Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Books: The Sandman: The Dream Hunters


The Sandman: The Dream Hunters
Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by Yoshitaka Amano


Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:

The Sandman: The Dream Hunters
Written by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell
Art by P. Craig Russell


Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:

I'm just gonna be honest with you. For whatever unknown reasons [1] so far at least this here is the most popular post on this blog (by a factor of a lot): so - while in terms of the posts on here that I want to try and make a little more pretty and bit more filled out it kinda ranks kinda low I realise that as it's acting as a sorta unofficial entry on to the rest of this site I should at least sweep the floors and change the bedding and yeah - I dunno - maybe a fresh coat of paint wouldn't hurt: (just let me go grab a brush...)

Ok: where's the best place to start? Well: as you no doubt already know: Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series ran from January 1989 all the way until March 1996. If you've read it then you already know how - well - damn magical it is (and that's not a word I use lightly). A heady, dreamy mixture of classical myths with contemporary characters sprinkled with it's own unique cosmology for lots of folks out there The Sandman was a high water mark in the same way as your first kiss: if you read it at the right age then it's not something that will ever leave you and reaches a place inside you that no other book will ever come close to (I realise that sounds a little bit precious - but damnit - if you read it during your teenage years like I did - then you'll know that I'm not even coming close to exaggerating). At the time he promised that he was done with the world of Morpheus and all his brothers and sisters and other associated acts: but like the cheeky little chappie he is he has returned a few times since then to the scene of what some would describe (myself included I guess) as his greatest artistic triumph [2] most notably in 1999 with - The Dream Hunters.

With a few exceptions every post on here is about comic books but the 1999 version of The Dream Hunters (I'll get to the 2008 version below - don't worry) isn't really a graphic-novel-kinda-thing. I guess you could call it a novella with pictures but that doesn't quite capture it. The thing it must resembles is sorta children's story book: the basic pattern is words on one page and a picture on the other page facing it - only there's a lot more words than what you'd normally get in a children's book these days and the pictures (from Yoshitaka Amano [3]) are a lot more delicately and artfully composed than what young eyes would be used to: there's a lot of gold and a lot of blacks and a lot of empty spaces.

A folk tale that follows the fortune of a solitary monk and a mischievous fox and badger. The Sandman himself - Dream - sits on the periphery and doesn't do that much - so you don't have to worry if you haven't read the main series. The tone is very gentle and light - with plently of exquisite turns of fortune and fate cribbed from old fashioned fairy tales, myths and legends: the kind of story that you'd want your grandparents to read you when you were a kid: tucked up in bed. In 2008 P. Craig Russell adapted the story into a comic book: it retains all the same elements and is beautifully drawn with his distinctive swirly style. If you haven't read the Yoshitaka Amano version then you will be entranced and bewitched by it's comic counterpart - but if you want to know which one I preferred then I'd go for the former - the images it conjured up in my head just felt darker and stranger and more beguiling than any mere comic book could offer (and you know: that's coming from a confirmed comic book geek - so you know I don't say it lightly).

[1] My best guess is that - looking around - there just aren't that many people on the internet talking about this book and it's much easier to stand out in a crowd of what? - five people? - than it is to make yourself heard in the chorus of a thousand geeks each chucking in their two-pence worth about that Grant Morrison book.

[2] But yeah ok: that episode of Doctor Who he wrote was pretty cool too. (According to this it was orginally going to be called "Bigger on the Inside" before they realised that it might give the game away a little which is why they changed it).

[3] Who bizarrely is also responsible for the title logo designs for the Final Fantasy video games. So if you think you recognise his art from somewhere - it's probably there.


Futher reading: The Sandman, StardustThe Sandman: Death: The High Cost of LivingBuddhaCoraline, Murder Mysteries, Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book Stories.

Profiles: Neil Gaiman.

All comments welcome.

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