Signifying in Comic Books: Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman

By Michael Niederhausen
© 1999 Michael Niederhausen
This essay was submitted to the faculty of Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English.
Approved by:
Dr. Tyrone Williams – Faculty Thesis Advisor
Dr. Norman Finkelstein – English Department Chair
Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1 Introduction
  • Chapter 2Â Signifying
  • Chapter 3 History of the Comic Book Medium
  • Chapter 4Â Intra-Comic Book Signifying
    The Crossover
    The Sandmen
    Alan Moore
    Other Comic Book Signifying
  • Chapter 5 Literary Signifying
  • Chapter 6 Signifying on History
  • Chapter 7 Conclusion
  • Appendix IÂ Personal Interview with Neil Gaiman
  • Works Consulted

Chapter 1Â Â Introduction
A name that has survived the long history of the comic book medium is the Sandman. Since 1939, many characters named the Sandman have appeared in several different comic books. The latest version is Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, published by DC Comics from 1989-1996. The Sandman is one of the most popular titles of the 1990’s. It has influenced many other titles and continues to influence the medium today.

Since its inception, the comic book medium has relied on reader responses. The letter column in comic books is a place where readers exchange ideas and reactions with artists and other readers. An overwhelming majority of the readers make continuity one of the most important elements of a comic book. The word “continuity” became a part of comic book jargon over the years as a way of explaining the general history of a character. In other words, an incident that affected Superman in issue #13 cannot be ignored or forgotten in later issues. For example, Superman became invulnerable to everything, including Kryptonite, his only previous weakness, in 1977. If Superman had appeared a year later in another title and was exposed to Kryptonite and it hurt him, the writer would have committed an error of continuity. Whatever has happened to a character in the past has to be consistent in a current issue. Continuity is of utmost importance for comic book readers and errors in continuity are the biggest reason for criticism. In fact, Marvel Comics created a No-Prize Book for fans that noticed errors in continuity. In the No-Prize Book, Marvel listed many overt errors in continuity.

A better example of continuity is the resurrection of Jean Grey, one of the original X-Men. In issue #100 of the X-Men, Jean Grey became Phoenix, a powerful entity that could devour stars and destroy planets. Because of her actions and the destruction of a whole planet and its inhabitants, Phoenix was condemned to death. In the end, she voluntarily killed herself. Later, it was revealed that Jean Grey was never Phoenix. The entity Phoenix had merely copied Jean Grey’s life and truly believed it was Jean Grey. So, Jean Grey never killed a planet and never was the Phoenix. So, if Jean Grey remembers an event during the Phoenix issues, then the writers are committing an error of continuity. However, if other X-Men describe an incident during the Phoenix issues and Jean Grey has no idea what they are talking about, then continuity is consistent. In fact, more than likely the editor will make a footnote and remind the reader why Jean Grey doesn’t know about the incident. Â

Another word for continuity is history. Comic book readers make sure that history is the primary aspect in the medium. This history becomes problematic when these characters are thirty to sixty years old and they still appear the same age since their first appearance. That is a central problem with continuity. Superman fought in World War II and he looked young. He also witnessed the Gulf War and looked young. Readers express the difficulty of believing this is the same man. Publishers explain the difference between the Superman of 1941 with the Superman of 1991 by creating a schism and changing characters for the more contemporary audience. These schisms eliminate the previous character and create a new one. These schisms happened in the mid-1950’s to the early 1960’s and in the mid-1980’s to today. Thus, the Superman in the Gulf War did not fight in World War II. In fact, according to contemporary Superman continuity, the Superman of WWII never existed.

Continuity establishes a relationship with a character’s past. Comic book characters, however, are not solo performers. These characters interact with many other characters over the years. This relationship with the past tightens the bond with other characters. For years, comic books almost never strayed away from only making connections with other comic book characters. Every so often, a writer would make a connection with some literary character, usually a character of Greek or Norse mythology. For example in 1987, Detective Comics, one of Batman’s titles, celebrated its 50th anniversary. That same year marked the 100th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes. So, in the anniversary issue, the artists teamed-up Batman with Sherlock Holmes, making a connection between a detective in literature with a detective in comic books.

The Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by many different artists, is a prime example of a successful comic book that makes connections to previous comic book characters and canonical literature. Subtly, Gaiman utilized continuity in a new approach. Gaiman established connections with other comic books and other works of literature. This connection that Gaiman and other comic books writers create is called signifying. Signifying, a way to cajole others, stems from the trickster archetype. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. found that this linguistic phenomenon occurs in African-American literature. Through African-American texts, African-American writers signify on one another and, subsequently, create a relationship with the past. This same connection with the past occurs in comic books.

My hypothesis is that Neil Gaiman signifies on other comic characters as well as other works of literature. A connection between these two mediums is not often made since comic books are stereotyped as being sub or inferior literature. Since Gaiman signifies on both mediums, he creates a connection between “inferior literature” and canonical literature.

Chapter two clearly explains signifying as a linguistic phenomenon and as a literary theory. Also, it explains how the trickster archetype is a part of signifying. Finally, it shows how Gaiman utilizes trickster archetypes all over the world and how his version of the Sandman is a trickster figure as well.

The comic book medium, although short in years of existence, has acquired a history of its own. This history has produced a broad range of genres in roughly three periods: The Golden Age, The Silver Age, and The Modern Age. Chapter three will describe more fully this history of the comic book medium that has provided many movements and will explain any events that affected the medium.

Chapter four, split up into four sections, centers around intra-comic book signifying. The first section examines crossover signification in which Gaiman not only makes a reference to a character but makes him or her a regular character of The Sandman. Gaiman teams-up characters from DC’s 1970’s horror titles, characters involved with previous Sandmen, and characters involved with dreams in some form or another into his version of The Sandman. The second section examines the three previous Sandmen and how Gaiman signifies on each one. The third section examines how Gaiman signifies on a predecessor of his, Alan Moore, whose works paved the way for literary comic books like Gaiman’s. Finally, the fourth section analyzes how Gaiman uses several characters from the history of comic books into his series. Thus, Gaiman signifies with previous comic books as a way of connecting with comic books of the past.

Chapter five, literary signification, shows how Gaiman uses characters from mythology and actual writers as characters in The Sandman. Gaiman also signifies on children’s literature, specifically, Winnie-the-Pooh, The Wizard of Oz and The Chronicles of Narnia, as a way of commenting on the stereotypes of comic books.

Chapter six examines how Gaiman signifies on history in several issues of the series. He shows how his version of the Sandman influenced several historical persons, ranging from Caesar Augustus to Norton I, the Emperor of the United States.

Obviously, Gaiman is neither the first nor the last to signify on comic books as well as canonical literature. However, he is able to pull off a complete balance between comic books and literature. Most comic book writers confine themselves to intra-comic book signifying. Only a few have balanced the literary and comic book references in a comic book as well as Gaiman.

Gaiman signified on all of the above as a way to show that Gaiman’s immortal character, Dream of the Endless, has made an impact on comic book characters, writers, literary characters and even human history. To put his characters into the scheme of things was of primary importance for Gaiman (Appendix I). Gaiman utilizes continuity, but establishes it on a broader level and, therefore, makes his character more important with credentials and validity through which he signifies.

Chapter 2Â Â Signifying
“Tales in the Sand” in DH depicts the relationship of Nada and Dream and how Nada ended up in Hell. Gaiman relates the story through the legacy of oral tradition in an African tribe. An older man always tells the same story to a younger man as part of the ritual of becoming a man. The grandfather tells the grandson about a wonderful city of their tribe that used to exist in the desert. “I will tell you of that city, and of how it was lost to us….And one day, if you live long enough, you will bring one other out here, and tell him the tale” (DH 2:6). At the end of the issue, the reader is told there are different versions of the same story. “There is another version of the tale. That is the tale the women tell each other, in their private language that the men-children are not taught, and that the old men are too wise to learn. And in that version of the tale perhaps things happened differently. But then, that is a women’s tale, and it is never told to men” (DH 2:24). Gaiman subtly explains the flexibility of story telling. Stories are told and re-told and each time there is a new re-telling; the storyteller adds his or her own aspects to the story and becomes, therefore, a part of the history of the story. The grandfather who tells the tale remembers when his uncle told him the same story. Now, he is able to be a part of that long lineage of storytellers.

Many characters throughout the series relates a story to a specific audience. For example, “The Hunt” (F&R) is about a grandfather telling his granddaughter how he met his wife. Of course, the story involves Dream and other members of the Dreaming. Needless to say, Gaiman does not simply narrate a tale, but allows a character to become a narrator of a story.Â

Written literature does the same thing as oral communication in terms of the flexibility of stories. Writers respond to other writers through the stories they write. This is signifying, a relatively new theory of literature. However, signifying as a linguistic phenomenon has a long history.

Signifying stems from the trickster archetype, who, by definition, tricks others for mere amusement. “A partial list of [a trickster’s] qualities might include individuality, satire, parody, irony, magic, indeterminacy, open-endedness, ambiguity, sexuality, chance, uncertainty, disruption and reconciliation, betrayal and loyalty, closure and disclosure, encasement and rupture” (Signifying Monkey 6). Notice that this is only a partial list. Other characteristics of a Trickster, which are important in The Sandman, include being a shape-shifter and rhetorician. Gaiman uses and mentions many different trickster characters in The Sandman. The most notable is Loki of Norse mythology. Puck or Robin Goodfellow from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a known faerie trickster. These two team up and help cause the demise of Dream. Lucifer or the Devil has always been known as a trickster figure and he plays a trick on Dream by giving him the key to a closed Hell that can only be a hindrance. Susano-O-No-Mikoto, a Japanese trickster, vies for Lucifer’s Hell in SOM. Even Dream himself can be considered a trickster because many call him Lord Shaper and he does change shape many times. Also, he is the Prince of Stories and, therefore, a rhetorician.
The trickster, as someone who brings laughter and pain, helped create the notion of signifying, which is an African tradition. “The primary stage of signifying is embodied in the classic figure of the tradition: the Signifying Monkey. In this trickster figure we find perfectly fused the arts of conceding and contesting racial stereotypes” (Cooke 27).

Signification or signifying is “the verbal art of insult in which a speaker humorously puts down, talks about, needles – that is, signifies on – the listener. Sometimes signifyin (also siggin) is done to make a point, sometimes it’s just for fun” (Smitherman 118-9). It also “refers to the trickster’s ability to carp, cajole, needle, and lie” (Signifying Monkey 54). It is, in effect, to act as a trickster.Â

In America, signifying is better known as “playing the dozens.”  “Played for fun or viciousness – it can be either – the Dozens is a competitive oral test of linguistic ingenuity and verbal fluency” (Smitherman 131).  The reason for playing this game is to create an inner strength within the opponent. This cultural ritual has been going on since some of the earliest civilizations.

Simply speaking, the theory of signifying is the act of signifying on another with parody and pastiche in mind. It is a way “to engage in refiguration as an act of homage” (Signifying Monkey xxvii). This refiguration is taking a spin on another work and playing on that work. The writer, or signifier, signifies on a work with parody, pastiche, or both and becomes a part of the history of the original text.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. established that signifying has occurred in African-American literature since its beginnings in slave narratives. This pattern goes back to the Signifying Monkey, the African-American trickster. In the same manner, signifying has occurred in comic books since the very beginning: ever since the super hero.

Super heroes have dominated the comic book medium since the late 1930’s. Over the years, many different companies have published many different groups of super heroes. Those super heroes, then, belong in their own fantasy world, which is usually exactly like the contemporary world of the reader, and exists separately from other company’s universes. Typically, the comic book medium describes these universes with the company name, i. e., DC universe, Marvel universe, etc. These separate companies and universes signify on their own and each other’s universes all the time. For example, Joe Siegal and Jerry Shuster created Superman, an alien from another planet who had enormous strength, could fly, and had heat vision that could incinerate anything. C.C. Beck created Captain Marvel who had enormous strength, could fly, and had many other powers that came from Greek and Roman gods. Beck signified on Siegal and Shuster and created a super hero like Superman, but a little better. This trend continues even today. In 1997, Marvel Comics published Marvels, painted by Alex Ross. It was a re-telling of the original Marvel comics of the 1960’s from the point of view of a newspaper reporter at the time. So, DC hired Alex Ross to paint their new title Kingdom Come that again showed super heroes from a from a mortal’s point of view. The major difference between the two was that Marvels was set between 1961-1971 and Kingdom Come was set in the future, possibly around 2010. Then, in 1999, Alex Ross joined Marvel again to produce Earth X, a series that shows where the Marvel Universe will be in the next century. This is a classic example of signifying. One company publishes one story and then the other company publishes the same story, but with a few adjustments.

History is another important aspect of signifying. In order to become a part of a story, the writer must know the history of the story. Gaiman does just that in his appropriation of canonical DC characters. Gaiman does not simply throw the characters into the story without any mention of background, but researches the character and gives a true representation of the character. Signifying is a common occurrence in the comic book medium. Signification can occur between companies, characters, and even writers.

In an interview, Gaiman described watching a play adaptation of one of his comic books and he emphasized the importance of not taking the original work word for word, but giving it a new translation. “You need to recreate the story, you need to retell it” (Wiater and Bissette 192). That is exactly what Gaiman does to the huge amount of source texts that he used for The Sandman. He did not take original stories and retell them in the same manner. He retold them with his own markings.
Chapter 3Â Â History of Comic Book Medium

The Golden Age of comic books consists of the period between the 1930’s and the early 1950’s. Up until the mid-1930’s, comic books were reprints of the daily newspaper comic strips (hence the name comic books). It was not until the 1930’s that publishers began to produce comic books with original material. Most scholars consider The Funnies the first comic book.  However, other critics consider New Fun, published by Wheeler-Nicholson, as the first proper American comic book (McClue and Bloom 14). That is, it was the first comic book to be in the modern standard size and feature new adventure stories. The key characteristic of New Fun that made it the first official comic book is the adventure stories. Adventure stories, particularly super hero adventures, became the primary genre in comic books.
The sixth issue of New Fun (1935) featured the first adventure hero, Dr. Occult. Critics consider Dr. Occult an adventure hero and not a super hero because he has no super powers. Because of these criteria, critics consider Superman the first super hero. Nonetheless, the appearance of Dr. Occult provided the basis for the comic book medium to explore this new genre.

Wheeler-Nicholson changed New Fun to More Fun in 1936 and started to publish a new comic book series, New Comics. Then in 1936, Detective Comics made its debut as the first comic book series with a set policy of strictly adventure stories. Eventually in 1939, Detective Comics would become the home of Batman. Before that, however, Superman would make his first appearance in Action Comics in 1938. The appearance of Superman began the most consistent run of stories in the comic book medium’s history: the super hero.

Between 1938 and 1942, many super heroes first appeared, including Batman, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and the Sandman. (A more in-depth analysis of The Golden Age Sandman will be in The Sandmen section of Chapter 4 43-51). The super hero was not the only genre in comic books at this time. Romance, Western, and Funny Animal comic books were prevalent, but costumed super heroes dominated most of the titles.
In 1940, the first super hero team, the Justice Society of America, appeared in All-Star Comics, featuring the Sandman, the Spectre, Dr. Fate, Hourman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Hawkman and the Atom. Superman and Batman were the most popular super heroes, but did not appear in the Justice Society because that title was for super heroes who were not so popular. In general, super heroes were in abundance and publishers continued to create more of them during the 1940’s.

World War II affected the comic book industry in a major way. “Artists, writers and editors were drafted into the service and paper shortages prevented new publishers from entering the field” (Superhero Comics of the Golden Age 53). However, publishers were enjoying an increased audience from children and servicemen. Writers had many super heroes actively fight the Nazis and Japanese. In some comic books, the army even enlisted certain super heroes. For example, the Army drafted Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman, and he failed his physical in a humorous way because of his super powers. For example, during an eye exam, Clark Kent read the letters from another room with his X-ray vision instead of the eye chart in the room he was in (Uslan 43-47).

In 1945, comic books were at the height of their sales. DC Comics published 1,100 different comics in 1945 and published up to 1,500 in 1946. “By the last year of the decade, there would be twice as many comic books published as in any year during the war”(Superhero Comics of the Golden Age 57). However, the super hero was in decline. DC Comics slowly moved away from super heroes in the early 1950’s. Less than one-fourth of DC’s titles were about super heroes compared to 96% ten years earlier (Superhero Comics of the Golden Age 61). Superman and Batman survived the declining interest in super heroes but others, like the Sandman, faded into obscurity. The only characters who remained unchanged into the Silver Age were Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Arrow. It was not until the mid-1950’s that DC rebounded with slightly new characters, which made a stamp on how artists would create super heroes for years to come.

The Silver Age of comic books began in the 1950’s and scholars have not concluded when this age exactly ended. During the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the super hero came back in a frenzy. DC Comics decided to revitalize some of their Golden Age super heroes, and Marvel Comics, a new publisher would create some of the most interesting super heroes of the time.

Frederick Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent, however, set the tone on how creators represented super heroes for the first half of the Silver Age. Even as early as the late 1940’s, people began to ban comic books because of the belief that they caused delinquency among juveniles. Protests reached their highest when Dr. Frederick Wertham wrote his now infamous book. Eventually, a Senate sub-committee investigated the comic book medium to see if any of Wertham’s findings were true. The comic books that they protested the most were EC comics’ line of horror titles that showed gruesome images of death. The end result of these protests and committee about comic books was the Comic’s Code. The Comic’s Code is a self-imposed code for comic book publishers to make sure that they do not produce material that is unsuitable for children. The Comic’s Code stamp on a comic book showed that the comic was up to the standards of society. In other words, the comic book became written and marketed for children. With this code, all of the comic books from the first half of the Silver Age became simple good vs. evil stories. Subsequently, nothing substantially new or innovative happened because artists were too afraid to go outside the boundaries of the Comic’s Code. This new age of super heroes became simple, patriotic Americans.

The first character that DC revitalized was the Flash. The new Flash first appeared in Showcase #4 (1956). Showcase was an anthology series in which different characters made his or her first appearances. Based on sales and readership responses of their appearance in Showcase, each character could possibly receive their own series. This particular issue is monumental because the revival of the Flash “led to a renewed interest in super-heroes that may have saved the moribund comic industry” (DC Comics: Sixty Years… 128). Showcase later introduced the revitalized Green Lantern, Atom and Spectre. For the most part, however, Showcase introduced brand new characters like Adam Strange, the Metal Men, and the Creeper.

Just as the Golden Age had a Justice Society of America, the Silver Age created the Justice League of America that consisted of the new canon of super heroes: Green Lantern, Aquaman, the Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, and the Martian Manhunter. A new age had a new group of heroes.

In 1961, the Marvel Comics Group produced their first comic book, The Fantastic Four, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby. In the following years Lee and Kirby would produce many influential comic books, including The Incredible Hulk and The X-Men. Lee would produce his most popular title, The Amazing Spider-Man, with Steve Dikto. The Marvel Comics Group became the only real competitor for DC Comics for the next thirty years or so.
During the 1960’s/1970’s, America was deeply involved in the Vietnam War. The Civil Rights movement made incredible steps forward with the March to Washington, D.C. Finally, hallucinogenic drugs became more and more popular among youths. Comic books reflected these major changes in American society. In the second half of the Silver Age, which I refer to as the Experimental Period of comic books, artists concocted new and socially relevant super heroes and introduced social issues into mainstream super hero comic books.

In the late 1960’s, a new movement of adult comic books called underground comic books or “comix” emerged. The most notable of the field is R. Crumb who invented the infamous Fritz the Cat. Art Spiegelman, who created the Pulitzer Prize winning Maus, is a member of the underground movement.

Mainstream comic books pushed the medium as well. The super hero duo Hawk and Dove (1968) reflected the schism between aggressors and pacifists during the Vietnam War. One brother, Dove, refused to use violence to stop crime. Hawk, on the other hand, felt that there was no other alternative. In 1970, Green Arrow joined Green Lantern’s series to become Green Lantern/Green Arrow. The artists behind the series wanted to create a good cop/bad cop series. Up until this time, neither super hero was a “bad cop” per se, so the artists of Green Arrow grew him a goatee and made him into a socially conscious super hero. Within this series, the super heroes examined such issues as racism and drug abuse. In a famous line in the first issue of the new series, an elderly African-American man asks Green Lantern:
I been readin’ about you…How you work for the blue skins…and how on a planet someplace you helped out the orange skins… and you done considerable for the purple skins! Only there’s skins you never bothered with–! …The black skins! I want to know…how come?! Answer me that, Mr. Green Lantern!” (DC Comics: Sixty Years… 155)

In a daring move, the series also examined drug abuse. Green Arrow finds out that his sidekick, Speedy, was a drug addict. Marvel Comics also reacted to these issues, most notably in The Amazing Spider-Man where Spider-Man’s best friend was a drug addict. Also, in Captain America, Captain America finds the international conspirator against the world to be none other than the President of the United States. This was an obvious reaction to the Watergate scandal. Obviously, these comic books reacted to what people experienced and felt.

The Experimental Period also was a time for creative growth. Some notable creators decided to flex their creative muscles and produced new and different titles. One noticeable comic book, The Prez, which was about the first teenage President, also reacted to the Watergate affair, but it only lasted four issues. It was during this time that DC produced its second incarnation of the Sandman. For the most part, however, these titles of bizarre characters did not last longer than a year each.

Two major mainstream super heroes went through noticeable changes in the 1970’s. Wonder Woman lost her powers and added a more fashionable modern look. Unfortunately, the experiment did not sell well and she returned to her original costume after 25 issues. Superman, however, increased his strength and changed his occupation. In 1971, a freak chain reaction changed all Kryptonite, Superman’s only weakness, into iron. Now Superman had no Achilles heel and was truly invulnerable. Also, Clark Kent, Superman’s human guise, became a TV news anchorman.

The Modern Age began with the beginning of the new X-Men, the most important comic book in recent times, in Giant-Sized X-Men #1 (1975). This reincarnation of one of Marvel’s original titles would become Marvel’s best-selling title and the most popular comic book until the present.

In 1980, DC published The New Teen Titans (NTT), the only real competitor to the X-Men. One reason that NTT succeeded as well as X-Men is because it had a sense of history with the group. Like the X-Men, NTT featured some of the original members, but included new characters. Unknowingly, NTT started the trend at DC for another schism with the past age; however, this revitalization of super heroes continued the history of each character.

In the mid-1980’s, DC Comics neared its 50th Anniversary. To celebrate this anniversary, DC initiated the yearlong series Crisis on Infinite Earths. This series would truly turn all of its characters upside down for a new age. Some well-known, as well as, some not so well-known characters died in this cataclysmic battle for many universes. Among the well-known super heroes that died were Supergirl and the Silver Age Flash. The death of the Flash was quite proper considering it was the Flash who started the Silver Age. It was almost as if DC wanted to make a definite sign that a new age began after 1985. [DC kept almost all of their characters in a new way except for the Flash. The new Flash series (1987) starred Wally West (Kid Flash). In other words, unlike many super heroes that died in Crisis and came back later, the Silver Age Flash stayed dead.]

Creators changed characters, once again, for a more modern audience. Some call it the Modern Age; however, artists did not simply modernize characters, but deconstructed them. It is during this time that artists took characters and took them apart piece by piece and showed their weaknesses and their strengths. After taking them apart, the artist put the characters back together in a more coherent structure.Â

In 1986, DC started the new plan to deconstruct many major super heroes, and especially marginal characters, from the past fifty years. Originally, the plan included the deconstruction of Superman in the series The Man of Steel in early 1986 by the prolific John Byrne (Uncanny X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Alpha Flight). Then in late 1986, Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli from Daredevil deconstructed Batman in the four part story “Batman: Year One” in the Batman series. Finally, in early 1987, Wonder Woman would have a new title written and drawn by George Perez (Crisis, New Teen Titans). Understanding the importance of these new series, DC commissioned prolific and critically acclaimed artists to deconstruct their most popular characters.Â

This was the plan, but history has a way of going in a different direction. Before DC published The Man of Steel, Frank Miller began his famous Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (DKR). In DKR, a fifty-year old Batman, retired from fighting crime for the past ten years, decides to come out of retirement. DKR was a huge success and literally “returned” Batman to his true natural character: a grim, cold warrior.  Miller succeeded what he planned to do in “Year One” in DKR.  Â

Yet, Alan Moore truly started the deconstruction of DC’s super heroes. After all, NTT was just a modern version that had a connection with the past. Moore, on the other hand, would change a character so that it was completely different. Moore, a well-known writer for the British comic book 2000 AD, came to America and started writing for Saga of the Swamp Thing in 1984. Saga of the Swamp Thing was a new series about the 1970’s character Swamp Thing. According to the original series, Alec Holland, a scientist, created a bio-restorative formula that allowed plants to grow at a tremendous rate. He worked in the middle of a swamp so that no one knew about his work. Holland wanted this formula to help starving countries. A group known as the Conclave, however, wanted the formula for their own profit. Holland refused to sell them the formula, so the Conclave set a bomb in Holland’s laboratory with Holland in it. Holland saw the bomb but could not leave in time. The bomb went off and Holland ran out into the swamp burning with the formula on him. The next day, Holland resurrected as the Swamp Thing. The initial series and the revitalized series revolved around Swamp Thing’s search to become human again.

Moore took over Saga in issue #20. In issue #21, he literally deconstructed the Swamp Thing. In that issue, Dr. Jason Woodrue, or The Floronic Man, took a frozen, captured Swamp Thing and dissected him. What Woodrue found was simply irrefutable and amazing. The Swamp Thing is and always was a plant. He was never a man who turned into a plant, but rather, a plant that had modeled its anatomy from a human being’s anatomy. So, Swamp Thing was never Alec Holland and his search to become human again had ended, although not the way he intended.

This issue changed the whole structure of the series. Moore deconstructed Swamp Thing in a way that would make the series one of the most acclaimed series of the 1980’s. From the success of Swamp Thing, Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons produced the definitive deconstruction super hero saga, Watchmen. Watchmen was a twelve issue series with completely new characters. In Watchmen, Moore showed super heroes who were neurotic, psychotic, impotent, or simply normal. In other words, he showed what super heroes would be like in a realistic world. Moore’s last work for DC was V For Vendetta, a series that he had started, but never finished in the early 1980’s in the British comic book Warrior. DC asked Moore if he would like to finish the series with the original illustrator David Lloyd. By the time DC released V For Vendetta, Moore had quit Swamp Thing and announced that V For Vendetta was his last work with DC.

Because of the success of Moore’s titles with DC, DC opted to hire other writers and illustrators from Britain. Throughout the late 1980’s and even into the 1990’s, DC hired a plethora of British writers and artists to continue the deconstruction of their characters which had started with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Some of the artists from the “British Invasion” included Grant Morrison (Animal Man), Peter Milligan (Shade, the Changing Man), and Neil Gaiman.

Gaiman met with Dick Giordiano and Karen Berger, representatives of DC Comics, in 1987. Gaiman and his partner with past comic books, Dave McKean, offered a story on The Phantom Stranger. Giordiano and Berger told them that a Phantom Stranger story was already in the works. Gaiman and McKean started to throw out characters’ names for a series. Everyone they mentioned either already had a series or one was in the works. They finally mentioned Black Orchid, which was free. Black Orchid was a character from the Experimental Period of the Silver Age. She was a super heroine that artists had not defined well. In fact, she did not even have an origin yet. Gaiman and McKean were then able to create an origin for this mysterious super heroine. A couple of days later, Gaiman gave Giordiano and Berger an outline and McKean gave them some illustrations. So, Gaiman and McKean had their feet in the door at DC Comics (Comics Journal #163 69-70).

As Gaiman and McKean were working on Black Orchid, Berger contacted them and told them that DC was concerned about the project because neither Gaiman nor McKean were well known in America and super heroines do not generally sell well. Berger suggested that each of them produce another comic book so that their names were on other American comic books. McKean agreed to illustrate Arkham Asylum (a Batman story) with Grant Morrison. Berger offered Gaiman his choice for a monthly title. Gaiman mentioned some characters and Berger rejected all of them. Finally, she reminded him of an idea he had about the 1970’s version of the Sandman. She insisted, however, that Gaiman not use the same character. She wanted him to come up with his own character. Gaiman made an outline that consisted of the first eight issues of The Sandman and Berger approved it. In 1989, The Sandman #1 appeared in stores.

By the eighth issue, The Sandman was a huge success. In 1990, DC released The Doll’s House, the first collection of Sandman issues. By the end of the series, DC had collected every issue in a collected edition. In October of 1991, issue 19, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. It was the first time that a comic book had won a World Fantasy Award. Slowly, The Sandman became recognized as a serious, adult comic book. Gaiman and McKean produced an eight-page comic book “Death Talks About Life” which first appeared in Sandman #46 (1991). In the pamphlet, the character Death discusses AIDS and safe sex.Â

By this time The Sandman brought enough attention to other DC comic books that were meant for mature audiences. So, in January of 1993, DC created Vertigo, a home for non-super hero comic books and eventually a place where artists could own their work. In the same month, DC released the first spin-off of The Sandman, Death: The High Cost of Living. In 1994, DC released a Sandman trading card set. In March of 1996, The Sandman ended with issue #75.

Since then, DC has released many other spin-off series: a sequel to Death, a Destiny mini-series and an on-going monthly title, The Dreaming. In 1999, Vertigo plans to release special mini-series on other characters from The Sandman in The Sandman Presents… Even though Gaiman finished the Sandman, DC/Vertigo still publishes comic books based on the series. Also, they publish a series that reprints every issue of the series. Recently, Gaiman announced that he will do another Sandman project called Dream Hunters. It is expected to come out in fall 1999.

In the 1990’s, many changes affected the medium. It is too early to tell what changes are important. Nonetheless, the medium, as of 1999, consists of four mainstream publishers. Of course, DC and Marvel prevail, but Marvel did file bankruptcy in the early 1990’s. It is, however, slowly turning itself around and The X-Men is still number one in sales. The other two mainstream publishers are Dark Horse and Image. Dark Horse has been around since the early 1980’s. By licensing Aliens, Predator and Star Wars from Fox and Lucasfilm, Dark Horse created a comic book following for those popular science fiction films. Also, Dark Horse published many popular artists’ work because they allowed the artists to own their own work. DC and Marvel have not done this until recently. This debate about artists’ rights helped produce Image Comics, the fourth mainstream publication company. Six artists from Marvel who wanted more freedom and the right to own their original characters founded image. Some of the noticeable series and creators include WildC.A.T.S., Savage Dragon and the most popular, Spawn by Todd McFarlane. Generally speaking, it is too early to comment on the current state of the medium.

Artists aware of history kept the comic book medium growing. Ever since the revitalization of The Flash in 1956, comic book creators use the character’s history within the title. In 1956, Barry Allen named himself the Flash from the Golden Age Flash that he “read” as a child. In 1975, The Uncanny X-Men thrived as the best series of the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s because it had a connection with the original series from 1963. Even today, a new version of Starman written by James Robinson has generated interest in the title. Not surprising, the new Starman is the son of the Golden Age Starman. Basically, any title that has a sense of history and plays off of that history succeeds. That does not mean that an original character cannot succeed (for example Superman or Spawn), but if the character has some tie-in with the history of comic books then it tends to be popular. Gaiman, aware of this phenomenon, plays on the enormous history that goes along with any comic book character named the Sandman. Ever since the Silver Age, comic book artists have used the history of a character to enrich their renditions.

Chapter 4Â Â Intra-Comic Book Signifying

The Crossover
Gaiman signifies on comic books in many ways. He signifies on specific comic book characters, contemporary artists in the field, and earlier incarnations of the Sandman. He also signifies on the crossover or team-up, a major technique in the comic book medium. “Technically, a crossover is when a hero or a group of heroes meet in another hero’s or heroes’ book: Green Lantern guest-stars in the Flash…A team-up is when two heroes (or groups) meet in a special title: Batman and Green Arrow in Brave and the Bold…” (Gold 11). Simply speaking, it is when two characters meet who do not commonly appear together.

This has happened throughout the history of comic books. The most significant team-up is the Batman/Superman team. These two were the most popular super heroes under DC and bringing them together on adventures seemed perfect. They first met in Superman #76 in 1952. Two years later World’s Finest Comics became the home for the Batman/Superman team. They teamed up in this series for over 30 years [except during issues #198 (1970) to #214 (1972)].

With the success of World’s Finest, team-ups occurred more and more every year. Green Lantern met with the Flash, the Silver Age Flash met the Golden Age Flash, and the Justice League met the Justice Society. In 1967, The Brave and the Bold became a Batman team-up title until its final issue in 1983. Marvel has utilized the value of the crossover ever since its birth in 1961. As early as the first year of Marvel’s original titles, characters teamed-up in other titles (X-Men in Avengers, Fantastic Four in Spider-Man). By 1976, Superman, DC’s leading super hero, met with Marvel’s leading super hero, Spider-Man. Since the 1980’s, and especially in the 1990’s, team-ups occur on an almost weekly basis.

Gaiman signifies on this technique by teaming up certain characters from the DC canon with his new version of the Sandman. In general, Gaiman uses characters from DC’s line of horror titles from the Silver Age, other characters related to dreams, and other Sandmen.

The DC horror titles of the Silver Age were similar to the EC horror comics that were banned and put out of business in the 1950’s. Each DC horror title had a host that presented each story, just like in the EC issues. DC had many such characters and Gaiman used these characters as members of the Dreaming. All of the former hosts that Gaiman used, except for Destiny, appeared in “Imperfect Hosts,” the second issue of The Sandman (P&N).

 In fact, Gaiman enjoyed DC’s horror titles, including Swamp Thing. “I remember in 1971, 1972, it was definitely things like Phantom Stranger and Swamp Thing, even weird little things like House of Secrets and House of Mystery, that kind of thing. That was definitely the stuff that I really liked” (Comics Journal #169 60). Not surprisingly, Gaiman utilized characters from DC’s horror line in his own series. Through these characters, Gaiman signifies on his favorite comic books as a young adult.

Besides the personal significance of these characters, the hosts of DC’s horror titles are appropriate in The Sandman because they told stories in their previous series. The most popular hosts that Gaiman used were Cain and Abel from House of Mystery and House of Secrets, respectively. According to Who’s Who, DC’s encyclopedia of characters, little is known about them, but it is speculated that they are the reincarnations of the Cain and Abel from the Book of Genesis. Also, the houses they took care of were located in Kentucky. They appeared in one issue of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing in Abigail Arcane’s dream. Cain was a devious man that reminded people of Vincent Price and Abel had a speech impediment, which caused him to stutter unless he was telling stories.Â

Gaiman gives Cain and Abel a specific history in terms of his Sandman myths in the short story “The Parliament of Rooks” (F&R). Abel gives a rendition of how Cain and Abel and their houses became a part of the Dreaming. Abel retells the story from the Book of Genesis. After their “fight,” Dream asks Abel if he would take care of a house and “tell stories.” After a while, Abel gets lonely and asks Dream if he could have a companion. Dream tells him that there is a surprise waiting for him. Of course, Abel finds Cain and the House of Mystery waiting for him. Presumably, then, Gaiman suggests that Cain and Abel told their stories in the 1970’s from the Dreaming. He signifies on the hosts of series that he enjoyed as a young adult.

Another set of hosts from DC’s horror titles appeared in The Sandman, but they functioned in a different manner than they did in the Silver Age. Gaiman referred to them only as the Hectatae, but they were the three witches of DC’s The Witching Hour and The Unexpected. Their names are Cynthia, Mildred, and Mordred and they represent the Maiden, Mother, and Crone of womanhood. Throughout the series they refer to any woman as a relative of theirs.

The three witches hosted The Witching Hour from the first issue to the last (1969-1978). Then, Abel and the three witches hosted The Unexpected in 1979. By 1981, the three witches were the only hosts of The Unexpected.

Gaiman used the witches in The Sandman, not as former hosts of The Witching Hour, but as the Fates and the Furies. Combining the Furies and the Fates as one is typical in literature. After their first couple of appearances, the illustrators of The Sandman drew the witches into more creative images. Nonetheless, their appearances in P&N and DH are just like the way they looked in The Witching Hour and The Unexpected.

Another member of DC’s horror anthology series that Gaiman used was a witch known as Eve who had a raven that always accompanied her. Eve hosted the series Secrets of Sinister House (1972-1974). Once it was cancelled, she accompanied Destiny in Weird Mystery Tales. Other than those two series, Eve and her raven did not appear anywhere else.

Lucien, the librarian, gives a description of Eve while he explains the current status of many inhabitants of the Dreaming. “The raven woman has decayed badly. She lives only in nightmares…” (P&N 2:14). Gaiman referred to Eve as the raven woman only in the first storyline. It’s likely that Gaiman did so because he planned on using the raven as another former character from DC’s horror titles. Lucien’s comment that she only lives in nightmares refers to how she only told scary stories. Also, the Eve of Sinister House and Weird Mystery Tales was always an ancient woman. Eve tends to grow older and younger throughout The Sandman. Gaiman intended to use her as the Biblical Eve. Eve explains her origin in “The Parliament of Rooks.” She explains how Lillith was the first woman and God casted her out of Eden. Then, there was an unnamed woman who Adam refused to touch. Finally, God created Eve out of Adam’s rib and the rest was history.Â

Lucien was the host of Tales of Ghost Castle, a short-lived DC horror title. The series lasted for three issues in 1975. In the series, Lucien was the librarian of a castle in Transylvania. Obviously, Gaiman used the same role for him in the Dreaming. Lucien takes care of the Library of Dreams, which consists of books that were only written in dreams. Lucien was the most loyal of all the Dreaming because he never left his post when Fry captured Dream. Lucien later reveals that he was the first raven of the Dreaming.

Although the Endless is an invention of Gaiman’s, Destiny the eldest of the family, is actually a member of the hosts of horror titles at DC. In 1972, Destiny hosted Weird Mystery Tales. As he explains in the first issue, “My name is Destiny, and it is my Fate to walk alone throughout eternity and observe the follies and mysteries of mankind, and to note them all in the cosmic log” (Weird Mystery Tales #1 1). The Cosmic Log is handcuffed to his wrist and he wears a cloak with a hood that covers his face. Midway through the series, Destiny shared hosting duties with Eve until the end of the series. Destiny appeared again in Secrets of the Haunted House, a 1980’s version of DC’s horror titles.

Although Gaiman has never made any conclusive statement that he borrowed the DC character for his Endless, the fact remains that both characters look identical. Just like the previous Destiny, this Destiny wears a hooded cloak and his book is handcuffed to his right wrist. Destiny’s appearance might be the traditional image and Gaiman might have followed suit; however, Gaiman did not follow suit with any other member of the Endless (particularly Death who is a woman). Destiny did appear in the first storyline of The Sandman and is the first member of the Endless besides Dream to appear in the series (P&N 7:15). So, Gaiman’s Destiny is the same as the one that appeared in the 1970’s.

Finally, one of the most significant members of the Dreaming is actually from Swamp Thing. Matt Cable, a friend to Alec Holland and Swamp Thing, became Matthew the Raven in The Sandman. Matt Cable worked for the Army Intelligence in Swamp Thing. His mission was to protect Alec and Linda Holland, creators of the bio-restorative formula. As mentioned earlier, Alec Holland presumably turned into Swamp Thing because of a bomb planted by members of the Conclave. Soon after, they murdered Linda Holland. When Cable first saw Swamp Thing, he presumed that it was the murderer of the Hollands. Cable then avowed to avenge the deaths of his friends.

During Cable’s pursuit of Swamp Thing, Cable met Abigail Arcane and soon began a relationship with her. After many years, Cable and Arcane married. They soon found out that Swamp Thing was Alec Holland and was not responsible for the Holland’s murders. Cable began to live his own life with the whole Swamp Thing experience behind him.

Cable’s government bosses decided to clean up any loose ends in the Swamp Thing affair by erasing any memories of the Hollands from Cable’s mind through electro-shock treatments. The only thing they succeeded in doing was turning Cable into an alcoholic. By this time, Matt and Abigail were good friends with Swamp Thing. When Swamp Thing realized he was never Alec Holland, Abigail helped him recover from the trauma of such a revelation. Since Abigail spent so much time with Swamp Thing, Cable became jealous and drank more and more. One night, after a fight with Abigail, Cable drove in a drunken stupor and wrecked his car by driving into a tree.

Anton Arcane, Abigail’s father and sworn enemy of Swamp Thing, came to the dying Matt Cable in the form of a fly and promised life to Matt if he accepted his proposal. Of course, Arcane took over Cable’s body and enacted his revenge on Abigail and Swamp Thing. After Swamp Thing drove Arcane out of Cable’s body, Cable spent the rest of his life in a coma. He eventually died.

By 1990, Gaiman had introduced the current raven of the Dreaming. He was, of course, Matthew. Gaiman never specifically stated that Matthew was Matthew Cable, but little inferences, remarks and Who’s Who explained that they are the same person. In BL, Delirium tells Matthew that he was not the first raven, but there were about twelve of them. In fact, Dream verifies that there have been “rather more” than twelve ravens.

In most comic books, when a character teams up with another and makes an allusion to some earlier experience, the editor usually makes a footnote about where and when the incident happened. For example, when Dream explains how he became imprisoned, the editor footnotes his story and tells the reader, See Sandman #1. Gaiman dumps this whole system in The Sandman. In BL, Dream asks Matthew if he knows how to drive an automobile. Matthew responds, “Could I? Hey, I killed myself drunk driving, didn’t I? I mean, the first time” (BL 5:6). This comment could have been annotated with a remark to check Swamp Thing #27, but it does not. Also in DH, Dream sends Matthew to a hospital and Matthew responds, “I don’t like hospitals” (DH 6:21). At the hospital, Matthew tells Gilbert that he hasn’t been a raven very long and explains himself as a human. “I did some rotten things, near the end. You know how it is” (DH 6:23). He refers to how he made a deal with Arcane and helped cause more pain for Abigail Arcane and how he died in a hospital. The Sandman does not have annotations because it is more inter-textual than the average comic book. “The Knight’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales mentions how Theseus won Hippolyta in battle for his wife. William Shakespeare uses that history in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Shakespeare did not annotate this in his play. By dumping this system, The Sandman becomes more inter-textual than other comic books.

By continuing the story of a character from Swamp Thing (and a major one at that) in his rendition of The Sandman, Gaiman shows how much he respects the previous creators of Swamp Thing. More importantly, he shows how significant the DC horror titles and their hosts were as storytellers.

Gaiman also utilized Lyta Hall, a somewhat new DC character, not because of any personal significance to Gaiman, but because of whom she was affiliated with. As mentioned earlier, Karen Berger told Gaiman to come up with a new Sandman. Gaiman believes she said this because Roy Thomas, a veteran writer at DC Comics, wanted the 1970’s version of the Sandman untouched (Comics Journal #163 70). This is because Thomas continued the saga of the Silver Age Sandman in Thomas’ series, Infinity, Inc., where Lyta Hall appeared.

Infinity, Inc. started in 1984. DC launched this new super hero team as the sons and daughters of the Justice Society of America. Lyta Hall or Hippolyta Trevor, a.k.a. Fury, is the daughter of the Golden Age Wonder Woman. Throughout the 53 issue series, Lyta began a relationship with Trevor Hall, the Silver Scarab, who is the son of the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl. In 1986, Lyta became pregnant with Hall’s child. Around this time, the real Silver Scarab, an ancient Egyptian entity, was latent inside Hall and took over his body and killed him. Inadvertently, the Silver Scarab sent the dead Hector Hall to the Dreamworld of the 1970’s Sandman. There, Brute and Glob from the first Sandman series (more on Brute, Glob, and the Sandman in the next section) rescued Hall and turned him into the new Sandman. During the transformation, Hall finds out about the history of Sanford Garrett, the first Sandman, and how he died. By the end of the series, Hall returned to Lyta and they decided to get married despite the fact that he could only be in the waking world one hour a day. Nonetheless, Lyta lived in the Dream Stream with her husband, Brute, and Glob.

In 1987 before Fury reunites with Hector Hall as the new Sandman, Roy Thomas changed Fury’s origin. He established that she was never the daughter of the Golden Age Wonder Woman. In all actuality, she was the daughter of the Golden Age Fury who first appeared in 1987. Roy Thomas wrote All-Star Squadron throughout the 1980’s and then began The Young All-Stars, a Teen Titans of the Justice Society. Of course, he created new characters for this series and the Golden Age Fury was one of them. The Young All-Stars was a part of Thomas’ plan to begin a major re-telling of the Golden Age of DC Comics and creating new characters was a part of that plan.

The Golden Age Fury, Helena Kosmatos, lived in Nazi-controlled Greece. Her brother was a traitor and helped the Nazis. She confronted him about it in front of her mother and he admitted it. The shock of his betrayal killed their mother. Helena swore revenge on her brother because she felt he murdered their mother. The same night, she ran out to find him and kill him. The Nazis found her breaking curfew and chased her. As they were about to catch her, she stamped her foot on the ground and cursed her brother. This action reached the Furies and they sent her to their domain. There, the Furies gave her powers so she could kill her brother. She then became the Fury, joined the Young All-Stars, and fought against the Nazis. The Furies related this story to Hippolyta who searched for her origins for the sake of her unborn child in 1987.

The next time Hector Hall, Lyta, Brute, and Glob appear is in Gaiman’s The Sandman. As Gaiman tells it, the Sandman, Lyta, Brute and Glob are inside the head of Jed Paulsen. This is the same Jed from the original series, who is under the custody of his father’s cousin, Clarice, and her husband, Barnaby.

Brute and Glob give the real history of the Silver Age Sandman. Once the Magus imprisoned Dream, Brute and Glob decided to create their own Dream King, one they could control. Glob continues, “We hid in [Jed’s] dreams, and walled it off from the rest of the Dreaming. Then we began to make a Sandman. First mortal we used, Garrett Sanford, he cracked up. Killed himself. Couldn’t take the strain” (DH 3:20). Brute and Glob concluded that Sanford failed as the Sandman because he was still alive. So, they found Hall who was already dead.Â

Upon learning this, Dream banished Brute and Glob and returned Hector Hall to the dead where he belonged. Of course, Lyta, still six months pregnant, sees Dream “kill” her husband and swears to avenge his death. Not at all amused, Dream reminds her that Hall died two years ago. Dream continues to inform her that since her unborn child lived in the Dreaming for so long, it belongs to him and he leaves.

A year later, Dream visits Lyta’s newborn son before he ventures into Hell. When Lyta sees him, she screams at him to stay away from her son. Dream responds that he wanted to see the boy before his journey because he may not return for some time. She orders him to leave. As Dream is leaving, he recommends the name Daniel for her son, which she accepts.

Lyta and Daniel appear in a single issue story in which Daniel visits the Dreaming during one of his naps. They do not appear again until KO. In that storyline, Gaiman signifies on Lyta’s heritage and connects her to the Gorgons of Greek mythology.

Most of the first part of the Kindly Ones revolves around Lyta’s obsession over Daniel’s safety. She even asserts to her friend, Carla, “If anyone hurt Daniel, I’d kill them” (KO 1:7). On one of her first nights out since Daniel was born, Lyta fears for her son and rushes home. She finds Daniel missing. The babysitter, Rose Walker, had fallen asleep and only woke up when Lyta came home. Carla comes over to help Lyta and demands that the police come at once. Finally, Lt. Luke Pinkerton and his partner Gordy Fellowes take down information and tell her they’ll do everything they can. Later on, Pinkerton reveals himself to be Loki and his partner to be Puck or Robin Goodfellow and they have actually kidnapped Daniel.

While waiting to hear from the police, Lyta has a dream where she meets the Furies. They inform her that they are her grandmother. This reflects the changes Thomas made to Fury’s heritage. They tell her that she’s already met the ones that kidnapped her child and they are about to “put him in the fire.”

Lyta slowly begins to lose her grip with reality. She never sleeps and she wanders throughout the day in a daze. Then, Pinkerton and Fellowes tell her that Daniel’s body was found and it was burned. After seeing the photograph, Lyta, thinking Dream killed Daniel, swears revenge on Dream for her son’s death. Of course, Loki and Puck are the ones who put Daniel in the fire.

Lyta then walks across town in a hallucinatory daze seeking revenge. She asks many different people along the way where the Furies are. She finds Stheno and Euryale who look like the Spider Sisters, characters from DH. Because they miss their sister, Medusa, they want Lyta to eat the apple of life and become their sister. Lyta stays with Stheno and Euryale and slowly grows snakes in her hair like Medusa. Lyta fits as a new Medusa since she is mortal and Medusa is the only mortal of the three. Throughout her wanderings, Lyta appears under normal conditions and is merely hallucinating. However, Loki explains how Lyta is really communicating with gods. “There is a madness needed to touch the gods, yes, this is true. Few mortals possess it, the willingness to step away from the protection of sanity. To walk into the wild wood of madness…” (KO 5: 23). Lyta is capable of contacting the Furies because she deprived herself of her sanity.
 Thessaly or Larissa, a former lover of Dream, finds Lyta and takes care of her. During this segment of her hallucination, Lyta finally meets the Furies and tells them that Dream killed her son. The Furies tell her they can go after him as long as he killed family blood. Of course, he killed his son, Orpheus, and they can go after him. They just needed someone to instigate them.

After the Furies first attack the Dreaming, Dream goes to Lyta. He finds Lyta protected by Thessaly and she warns him to stay away. Dream, therefore, is unable to stave off their attack. Before the death of Dream, Matthew and the Corinthian are sent to find Daniel. They eventually catch up with Loki and Puck and find Daniel. Loki and Puck had not killed Daniel completely, only his mortal aspect. So, the Corinthian and Matthew bring Daniel to Dream.

Right before Dream dies, he talks with Daniel and Daniel becomes the new Dream King. Lyta, shaken up by the whole experience, does not understand anything. During Dream’s funeral, the new Dream forgives her and marks her so that no one can harm her for the death of Dream.

Gaiman signifies on the crossover or team up with Lyta Hall by taking a relatively new super hero and using her existence in the dream stream as a part of his own story of the Sandman. In all honesty, Lyta Hall and her unborn child would have died in obscurity if it were not for Gaiman. Gaiman continued the story of Lyta Hall and even gave her son a name and persona.Â

Also, Lyta Hall is the perfect character to use in The Sandman. First of all, she is the “granddaughter” of the Furies, the goddesses of Greek mythology that avenge familial blood murder. Dream kills his son, Orpheus, which brings the Furies upon him. Lyta has personal reasons to kill Dream because she feels he stole and killed her son. The fact that she married a third incarnation of the Sandman made her perfect to use.

Lyta’s super hero guise, the Fury, is never mentioned in The Sandman. Her name refers to the one thing that the Endless fears. As early as DH, Desire tried to manipulate Dream into killing family kin. In “Three Octobers and a November (F&R),” Desire swears to “bring the Kindly Ones on his blasted head” (F&R 41). Lyta Hall’s presence is an open secret to readers that know her past history. Gaiman uses that knowledge as an incredible tool of foreshadowing.

In the first storyline of The Sandman, Gaiman intertwines Dr. Destiny, a villain from the Justice League of America, with Dream’s journey to recapture items he has lost since his imprisonment. Doctor Destiny first appeared in Justice League of America #5. He tried to defeat the Justice League with an anti-gravity device that he used to impersonate Green Lantern. The Justice League defeated him and sent him to prison. In prison, he created the materioptikon, a device that made dreams a reality. He fought the Justice League many times over the years and always lost. As time passed on, Destiny became a shrivel shadow of his former self; he had no hair, his body was a waxy white and he was utterly mad. He then invented a ruby version of the materioptikon and fought the Justice League again. As of 1985, Destiny was a resident of Arkham Asylum, a mental institution for super-villains.

In Gaiman’s re-worked version of Dr. Destiny, he is the son of Ethel Cripps. Cripps had an affair with Ruthven Sykes, second-in-command of the Orders of Ancient Mysteries. He left in 1930 with Cripps and they took Dream’s helmet, pouch of sand, and ruby with them. Fry makes many invocations to kill Sykes, but nothing works because he traded Dream’s helmet for an amulet that gave him protection. In 1936, Cripps left Sykes and took the amulet with her. The illustration of Cripps leaving shows the ruby around her neck (P&N 1:17). Later in the storyline, she visits her son in Arkham Asylum. She dies and gives him the amulet that protected her.

When Gaiman began Dream’s quest for his helmet, pouch of sand, and ruby, he integrated several characters from DC history. Dream travels to Hell to find his helmet and runs into Etrigan, the Demon. For the pouch of sand, Dream asks John Constantine for help. Finally, for his ruby, Dream needs the assistance of the Justice League because the ruby is the materioptikon that Doctor Destiny used on the Justice League. After summoning Mr. Miracle for help, Dream finds out his ruby is in a storage warehouse. As he takes the ruby, it attacks him. Dream falls down and Doctor Destiny is there to take it.

Doctor Destiny escapes from Arkham Asylum to find his ruby and make the whole world insane. He nearly succeeds until Dream confronts him. Then, Dream takes Doctor Destiny to Arkham Asylum and lets the whole world sleep well that night.

Once again, Gaiman takes a canonical character from the DC canon and integrates his powers with the mythos of Gaiman’s new Sandman. Destiny tells a fellow inmate of Arkham, “I’m going to get the ruby back. The mat. The mat. The mat-eri-op-yi-kon. And then I’ll drive everybody in the whole wide world mad” (P&N 5:3). During his journey to find his ruby, Destiny kidnaps a woman to drive him there. Along the way, he tells her his past. “I did…foolish things. Things to gravity. To identity. I traded their faces with their enemies, I pretended I was one of their number” (P&N 5:13). Destiny refers to the many things he did while he fought the Justice League of America. Gaiman understands the power of a historical character in comic books and makes references from previous issues to unite his stories with the others.

Gaiman also changes Doctor Destiny’s name. In his initial appearance in the Sandman, Doctor Destiny goes by the name John Dee. Dee was a magician or magus in the Elizabethan age. Dee is infamous during his time because he was a self-proclaimed wizard. In fact, scholars believe that he is the model for Shakespeare’s Prospero in “The Tempest.” Doctor Destiny is a good reincarnation of John Dee because like Dee, Destiny is a dabbler into the occult and is known for his supernatural prowess.

Gaiman adds much to all of these characters that he signifies on. Berger told Gaiman to come up with an original version of the Sandman. He did so in a way that gave other forgotten or unused characters at DC a chance to continue their stories. Of course, Gaiman used the hosts of 1970’s horror titles that he read as a child. He also continued the story of Matt Cable, an important character from one of DC’s most successful titles in the 1980’s.  Lyta Hall, a new character of the 1980’s, had a new, tragic chapter added to her story. Finally, Gaiman used Doctor Destiny, a villain that manipulated dreams, and gave him the name John Dee. Gaiman did not have to include any of these characters, but he did. By adding these characters, Gaiman added and included himself in the history of Sandmen, DC’s horror titles, and the DC canon of characters.
The Sandmen

As mentioned in the chapter on the history of comic books, characters named the Sandman appear throughout its history. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman is just another to add to the list. However, Gaiman, aware of the history of the name, signifies on the DC characters that used that name in comic books.

The Golden Age version of The Sandman was Wesley Dodds. He first appeared in New York’s World’s Fair Comics #1 (April 1939). The date that the Sandman first appeared is significant because Superman was the only other costumed super hero around at the time (Batman first appeared in May 1939). In the origin of the Sandman, Dodds explains that the main reason he decides to fight crime is because he is tired of watching the sands of time pass by him. His costume consisted of a suit and trenchcoat with a gas mask and hat. Dodds was a lot like Batman, a wealthy playboy who uses his wealth to make gadgets to stop crime. The Sandman had his gas gun, which put criminals to sleep.

The Golden Age Sandman’s home series was Adventure Comics. He appeared there from 1939 to 1946. In 1941, the Sandman dropped his gothic costume for tights, the super hero norm. Also, he found a sidekick, Sandy. By the end of his tenure at Adventure Comics, the classic comic book team Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (Captain America and Boy Commandos) became the regular artists for his adventures. Also, the Sandman was a founding member of the Justice Society of America. So, the Golden Age Sandman, although not a known character of the Golden Age, is a primary participant in the beginning of comic books.

The Golden Age Sandman returned in the mid-1980’s with the revamped Justice Society in All-Star Squadron and appeared briefly in Crisis of Infinite Earths. The end of all the marginal Golden Age characters happened in The Last Days of the JSA (1986). In that issue, Sandman with the rest of the JSA went to Asgard and fought to prevent the destruction of the universe. This battle is in a “time loop” and will apparently last for eternity.

In May 1993, the Golden Age Sandman received his own title for the first time called Sandman Mystery Theatre. This, of course, was due to the success of Gaiman’s Sandman. It was written by Matt Wagner and has created its own following because of the film noir genre that Wagner uses on the 1930’s character. The two Sandmen met only once in a special written by Neil Gaiman called Sandman Midnight Theatre. Sandman Mystery Theatre ended in early 1999. Wesley Dodds appeared in the critically acclaimed Kingdom Come in 1998 and, recently, DC revived All-Star Comics and Star-Spangled Comics starring the Sandman as a special for the Justice Society of America.

Gaiman signifies on this character in the first storyline of The Sandman. In the initial chapter, Gaiman explains how the Magus Roderick Burgess captures Dream in 1914. With Dream imprisoned, some humans either cannot sleep again or cannot wake up again. After showing some of the humans that cannot wake up, Gaiman writes, “The universe knows someone is missing, and slowly it attempts to replace him” (P&N 1:18). Gaiman then shows Wesley Dodds and how his nightmares stopped ever since he started fighting crime as the Sandman. The idea to fight crime came from his dream “…about the man in the strange helmet….” (P&N 1:18). The man in the strange helmet is Dream. Dodds used a gas mask because of Dream’s helmet, which resembles a gas mask.

Except for Moore’s deconstruction of the Swamp Thing, no writer has changed a canonical character like this. Gaiman shifts the extremes and explains how his Sandman came before and actually influenced Wesley Dodds to become the Sandman through his dreams. In comic book continuity, it is Gaiman’s Sandman who is the most important.

Gaiman emphasized this point in Sandman Midnight Theatre. In this story, the Golden Age Sandman and Dream meet for the first and only time.   The story takes place in the early 1940’s. A good friend of Dodd’s killed himself over a letter he received from the Order of Ancient Mysteries, the organization run by Roderick Burgess. The Sandman finds the organization and tries to see why his friend killed himself after hearing from them. The letter was an invitation to a party at Fawney Rig, Roderick Burgess’ mansion. Apparently, Burgess’ organization was blackmailing hundreds of people with compromising photographs, but had promised to end the blackmailing after the party. The Sandman goes to England and looks around Fawney Rig to find any of the photographs or money. Along the way, he stumbles across Dream’s cage. In a swift but moving scene, Dream says to Dodds: “You. I know you. There is some of me in you. Poor creature. It cannot be easy for you. There is nothing you can do for me. Now, forget” (Sandman Midnight Theatre 52). Of course, the Sandman walks back up into the main part of the mansion and discovers who was blackmailing the people.

Through Dream’s condescending and curt attitude towards Dodds, Gaiman signifies on the original Sandman. First, Dream pays homage as well as condescends to Dodds when he says that part of Dream is in Dodds. Again, this reinforces the idea that the Golden Age Sandman could not have existed without Gaiman’s Sandman. Nonetheless, Gaiman pays homage to this character by the mere fact that he establishes a relationship with both characters.

Wesley Dodds also appeared in the epilogue of the Sandman, WK. Wesley gives a speech at Dream’s funeral and in it, once again, Gaiman signifies on Dodds’ dependence on Dream. “I’m not a young man anymore. I’m retired now. But I sometimes think that all the things in my life that have made it worth the living have been as a result of my connection with the dead gentleman” (WK 77). So near the end of his life, Dodds freely admits how his actions of a super hero are entirely because of the existence of Dream.

The Golden Age Sandman appeared in Gaiman’s Sandman only one other time as a reference. In SOM, Dream had the key to Hell and Odin offers an interesting gift to Dream for the key. Odin explains that Ragnarok is the only thing that scares him: Some years ago, it occurred to me that it is easier to fight something one knows about. I created a world–a notional dimension–and in it, I fashioned a tiny Ragnarok. In my world, the last battle is fought, day in, day out, forever. I have learned much from it. One thing that surprised me, though, was when my little world gained further warriors–ones I had not created. I do not know how they got there, nor why they fight, these little mortal heroes. But look, they war alongside my wee Aesir in the battle unending. And–this will interest you, Dream-Weaver,–one of them has some of your essence in him. He is a vessel for a fraction of your soul. Were you to grant me the Hell that was Lucifer’s as my domain, I would give him to you. (SOM 5:14-15)

Of course, the person with the essence of Dream is the Golden Age Sandman and the fight is what took place in The Last Days of the JSA. Gaiman signifies on The Last Days by making that issue an experiment of Odin’s. After the benefactor of the key was decided, Dream tells Odin that he regrets that he was forced to reject the offer. This implies that the gift from Odin was interesting to Dream.

Wesley Dodds is a significant character in the Dream mythos. If there never was a Golden Age Sandman, there would never have been a modern re-creation of him. Nonetheless, Gaiman signifies on that character by insisting the opposite. Also, Gaiman’s Sandman is far superior to the other Sandman. However, through Dream’s interest in Odin’s gift and Dream’s respect towards Dodds, Gaiman pays some homage to one of the original costumed super heroes.Â

Gaiman signifies on Sandmen in the proper order in his series. In the first storyline, he signifies on the Golden Age Sandman. In DH, Gaiman signifies on the Silver Age Sandman and his successor, Hector Hall. Gaiman’s signification on the Silver Age Sandman is more ridicule than respect.Â

Gaiman admits that it is the Silver Age Sandman that caught his attention (Comics Journal #163 70). After all, DC published this Sandman while Gaiman was young. Gaiman could have read some of the Silver Age Sandman’s six issue series, but he never mentioned it. Even though the Golden Age and Silver Age Sandman are nothing alike (one is a wealthy playboy who wants to fight crime and the other is a man trapped in the dream stream making sure dreams carry on), there is a connection between the two characters. As mentioned Joe Simon and Jack Kirby produced stories of the Golden Age Sandman in Adventure Comics up until his cancellation in 1946. In 1974, they collaborated together for the last time to produce the Silver Age Sandman. The Sandman #1 was supposed to be a one-shot special and no more. However, reader response encouraged DC to make The Sandman an on-going series.

The Silver Age Sandman was Sanford Garrett, a man who directed Project Sandman at UCLA. Garrett created the Dream Monitor, which enabled him to see dreams. Near the end of the project, Washington, D.C. summoned Garrett because the President was in a comatose sleep. The dream monitor was hooked up to an experimental machine that allowed someone to enter dreams. Garrett volunteered to do so and stopped the monster that imprisoned the President in his sleep. Unfortunately, Garrett was trapped in the dream stream and the government sent the dream monitor into the dream stream.  Garrett decided to help humanity in the dream stream and named himself the Sandman after the costumed super hero of the 1940’s. Garrett created a home, the Dream Dome, in the dream stream and his two sidekicks were two nightmares called Brute and Glob. Garrett could enter the waking world for one hour a day, though. Throughout the six issue series, Garrett befriended a young boy, Jed Paulsen, who lived with his grandfather, Ezra, in a lighthouse.

For years, this Sandman lay dormant until Gaiman mentioned his interest in a character that lives in dreams. Gaiman’s editor told Gaiman that she liked it, but to create a new character because Roy Thomas already had a plan to use the character. In May 1988, Thomas utilized the Sandman in his series Infinity, Inc. Lyta Hall’s boyfriend, the Silver Scarab, ended up dying after a spirit took over his body. In issue 50 of Infinity Inc., Hall returns as the new Sandman and explains how he became him after he died:

I remember drifting…Like an eternity…Then being plucked out of a black sky by hands I couldn’t see…And dragged across something they called the dream stream. So there was I–with my friends first thinking me turned into a monster, and then deader than a doornail–strapped into a machine with more wires and attachments than Michael Jackson has buckles–being force-fed info about some guy I’d never even heard of–by my rescuers–A couple of walking bad dreams who called themselves Brute and Glob

Then he describes who Sanford Garrett is and how he went insane in the dream stream and simply dies. Hall continues to explain his relationship with Garrett:
Sounds like quite a guy. And it’s a good thing I do like him–‘Cause when the machine spits me out, I am him! What I mean– his body’s been altered to receive my–well, my soul, I guess–and it’s now identical to my Hec Hall body. (Infinity, Inc. #50 13-14)
Hall and Lyta reunite their love and even though Hector can only spend one hour a day in the waking world, Lyta agrees to marry him and they spend their lives in the Dream Dome.

In DH, Gaiman introduces Brute and Glob in a different light. While Dream rebuilds his kingdom since his imprisonment, Lucien the Librarian reports any creatures missing from the Dreaming. Brute and Glob, according to Lucien, “vanished a few decades ago” (DH 3:13). At the same time, Rose Walker, a major character of DH, searches for her missing brother, Jed. Jed stayed with his father, Burt Paulsen, after he divorced his mother Miranda Walker. After Burt’s death, Jed stayed with Ezra Paulsen, their grandfather in a lighthouse. Ezra died, however, in 1985. Of course, this is the same Ezra and Jed from the Silver Age Sandman series.

Rose finds out that Jed is under the custody of their father’s cousin, Clarice, and her husband, Barnaby. The death of Ezra and Clarice’s adoption of Jed took place in Sandman #5-6. The modern Clarice and Barnaby treat Jed brutally. They lock him in the basement with no furniture or facilities. To Barnaby and Clarice, Jed is an investment for the money they receive to take care of him. When Jed sleeps, he plays with the Sandman and his wife Lyta Hall. Brute and Glob are there to keep things interesting. When Dream realizes that Brute and Glob created a fake dreamworld and appointed their own Dream King (first Garrett and then Hall), he is far from pleased. When Dream “attacks,” Hall thinks that Dream is a nightmare. Dream, irritated by Hall, says, “Little ghost. Little ghost, get out of my way” (DH 5:13). Hall keeps on throwing his dream arsenal at him, but nothing happens. Finally, Dream asks Hall who he is. Hall responds, “I am the Sandman, Guardian of the dreams of men, protector against wicked nightmares, Lord of the Dream Dome, and friend of children everywhere” (DH 5:17)! Gaiman represents Hector Hall just like Garrett Sanford in terms of the quixotic dialogue that he says. Dream laughs at Hall’s foolishness and brings everyone out of Jed’s head. He banishes Brute and Glob, “reminds” Hector Hall that he is dead and informs Lyta Hall that the unborn child in her womb belongs to him since he lived in the Dreaming so long.

Gaiman signifies on the Silver Age Sandman by continuing the story that Roy Thomas added to. Like Garrett, Hall only lived in a fake Dream Stream that Brute and Glob created because of Dream’s absence. Dream’s laughter at Hall when Hall calls himself the Sandman and the way Dream referred to Hall as “little ghost” is Gaiman signifying on how this version of the Sandman is ridiculous. The Golden Age Sandman had a fraction of Dream within him, but the second Sandman is only something to be laughed at.

Even though Karen Berger told Gaiman to create a new Sandman, which he did, Gaiman did not create a schism between the past two (or three) Sandmen. After all, the previous creators of the Silver Age did not create such a schism when Sanford Garrett named himself the Sandman after the 1940’s Sandman. Gaiman saw his Sandman as a part of the lineage of Sandmen in DC history.
Alan Moore

Alan Moore influenced Gaiman more than any other comic book writer. In the last issue of The Sandman, Gaiman singles out Moore as a large influence on the comic book medium. “Without [Alan Moore] there certainly wouldn’t have been Sandman, the Vertigo imprint, and I’d probably still be a frustrated journalist” (Sandman #75). Also, Gaiman believes that the “British Invasion” of comic book writers in the late eighties was due to Moore’s success. “…We are to some extent in the wake of Alan [Moore]: we are the Tremeloes and the Derek and the Dominos to his Rolling Stones” (Comics Journal #155 65). A writer of this magnitude cannot be ignored. Gaiman does so by signifying on Moore’s work at DC throughout The Sandman.

Gaiman signifies on John Constantine, Moore’s most successful original character for DC. Constantine, a cold-hearted practitioner in magic and the black arts, first appeared in Moore’s run in Swamp Thing (1984). Constantine helped Swamp Thing learn his true nature in terms of his lineage during the “American Gothic” storyline (issues 39-50). Constantine shows Swamp Thing that he is the most recent of a long lineage of plant elementals. Moore’s character, therefore, provided the true history of Swamp Thing; a history that the creators of Swamp Thing never considered. After “American Gothic,” Constantine appeared non-regularly in Swamp Thing. He became quite popular and DC began Constantine’s own series, Hellblazer by Jamie Delano and John Ridgeway. By the time Hellblazer began, Moore had left DC to pursue independent projects.

Hellblazer is the longest running series in Vertigo and Constantine became the quintessential Vertigo character. Over the years, many writers wrote about the pessimistic black magician who still cares about humanity. Subsequently, myths surrounding Constantine evolved over the past decade. One aspect that writers added to the Constantine myth is that he is the most recent in a strong lineage of dabblers in the occult. Also, every Constantine that engages in black arts usually brings destruction upon him or herself and loved ones.

Gaiman first used Constantine in Dream’s search for his pouch of sand. The Fates tell Dream that John Constantine was the last to purchase his pouch. So, Dream goes to Constantine and throughout the issue Gaiman makes references to the Constantine mythos. First of all, Constantine remarks that he should “introduce [Dream] to the big green bloke…” (P&N 3:9). He is referring to Swamp Thing. Also, while Constantine searches for the pouch, he checks files labeled Brujeria, Plant Elemental, Crisis, American Gothic, Liverpool, and Tibet. These are references to experiences he had in Swamp Thing and Hellblazer. In the end, Constantine asks Dream if he could help with a recurring nightmare about Newcastle. Newcastle is a reference to an exorcism that Constantine botched up and never forgave himself. Finally, Constantine mentions how he used to play with a band called Mucous Membrane. All of these things are specific references to his past in other series. Gaiman shows how he knows Constantine and his background, which creates a connection to The Sandman and Hellblazer.  Gaiman becomes a part of the Constantine tradition.

Gaiman also adds to the Constantine lineage by introducing Lady Johanna Constantine in DH. In that collection, Dream meets with a mortal, Hob Gadling, once every century. Johanna Constantine thinks that they are the Devil and the Wandering Jew and tries to kidnap them in order to gain knowledge. Dream effortlessly fends her off and leaves.

A century later, Dream tells Gadling that he summoned her for a task: to bring the head of Orpheus out of Revolutionary France. The head of Orpheus is dangerous to the new republic because Robespierre, the leader, wants to eradicate all objects of superstition in order to create a new religion of reason. Constantine succeeds in leaving France with Orpheus and gives him to the priests of Naxos who hide and protect him.

Gaiman signifies on Moore’s creation, John Constantine, by adding onto his rich history of ancestors. Gaiman could have made the rescuer of Orpheus a new, original character, but he chose to create an ancestor of John Constantine, Moore’s only original creation in DC continuity that is still around.

Gaiman also signifies on the smiley face button from Moore’s Watchmen, one of the most famous images in comic book history.  The image constitutes of a smiley face button with a splatter of blood in the left-hand corner. It looks like the smiley face had a head wound. In Death: The High Cost of Living, Death becomes human one day in every century. In 1993, she spends her one mortal day as Didi. Didi helps a young man contemplating suicide learn the value of life. For most of the day that she is mortal, she walks around with a smiley face button on her jacket.

The smiley button image on her jacket functions in two ways. First, it is a reinforcement of Death’s or Didi’s perky attitude towards life. Gaiman’s Death is popular because she is a woman and she has an optimistic view on life. This is quite different from the traditional Grim Reaper image of death. Gaiman’s Death is so optimistic that she was able to bring her cold, practical brother, Dream, out of his depression in P&N.

Second, as a comic book writer, Gaiman understands the importance that the smiley face button had on the comic book medium. The image of a smiley button with a splatter of blood in the upper left-hand corner represents the pessimism towards the world that Moore reflected.

Gaiman uses this image and puts it on Didi. She goes about her day and dies after 24 hours with the smiley face button. Death walking around with a smiley face button without a splatter of blood makes a statement about life in general. The importance of life and how even Death has a positive outlook on life is the theme of The High Cost of Living. Gaiman, then, gives an added dimension to the smiley face image. It no longer represents pessimism in the 1980’s, but optimism in the 1990’s.

In DH of The Sandman, Gaiman shows two specific references to Moore’s Watchmen. In the third panel on the first page of chapter 5, there is an image of the bloodstained smiley face. Also, in panels 4-5 on page 12, the phrase “Who watches the Watchmen?” is spray-painted on a wall in the background. Protesters of super heroes spray-painted that phrase in Watchmen.Â

In the last issue of The Sandman, Gaiman gives the origin of a well-known English rhyme. While Shakespeare is writing “The Tempest,” Ben Jonson visits him. They take a walk and they see some children burning a likeness of Guy Fawkes. Jonson thinks England will forget the fifth of November, the date that Guy Fawkes tried to bomb Parliament. Shakespeare recommends that they create a rhyme so that England will never forget the event. Shakespeare starts the rhyme and Jonson finishes it:
Shakespeare: “Remember, remember, the fifth of November, Gunpowder, treason and plot…” There: Ben, can you complete the doggerel?
Jonson: Um. Let me see. Hmm. No, I have it. “I see no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.” There.
Shakespeare: It’ll serve. There: Now, we’ll teach it to that urchin, and he’ll teach it to his friends, and it’ll last a hundred years…(WK 161)
The significance of Shakespeare and Jonson creating this rhyme is that Moore used it as a source for V For Vendetta, which he finished with DC Comics in 1988.

The main character, V, a subversive anarchist, rebels against a fascist government in England in 1997.  To hide his appearance, V wears a Guy Fawkes mask throughout the series. In the first chapter, V plants a bomb and destroys Parliament on November 5, 1997. That same night he rescues a young girl, Evey, from a gang of police thugs. After V saves her, he repeats the rhyme to her and explains that he planted the bomb. Needless to say, Moore creates a modern Guy Fawkes in V.

In the same manner as the Golden Age Sandman, Gaiman signifies on V by suggesting in his fiction that an act that he represents helped cause V’s existence. If Shakespeare and Jonson had never made up the rhyme about Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes would have been forgotten, and V would never have been a modern Guy Fawkes who rebels against a tyrannical England.

The images, rhymes, and characters that Gaiman used were not inadvertent. Gaiman sent a message that said Moore’s work had a lasting effect on himself and the comic book medium. Gaiman reminds his audience about Moore’s major works with DC through these references. When a reader realizes that Matthew the Raven appeared in Swamp Thing, he or she will want to know about the origins of the character. Moore’s work at DC tends to be forgotten despite how popular they were. Gaiman’s little references help remind his audience that Alan Moore is a writer whose contributions to comic books should not be forgotten. These connections to both writers add a new depth to The Sandman.
Other Comic Book Signifying

Gaiman signifies on many different comic book characters throughout The Sandman. Besides characters already mentioned, Gaiman takes several other characters from the DC canon of characters and uses them within the context of The Sandman. Most are unknown characters lost in obscurity. Gaiman explains how he enjoys using unknown characters. “Every few years I will take a completely forgotten character of the kind that people laugh about…I do them partly as an experiment to see how they work, what works about them, and whether you can use these strange vehicles to say anything” (Comics Journal #169 75-76). They function as minor characters as a part of the series. Gaiman also uses other characters in cameo roles to add depth and richness to The Sandman.

One of the best examples of Gaiman’s signifying on a comic book character is his utilization of The Prez. The Prez is Prez Rickard, a character from the Experimental Period of comic books. As a teenager, Prez decided to fix all the clocks of his hometown, Steadfast, because they are all set on different times. He does so and becomes a news sensation. Boss Smiley, a corrupt politician and the Mayor of Central City, hears about Prez and wants to use him as a puppet politician. Boss Smiley convinces Prez to run for Senator. Boss Smiley assumes that Prez will do anything he tells him to, but Prez has integrity and relinquishes Boss Smiley’s support. Prez wins the election and eventually becomes the President of the United States.

The Prez lasted four issues (1973-74) and Prez also appeared in an issue of Supergirl (1974). Otherwise the Prez has not appeared in much else. After all, the first issue exclaimed, “This is the story of the most powerful man on earth. He is not super hero, but a teenager who becomes the President of the United States” (Prez #1 2, emphasis mine).   Because of this, it is hard for the Prez to appear anywhere else except in a series of his own. He is a limited character in a medium overrun with super heroes.

In 1993, Gaiman displayed his brilliancy at reviving old characters from the past with a re-telling of the Prez’s story. Brant Tucker, the main character of WE, finds himself in an inn where travelers who are caught in a storm pass the time telling stories until the storm blows over. Tucker runs into an oriental man in the inn who tells him the story of Prez Rickard. According to the oriental man, there are many Americas in different dimensions. The oriental man has been searching for Prez Rickard for quite some time. As he puts it, he goes to different Americas searching for Prez. Of course, Tucker and most of the readers had never heard of Prez Rickard because he was never President in Tucker’s America. The oriental man explains to Tucker who Prez is and why he is so special.

The oriental man’s story begins with Prez’s birth. Prez’s mother “understood that names have power” and named him Prez, “short for President” (WE 93). The rest of the story by Gaiman resembles Prez #1 by Joe Simon, but Gaiman adds much to the legend of Prez Rickard. Gaiman keeps the legend that Prez fixed all the clocks in Steadfast and that Boss Smiley came to offer Prez a life in politics. As in The Prez, Prez refuses Boss Smiley’s offer.

As Gaiman mentioned he intended to make a synoptic gospel. In a personal interview, Gaiman explained how the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 helped inspire him for his rendition of the Prez. “And I thought, you know these people don’t want a politician, they don’t want a president, they want God. They just want Jesus. Somebody to come down from the sky and make everything okay for them. So I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to write an account of a presidential election as a synoptic gospel – a presidency as a synoptic gospel. And the Prez seemed the perfect vehicle to do that” (Appendix I). Gaiman takes material from the original series and makes Prez into a Christ-like figure.

In the opening panel of the story, a star appears in the sky after Prez’s birth. This is just like the Star of Bethlehem that announced the coming of Christ. As a teenager, Prez’s mother lost Prez in town. “She found him some hours later, in the town hall, talking with the city leaders about civics, answering their questions with a depth and perspicacity that amazed his elders” (WE 94). This is exactly how Mary lost Jesus of Nazareth and found him talking with his elders about religious matters (Luke 2:42-52). Of course, in the Prez, he discusses politics with his elders, not issues of faith.
Prez is tempted by Boss Smiley just as Jesus was by the devil (Luke 4:1-13 and Matthew 4:1-11). Boss Smiley takes Prez “to a high place. Boss Smiley showed him all of America, from Disneyland to Coney Island, from the concrete mountains of Manhattan to the golf courses of Miami” (WE 95). Boss Smiley then asks Prez if he wants to be President. Prez answers yes and Boss Smiley says it will be done, but Prez owes him by remembering who gave him success. Prez then refuses him. “I will be President, sir. But I will do it in my own way, and in my own time. No, thank you, Boss Smiley” (WE 96). Boss Smiley shows him America and offers him the Presidency. Prez, like Jesus, refuses the offer.

On the day that Prez Rickard becomes President, many miraculous things happen.
A baby was born to a couple in New Haven, CT., with a birthmark in the shape of the USA on her back, lacking only Hawaii and Alaska. During a 42nd street screening of Hot Teenage Love Sluts, the climatic sex scene was interrupted by the couple replacing their clothes and performing highlights from Guys and Dolls to an outraged audience. In Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, every slot machine in the building bestowed its jackpot simultaneously. In addition, many blind people regained their sight, deaf people regained their hearing and an uncountable number of organic or hysterical illnesses, some of a terminal nature, spontaneously vanished, never to return. (WE 99)
Miracles all over America predict Prez’s election. These miracles give Prez a savior or Christ-like status. Prez, of course, has an unprecedented record as President. He makes peace in the Middle East, reduces the federal deficit, the national debt, etc. Throughout this, Prez does not know who Boss Smiley is. The next time they meet, Boss Smiley tells Prez that he doesn’t exist and disappears. In Prez’s second term, Prez marries his high school sweetheart. She is inadvertently shot during an assassination attempt on the Prez. After that, Prez becomes more subdued and finishes his term. Nonetheless, Prez has a godlike term as President.

Just as Prez represents a Christ-like figure, Boss Smiley represents the devil. Boss Smiley, in the original series, is an actual politician that runs Central City. Here, however, Boss Smiley was “the prince of the world…Most people thought him a dream, or a ghost, but they carried his likeness on them for luck or for happiness” (WE 94-95). The phrase prince of the world was a title for the devil. Just like the devil, Boss Smiley tempts Prez with the whole world as long as Prez worships him. After Prez’s wife’s death, Boss Smiley appears on Prez’s TV. He offers Prez his wife as long as Prez serves him. Prez again denies him.

After Prez’s term in office, Gaiman makes the Prez a true American myth. Prez’s successor wanted Prez as an advisor, but Prez refused. Soon after that, Prez left, never to be heard of again. “Prez sightings became as frequent as Elvis sightings” (WE 107). There were many theories of his death, but nothing was confirmed.Â

The oriental man pauses in his story and says the rest of his story is hearsay. The following scene involves Death and Prez. Death leads Prez to his afterlife, which is the realm of Boss Smiley, and Boss Smiley wants Prez to be at his right hand. Death, worried about Prez, tells Dream about his situation. After talking to Boss Smiley, Prez realizes there are more Americas out there. Prez would rather wander around other Americas, but Boss Smiley does not allow him. Then, Dream comes and shows Prez where to go in order to find other Americas. Dream identifies himself as the Prince of Stories, which puts Prez under his jurisdiction. Boss Smiley, inadvertently, explains why Prez is under Dream’s jurisdiction. “You’re becoming a mythical figure, Prez. You’re already a symbol of a more innocent time” (WE 111). Again Dream, as the Prince of Stories, reigns over Prez and his mythological status. Prez becomes an American myth.

Gaiman signifies on the Prez, this unknown 1970’s comic book figure, by modernizing and continuing his story. Gaiman gives the Prez Christ-like characteristics and a mythical status in American folklore. Beyond that, Gaiman also appropriates the Prez into his own saga of the Endless. Once again, a character, this time marginal, becomes a part of the Sandman mythos.

The last panel of page 99 in WE shows Prez with some of his followers in a car during a parade with a smiley button bouncing off the hood of the car. The exact same image was on the cover of Prez #1. Again, the use of that image reinforces the fact that the Prez from the 1970’s is the same in 1994, but with some minor adjustments in Gaiman’s style.

Gaiman also adds to the career of Mr. Miracle, another character from the 1970’s. Mr. Miracle, otherwise known as Scott Free, however, is a mainstream example of Gaiman’s signification. He starred in the third title of Jack Kirby’s “Fourth World,” which consisted of The New Gods, The Forever People, and Mr. Miracle. All of these titles came out in early 1971. Jack Kirby, the most prolific artist in the comic book medium, created, wrote and illustrated all of these titles. The “Fourth World” fits into the Experimental Period because Kirby created a whole new spectrum of characters. In an interview, Gaiman explained how he enjoyed Kirby’s “Fourth World” over his previous work (Comics Journal #155 72).

Mr. Miracle was the longest running “Fourth World” title and ended in 1974 with Free’s marriage to Big Barda, another Apokalips refugee. In 1977, DC revived Mr. Miracle along with another New Gods without Kirby. This chapter of Mr. Miracle only lasted until 1978. In 1986, DC produced Legends, another major crossover event like Crisis on Infinite Earths. In the last issue of Legends, the super heroes involved created the new Justice League (minus “of America”). Mr. Miracle was a founding member of this new Justice League. In issue #7, Justice League changed to Justice League International because the United Nations sanctioned this new Justice League and they now had embassies throughout the world. By 1989, Justice League International split up into two series; Justice League America and Justice League Europe. Mr. Miracle stayed as a member of Justice League America. Also, from 1989 to 1991, DC published another Mr. Miracle series.

Kirby explained that the New Gods replaced the Old Gods (Greek and Roman) after they destroyed themselves. The New Gods lived on either New Genesis or Apokalips. New Genesis was a planet full of love and light and Apokalips was a planet filled with hatred and darkness. One day, Darkseid, the prince of Apokalips, encouraged his uncle, Steppenwolf, to go hunting. They found Izaya, the prince of New Genesis, and Avia, his wife. Steppenwolf attacks Izaya and during the battle inadvertently kills Avia. Darkseid thinks he has killed Izaya, but Izaya survives and war begins between the two planets.

Overwhelmed by the carnage that the war brought to both planets, Izaya rescinds his weapons of war and finds the Source. The Source is a wall of energy that flows through the universe and helps Izaya, now Highfather, to bring peace throughout the universe. Highfather and Darkseid make a pact to exchange their sons to end the war. Darkseid sends his son, Orion, to New Genesis and Highfather sends his unnamed son to Apokalips. Darkseid then sends Highfather’s son to Granny Goodness’ orphanage, which creates cold, impersonal warriors. Darkseid feels he won either way because he plans to make Highfather’s son one of his own or the boy’s escape from Apokalips will break the treaty and begin the war again. As a joke and to encourage Highfather’s son to flee Apokalips, Granny Goodness names Highfather’s son Scott Free (New Gods #7).

In Mr. Miracle #9, Kirby explains how Scott Free left Apokalips. As a young aerotrooper for Darkseid’s elite, Scott Free elicited the help of Himon, a rebel in Apokalips who tries to give hope to the people of Apokalips. He also teaches people how to build a mother box, a box whose energy comes from the Source and provides protection for its owner. Himon also taught Scott Free tricks of an escape artist. Darkseid caught some of Himon’s followers and told Willik, a guard, to kill them as a message to others that thought about betraying Darkseid. The followers who were caught were friends of Free and they included Kreetin, Zep, Weldun, Bravo and Auralie, the only female follower of Himon.
After Willik showed Scott Free the dead followers of Himon, Free started to attack Willik, but stopped. He stopped and left because he saw Himon plant a bomb on Willik. Once they were safely away from an attack, Himon explains to Scott Free why Darkseid hates him so much. “I’m a dreamer! A visionary! A ‘think-tank’ who pioneered the calculating mother box and linked it with the Source!…I dream” (Mr. Miracle #9 21)! Himon then encourages Scott Free to leave Apokalips. These words only confuse Free.

Then, the Para-Demons, Darkseid’s personal guards, attack Free. While evading the Para-demons, Free decides to escape. In an area of mass gravity atoms, Scott Free crawls toward a Boom Tube set up by Himon that will send him away from Apokalips. Before he goes, Darkseid appears and offers Free to stay and complete his training as a warrior. Finally, Free jumps into the Boom Tube and says, “LET ME BE SCOTT FREE–AND FIND MYSELF” (Mr. Miracle #9 26). With Free gone, the treaty was over and war began again. Scott Free found himself on Earth and became Mr. Miracle, the best escape artist ever. Along the way he fought Darkseid’s warriors and became a super hero. As mentioned, he had a semi-prolific career at DC, but has recently been removed from any monthly comic book.

In DH, Dream asks the Three Witches about his ruby that is lost. They tell him, “Ask the League of Justice about its present whereabouts” (P&N 2:21). So, Dream tries to find this League of Justice and finds the JLI. He enters the JLI’s embassy through one of Scott Free’s dreams (P&N 5:5-8). Gaiman utilizes images and characters from “Himon” into Scott Free’s dream which shows its authenticity. The people in his dream keep asking him, “What is your name?” He answers, “Scott Free,” but that isn’t the real answer. Actually, he is a man without a name, but writers of Mr. Miracle did not discuss this point. This man’s only name, Scott Free, was a joke; he has no name. After Mr. Miracle and the Martian Manhunter tell Dream where he might find his ruby, Dream thanks them and says to Mr. Miracle, “I hope you find your name Scott Free, Goodnight” (P&N 5:15).

Gaiman shows a new level of Mr. Miracle through this dream. Gaiman investigates the nightmares that Scott Free must have had over the years about his time on Apokalips. Like the Prez, Gaiman adds onto the history of the character by addressing the importance of Scott Free not having a name. After all, the key to his escape in the dream is by finding out his real name. Without his real name, there is only death. Gaiman adds to Mr. Miracle’s history with this new dimension of an already rich mythos.

“Facade” from DrC presented the end of Element Girl, one of DC’s marginal characters from the Silver Age. Element Girl first appeared in Metamorpho (1967). Metamorpho first appeared in The Brave and the Bold (1964) where Rex Mason stumbled onto a meteorite in a pyramid that gave him the power to be any element from the human body. He received his own series in 1965. In issue #10, Urania Blackwell, a secret agent who was in love with Mason became Element Girl in order to fight crime alongside Mason. Metamorpho asks Blackwell how she received the same powers. “The same way you did, Element Man! I entered that same pyramid in the canyons of the Upper Nile, and exposed myself to the same meteorite’s power” (Metamorpho #10 4).

Metamorpho ended with issue 17. Element Girl appeared in most of the issues after her first appearance. Unlike today, most titles ended without a grand finale ending. Therefore, Element Girl never had an ending. Metamorpho appeared later in other comic books such as The Outsiders, but without Element Girl.

“Facade” is a prime example of Gaiman signifying on a character to continue, or in this case to end, the story of a character. Blackwell is a retired agent for the government and she sits in her apartment doing nothing. She is frightened to go outside because she can’t make herself look normal anymore. She only talks to an agent by the name of Mulligan who she’s never met. In Gaiman’s usual style, there is a dream sequence that shows her origin and her inner turmoil (DrC 4:6-7). Notice in the sequence, Blackwell says that her origin did not happen like it is portrayed in the dream, which is true, because she exposed herself to a meteorite. By integrating Ra into her origin, Gaiman merges comic book stories with mythology. Later in the issue, Death drops by to offer Blackwell some advice and they talk about life and death. In the end, Death tells Blackwell to talk to Ra and see if he can do something about it. Of course, Ra offers her death and the story (and Blackwell’s life) ends.

Gaiman shows credibility by mentioning characters from the original series. While talking to Blackwell, Death mentions the death of Algon, another metamorphae that died in Metamorpho. This is an allusion to an incident that happened in the original Metamorpho series. This allusion establishes a link between the original issues and Gaiman’s issue.Â

Gaiman signifies on Element Girl by incorporating Egyptian mythology and his own mythology into an old DC super hero. As mentioned, Death recalls an incident that only Element Girl and Metamorpho saw; however, if Death is immortal and is at every death, then she certainly saw that event. Also, the incorporation of Ra into the origin of Element Girl makes it a relevant story in The Sandman. This issue is a classic example of how Gaiman merges comic book mythology with other myths.
In AGOY, Gaiman appropriates Bizarro, another canonical character from the 1960’s era of the Silver Age. Bizarro is an imperfect copy of Superman. “His flesh is white, the color of chalk, and his face appears faceted, as though it had been chiseled out of rock. His black hair is matted and unkempt. He is well meaning but witless, super powerful but pathetic. His speech is illiterate and ungrammatical” (Fleisher 17). Bizarro first appeared in Superboy #68 (1958). Professor Dalton created a Duplicator Ray to create more raw materials for the world. However, the Duplicator Ray only made imperfect copies. After showing Superboy a test, Professor Dalton realized it was a failure. While Superboy was leaving, Professor Dalton tripped and inadvertently struck Superboy with the ray. The result was Bizarro. Since Superboy remarked that the thing looked bizarre, the creature dubbed himself Bizarro. Bizarro merely wanted to be accepted by society, but his grotesque features scared people away. In the end, Superboy destroyed this lifeless matter and ended its misery.

Years later as Superman (but published a year later), Bizarro came back as an imperfect copy of Superman. Lex Luthor, Superman’s nemesis, builds another Duplicator ray based on Professor Dalton’s plans. His intent, however, is to destroy Superman with the creature. Luthor tricks Superman and strikes him with the ray. Again, the end result was Bizarro. Despite Luthor’s plans, Bizarro ignores Luthor’s commands and Superman sends Luthor to jail.
Over time, more and more Bizarro versions appeared; Lois Lane-Bizarro, Batman-Bizarro, Jimmy Olsen-Bizarro, etc. Eventually, all the Bizarros had their own planet, Htrae (Earth spelled backwards), a square planet that looked like Earth. The original Bizarro wore a plate on his chest which had, “Bizarro #1.” Every first type of a Bizarro had the same type of plate. So, Bizarros filled Htrae and every so often Superman found himself in an adventure with Bizarro.

Gaiman appropriates Bizarro within the context of Wanda, a transvestite friend of Barbie in AGOY. Wanda and Barbie talk about dreams and Wanda explains a dream she had as a child:
Wanda: I once dreamed I was making out with Weirdzo Lila Lake. You remember the Weirdzos?
Barbie:Â Wanda, what are you talking about?
Wanda: The Weirdzos, from the old Hyperman comics. They lived on this square planet somewhere in outer space, and they did everything backwards. “Us do opposite of Earth things in Weirdzo world.” They had these white faces, like they were made of crystal or something, and, like, were all Hyperman or his friends. And all the women were Lila Lake…I wanted to be to be a Weirdzo, when I grew up. Weirdzo Alvin.
Barbie: Alvin? That’s your real name?
Wanda: Wanda’s my real name, Barbie-Baby. Alvin’s just the name I was born with. (AGOY 1:16-17)
Obviously, Gaiman uses Bizarro and Superman as a basis for Weirdzo and Hyperman. Bizarros always talked in ungrammatical sentences just as Wanda demonstrated. They had crystal, white faces, lived on a square planet and all the women were Lois Lane.Â

Later, Wanda dreams about the Weirdzos and how he is not ready to have a surgery and fully become a woman (AGOY 2:12-13). Gaiman appropriates the Bizarro/Weirdzo character as representative of transvestites.

At the end of AGOY, Wanda dies during a terrible storm that tears apart Wanda’s and Barbie’s apartment building. Barbie wakes up from her “dream,” and finds Wanda dead. The last chapter acts as the climax and an epilogue. Barbie gets ready to see Alvin’s/Wanda’s aunt for Alvin’s/Wanda’s funeral in his hometown in Kansas. As she waits, she slowly remembers how her story ended in the Dreaming.

Barbie’s and Alvin’s/Wanda’s Aunt Dora meet at a diner and talk about Alvin’s/Wanda’s death. During their conversation, Dora asks Barbie, “You aren’t some kind of weirdo, are you girl” (AGOY 6:11, emphasis mine)? During the same conversation, their waitress asks Barbie, “Hey. You a friend of Alvin? The Mann boy?”
“I was at high school with him. Weird kid. Still, we were all sorry to hear.”
“Thanks.” (AGOY 6:11, emphasis mine)
Gaiman associates the word “weird” with transvestite through the language of the aunt and the waitress. Gaiman finalizes how this character from the 1960’s represents transvestitism.

After Alvin/Wanda’s funeral, Barbie gives a farewell speech to Alvin/Wanda. Barbie then takes out an 80 Page Giant of Hyperman featuring tales from the Weirdzo world and throws it into her grave (AGOY 6:20). This is an exact duplicate of Superman #202, which was an “80-page Giant” of tales of the Bizarro world. 80 Page Giants were frequent special comic books from the 1960’s, which featured reprints of a similar theme. Finally, she takes Alvin’s/Wanda’s favorite lipstick and crosses out Alvin on her tombstone and writes Wanda. Barbie has one last dream about Wanda on a bus ride home. In the dream, she sees Wanda as a woman and then Death comes over and they wave to Barbie.

Gaiman’s appropriation of Bizarro as a symbol of transvestitism is his way of making a strong statement about a canonical character. After all, Bizarro always functioned as the “other.” He was something that did not belong within the nuclear society of the 1950’s-1960’s. Alvin, obviously, identified with Bizarro’s or Weirdzo’s otherness because of the way he saw himself. This signification of Bizarro adds another level to what the character can represent, similar to how Anne Rice appropriates vampires as homosexuals.
Most of the characters that Gaiman signifies on came from the Experimental Period of the Silver Age.

Gaiman takes old characters and rewrites in a new and improved way. “I also know that I’m very good at what Alan Moore was very good at doing: taking obscure, forgotten, genuinely interesting characters and finding something interesting about them, creating an interesting story which makes everybody go, ‘Oh, we never realized it was so interesting'” (Comics Journal #169 96)! Gaiman does exactly that to all of these characters. He takes a forgotten character and gives a new spin to its life.

Finally, Gaiman signifies on Cerebus, a contemporary series that parodied Dream and the rest of the Endless. Cerebus is a fantasy series about Cerebus, an aardvark who is the most powerful swordsman in all the land. Cerebus is an obvious parody of Conan the Barbarian which is the most famous fantasy title in comic book history. Dave Sim, the creator, writer, and illustrator for the series, parodied more than Conan as time went on. Sim always portrayed contemporary parodies though Artemis, a dull-witted, but quite powerful person who always got in Cerebus’ way. Through Artemis, Sim parodied Wolverine, Spider-Man, the Punisher, etc. Every character that Sim parodied was the most popular character at the time. Finally, Artemis became Swoon, the god of Dreams. Swoon talked, dressed, and acted just like Dream. Artemis made the Albino dress up as Swoon’s sister, Snuff, a parody of Death. Sim names this family the Clueless. Sim mentions other members of the Clueless, Sleaze (for Desire), Sulk (for Despair), Spacey (for Delirium), and Kay Sarah Sarah (for Destiny). These parodies appeared in Women and Reads, volumes 8 and 9, respectively, of Cerebus. Swoon first appeared in the November 1992 issue of Cerebus. In an interview, Gaiman explained his admiration of Sim’s parody. “[Sim] actually faxed me a couple pages [of the parody] on the way to the airport. I looked at it, and my jaw dropped. I felt like a small bug waving its legs very slowly on the end of a needle. Even from the few pages I’ve seen, it was like, ‘Oh, God, he can do me'” (Comics Journal #155 72). Gaiman responds to these parodies in kind in the August 1993 issue of The Sandman by parodying Sim’s main character, Cerebus.

As mentioned, Cerebus is a parody of Conan the Barbarian. However, Sim did not limit the series to merely a parody. Sim constructed a complex fantasy world in which he shows the weaknesses and ludicrousness of politics. In volume 2, High Society, Cerebus becomes Prime Minister of Iest, a large and powerful country. In the following two-volume Church and State, Cerebus becomes the Pope as well.

In Cluracan’s story in WE, Titania sends Cluracan to Aurelia to make sure an alliance does not occur. As Cluracan gets there, he meets Carys XXXV, Lord of Aurelia who is also Innocent XI, Psychopomp of the Aurelian Church. Cluracan inadvertently warns Carys of his death. Carys takes it as a threat and sends him to prison. Cluracan escapes with the help of Nuala and Dream. He then spreads rumors about Carys and a revolt ensues. In the end, Cluracan acts as Carys’ aid and one of the dead psychopomp’s attacks Carys and kills him.

Like Cerebus, Carys threatens his people with death and damnation if they do not pay him. During Church and State, Cerebus said that Tarim (God) told Cerebus that the people must give all their gold to Cerebus or Tarim will destroy the world (Church and State V.1 289-292). In the same manner, Carys taxes his people with the threat of damnation if they do not abide by him. Also, “Carys” sounds similar to “Cerebus.” Considering when this was published, it seems likely that Gaiman was responding to Sim’s parody of the Sandman.

 This is a prime example of signifying because writers bounce off each other as a means to signify on each other. Many African-American writers bounced off of each other’s works. In the same manner, Sim parodies the Sandman and Gaiman parodies Cerebus.Â

Chapter 5Â Â Â Literary Signifying
Some scholars consider the super hero a modern myth. Richard Reynolds’ analysis of the super hero, Super Heroes: A Modern Mythology, examines how this genre has become a collection of myths comparable to previous mythologies. The super hero, although relatively young, has captured an audience that refuses to let it die. This occurred over the years because writers constantly associated super heroes with classical gods. A major turning point was when Marvel published the first super hero god, Thor. Stan Lee has said that he picked Thor as a new super hero because he was a Norse god, which meant that not as much people would know the characters. Lee, who borrowed many other Norse Gods, created a true comic book god.
Over the years, super heroes became increasingly more powerful. As mentioned in the history of the comic book medium, Superman eventually had no weaknesses. So, during the deconstruction of super heroes, writers began to soften up the super heroes. Most notably, John Byrne in his new rendition of Superman, announced that Superman would not be as powerful as before. Neil Gaiman responded to this trend with The Sandman. “So I wanted something that would take me anywhere and allow me to go anywhere. It seems to me that was shortly after John Byrne and a few other people in comics cut back on the powers. They were going into this thing back then of cutting back on the powers of super heroes. They were complaining about how god-like powers meant there were no stories. I thought this was nonsense. I thought god comics would be a wonderful place to go” (Fright X 72). Gaiman then made his “god comic” and made a new mythology.

To incorporate these new gods, Gaiman uses mythology from all over the world in The Sandman. The main characters, The Endless, are the highest in a hierarchy of gods. The Endless includes Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Despair, Destruction and Delirium. All but Destiny are original creations of Gaiman. As noted, Destiny was a host of the DC horror title Weird Mystery Tales and Secrets of Haunted House.

The Endless are more powerful than other gods and goddesses of mythology because whenever a god or goddess interacts with one of The Endless, the god or goddess tends to respect the Endless’ power. However, when Dream had to go back to Hell after he embarrassed Lucifer, he was frightened of possibly not returning. He admitted to Matthew that Lucifer was more powerful than him (SOM 3:8). Also, throughout the series, the Kindly Ones or the Furies, are spoken of as a force more powerful than any member of the Endless. In fact, Desire, who wants to destroy Dream, swears on sending the Furies after Dream. So, just like any other god or goddess, the Endless are more powerful than some, yet also less powerful than others.

Gaiman creates his own mythology through other myths. He gives value to his own mythology by showing the Endless’ relationship with other gods and goddesses. Essentially, Gaiman integrates gods and goddesses from Greek and Roman mythology, Norse mythology and the world of Faeries into his own mythos.

Greek and Roman mythology is the most prevalent and influential mythology in The Sandman. The main character, Dream, usually goes by the name Morpheus, the Roman god of dreams. Dream is also associated with Apollo, the sun god and god of fine arts, medicine, music, poetry, and eloquence. Characters confuse Dream and Apollo as the same god because Dream wedded Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, and their son is Orpheus. Traditionally, Apollo fits into the parental role of Orpheus with Calliope. When Dream visits Caesar Augustus, Augustus thinks it is Apollo visiting him. Dream tells him, “I am not Apollo. I am no sun god. But poets and dreamers are my people, and it is not unheard of for us to be confused. I am no little Roman dream god, no god of rhyme and madness. I am myself” (F&R 117). Notice how Dream refers to Apollo as a “little Roman dream god.” This shows how Dream does not fear Apollo if a conflict ever occurred.Â

In “Calliope” (DrC), the three muses reveal that Calliope and Dream once had a relationship and a child together, Orpheus. In “The Song of Orpheus” (F&R), Gaiman retells the story of Orpheus, but in this case, the Endless appear in the story. As legend has it, Eurydice, Orpheus’ wife, died from a viper’s sting on their wedding day. Orpheus could not deal with the loss of Eurydice. So, he went to Hades with a plan. Through his music, Orpheus would convince Hades to bring Eurydice back from the dead. He did so, and caused everyone in Hades to stop in his or her punishment, like Sisyphus or Ixion, and even made the Furies weep. Since Orpheus was so adamant, Hades allowed Eurydice to follow Orpheus back, but he could not turn around and look at her. Right before he returned to earth, he turned around too early only to see her fall back to Hades. After that, Orpheus did not interact with other humans. Eventually, the Baccante, followers of Dionysis, tore Orpheus limb from limb. They threw his head into a river and the Muses properly buried him.

There are many variations of the story, but the general story stays the same. Gaiman, as well, adds a little to make himself a part of the myth of Orpheus by adding the family of the Endless into the story. Orpheus’ parents, Dream and Calliope, join the wedding as well as the rest of the Endless. Eurydice dies that night and Orpheus mourns her death. Orpheus, however, visits Dream for help. Orpheus tells Dream that he plans on getting Eurydice back. Dream warns him not to and refuses to help him. Infuriated, Orpheus tells Dream that he is no longer his son.

Destruction then visits Orpheus who is contemplating suicide. Destruction tells him to visit Death. He shows Orpheus a way to find her and Death reluctantly tells Orpheus how to find Hades. The incident in Hades happens the same way as in the legend. Before the Baccante tear Orpheus apart, Calliope visits Orpheus and tells him that she left Dream because he would not help Orpheus, even though she knows Hades fears Dream. Gaiman ends the legend a bit differently because Orpheus never dies. His head is all that remains after the Bacchante tear him up, but he is still alive. After the head has washed onto the shore, Dream visits Orpheus and tells him that he asked some priests on the island to take care of him. He tells Orpheus that he will never see him again and leaves.

Gaiman continues the story of Orpheus in a single issue story and in BL. Even though Dream told his son they will never meet again (they do in BL), he still cares enough about his son to help him when he is in trouble. “Thermidor” (F&R) is about how Lady Johanna Constantine saves Orpheus from death in revolutionary France. She saved him because Dream offered her a reward if she brought his son back to the island.

In BL, Dream and Delirium search for Destruction, the prodigal family member. After searching to no avail, they go to Destiny. Destiny reminds Dream that “There is, after all, an oracle who is of the family” (BL 7:10). Despite his promise never to see his son, Dream and Delirium go to Orpheus for information on Destruction’s whereabouts. Orpheus gives Dream the information, as long as Dream gives him a boon. Of course, the gift is Orpheus’ death. Despite knowing the implications of killing one’s own blood, Dream gives Orpheus his final wish. This death causes the death of Dream from the Kindly Ones.

Gaiman integrates Orpheus, a known mythical figure, and adds to the Orpheus legend as well as giving value to his own mythological system. Orpheus legitimizes Dream’s and the Endless’ existence as a true myth of the past and today.

Another Greek and Roman figure that Gaiman uses that increases the mythological stature of The Sandman are the three witches, better known as the Furies or the Fates. The three witches have appeared in The Sandman since the beginning of the series. As mentioned earlier, they appeared as the hosts of the DC horror title The Witching Hour and The Unexpected, but Gaiman uses them as the Furies. The three-in-one goddess appears in many forms throughout the series. In P&N, they appear as Mildred, Mordred, and Cynthia, the three witches from The Witching Hour. They continue with that image in DH. Later, they appear as the Graeae in SOM. Finally, they even appear in human form in KO as Amelia Crupp, Magda Treadgold and Helena. It’s possible that Helena is the Golden Age Fury.Â

Over the centuries, many writers had assimilated the Furies and the Fates as the same goddess. The Furies were the avengers of deaths within the family. As a group they are known as Erinyes, Eumenides, or Semnae. Their names are Alecto (Unresting), Megaera (Jealous), and Tisiphone (Avenger). The Fates are Clotho who spins the web of life, Lachesis who gives each person his or her destiny, and Atropos who cuts the thread (Zimmerman 37). Gaiman illustrates this aspect of the three witches in KO. Throughout the storyline, the witches slowly begin to cut Dream’s string. Gaiman adds the Graeae as another function of their character. The Graeae are Dino, Enyo, and Pephredo and they are the sisters to the Gorgons, Euryale, Stheno, and Medusa. Lyta Hall becomes a new Medusa during her search for the Furies.

The three witches are an important part of The Sandman because they kill Dream. They do so because Lyta Hall, their granddaughter, insists that they avenge the death of her son, Daniel. However, the Furies kill Dream because he killed his own flesh and blood, Orpheus. Lyta Hall only gave the Furies the trigger to avenge familial murder. This appropriation of the three witches from The Witching Hour into the Furies helps create a bridge between comic books and mythology.

Orpheus, Calliope and the Furies are just a handful of the many Greek and Roman gods used in The Sandman. This is important for the comic book because the Greek and Roman gods are the most recognizable of Western culture. Writers have told and retold the stories of all these heroes for hundreds of years. Gaiman uses them in a medium that the gods and heroes have not been in.

The Norse gods make an important appearance in The Sandman as well. These myths come from upper Europe and the system was of Asgard, a warrior hall where the greatest warriors live.Â

Odin and some other of the Aesir go to Dream to make a deal for Hell. Odin releases Loki from his punishment and asks him for help to deal with Dream. To make sure Loki does not stray, Odin brings Thor along with him. Loki escapes by disguising himself as a Japanese deity that visited Dream also. Odin and Thor inadvertently put him in Loki’s place of his punishment. Loki wanted to wander free so Dream and Loki made a deal. Dream then released the Japanese deity and replaced him with a dream figure of Loki so that no one would know that Loki is missing. Dream and Loki talked over Loki’s debt to Dream and one can only presume that it involved Daniel. However, Loki later says, “I will be in debt to no one” (KO 5:24).

As it turns out, Loki and Puck kidnapped young Daniel from Lyta Hall. It is not known how or why Loki and Puck united for this case. It is possible that Dream asked Loki to find Daniel if he ever was in trouble. However in KO, Loki tried to kill Daniel.

Again, interacting Norse gods with the Endless creates a bridge from one myth to another. Using Norse gods is particularly interesting since Marvel Comics, DC’s major competitor, have their own set of Norse gods. Nonetheless, Gaiman represents the Norse gods in their classic form, not as super heroes.

Gaiman uses a good amount of faerie folklore in The Sandman as well. The most important Faeries that Gaiman uses are Cluracan, Nuala, Robin Goodfellow, otherwise known as Puck, and Titania. Gaiman introduces many Faeries in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (DrC). Dream commissioned Shakespeare to write “Midsummer” for the inhabitants of faerie. Titania, Auberon and Puck first appeared in that issue. Cluracan and Nuala first appeared in SOM as emissaries from faerie to attempt to make sure Lucifer’s Hell stays empty. Cluracan is also one of the many biding time for the storm to pass in the World’s End Inn and even tells a story. Many faeries become a major part of KO and, finally, several members of faerie are at Dream’s wake.

Cluracan is “one of the solitary fairies of Ireland….[who feasts] himself in the cellars of drunkards, or [scares] dishonest servants who steal the wine” (Briggs 77). Thomas Croften Vrocker, one of the first collectors of fairy folklore, wrote about the fairy Cluracan. Gaiman keeps Faeries as mischievous characters, but illustrates them as human-sized rather than the traditional small fairies of folklore.

Cluracan was an emissary to Dream and, like his traditional self, spent most of his time drinking and having a good time. Nonetheless, Cluracan gives Dream Auberon’s and Titania’s message: that Dream must not give anyone Hell and it must be left empty. They give Dream a gift, Cluracan’s sister, Nuala. Since Nuala is a gift she must stay or Titania will feel dishonored for having a gift returned. Dream does not mind and she stays.

Cluracan finds himself in the World’s End Inn and tells the story about how he ended up in the middle of the storm. Titania sent him as an envoy to Aurelia to make sure that an alliance would not form among the plains folk. While he was there, he insulted the Carnifax and the Psychopomp, Carys XXXV. Carys sends him to prison and Nuala visits him in his dreams. Later, Dream goes to him and frees him. Cluracan kills Carys and begins his journey home when he runs into the storm.

At the end of the storm he saw Dream’s funeral march and realized that Nuala was in danger if she stayed in the Dreaming. In KO, Cluracan visits Nuala and asks Dream if she can return to Faerie. Dream allows her to and she reluctantly returns to Faerie. While in Dream’s castle, Cluracan inadvertently releases his nemesis whose main goal is to kill Cluracan. Cluracan’s nemesis disguises himself as a Boggart, a mischievous faerie, and gives Nuala a rhyme warning her about Dream. Cluracan meets his nemesis during Dream’s wake and is noticeably unsettled.

Nuala, Cluracan’s sister, was a gift to Dream and appeared sporadically throughout the series. Traditionally, Nuala is not known to be the sister of Cluracan, but as the wife of Fin Bheara, king of fairies of Connaught and the wife of Finvarra, king of the dead (Briggs 311). She tried to help Barbie in AGOY and spent her time in the Dreaming cleaning. She received a present, a necklace, from Thessaly, Dream’s last lover who crushed his heart. Once Dream allowed Nuala to go, he made her necklace a boon as an appreciation for her services in the Dreaming. She returns to faerie and is utterly depressed because she fell in love with Dream during her stay in the Dreaming. She hears rumors of his possible demise from the Boggart and from Puck. She then calls on Dream so that he cannot be harmed. However, since he was no longer in the Dreaming and the Furies had already struck, he had no chance of fighting them. By calling on him, she inadvertently helped kill him.

Puck or Robin Goodfellow is a known trickster figure of faerie from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare. Robin Goodfellow is a hobgoblin and in “Midsummer” he likes the name Puck more than Robin Goodfellow. Puck, though, essentially means devil. The pamphlet “Robin Goodfellow, his mad pranks and merry jests,” says that he is a half-fairy and the son of Auberon. Auberon gave Robin Goodfellow shape-shifting abilities and eventually allowed him into Faerie (Briggs 342).

The Puck in The Sandman is similar to the traditional Puck from Shakespeare’s “Midsummer.” He is Auberon’s and he loves to play tricks on unsuspecting people. In Gaiman’s “Midsummer” Puck sneaks his way into staying on Earth after the rest of Faerie return to their land. In “The Kindly Ones,” Puck teams up with Loki to cause Dream’s death. Puck later tells Nuala that Loki and he “set the Furies around his ears…” (KO 10:13). He and Loki kidnapped Daniel and then burned his mortal form, but his dream essence survived. After the Corinthian found Loki and Daniel, Puck returned to Faerie. As mentioned, Puck in The Sandman continues his trickster form and does things to usurp the balance of things.

Finally, Titania has some relationship with Dream. She is the Queen of Faerie and she is one of the characters in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer.” After Cluracan sees the vision of Dream’s wake, he returns to Faerie and tells her. She sends for Nuala and hopes that it is not true. When Dream dies, Nuala tries to leave Faerie without Titania’s permission. Titania tries to stop her and then lightning breaks across the sky and Titania cries and says, “It was true, then, Cluracan. Your foretelling” (KO 13:13). She then allows Nuala to leave. At Dream’s wake, Titania reveals nothing about their past together; however, Cluracan reveals earlier that they were possibly lovers at one time.

Gaiman, an obvious fan of Faerie, weaves the world of Faerie into his mythos to add grandeur. Besides the stories in The Sandman, Gaiman wrote The Books of Magic in which the main character, Timothy Hunter, is the son of Titania and Stardust, which Gaiman refers to as an adult fairy tale.

Again, Gaiman legitimizes or mythologizes his own system of gods and goddesses by incorporating gods and goddesses from other cultures. Except for Marvel Comics’ The Mighty Thor, the American comic book audience would have no idea who or what the Aesir are. Also, in this day and age, many people are unaware of Greek and Roman myths. The modern myths tend to be Wild West cowboys or super heroes. Gaiman makes his own type of a super hero, a god, or more importantly, a system of gods and goddesses. The use of Greek and Roman myths, Norse myths and Faeries from folklore creates a mythological atmosphere for the Endless.

Besides making allusions to other literary works and using other literary characters, Gaiman actually places writers into his story. The most recognizable is William Shakespeare. Gaiman produces a sub-plot, not unlike the sub-plots in Shakespeare’s plays, where the Bard makes a deal with Dream.

The sub-plot begins in “Men of Good Fortune” (DH). Dream makes two deals with two men. The first is Hob Gadling, the main character of the story, who makes a deal with Dream in 1389 and meets him on the same day every one hundred years. On their meeting in 1589, Dream asks Gadling about a young playwright named Shakespeare. Dream talks with Shakespeare and they make a deal. Two centuries later, Gadling asks Dream what kind of deal they made. Dream responds with vague answers. “I’d give him what he thinks he most desires–and in return he’d write two plays for me” (DrC 3:11). Shakespeare said, “I would give anything to have [Marlowe’s] gifts. Or more than anything to give men dreams that would live on long after I am dead” (DH 6:12). So Dream offered his dream of his stories lasting forever, and in exchange Dream commissioned two plays for two specific purposes.

The first play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” is a gift to the inhabitants of Faerie (DrC). Dream asks Shakespeare to write “Midsummer” and perform it for the actual inhabitants of Faerie on June 23, 1593, Midsummer day. It appears that Dream has interacted with faeries for quite some time and knows that the Faerie cannot come to Earth any longer. That is the reason he commissioned this play. “During your stay on this Earth the faerie have afforded me much diversion, and entertainment. Now you have left for your own haunts. And I would repay you all for the amusement. And more: They shall not forget. That was important to me: That King Auberon and Queen Titania will be remembered by mortals, until this age is gone” (DrC 3:21).

The last part of the sub-plot occurs in “The Tempest,” the last issue of the series. The premise of this issue is Shakespeare writing “The Tempest,” his “retirement” play. Of course, this is also the last issue of The Sandman. It is set in November of 1610 and Shakespeare is in Stratford writing the play. Gaiman explained this story in an interview. “‘The Tempest’ is a very, very extended essay on the question, where do you get your ideas and how do you write something like that, and is this stuff autobiographical and which of the characters are you. And all the questions that people ask writers…”(Appendix I). Those aware of what is known as source material for “The Tempest” would recognize certain situations in Gaiman’s “The Tempest” that influenced Shakespeare in the production of this play. Dream visits Shakespeare after he finished the play and invites him to the Dreaming. There, they talk and Dream explains why he specifically commissioned “The Tempest” and why he made the deal in the first place. “I wanted a tale of graceful ends. I wanted a play about a King who drowns his books, and breaks his staff, and leaves his kingdom. About a magician who becomes a man. About a man who turns his back on magic” (WK 181). Shakespeare wants to know more and presses why Dream wanted all of this:

Dream: Because I will never leave my island.
Shakespeare: You live on an island?
Dream: I am…in my fashion…an island.
Shakespeare: But that can change. All men change.
Dream: I am not a man. And I do not change.
Shakespeare: But…
Dream:Â Â I asked you earlier if you saw yourself reflected in your tale.Â
Shakespeare: Yes.
Dream: I do not. I may not. I am Prince of Stories, Will; but I have no story of my own. Nor shall I ever. (WK 182)
Shakespeare then writes the epilogue to “The Tempest” and the play, issue and series ends. Dream wanted a play that represents himself except that the ending in “The Tempest,” a magician revoking magic, is something Dream cannot do. Simply put, this play and contract was therapeutic for Dream.

These three issues show that Gaiman knows much about Shakespeare. In the first issue set in 1589, Shakespeare is talking with Christopher Marlowe in a pub. During their conversation, a nervous Shakespeare asks Marlowe if he’s read his play. Marlowe reads the first four lines of The First Part of King Henry VI and calls it terrible. Shakespeare then mentions that it is his first play. After which, Dream speaks to Shakespeare and they make their deal.Â

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (DrC) is set on June 23, 1593. Both S. Schoenbaum and Stephen Greenblatt suggest that the play was written around 1594. The continuous rumor about this play is that it was written for an unknown wedding. Gaiman, however, suggests an interesting and relevant audience with the faeries. Some of the actors that Shakespeare brings to act out the play include William Kemp, Henry Condell, Richard Burbage, and Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet. All were actors of Shakespeare’s troupe. The issue shows snippets of the play.

Another side story in this story is that Titania wishes to speak with Hamnet who plays the boy that the Titania in the play fights Auberon for. During intermission, Titania and Hamnet talk. She gives him descriptions of Faerie and Hamnet eats an apple from her. Later, Hamnet says he had a dream in which a lady “wanted me to go with her to a distant land” (DrC 3:24). Hamnet dies three years later and in Gaiman’s The Books of Magic, the main character, Tim Hunter, visits Faerie and there is Hamnet beside Titania.

One other historical reference that Gaiman makes is that Shakespeare learns from Dream that Christopher Marlowe died three weeks earlier at the hands of Ingram Fraser. According to the official report, Ingram Fraser killed Marlowe in a dispute over money. Shakespeare becomes quite upset and shouts at Dream for not being more considerate of the revelation.Â

Finally, Shakespeare writes “The Tempest,” a play “celebrating dreams” (DrC 3:16). Greenblatt writes that the Tempest “can be dated fairly precisely: it uses material not available until late 1610” (Shakespeare 3047). Again, Gaiman puts many lines into the story. So, Gaiman sets Shakespeare writing the first lines in November 1610. After writing a bit, Shakespeare goes to an inn for a drink. There, two gentlemen charge the customers to see a savage’s corpse from the Bermudas. One of the patrons remarks how the corpse smells like a fish. This of course, gives Shakespeare inspiration for Caliban because Trinculo says he smells like a fish (2.2.26-31).  Later he hears the two fellows singing a song drunk. The song they sing is the same that Stephano sings drunk (2.2.43-52). Later, Shakespeare talks to a religious man about psalms Shakespeare has translated. Shakespeare asks the man what should his character do if he has dabbled in magic. The man responds, “Then at the play’s end, let him break his staff and burn his books, and renounce all magic” (WK 171). Prospero does so in Act V, scene i, lines 54-57. Finally while speaking with Dream about the play, Shakespeare explains some sources of influence for The Tempest. “I took the inspiration for it from the wreck of the sea-venture in the Bermudas last year…I stole a speech from one of Montaigne’s essays” (WK 181). The essay he refers to is “Of the Cannibals” by Michel de Montaigne. Gonzalo’s speech in Act II, scene ii, shows the influence (147-156). So, Gaiman shows his knowledge of Shakespeare through these fictional influential events.

Gaiman also shows his knowledge of Shakespeare’s contemporary world. While Ben Jonson visits Shakespeare, they discuss many things. One particular issue they discuss is the Gunpowder Treason of 1603. Shakespeare asks Jonson what his role in the incident was and Jonson responds, “I, uh, HRRUMPH, assisted his majesty and his majesty’s officers–showed them that not all Catholics were untrustworthy….” (WK 160). This is a reference to how it is believed that Jonson was involved and betrayed some of his accomplices to save himself. “On 7 November, Jonson himself, uneasily aware of his known connection to the Plotters, came before the Privy Council” (Fraser 189). Gaiman makes a sharp remark about Jonson and his loyalty.

Gaiman signifies on William Shakespeare by making him a character of his own series. Gaiman shows, albeit fictionally, that Shakespeare’s plays are as famous and revered because he made a deal with Gaiman’s god. The integration of other gods and goddesses into Gaiman’s mythology gives it a legitimate place amongst myths. In the same manner, placing Shakespeare within his series gives Gaiman’s work a place within canonical literature. No other writer is more renowned than William Shakespeare. Gaiman signifies on Shakespeare and makes his comic book an adult comic book.Â

Gaiman does the same thing to a contemporary horror writer, but in a slightly different way. The most noticeable character that resembles another writer is Richard Madoc. Madoc is obviously modeled after Clive Barker. Barker is an English writer who has written short stories, plays, novels and screenplays. He has also directed and produced films and is a painter as well. Gaiman, who has written articles on Barker as well as interviewed him, is well aware of Barker’s rise to fame in the horror genre in the 1980’s.

Richard Madoc is a frustrated writer who had a good first novel, but now cannot produce anything. He contacts a writer, Erasmus Fry, who promises new ideas. Fry has imprisoned Calliope, the muse of epic poetry. By raping her, Fry and now Madoc are able to produce new ideas. Madoc buys the muse from Fry and rapes her every night to receive ideas. His rise to fame is fast and furious. He begins writing screenplays and then directs his own movies. There is no limit to Madoc’s success.

Eventually the muses contact Dream and tell him that a man has imprisoned his former lover, Calliope. Having just escaped from a prison, Dream understands what it is like. Dream asks Madoc to release the muse, but Madoc refuses. In typical fashion of the avenging Dream, he punishes Madoc by giving him ideas; so many that it causes him to go insane. Madoc releases the muse, but Dream does not take away the punishment. Madoc becomes one of the few humans Dream has revenged upon. Madoc’s punishment does not end until Dream dies in KO. Madoc also appears at Dream’s wake.

Madoc is noticeably modeled after Clive Barker. In an interview with Madoc, the interviewer associates Madoc with Barker. Also, during a book signing for one of Madoc’s novels, a woman wears a T-shirt of Barker’s most famous creation, Hellraiser. On the T-shirt is the phrase, “Time to play,” which is a famous quote from the movie.

Gaiman is signifying in true form on Clive Barker. As a contemporary, Gaiman is at once applauding and criticizing Barker. Gaiman subtly reminds his audience of how much Barker does through the imaginary Richard Madoc. However, he makes an eerie suggestion by saying that someone like this could only have so many ideas if he or she had made a deal with some supernatural entity. Gaiman uses a contemporary writer to add to his own mythos.

G. K. Chesterton, a writer of the early 20th Century, was a model for a member of the Dreaming, Fiddler’s Green or Gilbert. Gilbert Keith Chesterton was a writer who is most famous for his Father Brown mysteries. He also wrote many essays and short stories. His writing tended to involve paradoxes. Fiddler’s Green, who was one of the members of the Dreaming that joined the waking world when Dream was imprisoned, took on the persona Gilbert. Gilbert befriends Rose Walker and helps her find her brother Paul. Eventually, he returns to the Dreaming and becomes Fiddler’s Green.

Gilbert acts and looks like his model, Chesterton. As mentioned, Chesterton enjoyed paradoxes and was a well known Catholic. Rose tells Gilbert at one point, “If I hear another of your theological paradoxes, I’ll scream” (DH 5:6). In the end, as Rose writes a personal ending to everything she experienced, she looks at a picture of Gilbert, which has the signature of Chesterton underneath it. Finally, Gaiman quotes from The Man Who Was Thursday, an imaginary novel from the library of dreams by Chesterton in SOM.

Gaiman utilizes these three writers into The Sandman to create a literary comic book. Shakespeare appears as someone who makes a deal with Dream. Richard Madoc, a copy of contemporary writer Clive Barker, uses supernatural forces to create ideas and, finally, Gilbert, a member of the Dreaming, is based on G. K. Chesterton. Gaiman makes these writers a part of The Sandman and thus brings himself onto their level. This is signifying in true form on past and present writers.

Gaiman signifies on children’s literature in AGOY when he parodies the most famous bear, Winnie-the-Pooh. In KO, Rose Walker and Paul McGuire discuss A. A. Milne and his Winnie-the-Pooh stories (KO 6:21). This shows that Gaiman is fully aware of Milne and his stories.

A. A. Milne wrote about his son, Christopher Robin Milne, and his teddy bear. He started to write children’s stories about a boy and his best friend, Winnie-the-Pooh, and eventually created other characters based on stuffed animals that his son owned including, a mule, Eeyore; a kangaroo, Kanga; a pig, Piglet; a tiger, Tigger; and of course Pooh bear. Walt Disney created an animated feature film for American audiences and Winnie-the-Pooh has become a huge success in England and in America.

In AGOY, Barbie, the main character, visits a world in her dreams much like a world that Milne created for his son. When Barbie dreams, she visits a world where her best friends are Martin Tenbones, a bear or dog of some sort; Wilkinson, a rat; Luz, a parrot; and Prinado, a monkey. At the end of the series, Barbie finds out that all her friends in the dreamworld were only her toys as a child.

Gaiman’s version of Winnie-the-Pooh is not the loving, wonderful world in Milne’s stories. The rat, Wilkinson, is a pessimist who constantly sees the negative side. His pessimism along with his trenchcoat makes him seem like a rendition of John Constantine. Also, on their grand adventure to save the world, Prinado and Wilkinson die. Wilkinson’s death is due to Luz’s betrayal. Finally, the story does not end like a typical fantasy children’s adventure. There is death, murder, and loss. In this world, things do not end happily ever after.

Besides Milne’s creations, the children’s books in Barbie’s home as a child give a hint as to what Gaiman used as source text in creating Barbie’s dreamworld. In chapter 5, page 6, panel 1, The Wizard of Oz, The Magician’s Nephew, Narnia, and J.R.R. Tolkien are some of the books in Barbie’s room. The Wizard of Oz is the famous story by Frank L. Baum in which Dorothy finds herself in Oz and tries to find the wizard to take her home. The Magician’s Nephew is one of the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. These were a set of books about a fantasy world called Narnia. J. R. R. Tolkien is the famous fantasy writer who wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. All of these books have to do with fantasy worlds, which is what Barbie’s dreamworld is for her. Gaiman also uses elements from those books in AGOY.Â

In chapter 2, page 8, Barbie makes her way into the dreamworld, which is quite similar to the way the children entered Narnia through the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (6-7). In chapter 4, page 17, Barbie and her friends get caught in the forest surrounded by the Tweeners who just killed Prinado. The porpentine around Barbie’s neck highlights a safe path for them to walk on. This path, again, is similar to the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz. Finally, when Dream ends Barbie’s dreamworld, Barbie as well as Thessaly, Foxglove, and Hazel watch all the members of the word enter Dream. Some of the members even wave to them. This is reminiscent of the ending to the Chronicles of Narnia in The Last Battle where the main characters see all the characters of the land (Lewis 182-183).Â

Thus, Gaiman parodies on the most famous children’s stories of the 20th Century. AGOY is a violent, but realistic version of Winnie-the-Pooh. The story involves betrayal, death, and the traumas of childhood. Just as Gaiman considers Stardust an adult faerie tale, AGOY is an adult children’s story. Again, Gaiman becomes a part of all these examples of literature by signifying on each one.

More importantly, by using elements from famous children’s books, Gaiman makes a children’s fantasy comic book. AGOY, however, is a serious story. Not that other children’s stories did not have serious themes, but they do not include murder and betrayal. AGOY then makes a subtle comment on the stereotype that comic books are children’s literature. Truthfully, Gaiman made a children’s tale, but one full of adult issues.

Besides broad literary signifying, Gaiman provides a plethora of images and illusions from literary sources. Many of the titles of storylines comes from literary works. For example, Gaiman uses the opening line from “To Autumn” by John Keats for the storyline title “Seasons of Mists. “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, / Close bosom friend of the maturing sun;” (Keats 813). Gaiman then creates a toast with the initial phrase. “To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists. And may each and every one of us always give the devil his due” (SOM 1:18). Gaiman furthers his allusion to that poem in Sandman Midnight Theatre. During an argument between Dodds and Dian Belmont, an ex-girlfriend, about the Sandman in the fog, Belmont implies that the gothic hero the Sandman enjoys the somber underbelly of the world. “I bet the Sandman feels quite at home here in the fog. ‘Season of mists and mellow frightfulness,’ eh Wesley? Good night. I shall be away for the weekend, with Lady Annabel Forbes-Whitton. In the country.” Dodds murmurs in response, “‘Fruitfulness.’ It’s Keats” (Sandman Midnight Theatre 30). In this response, Dodds justifies the Sandman with the poem as a defense against Belmont’s accusations. Gaiman uses literary allusions like this image by Keats in The Sandman and makes many others throughout the series. None more so than in the story “Hob’s Leviathan” (WE).

 The title alone is a literary pun. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote the famous book Leviathan in 1651. The story, however, is actually about Hob Galding witnessing a sea serpent, which are called leviathans. The narrator, a person named Jim, begins the narration with, “Call me Jim” (WE 68). This is an obvious allusion to the beginning of one of the most famous novels about the sea, Moby Dick. The other notable literary reference is a story an Indian man tells Jim and Hob.

Once there was a king, who had a wife whom he loved more than life itself…More than life itself. This is no pretty turn of phrase. Listen…One day, there came a holy man to the palace. He was thin as a scarecrow, his beard white as pearl, his skin blackened and gnarled, like burnt wood, by the sun. He demanded to see the king.

The guards refused him entry, whereupon he took a knife from his loincloth, and, with one hard swipe, cut off his left hand at the wrist. They were most astonished at this action, more so when they realized that there was no blood issuing from the wound.

The holy man picked up his hand, which was crawling around in the dust, scuttling and skittering like a scorpion, and fastened it once more to his wrist, with a mystic gesture. Magically, he was whole again. “Now,” he said. “Take me to your king.” And they did.

“Light of the gods on earth,” he began, “I am, as you can see, a holy man. And I have, through trials undreamed of, and through alchemy, and through prayer, obtained for myself this fruit. In appearance it partakes of both the fig and the apple. It is, however, the fruit of life, and whoever eats of it shall live forever.”

“So why do you not eat it?” asked the king, who was nobody’s fool but his own.

“For three reasons. Firstly, I am an old man; immortality should be given to the young, and those in good health; secondly, I desire to remain upon the karmic wheel of death and rebirth, on my path to eventual rewards far greater than living forever.”

“And thirdly?”

“Thirdly, I am too scared to taste of it.”

“How can you assure me,” asked the king, “that this is not poisonous? That you are not tricking me?”

The old man ordered a mongoose brought to him, and fed it, with his hands, a tiniest slice of the fruit. Then he ordered a fire kindled and the animal tossed into the furnace.Â

In time the fire burned down, and the king saw the mongoose questing about inside, unharmed by the flames. Then the king knew that the man was telling him the truth, and he took the fruit, with thanks. He ordered that gold be brought for the holy man, but the holy man refused it and went on his way.

The prince pondered the gift of immortality. Now, he had a wife whom he loved, as I said, more than life itself: for he decided that this wife should receive the gift of the fruit, and not him. That night he suited deed to word, and gave his wife the fruit of life.

Alas, his wife was as unfaithful as any woman, and she had a lover, who was a captain of the palace guard. And that night, because she loved him, she gave her captain the fruit of life.Â

There was a prostitute in the town–not a raggedy-arsed prostitute, but a courtesan, like they had in those days–with whom the captain was infatuated, and whose favors he bought with gems and gold and silver that he cozened from the queen. And to her he brought the fruit, untouched.

She was very beautiful. But she was uncertain enough of the fruit, and of its provenance, and desirous enough of earthly reward, to hie herself to the palace. She offered the fruit to the king. He took it from her, and, once she had told him how she had obtained it, ordered her to be rewarded.

Then he had the queen and her lover brought to him, and had them both killed–without torture, though, for he had loved her more than life itself. He dressed himself in the clothes of the poorest beggar in his realm, and making his brother king in his stead, he left the palace. He ate the fruit, and walked out of the city into the rukh, never to be seen again. (WE 76-79)

Gaiman admits he took that story from Vikram and the Vampire. The original story goes as follows:
In the city of Ujjayani, within sight of the palace, dwelt a Brahman and his wife, who, being old and poor, and having nothing else to do, had applied themselves to the practice of austere devotion. They fasted and refrained from drink, they stood on their heads and held their arms for weeks in the air; they prayed till their knees were like pads; they disciplined themselves with scourges of wire; and they walked about unclad in the cold season, and in the summer they sat within a circle of flaming wood, till they became the envy and admiration of all the plebian gods that inhabit the lower heavens. In fine, as a reward for their exceedingly piety, the venerable pair received at the hands of a celestial messenger an apple of the tree Kalpavriksha – a fruit which has the virtue of conferring eternal life upon him that tastes it.

Scarcely had the god disappeared, when the Brahman, opening his toothless mouth, prepared to eat the fruit of immortality. Then his wife addressed him in these words, shedding copious tears the while:

“To die, O man, is a passing pain; to be poor is an interminable anguish. Surely our present lot is the penalty of some great crime committed by us in a past state of being. Callest thou this state of life? Better we die at once, and so escape the woes of the world!”

Hearing these words, the Brahman sat undecided, with open jaws and eyes fixed upon the apple. Presently he found tongue: “I have accepted the fruit, and have brought it here; but having heard thy speech, my intellect hath wasted away: now I will do whatever thou pointest out.”

The wife resumed her discourse, which had been interrupted by a more than usually copious flow of tears. “Moreover, O husband, we are old, and what are the enjoyments of the stricken in years? Truly quoth the poet- “Die loved in youth, not hated in age.” If the fruit could have restored thy dimmed eyes, and deaf ears, and blunted taste, and warmth of love, I had not spoken to thee thus.”

After which the Brahman threw away the apple, to the great joy of his wife, who felt a natural indignation at the prospect of seeing her goodman become immortal, whilst she still remained subject to the laws of death; but, she concealed this motive in the depths of her thought, enlarging, as women are apt to do, upon everything but the truth. And she spoke with such success, that the priest was about to toss in his rage the heavenly fruit into the fire, reproaching the gods as if by sending it they had done him an injury. Then the wife snatched it out of his hand, and telling him it was too precious to be wasted, bade him arise and gird his loins and wend him to the Regent’s palace, and offer him the fruit-as King Vikram was absent- with a right reverend brahmanical benediction. She concluded with impressing upon her unworldly husband the necessity of requiring a large sum of money as a return for his inestimable gift. “By this means,” she said, “thou mayst promote thy present and future welfare.”

Then the Brahman went forth, and standing in the presence of the Raja, told him all things touching the fruit, concluding with “O, mighty prince! vouchsafe to accept this tribute, and bestow wealth upon me. I shall be happy in your living long!”

Bhartari Raja led the supplicant into an inner strongroom, where stood heaps of the finest gold-dust, and bade him carry away all that he could; this the priest did; not forgetting to fill even his eloquent and toothless mouth with the precious metal. Having dismissed the devotee groaning under the burden, the Regent entered the apartment of his wives, and having summoned the beautiful Queen Dangalah Rani, gave her the fruit, and said, “Eat this, light of my eyes! This fruit -joy of my heart! – will make thee everlastingly young and beautiful.”

The pretty queen, placing both hands upon her husband’s bosom, kissed his eyes and lips, and sweetly smiling on his face – for great is the guile of women – whispered, “Eat it thyself, dear one, or at least share it with me; for what is life and what is youth without the presence of those we love?” But the Raja, whose heart was melted by these unusual words, put her away tenderly, and, having explained that the fruit would serve for only one person, departed.

Whereupon the pretty queen, sweetly smiling as before, slipped the precious present into her pocket. When the Regent was transacting business in the hall of audience she sent for the ambassador who regulated war and peace, and presented him with the apple in a manner at least as tender as that with which it had been offered to her.

Then the ambassador, after slipping the fruit into his pocket also, retired from the presence of the pretty queen, and meeting Lakha, one of the maids of honour, explained to her its wonderful power, and gave it to her as a token of his love. But the maid of honour, being an ambitious girl, determined that the fruit was a fit present to set before the Regent in the absence of the King. Bhartari Raja accepted it, bestowed on her great wealth, and dismissed her with many thanks.

He then took up the apple and looked at it with eyes brimful of tears, for he knew the whole extent of his misfortune. His heart ached, he felt a loathing for the world, and he said with sighs and groans:

“Of what value are these delusions of wealth and affection, whose sweetness endures for a moment and becomes eternal bitterness? Love is like the drunkard’s cup: delicious is the first drink, palling are the draughts that succeed it, and the most distasteful are the dregs. What is life but a restless vision of imaginary pleasures and of real pains, from which the only waking is the terrible day of death? The affection of this world is of no use, since, in consequence of it, we fall at last into hell. For which reason it is best to practise the austerities of religion, that the Deity may bestow upon us hereafter that happiness which he refuses to us here!”

Thus did Bhartari Raja determine to abandon the world. But before setting out for the forest, he could not refrain from seeing the queen once more, so hot was the flame which Kama had kindled in his heart. He therefore went to the apartments of his women, and having caused Dangalah Rani to be summoned, he asked her what had become of the fruit which he had given to her. She answered that, according to his command, she had eaten it. Upon which the Regent showed her the apple, and she beholding it stood aghast, unable to make any reply. The Raja gave careful orders for her beheading; he then went out, and having had the fruit washed, ate it. He quitted the throne to be a jogi, or religious mendicant, and without communicating with any one departed into the jungle. There he became such a devotee that death had no power over him, and he is wandering still. But some say that he was duly absorbed into the essence of the Deity. (Burton 12-16)

There are subtle variations between the two versions. Gaiman gives more about the holy man proving his worth to the King. Also, the original story displays more distrust of women because the holy man’s wife convinced her husband not to eat it out of selfishness. This misogyny of the story comes through because Jim, who is really a woman, defends women and is offended that they are represented as so mistrustful. Finally, Gaiman shows his true storytelling with the implication that the storyteller is the King that ate the fruit. It is implied by Hob’s courteousness towards the Indian man that he is also immortal and, most likely, the King in the story. Also, the man in the story visually resembles the Indian man. Gaiman takes this old character that ended in obscurity and places him on a boat with one of his characters, Hob Galding.Â

Jim defends women to the narrator of the story by quoting some poetry. “What would ye ladies? It was ever thus. / Men are unwise and curiously planned, / they have their dreams and do not think on us / What take the golden road to Samarkand” (WE 83). He is quoting from “The Golden Journey to Samarkand: Epilogue” by James Elroy Flecker, which is about a caravan making their journey to Samarkand and the women begging them not to go. The quote is actually spoken by different narrators as follows:

The Watchmen (consoling the women): What would ye, ladies? It was ever thus. / Men are unwise and curiously planned.
A Woman: They have their dreams, and do not think of us.
Voices of the Caravan (in the distance, singing): We make the golden journey to Samarkand. (Flecker 9)
The quote works as a rebuttal to the misogynist story by the Indian man. Jim also remarks how he read poems from Salt-Water Ballads, a book of poems about the sea by John Masefield.

Gaiman finishes his allusions by revealing that Jim is really a woman. This idea of a girl acting as a man to become a sailor comes from the old folksong “The Handsome Cabin Boy.” Throughout the story Hob and others refer to the richness of the sea and all of the secrets down below. Hob and Jim discuss the sea serpent and Jim wants to know why no one wants to talk about it. Hob explains the mystery of the sea. “But the sea’s a big place, Jim, and deep. F’r example, nobody’s seen a giant squid that I know of. We just suppose there have to be some, because they’ve seen the huge sucker marks on the sides of whales. Big place. Lots of secrets down there” (WE 80). At that point Hob is pointing to his waist, a subtle reference to Jim’s gender.

Gaiman achieves in “Hob’s Leviathan” a wonderful story using a wide range of literary references. He uses the handsome cabin boy idea, crosses it with the King from Vikram and the Vampire, and Hob Galding. Finally, he gives it a beginning similar to Moby Dick. This is Gaiman at his best, drawing from literary references and making a completely new story.

Chapter 6Â Â Â Signifying on History
Gaiman signifies on comic book characters and writers, as well as literary characters and writers. By using writers like William Shakespeare as characters in The Sandman, Gaiman signifies on not only the writer, but on history as well. For example, Gaiman suggests that Shakespeare and Ben Jonson concocted the rhyme about Guy Fawkes. As he put it, “Someone had to make it up” (Appendix I). Gaiman utilizes other historical characters within The Sandman by showing how Dream and other members of the Endless are involved with significant people and events in human history. The thematic storyline Distant Mirrors (F&R) and “Soft Places” (F&R) from the collection Convergence revolve around the Endless being involved in human history.

One of the earliest episodes of Dream or any other member of the Endless is set roughly around 5 AD in Rome. Gaiman shows how Dream influenced Caesar Augustus. Caesar Augustus ruled from 44 B.C. to 14 A.D. “Augustus had revitalized the Roman Empire. Its frontiers were strong, its cities were flourishing, its culture and trade were spreading and establishing ever more extensive routes to Africa, India, and, through middlemen, China” (Grabsky 96). Simply put, Augustus’ reign over Rome created an age of posterity and wealth. Caesar Augustus was born Gaius or Caius Octavius. The Senate named him Caesar Augustus as an honor around 23 B. C. Julius Caesar was Augustus’ great-uncle. At age 16, Augustus met Julius Caesar at his grandmother’s (Julius Caesar’s sister) funeral. After which, Julius adopted Octavius and became the next heir under Julius. After Julius’ assassination, Octavius helped find his murderers and sought power for himself. At age 19, he marched into Rome and named himself consul. This began the long tenure of Caesar Augustus. After a while, he appointed himself the Chief Priest of Rome. Near the end of his reign, Caesar appointed Tiberius, his stepson, as his heir. After a major Roman defeat to local tribes in Germany in 9 A. D., Augustus, upset over the defeat, announced that Rome would no longer expand, but fortify its lands. He died in 14 A. D.

In “August” (F&R), Augustus Caesar hires a dwarf, Lycius who is an actor, to help dress themselves as beggars for one day. Augustus is “nearly seventy years old” and explains that he is “hiding” himself from the Roman gods (former rulers) to think without their notice.  Augustus knows from ancient texts that there are two possible futures: (1) where Rome expands and rules for thousands of years or, (2) the Romans last a few hundred years and are gone because of barbarians. Augustus wishes that Rome not continue for thousands of years; however, the gods are looking over him. Dream visited Augustus in a dream on behalf of Terminus, god of boundaries, to help him with his dilemma of creating the second future without the Roman gods noticing. Dream recommends that he become a beggar for a day and think privately.

Gaiman suggests, much like Mark Antony did around 44 B. C., that Julius Caesar raped young Augustus with the promise that Augustus will be the next heir if Augustus allows Julius this privilege. This event caused Augutus’ desire for the second future. According to Lycius, Augustus forbade any expansion and appointed rulers who have been evil, mad and foolish. Gaiman suggests that Augustus set about these changes to insure the history of Rome that came to be during his days hiding as a beggar.

Gaiman validates the authenticity of Caesar Augustus in “August” by making references to his life in his conversation with Lycius. Augustus and Lycius discuss Pylades whom Augustus banished because he gave the audience the finger. Suetonius confirms this event in Twelve Caesars (Tranquillas 81). Also, Augustus mentions his daughter and granddaughter. “I don’t have children: I have running sores. A daughter who shamed me; and my granddaughter Julia…Her legs must have gaped for half of Rome…” (F&R 106). His daughter Julia made her new husband, Tiberius, go into a self-imposed exile. So, Augustus banished her. Also, the behavior of his granddaughter, Julia, “appalled Augustus and he tore down her home because it was too luxurious” (Grabsky 94). Augustus exiled her as well.Â

Gaiman signifies on leaders of the world in the same manner as others he signified on: by showing the character’s, in this case Caesar Augustus’, dependence on Dream to become historically significant people. Without the intercession of Dream, Caesar Augustus could not have made history as it turned out to be: a Rome that lasted a few hundred years and then destroyed by barbarians.

In “Ramadan,” Gaiman begins another tale of the Arabian Nights. The story revolves around Haroun al Raschid (763-809), the Caliph of Baghdad.  Raschid ruled over Baghdad in a time of great progress (788-809). He was the fifth Caliph of the Abbasid dynasty. He was, also, a part of the famous Arabian Nights.

Gaiman presents the story of Dream and Raschid in the same form of a story from Arabian Nights. Like Arabian Nights (Mahdi 2), “Ramadan” begins with, “In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the all-merciful, I tell my tale. For there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet” (F&R 227). Raschid, realizing the temporality of his Baghdad offers the King of Dreams his city so that his city may live forever in dreams. Dream accepts and Baghdad becomes the city in a bottle seen in SOM 6:20. Like Arabian Nights, “Ramadan” is an orated story. In this case, it is an old man who tells the story to a young boy in modern day Baghdad.

Gaiman continues both Arabian Nights and Haroun al Raschid’s legendary status through this tale. The form he uses is similar to those used in Arabian Nights. Also, Gaiman suggests that Haroun al Raschid, like many others throughout this series, makes a deal with Dream to secure his wishes. Here, Raschid wants the city to live forever through dreams. Dream graciously accepts the gift.

Gaiman also shows young Marco Polo in the Desert of Lop in 1273 A.D. He gets lost in the desert and finds himself in one of the “Soft places.” A soft place is “where the border between dreams and reality is eroded, or has not yet formed…” (F&R 141). There, he runs into Rustichello, the man who writes Polo’s descriptions of his travels in jail, and Gilbert from DH who resembles G. K. Chesterton. Finally, he runs into Dream, but a Dream who just escaped the prison of Erasmus Fry in the beginning of the series.

Marco Polo was a Venetian who was born around 1254 and died in 1324. His descriptions of the world made him a famous traveler. In 1260, Marco Polo’s father and uncle went to the Volga River where a sovereign of the Mongol Empire resided. Due to political events, the Polos could not return to Venice and eventually ended up in the capital of the Mongul Empire in 1265. There they met Kublai Khan who sent them back to Europe as his ambassadors to the Pope for 100 intelligent men. In exchange, he gave some gifts from his empire. During his father’s time in the Mongul empire, Marco Polo was born in 1254. He first met his father upon his return from Khan in 1269. Polo’s father was to go directly to the Pope, but the Pope had recently died and it took two years for a successor to be named. Eventually, the Polos departed with Marco Polo and Pope Gregory X gave them two friars. The friars, however, did not want to travel and left the Polos. The Polos eventually returned to Khan and gave him some sacred oil. The Polos stayed in China for about seventeen years. They decided to return to Venice after escorting a Mongul princess to Persia. They returned to Venice in 1295. Soon after, the Geneose captured Marco Polo and sent him to a prison. There, he met Rustichello of Pisa. Marco Polo then related the things he saw and Rustichello put them down. This writing became Il milione (known as The Travels of Marco Polo in English). The Geneose eventually freed him and he died around the age of 70.

In “The Soft Places,” Gaiman creates a place in which time has no meaning. Different people from different time periods encounter one another. Marco Polo is from 1273, Rustichello is from around 1295, Gilbert is from 1994, and Dream is from 1989. In this vortex, Gaiman shows a young Marco Polo confronted with images of his future, and the future world, which revere him as a great traveler. For authenticity, Rustichello recites Polo’s descriptions of the Desert of Lop (Bellonci 46-47). After Rustichello and Gilbert leave, Marco Polo is left alone wondering how he will return to his uncle’s caravan. Then, he runs into Dream who is still weak from his imprisonment. Since Marco Polo gave Dream some of his water, Dream returns the favor and returns him to the waking world. There, he and his uncle continue on their famous journey.

Although Marco Polo is not a leader of any sort, he is a traveler that gave images of a world Europeans could not imagine. This story suggests that without Dream’s help, Marco Polo would have never made his journey or related his travels. Thus, Gaiman signifies on another important historical figure and shows how Dream had a role in historical events.

Gaiman continues Dream’s intervention of human affairs in the French Revolution. Dream does not actively involve himself in human affairs, but he sends Lady Johanna Constantine to help find Orpheus’ head in revolutionary France. His son is in danger because Orpheus represents an age of mysticism that the revolution tried to extinguish.

“Thermidor” is set during the Reign of Terror. By the middle of 1793, The Committee of Public Safety became the most powerful organization in France. Maximilien Robespierre soon became the most powerful man of that committee and began what is known as the Reign of Terror. During this period, thousands of citizens were executed in the name of keeping France protected. Robespierre initiated much of the Reign and even began executing other members of the committee. Eventually, members of the Convention interrupted Robespierre during his speech and then arrested him. The next day he was executed. This is known as the Thermidorean revolution.

The Convention began a dechristinization of the country and insisted on a religion based on reason. This policy went so far that they created new names for the months of the year. This new regime of reason ousted everything that was spiritual or supernatural.

Gaiman puts a supernatural being, Orpheus’ head, inside revolutionary France. The members of the Committee, especially Robespierre, want the head destroyed as part of a campaign to extinguish all artifacts that are supernatural in origin. Dream assigns Lady Johanna Constantine to find the head and bring it back to the Greek Island where it resides. Guards see her with a head and she is soon arrested, but she has hidden the head. Louis St. Just sends Constantine to Luxembourg, a palace that became a prison for political prisoners. After being interrogated by Robespierre, she refuses to divulge the whereabouts of Orpheus. That night, Dream visits her in a dream and tells her to show them the head and let it sing so they will be spellbound. She shows them the head, he sings, and Robespierre and St. Just are unable to do anything. The next day on 8 Thermidor, Constantine left France. On 9 Thermidor, Robespierre fell silent and they arrested him. On 10 Thermidor, Robespierre and St. Just were executed.

Gaiman suggests that Orpheus’ music made Robespierre silent on the infamous 9 Thermidor. Once again, he shows how characters that he has created and used influenced human history.

Finally, Gaiman shows how the Endless were the cause of the only Emperor of the United States. In 1859, an eccentric, Joshua Norton, decreed himself to be the first emperor of the United States. Norton was born in Britain and moved to America. He was a failed businessman who had lost everything. He went to the Evening Bulletin, a local paper, and asked them to print his decree that he was the Emperor of the United States, Norton I. In time, he became an infamous, local, crazy bum. The Bulletin ridiculed Norton many times over the years. During this time, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was writing for the Morning Call newspaper and made references to Norton a couple of times. At one point, the city council gave Norton some royal clothes as a gift. He lived until 1880 as a homeless bum. Receipts of his taxes were souvenirs and vendors sold statuettes of Norton to the public. He became a legend of San Francisco.

Gaiman explains this phenomenon as a result of a bet between Dream and Despair, Desire, and Delirium. Despair, Desire, and Delirium bet Dream whether or not his dreams could help a suicidal failed businessman. Dream enters Norton’s dreams and after the dream, Norton begins his proclamation of being the Emperor of the United States. Later, Delirium visits Norton and watches him talk with Samuel Clemens. During their conversation, Norton establishes Clemens as the official storyteller of America. Finally, Desire tempts Norton with any woman in the world and he refuses them. In 1880, Norton died and Dream wins the bet. Dream’s dreams gave Joshua Norton a reason to live. His madness of imagination kept Norton sane. So, this unknown eccentric owes his royalty to the Endless, more specifically, Dream. Once again Gaiman utilizes this immortal being inside human history and explains some of his influences that he had on history.

Chapter 7Â Conclusion
The Sandman has contributed much to the comic book medium. Besides being a popular book that received awards and critics have applauded, The Sandman created a relationship with not only other comic books, but with other works of literature. Traditionally, a relationship between comic books and literature was limited due to the stereotype that comic books are children’s or inferior literature. The Sandman is not the only comic book to make a connection with literature, but it is the most recognized for doing so. Gaiman admitted that understanding every literary reference is not necessary to enjoy The Sandman. However, knowing some of the allusions increases the enjoyment of the comic book (Appendix I).

As mentioned before, The Sandman is not the only comic book that makes a connection to literature. Mike W. Barr, writer of Camelot 3000, says that his series is a continuation of the Arthurian legend (Barr 1). According to legend, Arthur will return when he is needed to save England. Barr wrote a story in which his return happened in the year 3000. The members of the round table return in reincarnated forms and Arthur’s fight against Morgaine Le Fey continues. Granted, this version of Camelot is not an authorized or typical version, but Barr, as a storyteller, took what he knew about Arthur and made a science fiction version of King Arthur. Barr truly signifies on Le Morte D’Arthur by becoming one of the writers of this legend.

Frank Miller, one of the most prolific writers and artists of today, usually writes about a lone, rogue hero who fights against a corrupt system. Tim Blackmore found a connection between Frank Miller’s Daredevil and Sophocles’ Oedipus, the King. As Blackmore suggests, “…each [work] reexamines the idea of ‘common’ man as hero in society” (Blackmore 135). In the same manner, Jesse W. Nash explores Frank Miller’s rendition of Batman with King Arthur as well. He concludes that Batman is a post-modernist transformation of the Arthurian mythos in The Dark Knight Returns. Batman’s reemergence in The Dark Knight Returns is similar to Arthur’s reemergence to fight any enemy of England. Batman’s England is Gotham City and he will fight to protect it until his death. These are only a couple of examples of scholars finding connections between comic books and canonical literature.

Besides literary signification, intra-comic book signification needs to be expanded upon. Whenever there is any type of crossover, the writer is signifying on the character and possibly previous writers of the character. Before John Byrne’s new rendition of Superman, DC asked Alan Moore to write an ending story to the former Man of Steel. His story, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,” was a brilliant coda to the Silver Age Superman. Moore included all of the strange and ridiculous characters created in the 1960’s like Bizarro, Elastic Lad, and the Kryptonite Man. All of these references were included to give a grandiose ending to the Silver Age Superman. Most fitting was Moore’s introduction to the story, which makes a point about “Imaginary Stories” of the 1960’s. Imaginary stories in super hero comic books were stories about the characters but did not actually occur in continuity. Moore ends his introduction with, “This is an imaginary story…Aren’t they all” (Moore and Swan 1). To understand this ending of the Silver Age Superman necessitates an understanding of who the characters Moore brought back are. Nostalgic comic books like Moore’s should be analyzed with signifying.

Intra-comic book signifying like the type between Gaiman and Dave Sim occurs often as well. Comic book writers have signified off of their competitors since the beginning of the medium. For example, the new X-Men became the most popular super hero team of the 1970’s/1980’s. In response, DC published a second generation of their own teenage super hero team, New Teen Titans. The characters from New Teen Titans are noticeably parallel to the new X-Men. The new X-Men consisted of a few of the original members and many more new international members such as Storm from Africa, Nightcrawler from Germany, and Wolverine from Canada. Storm is a powerful woman who was worshipped as a goddess and could control the weather. In New Teen Titans, their powerful witch-like character was Raven. Nightcrawler was a fun-loving jokester. Changeling was the comedian for the New Teen Titans. Finally, Wolverine, the tough-as-nails super hero, was the subversive member of the X-Men who did not like listening to authority. The New Teen Titans had Cyborg, who had an attitude to the world, especially authority. Not surprisingly, these two groups were the most popular for each publisher because they were, in effect, the same group. Writers have signified on competitor’s characters and on the history of the character since the inception of the medium. More analysis is necessary on this topic.

Comic books, however, do not need to be super heroes. There are plenty of comic books that are the furthest thing from super heroes. The works of Dan Clowes, Dave Sim, and Art Spiegelman are very good non-super hero comic books. Nonetheless, each writer makes some connection to previous comic book genres. Dan Clowes usually makes references to former comic books artists in his works. In his recent storyline, “David Boring,” the main character’s father was a comic book artist. Dave Sim’s Cerebus is a parody of not only the fantasy genre, but of contemporary super heroes as well. Also, he criticizes the political history of Europe through the fantasy genre. Finally, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, a representation of his father’s life during the Holocaust, makes a connection to the funny animal genre of comic books with his anthropomorphic characters.Â

Even today, more and more comic books make connections with canonical literature. Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is his 19th Century super hero team consisting of characters from 19th century fiction. Mina Murray (Dracula), Allan Quatermain (King’s Solomon’s Mines), Captain Nemo (20, 000 Leagues Under the Sea), Dr. Henry Jekyll (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), and Hawley Griffin (The Invisible Man) make up this strange super hero team of canonical literature. Comic books like these are published continuously and take the medium a step forward as a form of art, rather than just entertainment.

Also, more research needs to delve into the mythical aspects of the super hero. The super hero is the modern myth. Superman and many others are more contemporary and identifiable by the majority of the American public than any Greek or Roman god. Comic books make connections to other gods to give them mythical status. For characters like Thor, it is obvious since he is a Norse god. Other characters like Superman are similar to Achilles. Achilles had a vulnerable heel and Superman’s only weakness is Kryptonite. Many others take on mythical status because the super hero is a god to today’s world. There is countless research ready to be interpreted and analyzed in the comic book medium.

The writer is not the only one who signifies. Illustrators model from previous illustrators, most noticeably in comic book covers. Illustrators will signify on past illustrators’ covers in their own covers. The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide dubs this occurrence as a swipe, “a panel, sequence, or story obviously stolen or copied from previous published material” (39). Contrary to this definition, swipes are an act of homage more than plagiarism. The illustrators who make a replication of a panel, sequence, story, or cover does so to graft himself or herself onto the original piece. The cover of Prez #1 and the last panel of WE, page 99, show a prime example of illustrative signifying (see chapter 4 – Intra-Comic Book Signifying: Other Comic Book Signifying). Due to the inaccessibility of scripts and the process of the production of a comic book, it is unknown which artist concocted the signifying. Nonetheless, it is obvious that the panel from The Sandman copies the cover of Prez #1 and shows a connection between both comic books.

Swipes are so common that there are many different kinds of swipes. The most common swipe is when an illustrator copies a famous cover from the same character’s image from the past. The character who most commonly has this type of swipe is Superman, usually from the images from the covers of Superman #1 and Action Comics #1 (his first appearance). The cover of Action Comics #1 shows Superman lifting a car over his head and smashing it into a mountain. One example of a swipe of this was after the death of Superman. The cover of Action Comics #685 showed Supergirl in the same picture. The cover of Superman #1 has a gold frame and it shows Superman ascending above a city, looking down and smiling. For a brief time in the 1980’s, Action Comics became an anthology series. DC eventually cancelled it and made it into a Superman title again. On the cover of issue #643 that returned Superman to Action Comics was a replica of Superman #1. In these instances, illustrators for the same character re-draw the same cover in their style. It is, to all intents and purposes, the same picture, but by a different illustrator and, therefore, different. Recently, Alex Ross has become a popular illustrator who paints all of his comic books. He recently painted new renditions of famous first issues of Marvel. Ross’ new renditions are better than most because he does not simply re-draw the picture. He changes the vantagepoint of the picture, which visually shows signifying at its true form. It is the same picture, but shown from a different point of view.

Sometimes swipes occur between different series. One example happened several times between Marvel and DC. During the “Mutant Massacre” storyline in the X-Men titles, the cover to Uncanny X-Men # 210 showed the X-Men looking tough and the caption said, “C’mon, mess with us – Make our day.” A year later, the cover of Justice League #1 showed all of the members on the cover looking tough with a white background. In the front, Guy Gardner, one of the members, says, “Wanna make somethin’ of it.” Later, The Avengers appeared in a similar cover on issue # 279 with all the members standing looking tough with a white background. Finally, after the Justice League split into two titles, the cover of the new title, Justice League Europe, showed the same cover of Justice League #1, but with new characters. On this cover, however, Metamorpho, a member, says, “Wow! Deja Vu!” while holding Justice League #1. All of these covers signified in some respect on the previous cover. This history of covers of super hero teams looking tough and saying something with attitude turned 180 degrees with the silly comment of “Wow! Deja Vu!” This set of four covers is only one example of covers making visual connections with past covers.

Like the cover of Justice League Europe, signifying covers can also be complete parodies. The cover of Fantastic Four #1 has been parodied by both The Simpsons Comics and Concrete. The cover of Fantastic Four #1 shows a large green monster erupting onto the streets of New York City, holding onto the Invisible Girl. Mr. Fantastic is caught in ropes on the bottom right. The Thing stands ready to attack on the bottom left and the Human Torch flies by the monster’s head with a wave of fire swirling. On the cover of Simpsons Comics #1, a large Homer erupts onto the streets of Springfield holding Marge. Maggie is caught in a spool of thread on the bottom right. Lisa stands in the same stance as the Thing in the bottom right. Finally, Bart, like the Human Torch, bounces off of Homer’s head. This parody does not criticize Fantastic Four #1, but uses this famous image in comic book history in their own series.Â

In an advertisement for Concrete, Paul Chadwick, the creator, made parodies of famous covers in comic book history, one of which was Fantastic Four #1. Chadwick’s version shows Concrete, a large figure whose body is made out of concrete, at a restaurant, grabbing onto a tablecloth after falling. The image looks like Concrete is erupting onto the table like the monster on Fantastic Four #1. His friend, Maureen Vonnegut, is coming down the stairs in the background and she appears to be in his hands because of the vantage point, like the Invisible Girl. A roll on the table on the bottom left resembles the Thing and on the bottom right is some spaghetti on a plate meant to resemble Mr. Fantastic. Finally, a spilled glass of wine acts as the fiery Human Torch around Concrete’s head. This silly rendition of Fantastic Four #1 shows that the illustrator is aware of the power of this image. Signifying on previous covers allows the illustrator to make a connection with the previous illustrator. These images have strong reverberations to a comic book reader. Illustrators use those images to make an association with that image.

Signifying is a common occurrence in comic books. More research needs to be done on this major phenomenon in the medium. For a medium so young, it already has a rich history that writers and illustrators are aware of and use to promote their own works. Neil Gaiman’s work used much in the DC canon and in literature all over the world to make The Sandman a comic book that propelled the medium forward.


  1. The Sandman has been collected into ten separate volumes. The collections will be abbreviated as follows:
    Preludes and Nocturnes — P&N
    The Doll’s House — DH
    Dream Country — DrC
    Seasons of Mists — SOM
    Fables and Reflections — F&R
    A Game of You — AGOY
    Brief Lives — BL
    World’s End — WE
    The Kindly Ones — KO
    The Wake — WK
  2. Some comic book collections do not have page numbers for the whole book. For those that do not, I set up a system of chapter: page number. So 2:6 means chapter 2, page 6.
  3. The main text on the trickster archetype is Paul Radin. The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology. New York: Schocken, 1972.
  4. For examples of signifying or playing the dozens, see Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism. New York: Oxford U P, 1988; and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., ed. Black Literature and Literary Theory. New York: Methuen, 1984. Also, Geneva Smitherman. Talkin’ and Testifyin’: The Language of Black America. Detroit: Wayne State U P, 1977.
  5. The debate over the first comic book varies. Some consider The Funnies as the first comic book, whereas, others find More Fun Comics as the first comic book. For this topic and any other topic about the history of the comic book medium see one of the following: Les Daniels. Comix: A History of Comic Books in America. New York: Bonanza Books, 1971; Mike Benton. The Comic Book in America: An Illustrated History. Dallas: Taylor, 1989, Superhero Comics of the Golden Age. Taylor History of Comics, vol. 4. Dallas: Taylor, 1992, Superhero Comics of the Silver Age. Taylor History of Comics, vol. 2. Dallas: Taylor, 1991, and Horror Comics: The Illustrated History. Dallas: Taylor, 1991. Also, Ron Goulart. Ron Goulart’s Great History of Comic Books. Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc., 1986; Robert C. Harvey. The Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History. Jackson: U P of Mississippi, 1996; Roger Sabin. Comics, Comix, & Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art. London: Phaidon, 1996.
  6. Wheeler-Nicholson’s company would become National Periodicals Publications, Inc. and then DC Comics. DC Comics (1935) is the longest running comic book publisher. Marvel Comics is the second longest running publisher (1961).
  7. For an in-depth history of any Golden Age super hero, see Mike Benton. Superhero Comics of the Golden Age. Taylor History of Comics, vol. 4. Dallas: Taylor, 1992.
  8. This does not imply that they were the only comic book publishers. Other publishers included Dell, Gold Key, Gladstone, and Charlton, which DC bought the rights of the characters in the 1980’s. For a complete summary of other companies see any books on the history of the medium mentioned in note #5.
  9. For complete regulations for the Comic’s Code and revisions, see Amy Kiste Nyberg. Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code. Jackson: U P of Mississippi, 1998. 165-179.
  10. For a history of the Comic’s Code, see Nyberg as well as any of the books on the history of the medium in note #5.
  11. Since Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman signifies on DC comics exclusively, most of the history will consist of DC comics. For a concise history of Marvel Comics, see Peter Sanderson. Marvel Universe. New York : Abrams, 1996 and Les Daniels. Marvel. New York: Abrams, 1991.
  12. For more information on underground comics, see Mark James Estren. A History of Underground Comics 3rd ed. Berkeley, CA : Ronin, 1993.
  13. Marvel Comics did not modernize their characters until the mid to late 1990’s.
  14. Roger Sabin considers The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen and Maus “The Big 3” because each comic book was collected in a separate edition and made a mark on the comic book medium as literature. See Roger Sabin Adult Comics: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 1993, and Richard Reynolds. Super Heroes: A Modern Mythology. Jackson: U P of Mississippi, 1992.
  15. Over the years, many scholars wrote about Watchmen. For the best analysis, see Richard Reynolds. Super Heroes: A Modern Mythology. 105-118.
  16. Marvel created the imprint Epic that allowed artists to own their work, but it did not last long. Then, DC created Vertigo, a similar subsidiary to Epic which allowed creators to own their own work.
  17. Abel and the Three Witches hosted The Unexpected since issue #189. The witches kicked out Abel as of issue #214 and stayed as host until the end of the series.
  18. An in-depth analysis of the three witches as the Fates/Furies will be in chapter 5: Literary Signifying.
  19. Some examples of books from the Library of Dreams include The Man Who Was October by G. K. Chesterton, The Lost Road by J.R.R. Tolkien, and Alice’s Journey Behind the Moon by Lewis Carroll.
  20. All of these events took place in the first two series of Swamp Thing.
  21. Marvel produced a villain with the name the Sandman. Gaiman does not signify on this character, however.
  22. My research has only found one other issue besides Sandman in which Garrett Sanford appeared. It is in Justice League of America Annual #1. The villain of that issue was none other than Doctor Destiny.
  23. All citations from the New Testament are from Holy Bible: King James Version. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1990.
  24. For a basic guide to Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, see Edith Hamilton. Mythology. New York: Mentor, 1963.
  25. This is how Gaiman spells Faerie, therefore, that is how I will spell it.
  26. The following lines in the play appear in the following page number and panel. All lines from Shakespeare are from The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt, et al. New York: Norton, 1997. 1.1.1-4, p. 7, panel 7; 1.1.13-15, p. 7, panel 8; 1.1.142-145, p. 8, panel 1; 1.1.198-200, p. 8, panel 6; 1.2.9-15, p. 9, panel 1; 1.2.37-40, p. 9, panel 4; 1.2.58-60, p. 9, panel 6; 2.1.32-35, p. 10, panel 1; 2.1.42-43, p. 10, panel 3; 2.1.60-64, p. 10, panel 6; 2.1.135-138, p. 11, panel 1; 2.1.179-182, p. 11, panel 6; 2.2.90-93, p.12, panel 1; 2.2.119-120, p. 12, panel 4; 2.2.153-157, p. 12, panel 6; 3.1.94-97, p. 13, panel 7; 3.1.100-101, p. 13, panel 8; 3.1.114, p. 14, panel 1; 3.1.125-128, p. 14, panel 3; 3.2.4-6, p. 17, panel 1; 3.2.115, p. 17, panel 6; 4.1.1-4, p. 18, panel 1; 4.1.5-7, p. 18, panel 2; 4.1.59-62, p. 18, panel 6; 4.1.199-202, p. 19, panel 1; 4.1.204-207, panel 6; 5.1.1-4, p. 20, panel 1; 5.1.7-17, p. 20, panels 2-5; 5.1.48-51, p. 20, panel 6; 5.1.198-199, p. 21, panel 1; 5.1.207-209, p. 21, panel 6; 5.1.346-348, p. 22, panel 1; 5.2.13-14, 16-17, p. 22, panel 2; and Epilogue, p. 23, panels 1-5.
  27. For an in-depth account of Marlowe’s death, see Charles Nicholl. The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe. New York: Harcourt, 1992.
  28. See note #26. 1.1.1-4; p. 147, panel 1; 1.2.44-51, p. 152, panel 1; 1.2.174-182, p. 163, panel 1; 1.2.308-313, p. 165, panels 1-3; 1.2.366-368, p. 166, panel 7; 2.2.23-31, p. 169, panel 1; 4.1.148-158; p. 172-173, panels 2-7; 5.1.315-322, p. 174, panel 1; Epilogue, pages 183-184.
  29. This was mentioned in the Alan Moore section of Chapter 4, but for a detailed account of the murder, see Antonia Fraser. Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot. New York: Doubleday, 1996.
  30. For examples of Gaiman’s articles on Clive Barker, see Stephen Jones, ed. Clive Barker’s Shadows in Eden: The Books, Films and Art of Clive Barker. Lancaster, PA: Underwood-Miller, 1991. 295-298, and 361-378.
  31. For a detailed account of G. K. Chesterton, see either Michael Coren. Gilbert: The Man who was G. K. Chesterton. New York: Paragon, 1990, or Michael Ffinch. G. K. Chesterton: A Biography. New York: Harper, 1986.
  32. For a detailed account of A. A. Milne and Winnie-the-Pooh, see Ann Thwaite. A. A. Milne: The Man Behind Winnie-the-Pooh. New York: Random, 1990; and The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh: The Definitive History of the Best Bear in All the World.
  33. The lyrics of “The Handsome Cabin Boy” are as follows:The Handsome Cabin Boy
    © Kate Bush Music Ltd.

    ‘Tis of a pretty female
    As you may understand.
    Her mind being bent for rambling
    Unto some foreign land,
    She dressed herself in sailor’s clothes,
    Or so it does appear,
    And she hired with a captain
    To serve him for a year.

    The captain’s wife she being on board,
    She seemed in great joy
    To think the captain had engaged
    Â Such a handsome cabin boy,
    That now and then she’d slip him a kiss,
    And she’d have liked to toy,
    But ’twas the captain found out the secret
    Of the handsome cabin boy.

    Her cheeks they were like roses
    And her hair rolled in a curl.
    The sailors often smiled and said
    He looked just like a girl.
    Â But eating of the captain’s biscuit
    Â Her colour did destroy,
    And the waist did swell of pretty Nell,
    The handsome cabin boy.

    ‘Twas in the bay of Biscay
    Our gallant ship did plow.
    One night among the sailors
    Was a fearful flurry and row.
    They tumbled from their hammocks
    For their sleep it did destroy,
    And they sworn about the groaning
    Of the handsome cabin boy.

    “Oh doctor, dear, oh doctor,”
    The cabin boy did cry.
    “My time has come, I am undone,
    And I will surely die.”
    The doctor come a-runnin’
    And a-smilin’ at the fun.
    To think a sailor lad should have
    A daughter or a son.

    The sailors when they saw the joke
    They all did stand and stare.
    The child belonged to none of them,
    They solemnly did swear.
    The captain’s wife, she says to him,
    “My dear, I wish you joy,
    For ’tis either you or me’s betrayed
    The handsome cabin boy!”

    Now sailors, take your tot of rum
    And drink success to trade,
    And likewise to the cabin boy
    That was neither man nor maid.
    Here’s hoping the wars don’t rise again
    Our sailors to destroy,
    And here’s hoping for a jolly lot more
    Like the handsome cabin boy.

  34. For a thorough description of Raschid and Baghdad during his time, see Joseph Damus. Twelve Medieval Kings. New York: Doubleday, 1967. 53-95.
  35. For an analysis of Arabian Nights, see Robert Irwin. The Arabian Nights: A Companion. London: Penguin, 1995.
  36. All information on the life of Marco Polo is from “Marco Polo.” The New Encyclopedia Britannica, volume 9. 15th ed. 1993.
  37. For more information on the French revolution, see Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment, and Frank. M. Turner. The Western Heritage. 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1983.
    Also, check John Paxton. Companion to the French Revolution. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1988.
  38. For a thorough account of Norton I, see William Drury. Norton I, Emperor of the United States. New York : Dodd, Mead,1986.

Appendix IÂ Personal Interview with Neil Gaiman

Conducted by Michael Niederhausen on March 23, 1999 at the Renaissance Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio.
Michael Niederhausen:Â Besides the relationship with dreams and previous Sandmen, why did you use Lyta Hall/Fury or Doctor Destiny in your series?

Neil Gaiman: Because they fitted so nicely. Doctor Destiny – I liked the idea of this weird matieroptikon thing, you know you have this whole idea of this jewel that could make dreams reality – it’s been around for ages. When I began Sandman, I wanted to create an immortal character – an immortal character who’s been around since the beginning of time. He was incredibly important and this being the DC universe, the first question you ask then is why hadn’t anyone heard of him? Where has he been? So that is where you get the opening story. Those are the questions that led to the opening story.

MN: So it’s a way of fitting your character in the DC universe?

NG: Yes, exactly. It was just nice to borrow the character I wanted. I wanted a story about madness, so it worked very well. With Lyta Hall, you had someone who had been a super heroine, formerly called the Fury, which seemed perfectly appropriate for – knowing that was the final story line. It was basically the Sandman versus the Furies. She seemed like the perfect person to have in the mix.

MN:Â Especially the way Roy Thomas changed her background.

NG: Exactly. After Roy Thomas had done that stuff and given that sort of Roy Thomas marrying her to this dead Hector Hall character. You know occasionally Roy Thomas’ characters would grumble to me that I killed Hector Hall, and I said no, Roy Thomas killed Hector Hall in Infinity. This character was by definition a ghost.

MN:Â So you were familiar with Doctor Destiny before you started Sandman, or did you have to research what he was like?

NG:Â A bit of both.

MN:Â Do you feel that a comic book needs to make a reference to other super heroes in some form in some way?

NG: No, not at all. I did it because it was fun. It amused me do so. It was sort of fun to do in the beginning then I stopped doing it, and every now and then I’d amuse myself by doing comic characters who people refer to as jokes.Â

MN:Â Like the Prez.

NG: [Nods] Like Element Girl, like Prez. You know Element Girl was a character who was so unimportant, she was left out of Who’s Who. So it was kind of – I thought okay. Prez was just a standing joke. If anybody wanted to talk about how bad comics would be after they’ve done the Brother Power, the Geek joke, they’d say at least they’re not bringing back the Prez. And I thought – you know I was getting very puzzled at the time. I had just moved to America. I watched Clinton get elected. After the level of jubilation and elation on the part of my friends and myself we found it unimaginable – it’s like, “Wow, we got Clinton.” And then eight months later, when they started to realize that all they’ve done is elected another scabby politician, the amount of disillusion was enormous. And I thought, you know these people don’t want a politician, they don’t want a president, they want God. They just want Jesus. Somebody to come down from the sky and make everything okay for them. So I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to write an account of a presidential election as a synoptic gospel – a presidency as a synoptic gospel. And the Prez seemed the perfect vehicle to do that.

MN: You make many literary references. Do those make The Sandman “an adult comic book” as you intended it to be? Is that what did it for you?

NG: No, I don’t think literary references mean very much one way or the other. I make the literary references because I enjoy them.Â

MN:Â Just like the comic book references.

NG: Yeah, because Sandman is a story about stories – about the nature of stories. It’s a story designed to be almost infinitely readable- the idea of Sandman, is that your looking at something which works on one level as an adventure comic but it works on another level if you’re just reading it for the story – month by month. It works on a completely different level if you buy the books individually. And there’s nothing quite so enjoyable for me than watching somebody who picked up the “Kindly Ones” and read it as a book, arguing with somebody who read it as a comic and the people who read it as a comic saying, “It’s slow and stupid and doesn’t go anywhere, etc. and didn’t make sense.” And the people who read it as a book are going, “Are you crazy! It’s so fast.” You want something that can be read by an educated reader with pleasure. And then reread with increased pleasure and I’m not really putting in literary references to make it adult or anything. I’m putting in literary references and all the other references because the more you know, the more pleasure you will get from it. You don’t need to know that a philosopher named Hobbes once wrote a famous book called Leviathan to get a kick out of the fact that one of the episodes is called “Hob’s Leviathan,” and is very literally about a sea serpent seen by man named Hob. You also don’t need to know that it’s very consciously – that story [in “Hob’s Leviathan”] references a short story by Kipling. You don’t need to know that the tale of the Indian and the fruit of immortality is actually a very obscure short Hindu story translated by Richard Burton in a book called Vikram and the Vampire. Just thinking of a few things off hand. You don’t need to get – there are some references to Yeats you might not otherwise get. You know you don’t need to be familiar with a folksong called “The Handsome Cabin Boy,” about being in the tradition of cabin boys running away to sea and getting pregnant and so forth. You don’t need to be familiar with Moby Dick to get a kick out of the fact that the first line in that story is “Call me Jim.” That’s not everything in there. I’m throwing a few things off the top of my head. None of those things are actually important for appreciation of a story, but each of them, if you spot them and notice them or know anything about them gives you an extra little kick out of it when you’re reading the stories.

MN: Why did you have Shakespeare and Jonson concoct the rhyme about Guy Fawkes? Are there any historical reasons for that?

NG: No historical basis for that at all. I find it fascinating that you have a piece of weird, little, bad doggerel that has survived for centuries. You know the bonfires started around then and it was a nice contrast with the previous scene which is whether or not Shakespeare actually composed the psalm that is attributed to him. He may possibly have done. He may well have been involved in the translation of the Old Testament; we don’t know. But there is that coolness of him hiding the name Shakespeare in the psalm and so forth. It just seemed nice to contrast doggerel with a psalm, really. And also to look at what kind of creative genius, creative impulse, creative feeling is actually about. Somebody had to make it up. Why not them for the purpose of the story? And it also helps fixes it in time, it’s James’ era, we’re no longer in the Elizabethan era, we’re in a new world. I like the idea that little things – part of the fun of “The Tempest” for me, if anything “The Tempest” is a very, very extended essay on the question, where do you get your ideas and how do you write something like that, and is this stuff autobiographical and which of the characters are you. And all the questions that people ask writers, I tried my very best to explain, to clarify, to answer in that issue. You get to see how all of this stuff is coming in, all this info is translating itself into the play – his anger about his daughter, going into the play, seeing these two drunks coming in with a corpse of a dead Pattigonian Indian, going straight into the play in a strange kind of upside down way. Which of the characters are him? He’s all of them.

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Bellonci, Maria. The Travels of Marco Polo. Trans. Teresa Waugh. New York: Facts on File, 1984.
Benton, Mike. Superhero Comics of the Golden Age. Taylor History of Comics, vol. 4. Dallas: Taylor, 1992.
—. Superhero Comics of the Silver Age. Taylor History of Comics, vol. 2. Dallas: Taylor, 1991.
—. The Comic Book in America: An Illustrated History. Dallas: Taylor, 1989.
Benton, Mike, ed. Horror Comics: The Illustrated History. Taylor History of Comics, vol. 1. Dallas: Taylor, 1991.
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Burton, Richard. Vikram and the Vampire: or, Tales of Hindu Devilry. London, 1893.
Chadwick, Paul. Concrete: Strange Armor. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 1998.
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Coren, Michael. Gilbert: The Man Who Was G. K. Chesterton. New York: Paragon, 1990.
Dahmus, Joseph. Seven Medieval Kings. New York: Doubleday, 1967.
Daniels, Les. Comix: A History of Comic Books in America. New York: Bonanza Books, 1971.
—. DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World’s Favorite Comic Book Heroes. New York: Little, Brown, and Co., 1995.
—. Marvel. New York: Abrams, 1991.
Drury, William. Norton I, Emperor of the United States. New York : Dodd, 1986.
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—. World’s End. New York: DC Comics, Inc., 1994.
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Irwin, Robert. The Arabian Nights: A Companion. London: Penguin, 1995.
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