Iain Emsley reported the following reviews of Sandman: King of Dreams and Endless Nights review in the October 25 Guardian:
In 1988, a new monthly comic came out that took an old DC character called the Sandman and transformed him into Morpheus, also known as Dream. He was part of the Endless, a pantheon created from human visions of universal forces; Despair, Death, Delirium, Destruction, Desire and Destiny were his siblings. Unlike so many super characters, the Endless had very human traits. The first few issues took the readers through a melange of different narrative experiments and subtle world-building, until issue eight, when we were first introduced to Dream’s sister, Death, and the world of the Endless was established.
In contrast to popular visions, Death was a really cute goth who enjoyed her existence; she duly helped to capture the comic-reading public’s imagination until the end of the run at issue 75 in 1996. The individual comics were gradually collected into complete storylines in the graphic novels, introduced by writers such as Stephen King, Peter Straub and Clive Barker, which helped The Sandman do the supposedly impossible: cross into mainstream reading consciousness. It received acclamation from luminaries such as Norman Mailer while one issue, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, went on to win the World Fantasy award.
Through the early 90s, the Sandman brought a new audience to comics. Alisa Kwitney served as editor at DC during that time, overseeing the writing and the artwork, and The Sandman: King of Dreams offers a useful and sometimes intimate perspective. As Neil Gaiman notes in his introduction, it is difficult to see what more can be brought to the series after all the websites, dissertations and companions. In between some previously unseen sketches and a collection that gives the less familiar reader a sense of the artistic imagination, Kwitney delivers a fine overview of what the series is about and many of its sources. This is a book primarily about the relationship between the creators, and between script and illustration, with some useful background information. However, as she admits, the finest book for the reader committed to uncovering more about this world is still Hy Bender’s Sandman Companion
After concluding the Sandman stories, Gaiman concentrated on novel writing, most notably in the widescreen vision of American Gods, in which old-world gods roam the US, and in his chilling children’s novel, Coraline. Though Gaiman had always shied away from returning to the Sandman (barring The Dream Hunters, his take on Japanese folk tale), Karen Berger, his editor at DC Comics, repeatedly asked him to create a new collection – eventually calling his bluff by asking which artists it would take to lure him back to the series, and then lining them up.
The result is a collection of short stories, each illustrated by a different artist. Gaiman takes us on a wild ride through a night of the Endless, from the portraits of Despair to the gardens of Destiny, via a party at the beginning of the Universe and the islands off Venice. Each tale is exquisitely layered and repays careful reading: the reader is introduced to each of the Endless in turn as they flit in and out of the stories. The Sandman has always experimented with form, theme and illustration, and Endless Nights continues the tradition. The mood changes with each illustrator, from Barron Storey’s gallery of portraits of lives fracturing in “Despair”, a tale reminiscent of Kathy Acker, to Milo Manara’s eroticism in “Desire”.
This collection explores the illusions around which we construct our lives. In Death’s tale, we are shown how a count held Time back from his doors, only to have a rude awakening; in Dream’s tale his vision of love is shattered when he sees his lover in another’s embrace. Destiny’s story harks back to “The Tempest”, which concluded the original run, and the notion that creation is itself an illusion. The book ends with a sense of peace: Destiny (or Gaiman) is content to close his book and move on to other tales. Yet with Endless Nights, it is clear that Gaiman’s creation is still more potent and vibrant than the industry that surrounds it.
The Dreaming universe is wide, yet driven by one essential – the need to tell stories. It is at once part of a wonderful comic tradition, and also a great collection of illustrated short stories. If they have not done so already, now is the time for readers of Gaiman’s novels to discover the Sandman.