The Sandman

Dated Aug 14, 2021; last modified on Sun, 11 Sep 2022

The Sandman (1989 - 1996) by Neil Gaiman. Image from Sandman #36.

The Sandman (1989 - 1996) by Neil Gaiman. Image from Sandman #36.

Path to comic: Lucifer (Netflix) -> Lucifer (Comic) -> The Sandman (Comic)

Netflix is also adapting the comic, so interested in how it deviates from the source. Ser Brienne of Tarth will be Lucifer. Hype!

Love

Dream: Sister – you know how I felt for Nada one. What I feel for her still. But she defied me. I gave her due earning, and she still spurned me, so… Death: So you sentenced her to hell.

I like it when the main character is also flawed. In this case, Morpheus sending Nada to hell was unfair.

[Eve] God created her for Adam out of nothingness. Bones first. Then internal organs. Then flesh. Muscle. Sinew. Fat. Bile. Eyes. Snot. Skin. Hair. Breath… Adam couldn’t bear to go near her. He wouldn’t touch her. “He saw her full of secretions and blood.” That’s what the midrash states. […] Opinions differ. Most say God destroyed her. A few have claimed that she was permitted to leave the garden. Alone. Then it was that God put Adam to sleep, took a rib from his side, and from it created Eve. Only when she was complete did Adam wake. He saw Eve, finished and perfect, and took her to wife.

Adam is portrayed as mostly blameless in the Bible. Gaiman’s Sandman universe recasts him as imperfect, e.g. rejecting the more self-assured Lilith, and now rejecting the second woman.

[Mervyn] Now, guys like me, ordinary Joes, we just shrug our shoulders, say, hey, that’s life, flick it if you can’t take a joke. Not him. Oh no. He’s gotta be the tragic figure standing out in the rain, mournin' the loss of his beloved. So down comes the rain, right on cue. In the meantime everybody gets dreams fulla existential angst and wakes up feeling like hell. And we all get wet.

[John Decker] All I’m trying to say is… who cares if you had some connection to this place? Who cares if you and your cousins hung out with the creepiest people alive? I had the you that I had, and I loved you. You can keep your secrets.

Dreams

Urania Blackwell is a metamorphae (made into one by Ra) who wants to die.

Urania Blackwell: I only have two kinds of dreams: the bad and the terrible. Bad dreams I can cope with. They’re just nightmares, and they end eventually. The terrible dreams are the good dreams. In my terrible dreams, everything’s fine. I’m still with the company. I still look like me. None of the last five years ever happened. Sometimes I’m married. Once I even had kids. I even knew their names. Everything’s wonderful and normal and fine. And then I wake up, and I’m still me. And I’m still here. And that is truly terrible.

Typically, nightmares are the bad dreams. But that bears an implicit assumption that the dreamer’s waking life is desirable. Urania flips this script.

Death

Death: When the first thing existed, I was there, waiting. When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I’ll put the chairs on the, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave.

The end of the universe is a tantalizing topic. What happens in the end? Gaiman explores a linear universe with an end in sight. Others claim a cyclic universe, where the end of one universe births another. Both interpretations make for interesting fiction, e.g. Galactus being a remnant of a previous universe .

Dream: He heard long ago, in a dream, that one day every century Death takes on mortal flesh, better to comprehend what the lives she takes must feel like, to taste the bitter tang of mortality: that this is the price she must pay for being the divider of the living from all that has gone before, all that must come after. He broods on this tale, but has never questioned her about its truth. Perhaps he fears that she would answer him.

Second time I’m encountering the idea of immortals assuming mortal lives for empathy. Christianity has God living a human life as Jesus.

also anthropomorphizes Death with a compassionate reaper, but ’s ending feels more like a deus ex machina.

[Sexton] If they never existed, who are the people in the photographs? [Death] That’s just the universe’s way of making me feel more comfortable. Technically right now I’m about three hours old.

The idea of the universe re-writing itself retroactively also appears in Leg Guin’s Lathe of Heaven , and in Tynion IV’s The Department of Truth .

[Eblis] So… Who died? [Cain] Nobody died. How can you kill an idea? How can you kill the personification of an action? [Eblis] Then what died? Who are you mourning? [Abel] A point of view.

[Matthew] Why did he let it happen? [Lucien] Let it, Matthew? I think he did a little more than let it happen… Charitably, I think… Sometimes, perhaps, one must change or die. And, in the end, there were, perhaps, limits to how much he could let himself change.

[Gadling, quoting ] They will come back, come back again, as long as the red earth rolls. He never wasted a tree or a leaf. Why should he squander souls?

Evil

Lucifer: “The Devil made me do it.” I have never made one of them do anything. Never. They live their own tiny lives. I do not live their lives for them. And then they die, and they come here (having traversed against what they believed to be right), and expect us to fulfill their desire for pain and retribution. I don’t make them come here.

Aside the idea that the Devil doesn’t cause evil in the world, going to hell for self-punishment is unsettling, e.g. a guilt-free murderer doesn’t go to hell. Goes against the more comforting idea of a supreme entity (God) who fairly judges all.

The Creator [through Remiel]: Hell is Heaven’s reflection. It is Heaven’s shadow. They define each other. Reward and Punishment; hope and despair. There must be a Hell, for without Hell, Heaven has no meaning. And thus Hell must be.

[Lucifer] The joke of it all, Sweet Mazikeen, is that without the Devil, there can be no God. Without either, hell and heaven are much the same place. I suspect they’ll work that out eventually. Once I’m gone. There’s another truth too. My father, in His infinite kindness – or cruelty – created a circular universe. Like Bach’s endlessly rising canon, it seems to change, but never truly does. I have no doubt about it. They will drag me back into being. Some way or other, there will have been a war in heaven. There will have been an angel who fell. But oh, for that short while, Mazikeen, there will be no me. And they will go back to the way it was, as it has before and before. But… for a short while I will have escaped.

Power and Tyranny

St-Just: We are remaking the world, woman; we are creating an age of pure reason. We have taken the names of dead gods and kings from the days of the week and the months of the year. We have lost the saints and burnt the churches. I myself have inaugurated a new religion, based on reason, celebrating an egalitarian supreme being, distant and uninvolved.

is set in the French Revolution where the revolutionaries, after killing the aristocrats, are now going after the remnants of magic, because that goes against the new religion of reason.

The revolutionaries are presented as being a shade of grey, instead of being all-good. Is it misinformed to quip, “Bring back the guillotines!” in discussions about the society’s elite?

Caeser Augustus: But you should fear me. Not because I’m fast. And I am fast. And not because I’m strong. And I am strong. But because if I gave the word tonight, you would disappear, and no one would even date to mention that you had ever existed. And no one would dare complain. Because the alternative to me is chaos.

Hypothesis on how some tyrants commit atrocities, and no one bats an eye.

On a matter of linguistic style, Augustus’s dialogue has a rhythm to it.

[Ishtar] Once in every great year, the sacred king would see me dance. It was the last thing he ever saw. It was said no man would ever desire to see anything more, once he had seen me dance. I know how gods begin, Rodger. We start off as dreams. Then we walk out of dreams into the land. We are worshipped and loved, and take power to ourselves. And then one day there’s no one left to worship us. And in the end, each little god and goddess takes its last journey back into dreams… And what comes after, not even we know. I’m going to dance now, I’m afraid.

[Matthew, referring to ] The king is dead. Long live the king.

Miscellaneous

October knew, of course, that the action of turning a page, of ending a chapter or shutting a book, did not end a tale. Having admitted that, he would also avow that happy endings were never difficult to find: “It is simply a matter,” he explained to April, “of finding a sunny place in a garden, where the light is golden and the grass is soft; somewhere to rest, to stop reading, and to be content.

- from The Man Who Was October by G.K. Chesterton/ Library of Dreams

G.K. Chesterton’s real book was titled “The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare”.

[Seeker] When Prez was six, President Kennedy told the American people not to ask what their country could do for them, but instead to ask what they could do for their country. Prez Rickard knew that already.

World-Making

Yours, Hwen T’sang’s, Ibn Battuta’s… The lot of you. The explorers, and the ones who came after you, who froze the world into rigid patterns.

[Girl] So what I want to know is, when I’m asleep, do I really remember how to fly? And forget how when I wake up? Or am I just dreaming that I can fly? [Dream] When you dream, sometimes you remember. When you wake, you always forget. [Girl] But that’s not fair… [Dream] No.

[Lucifer] But the truth is that the root of her weakness is fear. To abandon her chains – to reforge herself for herself – would be too painful. Would be too frightening. So she does not do it. She instead calls her meekness strength. Her inaction, affection.

Vocabulary

L’esprit de l’escalier : a French term used in English for the predicament of thinking the perfect reply too late.

Ennui : a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction.

[McGuire] You know, I’ve never liked gay as a synonym for queer. Renders a perfectly decent word hors de combat. Lost philological battle, though, there.

Hors de combat is French term used in diplomacy and international law to refer to persons who are incapable of performing their combat duties during war.

References

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