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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #348

Kirby Week-or-so continues! Today: the final collaboration between two titanic legends! (Archive.)

12/14/07

348. Sandman

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Jack Kirby spent many years working with the great Joe Simon (check out Joe Simon Week in the archives) in the Golden Age and beyond. Their final team-up, however, occurred in 1974, in one single issue– one that would become Sandman #1. It may be the weirdest comic either of them ever did, and it’s amazing.

The Sandman is a superheroic guardian of the dream dimension who protects kids from nightmares. He keeps two living nightmares named Brute and Glob captive, and sets them free with the aid of his magic whistle when he needs help. He can transport himself to the real, waking world when needed, and carries magic sand that can put anyone to sleep. The plot of the original issue involves evil dolls made by dormant Nazis who are led by a crazy Japanese dude with a computer brain named General Electric. Only Sandman can save the day—! Strange indeed, but wonderful in its madness. It combined the insanity of 70s Simon with the insanity of 70s Kirby!

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The book must have done well, because it led to an ongoing series, this time by Michael Fleisher and Ernie Chua. Equally ridiculous and brilliant, it involved such concepts and characters as the monstrous, Mojo-like Dr. Spider and– wait for it– zombie gorillas!

Kirby returned to the series with #4, working under scripts by Fleisher. From what I understand, Kirby wasn’t a fan of his work on this series, but I think it’s magnificent nonetheless. The Sandman found himself swept up in the dreams of one boy, Jed Paulsen, again and again, and helped save him from all sorts of menaces and nightmares. Almost similar to Marvel’s Sleepwalker, which I also love, but far, far stranger. Heck, in #5, Jed’s grampa is killed in a random sea monster encounter, and he’s sent to live with other relatives, but still gets to team up with his buddy the Sandman to fight Frog People and stuff, and… Geez, it’s a wild series.

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The series ended after #6, though there was a seventh issue planned involving Sandman teaming up with Santa Claus to battle the Seal Men that appeared, in some versions, at least, in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade and Best of DC Digest. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:

Sandman 8.JPG

The Sandman is one of Kirby’s more obscure works, and probably his most bizarre collaboration. He may not have been happy with it, but I am. Neil Gaiman liked it enough to re-use some of the concepts in his own Sandman series. I’d like to see some kind of collection of the series, myself.

I think it’s ripe for a revamping, too. Something this insane deserves a new chance at life! Would anybody here buy a series about a colorfully-garbed guardian of the Dream Stream and his two nightmarish sidekicks protecting the subconsciouses of youngsters across the world? I would. Hmm. Maybe it’d be good for Vertigo…

10 Comments

Um, didn’t they kill this Sandman off pretty thoroughly in Gaiman’s Sandman series, and then again during Infinite Crisis? Of course, they could bring him back any time …

Did this ever come out in trade?

This is one I actually knew what it was before clicking below the fold. Kirby’s Sandman rocks.

And not to be snarky, but considering Greg just posted a column talking about continuity porn, isn’t Gaiman incorporating this Sandman into his series the height of continuity porn? I mean, most people had never heard of this character, even longtime DC superhero fans. I thought Gaiman’s use was great, but I do feel that the same people will praise continuity by one writer and then condemn it by another.

I’m just babbling at this point, aren’t I?

Continuity is a necessary by-product of having a character in a shared universe. I think it’s how you use it that matters. With Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, it mostly is used to create layering that causes extra resonances if you’ve read the original sources (whether that be Kirby and Simon’s Sandman or Matthew Cable or Prez)… the same way knowing G.K. Chesterton makes Fiddler’s Green all the more fascinating.

In the case of the Kirby/Simon Sandman, Gaiman was pulling the late ’80s revisionist trick of saying ‘There was more going on than you knew’ and pulling back the curtain to reveal, in effect, that the entire ’70s Sandman series was a lie. Brute and Glob were really running the show and using the Sandman and Jed to develop their own dream realm. It’s a crucial detail I’m surprised isn’t in the main article.

(Also not in the article is the detail that in the comics there were two Sandmen: Garrett Sandford was the scientist who became the Sandman for the ’70s series. Roy Thomas brought him back in the ’80s for a couple of appearances and had former Silver Scarab Hector Hall adopt the mantle after he died in Infinity Inc. The amazing thing about the appearance in Gaiman’s Sandman is that he took all this into consideration!)

I’ve never read Gaiman’s Sandman, actually, and while I’ve read up on all the later Sandman retcons and revisions, I wasn’t particularly keen to put them in this article, which is more of a celebration of the original series and concept.

I hadn’t any idea a G.K. Chesterton analogue showed up in Sandman, either. Now I’ve got to read it (I just, you know, need 200 dollars to buy the series).

Okay, Bill… you haven’t read The Invisibles OR The Sandman?

There are no words.

Well, I’ve read two volumes of Invisibles…

If you’d like to give me the 320+ dollars to purchase the entire set, you’re more than welcome to.

Some libraries carry The Invisibles, Bill. That’s how I read the majority of the series.

Most of the libraries around here don’t even know what a graphic novel is. I might be able to bum some copies off of acquaintances.

One day, I shall purchase them.

i’m not even sure you are qualified to talk about comics if you have never read Gaiman’s Sandman

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