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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 201

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

As an aside, the comic book speculation market of the early 1990s has totally ruined the number 201 for me.

Today we look at the first volume of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Preludes and Nocturnes…


Preludes and Nocturnes often gets a bit of a bad rap. Not that it is BAD, per se, but clearly, if you compare the first volume of Sandman versus the rest of Sandman, there’s a pretty dramatic difference, as Gaiman got more control over the book and was able to do whatever he wanted without concern over the DC Universe ties (to wit, no Justice League International cameos)

But while it might not be as good as the REST of Sandman, Preludes and Nocturnes is still pretty darn good.

Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg were the artists, and they did good work.

After escaping captivity, Morpheus goes to the dreamscape, where Gaiman cleverly ties Sandman/Dream/Morpheus into the established DC history of the Houses of Mystery and Secrets, and their proprietors, Cain and Abel…

We learn that all of those old comics took place in a dreamworld, a dreamworld that has fallen apart since Morpheus went missing…

In order to regain control of his kingdom, Morpheus must regain three items of power. Three witches show him where they are…

While the story involving John Constantine was certainly quite good, the story in hell is likely the most famous of the arc, as Gaiman does work with hell that will resonate throughout his run on Sandman AND into Mike Carey’s run on Lucifer…

Here’s the famous battle between Morpehus and the demon who stole his property…

That leaves Doctor Destiny, the old Justice League villain.

Gaimain was compelled to use the JLI, but boy, he sure does a good job with them, like Mister Miracle’s dreams…

As it turns out, Doctor Destiny has gone off the deep end. See this diner filled with people?

Well, in a memorable issue #6, Destiny destroys them all in mind, spirit and finally body, leading to a climactic showdown with Destiny and Morpheus in #7.

Really powerful work.

EDITED TO ADD: I see there has been some concern over the use of the word “forced.” I see now that it was too strong of a word. My bad. I simply meant that Gaiman was compelled to set his book in the DC Universe to star to ease readers into his universe, and once he did so, he mostly dropped those trappings. Still, the word forced does imply that it was not his own doing, so I’ve edited it to the more appropriate “compelled.”


Yeah, the early Sandman stuff is SO different in tone and scope than the later stuff, really echoing the Moore-esque horror that preluded most of the current Vertigo titles, but it’s all still damn good.

I’m sure you know this, because you are All-Knowing, but how was Gaiman forced to use the JLI? I’m sure he’s said so, but I’m just wondering what he’s said about it. The reason I ask is because these proto-Vertigo books did take place in the DCU, and while later these writers expressed scorn for all things superheroes because they’re too damned good for them, it seems like Gaiman was, at least back then, a bit geeked about them. So why wouldn’t he throw some superheroes in there? Especially as the tone of the book, as you point out, was so different than it was later on. It was still a horror title existing on the fringes of the DCU. And it’s not like the All-Powerful Gaiman didn’t put superheroes in the book during, say, The Wake.

Plus, Gaiman did a Gruenwald-worthy collecting of various scattered pieces of DCU mythology and weaved them all into the DCU proper thanks to the Dreamworld. It makes sense that Sandman wouldn’t always be hanging out at Green Arrow’s place, since the story is about his and all of humanity. But not including it isn’t any different than, say, a gritty Batman story that doesn’t include a hundred thousand aliens with Superman powers.

I took the “forced” meaning that Gaiman couldn’t use the classic JLofA lineup and had to use the then current incarnation of the League.

Lord Paradise

July 21, 2010 at 8:13 am

Preludes and Nocturnes, if I recall, follows something of an even-odd rule:

The first issue (Dream’s imprisonment) isn’t very good at all;

The second issue (introducing Cain and Abel, Lucien and the Three) I really liked;

I didn’t really like the Constantine issue;

The Hell issue was good;

The JLI one with Dr. Destiny’s escape and hitchhiking adventures was meh;

24 Hours was very good;

Sound and Fury, if anything, is the exception, because it was a very cool issue, but I think the rule still applies because it was stuck between 24 Hours and the Sound of Her Wings, which were both quite a bit better.

So it’s definitely a lot less consistent than the rest of Sandman, which was pretty much on all the time.

Jonathan Ehrich

July 21, 2010 at 8:20 am

“As an aside, the comic book speculation market of the early 1990s has totally ruined the number 201 for me. ”

I’m sure this should be clear to me, but I haven’t got a clue and it’s driving me crazy. Help!

As in Uncanny X-Men 201 ?

The issue set in the diner is one of the best single issue stories I’ve ever read. Isn’t that the one that won Gaiman the Stoker Award and made them change the rules so a comic story couldn’t win again?

The issue set in the diner is one of the best single issue stories I’ve ever read. Isn’t that the one that won Gaiman the Stoker Award and made them change the rules so a comic story couldn’t win again?

Sandman actually never won a Stoker Award for the regular series (it won two for series that came out later). You’re thinking of the World Fantasy Award he won for a Midsummer’s Night Dream that they later changed the rules to exclude comic book stories from winning (hmm…that’s not a bad idea for a legend).

According to Neil on twitter (he tweeted the article), he wasn’t forced to use JLI at all.

I just read this actually for the first time! The chapter in the diner where Dee absolutely tortures those people is one of the more chilling moments I’ve experienced in comic books, while still being very tasteful and artful.

Looks like NeilHimself is debunking your claim that he was forced to put the JLI/A in: http://twitter.com/neilhimself/status/19092786298 Nice to be noticed, though, no?

Neil Gaiman wasn’t forced to use JLA characters at all. He wanted to use them more often, but continually butted heads with DC over the continuity of the characters in the rest of the universe and what Neil wanted to do with them. For instance, he wanted to use the Joker in Arkham for the April Fool’s Day joke, but was forced to change it to Scarecrow because the Joker was temporarily dead. It was more hassle to use DC’s characters than it was worth.

From what I gather from the Absolute Sandman stuff, Gaiman used the Justice League of his own free will, because the book was considered part of the DC Universe and so why not use characters from other stories? There’s later stories in the run that borrow other characters. It’s more the other way around: Gaiman was encouraged to keep his stories separate so they could grow on their own. It was the right call, in the end.

I knew the term “forced” was too much. My apologies there. Gaiman has said in the past that he intentionally used the superhero characters to start the book so that the book would have appeal to the regular DCU readers and then he would move on. So I suppose “compelled” would be a better word than “forced.”

I didn’t know the first issues were seen as inferior to the rest of the series. I really love Preludes and Nocturnes, specially the issue where Sandman go to hell in search of his mask.

You forgot to include the most memorable (for me) part of that story: Lucifer confronts Sandman, telling him that he can’t escape hell, that he is powerless there. Then Morpheus says:

“What power would hell have if those imprisoned here would not be able to dream of heaven?”

Then he walks alway, with the whole hell in silence. It’s really a powerful story, and my favorite from Sandman.

Thanks, Brian, That’s what I was thinking of. Obviously I got pretty much all the details wrong, but I remembered the gist of it.

No denying that he has talent, but I can’t stand Gaiman’s “voice”.

Garth Ennis probably summed up the often insubstantial, whiny, rose – verging on purple writting of Gaiman in that one issue of Preacher with the Goth Vampires.

I don’t get the 201 comment either.

Travis Pelkie

July 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm

I don’t get the 201 comment either.

I’d like to point out as well, that while Sandman can, to a degree, exist outside of the DCU proper, there are still later things that tie into the DCU — the fact that


the later Sandman, Daniel, is the son of 2 characters from Infinity Inc seems to me to be a big flag that Gaiman was heavily geeked out on being ok with using DCU characters. It’s just that, as someone says above, it was hard to match up with the DCU continuity-wise.

And 24 Hours, by itself, makes Preludes and Nocturnes amazing. So disturbing. In fact, it may be more creepy BECAUSE it’s using an old JLA villain to commit the atrocities.

I guess a few people disagree, but I really liked the first issue of Sandman. I found the first reveal of Morpheus’s face, as small and understated as it is, to be very powerful, intimidating and spooky (Sam Keith is one of my favourite Sandman artists). And the ending is very creepy as well.

My favourite story in this volume by far is issue 4 in Hell. A cool story and the introduction of my favourite depiction of the devil in all of fiction.

I have to say I’m one of the few who didn’t love “24 Hours”, after a while it just felt like a lot of shock for shock’s sake (not that parts aren’t very effective, the part that gets me is the hour where Dr. Dee gives them their minds back temporarily, chilling in its cruelty).

It’s unfortunate that the finale of the Dr. Dee story was as anticlimactic as it was after all that gruesomeness that built up to it.

All in all, definitely cool comics that were just the tip of the iceberg for a great series.

Yeah, Gaiman’s ‘voice’ always bothered me, too. It’s the kind of thing that even sounds awkward when I read it. Way too ‘poetic’ and purple.

“What power would hell have if those imprisoned here would not be able to dream of heaven?”, for example, makes me think of Patton Oswalt’s “Physics for Poets” bit.


Plus he sucks at crafting a story.
A good example is “whatever happened to the caped crusader”. Extremely vaporous two parter, that doesn’t say anything.

I actually like the bulk of Preludes & Nocturnes a lot. I can certainly see why it’s somewhat looked-down upon compared to the rest of the run, but only because the rest of the run is so extraordinarily brilliant. If Sandman had been cancelled after this storyline, it would still have been the best proto-Vertigo series. 24 Hours and The Sound of Her Wings are two of the best single issues in the series.

As for Gaiman’s ‘voice’, it’s a hell of a lot less pretentious than Moore’s Swamp Thing (not saying Moore’s pretentiousness is necessarily a bad thing, I like a bit of pretentiousness now and then…).

Travis Pelkie

July 22, 2010 at 1:41 am

For those talking about Gaiman’s “purple prose”, are you talking about all of his stuff, or just the voice of Sandman himself? Because Sandman himself seems to be purposely “purple”. But I can see the pretentiousness argument.

I’d say to dhole (and it’s been a while since I read this book) that the “anticlimatic” conclusion to the Dr Dee stuff is a bit deliberate — Dr Destiny is this guy who could stand toe to toe with the Justice League, and this “Sandman” guy just completely takes him out, barely even trying (although Dr Destiny did almost destroy the Dreaming, I think).

Given that Patton Oswalt’s a big comics fan, it’s quite possible that the bit Apodaca linked to (I didn’t look at it myself) is him trying to “do” Gaiman’s voice. Maybe.

mckracken, To me, “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader” was saying that even if the story ends, someone like Batman has a story that will never really end. There was the explicit link to other eternal tales like Robin Hood in the Catwoman story, and the theme of eternal rebirth was, if anything, quite obvious. Plus, if you didn’t think the Alfred story was cool, I don’t know what to tell you.

C’mon Brian, explain the 201 thing! I don’t get it!

Maybe Brian spend $201 on a comic back then

C’mon Brian, explain the 201 thing! I don’t get it!

Someone already mentioned what it was.

I said I thought it’s Uncanny X-Men 201.

The issue is the first appearance of Scott & Maddeline Summers baby who is later turned into 90s fave Cable. When Cable was it the value of thi s issue skyrocketed. Go have a peak on eBay now………

Didn’t help the value of X-Men/Alpha Flight 1 where Maddy finds out she’s pregnant. But UXM 201’s never been reprinted in colour – though there is now a b&w version in Essential X-Men 6.

That was also the issue in which a depowered Storm kicked Cyclops’ ass and became leader of the X-Men.

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randypan the goat boy

May 24, 2011 at 3:39 pm

As far as im concerned this is the storyline that gave birth to the trade paperback . It is simply perfect from cover to cover and some of the imagery in this volume will haunt me forever. The dr destiney storyline in the cafe was what a great horror story should be …and the fact that this hasnt been made into a movie is criminal

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