published Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

25 years after 'Sandman,' writer Neil Gaiman returns anew

  • photo
    The first issue of Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman Overture" six-part series.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Some questions remain unanswered for what may seem lifetimes. In “The Sandman Overture” writer Neil Gaiman hopes to answer at least one that has puzzled fans for more than two decades: How could Sandman have been captured so easily to begin with?

It was Sandman’s ensnarement that saw Gaiman launch his telling of the DC Entertainment character for Vertigo Comics in 1988, a move that pushed him, the character and the publisher into a new level of storytelling and sales, with collected editions quickly becoming best-sellers.

“You had people, like Norman Mailer, describing it as a comic for intellectuals; bless him,” Gaiman says.

“Sandman” has remained a critical darling and fan favorite, though it’s been 17 years since the book concluded what Gaiman dubbed its “75-issue limited series” run.

Now, says Gaiman, it’s time to provide answers of sort as the first issue of a six-part limited series — illustrated by artist J.H. Williams III — has begun its year-long run, with “moments” he’s been “looking forward to writing for 25 years.”

It could be likened to riding a bicycle again after a long time away.

Gaiman says it wasn’t hard to get back on the bicycle, but now there’s a huge audience. Imagine, he says, “if the first time you learned to bicycle and had ridden your bicycle around it was just you,” and then “gradually a few people went ‘Look, I really like the way he rides the bicycle.’”

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    The character Morpheus is shown in “The Sandman Overture,” the first issue of a six-issue limited series illustrated by artist J.H. Williams III and written by Neil Gaiman which came out on Oct. 30.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

“It was a small, organic phenomenon, but over the years your bicycle riding had become kind of legendary. Now, you’re in a world in which 25 million people are going ‘Oh my god, he’s getting back on the bicycle!’ There’s a little bit of worrying how wobbly your bicycle riding is going to be.”

So far, the bike is on a smooth path.

The scope of the storytelling is galactic, even otherworldly in its scope and reach, a testament that Gaiman’s story was aimed to give Williams a sprawling canvas for whom pages are vistas of verdant and concussive forces of color, emotion and energy.

Rich Johnston, a writer of comics and chronicler of the industry, noted on his website Bleeding Cool that Gaiman “has written for the strengths of the artist and in ‘Sandman Overture’ that means drawing the impossible, a flower that resembles Morpheus, dreams within dreams, and a quadruple page spread that opens up, portraying every aspect of Dream across the universe.”

Gaiman says the return has been a reunion of sorts, too. Dave McKean, an artist from the first run, is providing alternate covers and letterer Todd Klein is back for the series, too.

“I’m enormously proud that I think the characters feel like the characters, the story feels like the story and I think J.H. Williams’ art is probably the finest I have ever seen in a mainstream periodical comic,” he says.

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