later two nightmares escape from The Dreaming realm and these two (Brute and Glob) manipulate the super hero “Sandman” and his successor, Hector Hall. They do this to create a dream dimension of their own since the one Morpheus ruled had fallen into chaos without him.
Morpheus / Dream is a member of The Endless and his full title (besides Sandman) is Dream of The Endless.
The Endless is a family of anthropamorphic personifications representing seven aspects or abstract concepts in relation to conscious life. It’s not as complicated as it seems.
The Endless are:
Destiny: Destiny is the eldest. He is depicted as a shrouded blind man whose wrist is chained to a book containing the past, present and future. Despite being apparently blind he can read his own book. His sigil (the symbol that represents him) is a book.
Destruction. Destruction grew weary of …well, destruction when he saw humanity progressing toward increasing violence. Determining that each Endless actually represents a concept and it’s counter-part he quit his vocation and wandered off to try to reinvent himself as a creative force instead of destructive. His sigil is a sword.
Death. Death is Death incarnate, much like Death of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld but instead of resembling the traditional Grim Reaper Death takes the form of a pale Goth girl with an eye of horas tattoo under her right eye. You might think that she should be the most depressed or brooding of the group but no. She’s friendly and optimistic. She also loves films like Mary Poppins and The Little Mermaid (Disney version). She wears an ankh pendant, which also is her sigil.
Now we have Dream AKA Morpheus. He is The Sandman of folklore. Dream is the middle sibling and he is The Sandman. He rules the realm of The Dreaming. He has wild “Robert Smith style” hair, bone-white skin and black eyes with small star-like pupils. Morpheus is also very tall and skinny. Dream’s sigil is his “Helm” - a battle mask he made for himself using the bones of two Lovecraftian “Old Gods” that attacked The Dreaming a long time ago. (He almost never gets to wear this helm in actual battle as Morpheus is not really a warrior character by nature). The helm is made from a large skull and spine and so it resembles a bone version of Wesley Dodd’s gas mask.
Desire. Now come the twins, the first of which is Desire. Desire is a genderfluid being that can be male or female (or both or neither) at will. Desire is very fickle and can also be extremely cruel but also (on occasion) can be helpful and once even saved the universe (even though Desire doesn’t remember doing it). Desire is slender, androgynous and has golden eyes. Desire’s sigil is a heart.
Despair. Despair is the twin of Desire though you might never know it. They look nothing at all alike. Despair is a short, very full-figured woman who has jagged tusk-like teeth, and almost never wears clothes. Despair’s sigil is a ring with a sharp hook attached to it.
Delirium. Delirium is the youngest of the Endless and very child-like. She used to be Delight but someone or something hurt or abused her a long time ago and she became Delirium as a way to cope. It’s implied that someday she might return to being Delight but as it stands that might take a whole lot of therapy. Delirium can be very sweet but if you are mean to her or try to touch her without permission she will punish you by driving you to madness. Her sigil was once a flower. Now it’s a rainbow blob or smearing of color.
And there you have it. The Endless in a nutshell. Now on to the basic plot of Sandman…
Sandman was first published in late 1988 and ran until 1996. It then had several spin-offs and one shots, a prequel novel set in Ancient Japan (Dream hunters), a collection of short story comics called Endless Nights (one for each Endless), and finally the gorgeous prequel comic Sandman: Overture (compiled as a graphic novel in 2016).
Since the first run of Sandman is over seventy five issues long I will only give a summary of the first story arc. Prelude and Nocturns…
Prelude and Nocturns:
A group of late Victorian / Edwardian era occultists known as The Order of Ancient Mysteries (Modeled loosely after the Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn) is lead by their Lord Magus, Roderick Burgess. They use a grimoire known as the Magdalene Grimoire (which will later get use in Green Arrow) to cast a ritual spell to summon Death incarnate but instead of summoning her they accidentally summon The Sandman.
They realize their mistake but decide to keep Dream as their prisoner anyway.
A “sickness” occurs where several people end up with severe sleeping disorders because of the way Morpheus was taken. One woman ends up with “Sleeping beauty syndrome” where she would wake for brief periods of time but usually slept. Another goes into a coma. One young man in Africa dreamt of a cloud castle, as was his usual dream, but the castle crumbled and he became catatonic. A soldier would suffer a form of “Shell shock” that made him severely insomniactic. But in general most people continued to sleep and dream normally.
However in The Dreaming realm Morpheus’ absence was noticed. And over time things started to deteriorate. The vast library in The Dreaming started to disappear. Some dream entities vanished. Some Nightmare creatures escaped into the human world.
And Morpheus’ castle began to fall into disrepair. This all happened over the span of many years, mind you.
For over seventy-two-years Morpheus is kept prisoner inside a clear crystal-glass cage, surrounded by a magical binding circle in Roderick’s cellar. They take his helm, his pouch of dream sand, and his ruby amulet as magical trophies. They also take his clothes and leave him naked and caged. They don’t even bother to feed him and though he won’t die of starvation he does suffer hunger. The binding circle holds back Morpheus’ magick and psychic powers while the glass cage holds his physical body.
During Morpheus’ captivity Roderick grew old and died and his son took his place as Morpheus’ main captor. And eventually old age started to creep up on the son, Alexander. One night Alexander visit’s his prisoner (who has refused to speak the entire time of his captivity) and Alex’s assistant (and very likely lover) Paul, accidentally brushes Alex’s wheelchair slightly over the rim of the binding circle, breaching it and it’s hold over Morpheus’ psychic abilities. But they do not notice this slight breach. Morpheus, however, does notice the breach in the circle holding him prisoner. Morpheus waits for his opportunity. As one of his guards has a brief day dream about a vacation on a beach, Morpheus is able to psychically connect with this dream to steal a fistful of the sand there on the dream beach and use this sand as he would use his pouch of dream sand.
Morpheus pretends to collapse within his cage.
Appearing to be dead, the guards call for their employer, and open the glass cell. Morpheus uses the pilfered dream sand to make good his escape.
The first thing Morpheus does is he enters someone’s dream about wearing a clown costume to a party and no one else is in costume. Here Morpheus (still quite naked) raids the buffet, even eating frog legs from a fried chicken style bucket held by Colonel Sanders. He’s too hungry to think about anything other than eating.
Once that’s done he conjures clothes for himself and seeks revenge on his captor…
Morpheus enters the dream of Alexander Burgess where he confronts him on holding him prisoner and how he treated him. Morpheus used to be a very cruel and petty being and his cruelty lingers long enough for him to punish Alexander severely. He condemns him to a dream of eternal waking, an eternal nightmare which entails waking up from a nightmare only to find he’s in yet another nightmare, just to wake up again and be in yet another nightmare and on and on forever while his body remains comatose and or may actually, one day, die while his soul could be stuck in that nightmare within The Dreaming for eternity. (Dream does eventually release Alexander Burgess though and forgives him).
Exhausted by this act of vengeance, Morpheus tries to make his way to his castle at The Heart of The Dreaming but faints in “The shifting lands” where he’s found by Gregory The Gargoyle. Gregory is the pet of Cain.
Cain and Abel are old horror host comic book characters from the 1970s in the style of the Crypt Keeper, with Cain compulsively murdering Abel roughly once a night (Abel recovers each time as he’s immortal). And yet Cain and Abel weirdly love each other.
These characters originally came from the comic book series The House of Mystery.
The House of Mystery are the comics that first introduced DC’s Swamp Thing.
At The House of Mystery (Cain’s home) Cain is presenting Abel with a new baby gargoyle egg (this gargoyle eventually gets named Goldie. Originally Abel called the baby gargoyle Irving but Cain insisted that gargoyles need G names) that’s when Gregory (the large green Gargoyle) carries the barely conscious Morpheus to Cain. This is one of the only times in the comics where you out right see Morpheus ask for help. He’s a very proud character.
Cain and Abel set about nursing their king back to health.
Morpheus gradually recovers in Cain’s House of Mystery (Abel’s home is The House of Secrets) before making his way to his castle (now in ruins) in the heart of The Dreaming. Morpheus’ loyal librarian, Lucien, had been trying to keep things running in Morpheus’ absence.
Lucien AKA Mr. Raven (not to be confused with Morpheus’ spy raven, Matthew, who comes later) is another horror host from older DC comics and the castle he resided in (known as the “Ghost Castle”) turns out to be Morpheus’ own castle, which has appeared in both The Waking World and The Dreaming, much like Cain’s House of Mystery and Abel’s House of Secrets.
Meanwhile Morpheus’ usual groundskeeper, Mervyn (A Jack-o-lantern headed scarecrow) had taken to driving a bus in The Dreaming and had to be brought back to The Castle to return to his original duties.
Morpheus realizes he needs to get his property back- The pouch of dream sand, his helm, and his ruby dreamstone amulet (which is a conduit and amplifier for his powers) that had been taken at the start of his captivity and had drifted to different owners over time. The Hecateae (The triple goddess AKA The Furies AKA The Fates AKA The Kindly Ones) tell Morpheus that John Constantine had his pouch of Dream Sand. And so Morpheus goes to meet Constantine.
John Constantine (who is a practicing occultist and private investigator) figures out that a former lover of his his own has the pouch of self-replenishing dream sand (he, himself, was unable to pull the draw strings of the pouch). The exlover has tragically been using the sand to get high and several Dream entities have been feeding on her imagination when she does this. Her body is shutting down. By the time Morpheus and Constantine find her there is little that can be done but Constantine demands Morpheus do something for her and so Morpheus gives her a pleasant final dream before she passes away. Morpheus repays Constantine’s assistance by helping him with his chronic nightmares.
Next Morpheus has to retrieve his helm, which was taken by a demon. Morpheus is forced to visit Hell to reclaim it. Here he is guided by Etrigan The Demon (a demon that exists Dr. Jekyll and Hyde style with a human immortal host, Jason Blood). Etrigan deliberately takes Morpheus past an imprisoned former lover of Morpheus’ own, Nada. She pleads for Morpheus to rescue her but he tells her that though he loves her he has not yet forgiven her. (later we learn Morpheus left her in Hell because she rejected him back when he was a much crueler character).
Morpheus has started to change since his captivity. He’s becoming softer, less cruel. And though he does not rescue her here, he will eventually go back for her after his older sister, Death makes him realize that he had wronged Nada.
The demon who has taken Morpheus’ helm challenges him to a contest where each one has to out do the creativity of the other, inventing personas that would best the previous one conceived by the opponent. Eventually Morpheus wins with the simple phrase “I am Hope.”
This is later very bitterly sweetly elaborated on in the prequel comic Sandman: Overture, where Hope is revealed to have been a little girl whose ghost helps Morpheus but all he can remember of her is her name.
Side note: Lucifer (the main ruler of this Hell) becomes bitter and slowly makes up his mind to quit ruling there. He does not get around to doing this until the storyline called Season of Mists, in which Lucifer leaves the key to Hell to Morpheus when Morpheus came back, looking to rescue Nada. Lucifer also asks Morpheus to help him by cutting off Lucifer’s large bat-like wings for him. (Lucifer gets those wings back in his own solo comics, back to their original white, feathery Angelic state).
Eventually Morpheus gives The Key to Hell to two Angels who turn Hell into a place of redemption, and Lucifer retires to Earth where he opens a piano bar in LA called Lux but that’s a whole other story.
Morpheus’ ruby dreamstone amulet had been taken by the villain Doctor Destiny AKA John (or Johnny) Dee. (Not to be confused with Morpheus’ elder brother, Destiny personified). Doctor Destiny AKA John Dee was being kept at Arkham Asylum. Doctor Destiny happens to escape around this time as Morpheus is trying to reclaim his lost amulet. The amulet was in a Justice League of America storage warehouse. The amulet had been so corrupted by Doctor Destiny that merely touching it saps Morpheus of a great deal of his strength and he collapses, fainting in the warehouse, where it was being stored.
By the time Morpheus regains consciousness, he finds that Doctor Destiny has taken the amulet and Doctor Destiny had used the ruby’s power on a diner full of people (whom he has toyed with, driven to madness, and then ultimately killed or made them kill each other and themselves in very gruesome ways). Doctor Destiny and Morpheus have a confrontation where Doctor Destiny says he will kill Morpheus.
Morpheus tricks Doctor Destiny into following him into The Dreaming where Doctor Destiny destroys the ruby, believing it will kill Morpheus if The Dreamstone is destoryed. Instead of killing Morpheus, the power that was in the ruby dreamstone reverts to him, making Morpheus more powerful than he had been in centuries. The ruby had contained a small fragment of Morpheus’ very soul. Morpheus (who has started to change, becoming a bit kinder) shows pity on Doctor Destiny and instead of cruelly punishing him, he escorts him back to Arkham Asylum where he gives all the inmates a night of deep sleep and pleasant dreams.
Once Morpheus has gotten back his lost artifacts he restores his castle and library.
Now Morpheus feels restless and uncertain as to what to do with himself. He’s lonely and feels like he’s lost his purpose. So he goes to a park to feed the pigeons in order to try to cheer himself up.
(He loves birds and feeding birds is a comfort for him). Here he meets up with his sister, Death, who makes pop culture references that fly right over his head (Since he’s been out of touch for nearly a century and wasn’t very good at slang to begin with).
Morpheus loves and respects his sister and doesn’t understand why so many people fear her.
He considers himself far more terrible than she could ever be. She manages to cheer him up by simply being there. She has him accompany her as she makes her rounds through the city, escorting souls to where they are meant to go.
There are several adventures for Morpheus after this but this is the first story of the Sandman comics. Most of his adventures deal with Morpheus righting the wrongs of his own dark past and coming to terms with very human things such as loneliness, friendship, guilt and grief.
Marvel fans might notice that Morpheus AKA Dream has certain similarities to Marvels’ Nightmare character. And there are definite similarities. The biggest difference is Dream is essentially what would happen if Nightmare went on a redemption arc.
Other adventures of note:
At one point Morpheus is summoned to help Calliope, the muse. Calliope and Morpheus had been lovers thousands of years earlier. She has recently been held prisoner by cruel mortals who use her for inspiration and have physically abused her as well. Morpheus tries to ask for her release and when that doesn’t work he’s forced to torment her captor with maddening, intensely creative dreams until he releases her.
Another storyline deals with Morpheus going back to Hell to rescue his abandoned lover, Nada, only to find that Lucifer has quit and Lucifer asks Morpheus to help him cut off his large bat wings (which he gets back as pretty feathery wings later in his solo comics.)
Lucifer goes to Earth and decides to learn how to play Piano, among other things. His lover, the demoness, Mazikeen, soon follows, while Morpheus’ older sister, Death, tries to sort out what to do with all the newly displaced wandering souls.
When Morpheus is left the key to Hell various supernatural entities, beings of folklore, and religion come to The Dreaming to try to claim it from him. One demon that arrives (made of many mouths) has Nada imprisoned inside of his very being. Morpheus goes inside the demon and rescues Nada and while he’s there he also finds and rescues the very demon that had once had his helm and challenged him during the first Sandman storyline, Prelude and Nocturns. Morpheus’ sense of compassion has grown.
In his pride Morpheus gives a flimsy apology to Nada for leaving her in Hell and she slaps him hard across the face.
He apologizes more sincerely after momentarily getting angry and tells her that she has a choice to make. Nada chooses to be reincarnated.
When she’s reborn in Hong Kong, Morpheus sneaks into the nursery in the hospital maternity ward, where he cradles her, telling her that he’ll never forget her and that she’ll always be welcome in The Dreaming.
The key to Hell is ultimately passed to two Angels who choose to try to make it a place of reformation and redemption but somehow devise tortures equally as cruel (if not crueler) than what was there when Lucifer ran the place. In Neil Gaiman’s lore souls only go to Hell if they believe that is what they deserve and then demons take advantage of that there in Hell. In Lucifer’s stand alone comics it’s revealed that he was not given Hell as a punishment but as a place where he wouldn’t have to live in his Father’s shadow. It became a place of darkness and misery because of Lucifer’s own dark mindset. Lucifer now seems content on Earth and never returns to ruling Hell.
(Note: The current Devil / Satan of the DC universe is “First of the Fallen” (a different entity from Lucifer as Lucifer is “retired” and is not actually categorized as evil anymore.)
In current DC / Vertigo lore, a different being, “First of The Fallen” has taken the title of Satan while Lucifer has happily become a neutral character, considered neither Good nor Evil (though leaning heavily toward Good in his TV show incarnation). Lucifer is retired and categorized as Neutral in his moral alignment while First of the Fallen is categorized as Evil. Lucifer may have been the first Angel to fall from grace but he was not the first entity to fall from grace (by that list Lucifer is actually the fourth to fall) and so Lucifer does not actually have the title First of the Fallen in the current comics.
One sweet storyline in Sandman is how Morpheus met a man who ‘refused to die” (an immortal) and the man (known as Hob and later Robert) agreed to meet with Morpheus every century to tell him what it was like to go from being mortal to being immortal, how his life has been for the last century, and to tell him if he wanted to continue to live). In the 1700s they run into John Constantine’s Great, great, grandmother, Johanna Constantine, who mistakes Morpheus and Robert (Hob) as “The Devil and the Wandering Jew” and tries to capture Hob / Robert and Morpheus.
In the 1800s Hob confronts Morpheus on the fact that there are actually other formerly-human immortals around the world and Hob believes Morpheus only meets with him once a century because they are friends and not because he is curious to know how Hob handles his immortality. Morpheus becomes indignant and prideful, insisting that he doesn’t need friends.
He storms off and Hob calls after him that if he shows up next century he’ll know it’s because they’re friends and no other reason.
A century later Morpheus arrives and Hob admits he had not thought he’d come and Morpheus tells him that he had been told that it is rude to keep one’s friends waiting. It’s sweet.
In the lore of Sandman Morpheus is the father of the mythological Orpheus, the musician who went into the Greek underworld to retrieve his dead wife. Orpheus’ mother is the muse, Calliope. Hades agreed to let Orpheus have his wife back if he did not look back at her until they left The Underworld, proving his trust in the Greek God of The Dead. Orpheus made the mistake of looking back at her at the last second and so lost her just before they could exit The Underworld. Orpheus was then later torn apart by zealots and since he was condemned to immortality he was stuck as a severed head. Shortly before going to The Underworld Orpheus had denounced his father, Morpheus, for refusing to help get his wife back from The Land of The Dead. Hurt and angry, Morpheus refused to help him other than to send some priests dreams about Orpheus so that they and their descendants would tend to him (as he’s just a severed head) for centuries to come.
In the early 1990s, when Morpheus’ youngest sister, Delirium wants to find their lost brother, Destruction, Morpheus is forced to go to Orpheus to find out where Destruction is. Orpheus bitterly greets his estranged father and tells him that he will give him the information he needs but only if he does him the one mercy he has been pleading for, for centuries. Morpheus does not want to do it but finally out of mercy he kills his own son, reuniting Orpheus with his wife in The Underworld. But Morpheus is left with a deep remorse over how he treated his son and for Orpheus’ death. Morpheus retreats to his private rooms in his castle where he weeps, alone.
Morpheus eventually gets mistaken as the kidnapper of baby Daniel ( a child who, while fetal, spent an unusually long time in The Dreaming realm. Daniel is the son of Hector Hall, the second superhero Sandman who passed away). Lyta, the baby’s Mother, is lead to believe her child is dead. She calls upon the Kindly Ones (representatives of the crone aspect of The Triple Goddess) to seek revenge. They tell her that they cannot seek revenge for her son but an Endless is not allowed to kill someone of their own blood, nor is Morpheus allowed to kill at all except to protect The Dreaming. As Morpheus has violated these ancient rules, they can seek revenge over the death of Orpheus.
The end of the Sandman comics has Morpheus “die” sacrificing himself to stop The Kindly Ones from Destroying The Dreaming. Morpheus’ loved ones grieve him but it’s a little ambiguous as to if he’s truly dead. Morpheus had become weary of his role as ruler of The Dreaming but he knew that he could not just abandon it the way Destruction had abandoned his role. And he could not quit the way Lucifer had, though he does quote Lucifer about being so very tired.
The Kindly ones seek Morpheus’ death or the destruction of The Dreaming. Morpheus gives up his life to save his realm, allowing his sister, Death, to take him. As Morpheus “dies” all of his memories and power pass on into baby Daniel, who transforms and now wears an emerald with a small amount of Dream’s soul within it. Everything that was mortal of Daniel is gone as he is transformed into the new incarnation of Dream.
When Lyta had mistakenly thought Morpheus had taken her baby, Daniel had actually been kidnapped by Puck and Loki but Daniel was ultimately rescued by a Nightmare being known as The Corinthian, and Morpheus’ Raven spy / messenger, Matthew (who had been a human soul who died in his sleep and was allowed to remain in The Dreaming after his death as Morpheus’ loyal servant. Matthew (in his human form) had originally been a character of the Swamp Thing comics.
Daniel- now simply calling himself Dream- (which was Morpheus’ alternate name) took an adult form that looks much like Morpheus except with white hair instead of black. This can be seen as similar to a Doctor Who style regeneration however there are other things that make Morpheus’ death fishy and or potentially a false ending.
Hob AKA Robert (Morpheus’ immortal friend) has a dream of Morpheus in which Morpheus is with a man he does not know (Destruction) and both walk off together.
This can imply two things. 1. Morpheus could have faked his death very elaborately and is telling Hob (as he has told Hob things via dreams before) or 2. Morpheus did die and Daniel resurrected him as a Dream (which actually is one of his powers, to resurrect anyone who dies in The Dreaming realm as a Dream entity, maintaining free will, personality, and soul).
And that’s about it.
Though there are serious and complex parts, some of Sandman is fun and light too, such as when Morpheus allows Delirium to drive… in the human world…
And there you go. A crash course in what the Hell Neil Gaiman’s Sandman actually is. Despite the spoilers of this post, I assure you that the actual comics are much more enjoyable to read.
Pricey, but very worth it. Other editions have more content and extras, but aren't this nicely bound. For someone like me, who really just wants the story without having to leaf through 10 pages of supplementary content between each chapter, this is good. Content-collectors may prefer The Annotated Sandman or other editions.