Feature – Boston Herald

Mark A. Perigard wrote the following feature for the September 12th Boston Herald:
After a seven-year absence, one of comics’ most acclaimed writers returns to the characters that made him famous in a hardcover graphic novel illustrated by some of the medium’s most talented artists.

Neil Gaiman, creator of the landmark “Sandman” series for DC Comics, spins seven haunting vignettes in “The Sandman: Endless Nights” (Vertigo, $24.95), arriving in stores Wednesday.

Each of the stories focuses on a different member of the dysfunctional Endless clan – the siblings Dream, Death, Desire, Delirium, Despair, Destruction and Destiny. Aided by illustrations from such artists as P. Craig Russell, Frank Quitely and Bill Sienkiewicz, Gaiman’s tales range from humor to horror and back again, with images and emotions that linger long after the book is closed.

No prior knowledge of the “Sandman” mythos is needed to enjoy the book, but for the uninitated, consider the Endless living representations of the ideas they are named after, each burdened with a job to do.

“They’ve existed since the beginning of time, and they are just as screwed up as you are. Best way to put it: They are ways to explore some small stories, and in other ways, a way to tell a huge story,” Gaiman said in a recent telephone interview.

In “What I’ve Tasted of Desire,” illustrated by Milo Manara, a young woman wins the man of her dreams, and after he is murdered, enacts a terrible vengeance on the perpetrators. But the story doesn’t end there.

“It’s about wanting things, and what happens when there’s nothing left to want,” Gaiman said. The story skips ahead decades to a haunting denouement.

One chapter is a kiss to longtime “Sandman” fans. “The Heart of a Star,” illustrated by Miguelanxo Prado, reveals finally why Dream – also known as Sandman – and Desire do not get along. (There’s also a clever in-joke about Superman’s origin.)

So what was it like returning to characters he had put away years ago?

“It had that kind of college reunion nervousness about it,” Gaiman said. “You are going to see people who were your best friends for seven or eight years and whom you have not seen in seven years. You don’t know if you are going to have anything to say to each other. Within five minutes, everybody’s friends again. It’s all working. That’s kind of marvelous.”

In “Sandman,” which ran from 1988 to 1996, Gaiman won a legion of fans with the creation of one of the most literary series to ever grace comics, a monthly book that regularly referenced all manner of world history and myth yet focused on the trials of the human heart.

He ended the series of his own accord to concentrate on novels and film work, and has since published the best-selling novel “American Gods” and the children’s book “Coraline.” He and longtime collaborator Dave McKean released another children’s book, “Wolves in the Walls” (Harper Collins, $17.89) last month, and his British fantasy miniseries, “Neverwhere,” was released on DVD earlier this week. He took on “1602,” a limited series for Marvel Comics that plants its favorite heroes in the 17th century. He has several screenplays in various stages of production.

On top of all this, he maintains a journal on his Web site, www.neilgaiman.com., where he answers questions from fans.

But as for that long-rumored “Sandman” movie, he says, “Warner (which owns DC Comics) controls the film rights. The simplest answer I would give is that I would rather see no movie than a bad one and a great movie than no movie.”

And on the chance of Gaiman revisiting the Endless? He rules out a regular series but seems open to the idea of more limited projects.

“I find myself cursed by the number of bodies one person is allotted and the number of hours in the day. If there was a me who could work full time on comics and full time on novels and films . . . Unfortunately, there’s only one of me. Mostly, I just sort of am doing the best I can.”