PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Absolute Sandman

Greg Oleksiuk

Without it, there would be no Vertigo today, and perhaps none of the titles that have risen to prominence out of that publishing line.

Absolute Sandman

Publisher: Vertigo
Subtitle: Volume 1
Contributors: Artists: Various
Price: $99
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Length: 612
Formats: Hardcover
ISBN: 1401210821
US publication date: 2006-11-01

There is probably no other comic that has done as much for the industry as The Sandman. Sure, comics like Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns and Swamp Thing have all been important and are great comics unto themselves, but none have been as well received by the non-comic world as well. The Sandman has been labeled as the comic that brought women into comic stores. This was not a superhero-in-tights adventure; instead Neil Gaiman wrote an analysis of storytelling as literate and intellectual as any book on the shelf. It showed many readers that comics were not just about superheroes, but that they could be intelligent, relevant and touching. Now, almost twenty years since it was first published, Vertigo Comics is releasing the entire Sandman series in four Absolute editions, the first of which was just released in October.

The Absolute edition gives this series the respect it deserves. Not only is it in a large format, but the cover is gorgeous, resembling an old leather-bound Bible. There are tons of extras including Gaiman's original proposal, the script for the now famous "Midsummer Night's Dream" issue and many other wonderful goodies. Best of all, the first eighteen issues have been re-colored and now look even more beautiful than before.

Gaiman took about eight issues or so to find his voice at the beginning of the series, but once he did, one began to see how grand this title would eventually become in terms of its scope and storytelling. The artwork was sometimes rough; this was a common trend at the time in "mature audience" comics, particularly at DC. With the touch-ups to the coloring, however, even the worst bits of artwork in this collection come across much better.

The stories contained within are still some of the best the comic medium has ever produced. Certainly the first few issues are not as fine tuned as the later ones, but they are still wonderful examinations of various forms of fiction, including fantasy and horror. It is with the second story arc, "A Doll's House", that Gaiman started showing the potential of the series. Mike Dringenberg's artwork has never seemed all that great. It appears quite sketchy, and the original coloring made it look that much more sloppy and muddled. With the new coloring however, the artwork is much clearer, making it easier to discern what is going on. While certainly the best is yet to come in terms of both art and story, these are still solid stories and continue to be a joy to read.

The crown jewel in the collection of course, is the World Fantasy Award winning issue, "A Midsummer Night's Dream". In previous trade collection, the script for "Calliope" was included, however, with the Absolute edition, they have decided to go with the "Midsummer Night's Dream" script, which makes more sense, seeing as this is the issue which brought The Sandman most of its fame. Charles Vess' artwork is superb, and matches the story completely, one of the reasons why Vess is strongly associated with the visuals in those Sandman stories that deal with the realm of Faerie. Both he and Gaiman will be entering the limelight again when the film version of their illustrated novel, Stardust, hits theaters this summer.

This is certainly the volume of The Sandman to pick up if you have never read any before. Granted, the price is steep, as most Absolute editions are. The advantage however is that you get the equivalent of three trade paperbacks in this one volume, a ton of extras, and the re-colored eighteen issues make it that much more appealing to the eye. In comparison the trade paperbacks might seem dull and poorly drawn to someone more used to the slick art of most mainstream comics.

The first volume in the Absolute edition of The Sandman is a testament to how influential and important this title is. Without it, there would be no Vertigo today, and perhaps none of the titles that have risen to prominence out of that publishing line. The tales may not be the best of the series, but they show its potential, and whet your appetite for the three volumes still to come. So make room on your bookshelf (you will need it), and start lifting some weights (it is quite heavy, and alternative uses for the book include a doorstop and a bludgeoning tool for intruders), and reacquaint yourself with the comic that showed the world how mature and intelligent comics could be. And let's not forget the fact that it brought girls into comic shops as well.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.