Riot’s blog, Burning Leaves, reminded me yesterday of how much I love the Sandman. I went into the hallway and gazed admiringly at my very nice Sandman poster. I just now went to find a small picture of it on the internet, so I could link to it, and I couldn’t find one anywhere. I couldn’t even find one for sale on eBay. So I’m glad I have this one, and if I had batteries in my camera I would take a picture of it and post it here. It reminds me of when my love for Sandman was new.
I actually read The Doll’s House first. I bought it from Bongs & Noodles, and the check-out guy said, “You read the first one, right?” and I said, “Well, y’all don’t have it. Do I really need to read the first one first? I can’t start with this one?” and you could see him trying to decide whether it was more important to him to tell the truth or to sell books. He eventually said, “Yeah. You really have to read the first one first.” I didn’t. You really have to read the first one first. Or at least, you have to read the first one before the second one. In the end I gave up on the whole Sandman for a while, then decided that I was going to damn well read them and I was going to damn well like them, and I bought all ten volumes with my high school graduation money.
Preludes and Nocturnes is not Neil Gaiman’s best work, but it is still pretty good. I was thinking while I was reading it – damn, Neil Gaiman is good at coming up with incantations. The spell they say to summon Death, while ineffective, is an excellent spell
I give you a coin I made from a stone. I give you a song I stole from the dirt. I give you a knife from under the hills, and a stick that I stuck through a dead man’s eye. I give you a claw I ripped from a rat. I give you a name, and the name is lost. I give you blood from out of my vein, and a feather I pulled from an angel’s wing. I call you with names of my lord, of my lord. I summon with poison and summon with pain. I open the way and I open the gates.
How good’s that? It’s evocative, and it scans.
At this point in the comic’s life, it was still mostly horror. Particularly “24 Hours”. Generally when I am reading Preludes and Nocturnes, I start reading “24 Hours”, and I get to the part where the waitress is considering her philosophy of storytelling. She says that every story ends in death if you keep going long enough; and the trick is to know when to stop. I usually consider this to be Neil Gaiman’s way of telling me that he doesn’t mind if I skip “24 Hours”, so I do. This time, I was in a completist mood, and I read it. It is well unsettling. Feel free to skip it. I will tell you what happens: Everybody dies in nasty ways, and at the end Dream shows up in a bad mood.
However, “The Sound of Her Wings” – I say unoriginally – makes up for any flaws in the foregoing seven issues. Death is a delightful character, of whom we just never see enough. I like it when she throws bread at him and talks about Mary Poppins. Thanks to my wonderful sister Anna, I have this in a single issue, which I fetched down from my bookshelf and read. I love having single issues of the Sandman. Looking at the ones I have flashes me back to this little used comics & books shop on Portobello Market Road, which I visited almost every day of July 2005. I was living in Notting Hill that month, so it was close by. (On Pembridge Gardens, a street that was very easy to get to from the Notting Hill Tube Station, but it took me an hour and a half with two suitcases, because I made a wrong turn and every street within a ten-mile radius was called Pembridge something, and Londoners are crap at giving directions. All except for this one street-cleaner, and at the time I couldn’t understand anything he was saying, though in retrospect I realize that he was giving me perfect directions.) I wanted to buy all the issues because of the extreme beauty of Dave McKean’s covers. I spent so much money at that shop.
If I could draw, I would want to be able to draw like Dave McKean. I have recently decided to take King of Hearts off of my desert island five movies, and substitute MirrorMask. Definitely. If you haven’t seen it, see it. It’s charming. Especially the end.