Sandman Overture # 6


By chance, a couple of days ago, I came across my review of Sandman Overture 1, which I read with a grim smile at its optimistic cheeriness and enthusiasm. In particular, I couldn’t help but seize on the assertion that Neil Gaiman had written this preface to the Sandman series of twenty-five years previously, which is certainly what we were all led to believe: six issues, published bi-monthly, starting in November 2013, ending in September 2014.

Today, I paid a fleeting visit to the centre of Manchester to purchase issue 6, which appears exactly twelve months behind schedule, having scraped in just under the wire to do so.

And though artist J.H.Williams is notorious as a slow artist, it is not he who has to take responsibility for this fiasco. As early as the interminable delay between issues 1 and 2, Gaiman accepted responsibility for failing to provide his artistic collaborator with scripted pages to be drawn. I have heard nothing since that suggests that the ongoing difficulty in producing this book was down to anyone else.

Now, should he choose to exercise it, Gaiman has a ready-made excuse for these delays, in the form of his previous defence of George R. R. Martin. I’d like to say that I agree with every word Gaiman says at the other end of that link. Wearing the hat I wear as a reader of comics for fifty years, bearing in mind that throughout that period, and even now, comics is a serial form of fiction that is heavily dependant on the even rhythm of its schedule, I don’t regard such an explanation as adequate.

I have already said, as much as a year ago, that had I known what would happen, I wouldn’t have even started the story. I would have waited for the Graphic Novel collection, and I don’t mean the hardback volume that is already treading on the heels of this comic with a haste that is indecent in the circumstances. The paperback is at least twelve more months away.

But what, we dare ask, is my impression of the Distinguished Thing now that it is present in its entirety? I have carried the comic home without opening its pages, have written the first half of this blog whilst it remains in the Forbidden Planet bag, and I shall now read the story in its entirety, and only then offer my opinion.

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And it is good.

It’s so very good, and so very wide, and it seeps into every part of a story begun twenty-seven years ago, and ended nineteen years ago, as if in every part of it it was in Gaiman’s head during the nights that followed the Great Storm, when the shape and the idea came about.

And Williams draws or paints or does both and neither as if he is shaping the stuff of dream instead of using pencil, paper, ink, or even pixels.

And it will need many more readings for me to appreciate the immensity of this story, including those readings that will be necessary to eradicate the thoughts and feelings that form the first part of this revue.

For it is very good indeed. But it carries within it a sense of completion that makes it very hard to imagine that Gaiman will ever return to The Dreaming again.

The Sandman: Overture. Issue 2


Since the transition to the New 52 Universe and the corporate/editorial diktat control of its comics, DC has made many fuck-ups. So often have they been inconsistent, illogical, inept, contradictory, incompetent and downright iditic that there is even a website dedicated to Has DC Done Something Stupid Today?, complete with a counter, ticking off the days since the last fuck-up.

To the best of my knowledge, The Sandman: Overture has not featured on this site, and to be fair to DC, my understanding is that it is not they who are responsible for the unconscionable delay between issue 1 (early November 2013) and issue 2 (late March 2014, though only picked up today).

The series was announced, well over a year ago, as Sandman Zero, in which Neil Gaiman would al long last tell the missing Sandman story, the prequel, the adventure from which Dream was returning in issue 1, wearied beyond measure and vulnerable to Magus Roderick Burgess. It had all Sandman fans slavering, though at least one of these slavering fans had a deeply cynical response to the way DC proposed to milk the project. It was to be a six-issue series, drawn (and beautifully) by J H Willams III, but it was to be published over twelve months, alternating with special ‘Director’s Editions’ of the previous issue.

What we actually had, therefore, was that utter throwback, a bi-monthly title, dressed up as something fancy and gaudy and super-good for us, when it would have looked twice as good if honestly announced. But of course it could not be honestly announced because bi-monthlies are contemporaries of the dodo. And how much trouble would it seriously to adhere to standard practice and get half or two-thirds, whatever suits the artist’s speed best, inhouse before you schedule publishing the first of them?

But it didn’t happen that way. And Neil Gaiman has taken responsibility for not having gotten his ass in gear and writing issue 2 when J H Williams III was ready for issue 2. It’s been a PR, a Publishing and a Credibility disaster of mammoth proportions.

For many months now (five, in total) it has reminded me of nothing so much as D’Arc Tangent. Now, to understand that reference you will need to be at least fifty years old and well-read in comics, but for the majority of you, D’Arc Tangent was a black-and-white magazine style comic, an SF story of both epic and personal proportions, starting in 1982. It was a collaboration between Phil Foglio and an individual going by the name of Freff. It also featured an editorial consultancy by Chris Claremont, whilst he still had any credibility. Space Opera and True Romance, effervescent comedy and deep heartbreak, it was a truly brilliant piece of work that had everything you could ever want.

Except an issue 2.

Foglio and Freff fell out irrevocably over the direction of the story. Apparently, Foglio threatened legal action if Freff tried to continue the story without him. So it died an ignominious and insignificant death, leaving issuie 1 as a beautifully construicted waste of time, a nothing of no importance at all. It might well never have existed.

Which is how I’ve been feeling about Sandman: Overture 1 for all the year so far. It was good, but so what?

I’m still not rid of that feeling. There was no ‘Director’s Edition’, not that I saw or heard, and what happens next? Are we to expect issue 3 in late May, or will it be more like August? How much of it has Gaiman written by now? Given the contents, and the glorious quality of the art, how long does Williams need to draw an issue?

What I can say about issue 2 is that it is superb. I wouldn’t have it any different, certainly not to the detriment of the art, but that doesn’t mean it was worth the wait. As others have pointed out, not much happens in this story. Dream correctly identifies that the ‘crowd’ he met in the first issue’s pull-out is merely himself, or aspects of himself. We are never given a definitive example as to how they are different: there seems to be aspects dependant on different spatial areas, temporal locations and species (there is a more than welcome return for the Dream of Cats). and there is a highly intruguing hint at a past event Gaiman mentioned briefly in the series, a quarter-century ago, in that the Universe, or all there is, is threatened by the Vortex Dream let live…

But the most unexpected part of this story is that it begins with Dream instead of Dream: with Daniel Dream, that is, the current face of The Dreaming, required to keep a most mysterious appointment with Mad Hettie, in a dream place she seeks both to return to and avoid. Dreanm retrieves something, a nonworking pocket watch, that may be of interest not to himself but to Dream. And Dream in all his aspects has been pulled to his present location because an aspect of Dream is dead. And is this a different aspect, or one we have seen destroyed already?

And is this very scene, amongst the multitude of self the spark for Dream’s long decision to drive himself towards the only alternative to a change he can’t effect?

Once we have this story as a whole, I think we will have a web that folds many things into one thing, like Dream en masse becomes Dream, in his most familiar aspect. I hope I’m not driven to be cranky again by getting there.