All The Beautiful Worlds

I would not describe myself as a big comics fan. I love them, still have a strong attachment to them and their characters, but I am hardly an expert–not even close.

I started reading comic books when I was very young–I remember all the iterations of Archie, Millie the Model, Little Dot, Little Lotta, Sugar ‘n’ Spice, etc.–and eventually moved into the world of super-hero comics (while still greatly enjoy the horror/suspense/mystery comics as well–The Witching Hour, House of Secrets, House of Mystery, Chilling Tales, etc.). I stopped reading them regularly when we moved out to the suburbs–they were harder to find in our little developing suburb when we moved there–and it wasn’t until we moved to Kansas several years later than I got back into comics again. I was always a DC kid; and the few years I’d been away saw some dramatic changes made to the DC Universe–trying to modernize and update them; the 70’s were a very weird time for Wonder Woman–and then, again, when I moved to California I stopped reading them again. A friend in college brought me around to them again, this time also introducing me to Marvel. When I moved to Houston, my nephew was really into comics, and so I started reading them again with him, and continued buying them for several years. This was post-Crisis and the first massive reboot of DC, so as I was going through the racks at a comics shop in Houston one day I saw The Sandman.

The post-Crisis reboot of DC had changed some of the comics, and the heroes (this was always my favorite version of Starman, Will Peyton) changed as well. But…I wasn’t prepared for The Sandman.

I’d never heard of Neil Gaiman before, but it was this comic book series that turned me into a fan. The incredible imagination involved in creating this bizarre mythology, of the Endless siblings who epitomized some aspect of the human experience–Dream, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destruction, Destiny–and of course, the main character of the book was Dream of the Endless, master of the Dreaming, where all humans go when we sleep, and he controls our dreams, creating both Dreams and Nightmares. The story line of “The Doll’s House” especially was fantastic and enchanting; it was one of the few comics (along with the Will Peyton run as Starman) where I went back and bought the back issues because I wanted to read them all. (I’ve also gotten some of the all-in-one collections of the stories, including “The Doll’s House.”)

I’ve always loved this comic run. and have always regretted never finishing it; I stopped buying comics before the series ended. The prospect of a film version never interested me much because I didn’t see how it could be done, plus it would inevitably be a disappointment; the comics were visually stunning, the characters and stories so layered and complex I didn’t see how any of them could be condensed into a two-hour film, and the expense of recreating the brilliant and beautiful images contained within the books seemed insurmountable. The announcement of a Netflix series didn’t inspire confidence; I didn’t care for, or finish, the adaptations of two Gaiman novels I loved, American Gods and Good Omens, which to me was an omen that The Sandman would be disappointing as well. I also wasn’t sure if Paul would like it, or that it would be so difficult to follow without knowing the source material he’d pester me with so many questions I wouldn’t be able to follow it myself.

Constant Reader, I couldn’t have been more wrong about anything as I was about The Sandman adaptation.

First of all, it’s very closely adapted to the comics, at least as how I remember them. My memory isn’t what it used to be, of course, and so I couldn’t really remember much about it other than he was Dream, aka Morpheus, and he was lord of the Dreaming and had six siblings. It was also kind of an anthology series, with stand alone issues as Morpheus visited human dreams or was forced to sometimes interfere with them. (I also always thought he looked like Robert Smith, the lead singer of the Cure) So as each episode unfurled before me, I would start remembering things. I remembered that out of all the Endless, Death was actually the kindest and most compassionate, who saw her job as necessary and thus wanted to appear as a kind friend and companion to the dead to ease them through the transition (I have always thought that was brilliant). I remembered the story of him being captured and trapped by humans, and that the Dreaming had been damaged and decayed by his absence and he needed to rebuilt his world as well as capture his creations who’d escaped into the Waking World…and of course, the appearance of the dream vortex which could have destroyed everything, and how that played out.

It is such an excellent adaptation that some of the scenes in the show are perfect recreations of panels in the books themselves; I found myself smiling in recognition, visually the scene in print as well as on the television screen before me. The show is also beautifully written and perfectly cast, from Tom Sturridge as Dream himself (I don’t know how he did the voice, but its other-worldly yet beautiful at the same time; one of the things I loved the most about The Sandman is how Gaiman made everything, no matter how terrifying or scary or steeped in fear, beautiful; beauty can also be terrifying and The Sandman expresses this better than anything I’ve ever seen or read before) to Gwendoline Christie’s chilling turn as Lucifer to Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine (a gender switch from the comics) to my personal favorite, Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne. It’s a terrific cast, including an Emmy-worthy supporting turn by John Cameron Mitchell and of course, break out star Boyd Holbrook as the Corinthian.

I highly recommend it; its smart and funny and clever and intelligent and beautiful, the set and art design and costumes are first rate–and the cinematography is breathtaking.

I absolutely loved it, and so did Paul–who watched in utter spellbound silence and didn’t ask a single question.

I cannot wait for season two.

(Oh, and the show is queer and gender-bending AF, for the record.)

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