Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Sandman - King of Dreams

Picked up this book (hardcover) by Alisa Kwitney from the National Library (call reference 741.5-973). It's something of a broad sweep of Gaiman's work on the monthly series, which ran from 1988 till 1996, and contains cover art, pages, quotes and a little bit of "behind the scenes" and "did you know" type information in the text.

Kwitney writes well. Good amount of wit, and a published author herself, she was one of several assistant editors at Vertigo who worked closely with Gaiman on the title. In Gaiman's introduction, he mentions that Kwitney's father is Robert Sheckley, an author of short sci-fi stories I remember enjoying greatly. Sheckley's stories had all the necessary trappings of sci-fi, but were infused with a relaxed style of intelligent humor, and the stories I remember best had a compelling build up of a problem that seemed impossible to solve, and then a clever resolution right at the end. I've not seen Sheckley's collection in the book stores in ages, but if you do find a copy, it'll be worth your while to pick one up. (and then mail to me as a gift)

Reading Kwitney's "King of Dreams" reminds me of how wonderfully enjoyable the sandman run was. I'm picking up new insights I missed in earlier reads - like when Morpheus dismisses Lyta Hall carelessly (after dismissing her "ghost" of a husband - the odd character Kirby did a few issues of) her posture is one of giving birth - and in this case, it's the foreshadowed birth not just of Daniel, but also a hatred that would lead her to the Furies in "the Kindly Ones".

I also found a quote by Death that I've been looking for. I thought I read it in one of the "Books of Magic", but here it was, in the one issue story "Facade":
When the first living thing existed, I was there, waiting.
When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished.
I'll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave.
Another nice snippet of info was that one of Gaiman's early proposals to DC was to work on the Phantom Stranger, which was turned down and this resulted in the proposal for Sandman instead. My head is buzzing at what Gaiman was planning for Phantom Stranger - my first serious attempt at comic collecting began with the Phantom Stranger (by David Micheline), unfortunately just before the series was to be cancelled. The back up feature in that book was Black Orchid - which interestingly was the first work Gaiman (with Dave McKean) did for DC. While we're on the topic of the Phantom Stranger - look up Moore's take on the Stranger's origin.

This would be a good time to pen down a few "Top" Lists:

Favourite Individual Stories:
1-Midsummer Night's Dream
2-The Sound of Her Wings
3-Three Septembers and a January

Favourite Story Arcs:
1-Season of Mists
2-World's End
3-The Wake

Favourite Spin-Offs:
1-Death - the High Cost of Living
2-The Dream Hunters (illustrated version by Charles Vess)
3-Death - the Time of Your Life

I'm closing this post with a quote from Destruction, in a story within a story within a story (lost count of the recursiveness) - Petrefax's tale of the Necropolis Litharge tale from the inn at World's End. (which nicely recalls Douglas Adam's Restaurant at the End of the Universe)
It's important to have places like this. Once the spirit's flown and the spark of life has gone, then the rituals of farewell are needed. All the rituals we go through to help us say goodbye. You HAVE to say goodbye.
This quote makes me think of Departures. And on an almost cold december night in Singapore, with the ground soaked and the braddell insects singing over the drone of distant traffic on wet roads, this is perhaps a very appropriate thought.

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