Monday, March 15, 2010

Stuff I Love: Sandman

So, I’m a comic book geek.

I probably read two graphic novels for every prose book.  Part of this is professional; for a long time, I was the only librarian in my system who knew anything about comics, and who would buy them.  The other part is personal – I just really like comics.

This is not surprising; a lot of librarians are comic book geeks.  We’re a geeky tribe after all, and the 9th art nerds have to represent.  But my journey into comics is a little bit different.

Or, as I tell my husband, blame Sandman.

I didn’t read comics as a kid.  As a child of the 80’s, I’m not sure there were a lot of comics to read.  Also, I was “gifted” and read high above my grade level.  My mom, on the advice of innumerable teachers, kept me on a steady diet of Newbery winners and children’s classics.    I didn’t really discover comics until I was an adult. 

One of the first I picked up was Sandman by Neil Gaiman.  I knew Gaiman’s name, kind of.  As a fan of BBC science fiction, it was sort of familiar to me.  Looking at comics as a field, his name came up a lot.  I knew that Sandman was a horror/fantasy hybrid.   I wasn’t expecting much, going into it.  I was buying books for a library collection, and just had to get a feeling for it. 

The first Sandman collection Prelude and Noctunes, gave me the kind of visceral response that I think people look for in a horror comic.  I think I would have stopped reading there, if it hadn’t been for the last story in the volume. If the horror story “24 Hours” was a punch in the stomach, “The Sound of Her Wings” was a kiss on the forehead, one of the most beautiful and moving stories that I had ever read – in prose or comics. 

I had to keep reading.  An author who could do that, who could make me tear up over feeding pigeons, needed more attention. 

So I moved onto the second volume, and then the third, and the fourth, and the fifth, and so on and so on until I had read the entire series.  It kept happening -- that pull, that need to keep going.  I kept getting more and more involved in the world of the Endless, their loves, their hatreds, their squabbles and reconciliations.  I wanted Death’s attitude.  I fell in love with Destruction.  I felt horribly sad for Delirium.  I wanted Dream’s library.    

What is Sandman about?  I guess it’s about choices.  How making them changes you and the world.  How we grapple with the unknowable.  How families, especially all powerful families, are messy.  Although it features anthropomorphized universal aspects, I think it’s ultimately about what makes us human. 

I guess my feelings about this series can be summed up in this story:
When you’re a mom there are certain things you look forward to.  The big moments.  First steps.  First day of school.  First words. 

For me, one of those big moments was handing my daughter The Little Endless Storybook, and telling her” “This is based on some of Mommy’s favorite books.  One day, when you’re older, we’ll read them together.”

And if that doesn’t tell you how much Sandman means to me, nothing will.  

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