I had to make a decision years ago that has more to do with finances than my critical feelings, and that decision was to give up on reading comics. Actually, I had to give up buying them, but since that was the only way I could read them, the effect was the same. As with books, I had once read comics quite indiscriminately, from the tritist superhero soap opera (okay, I’ll name titles–X-Men) to the bizzarist independents (Flaming Carrot). As the prices increased, I couldn’t manage to keep up with all the titles I was following, plus maintain all my other interests. Something had to give, and I selected books and music over comics because I felt that comics were the most ephemeral.
There were some that I hated to give up, notably Dave Sim’s Cerebus. Since then, I’ve convinced myself that buying the “collected” volumes of comics isn’t the same as actually following comics, but falls into the realm of books.
Which leads me to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, which started appearing shortly after I had made my decision. Lucky for me the collections started appearing right on the heels of the comic, so I didn’t have too long of a wait to see what everyone was talking about. Gaiman’s comic is like Jonathan Carroll’s novels, except Gaiman is more fantastical and less real, but more abstract and philosophical. In a sense, what Gaiman is achieving in Sandman is the creation of a new mythos, but one born of ancient ideals mixed with modern concepts. Actually, come to think of it, Ovid probably was doing the same thing in his time. Comparing Gaiman to Ovid may be going too far, but then he does reinvent the Orpheus myth in this collection, so who knows?
While I’ll never be one you can trust to pick art work, this volume does contain a story illustrated by one of my favorites, P. Craig Russell, whose ornate style works well with Gaiman’s poetical flourishes. This isn’t the best introduction to the characters if you’ve never met Sandman before–I’ve also got The Doll’s House, which probably fits that bill better.
[Finished 16 April 1995]