Sunday, July 1, 2012

Inspirational Sunday 2: Sandman

Sandman was a graphic novel series published by Vertigo Comics and wirtten by Neil Gaiman.  It  ran from 1989 to 1996.
(covers all by Dave McKean.   To see all of them, click here.)

It changed my life.  I rarely read something where each concept aches in how much it resonates with me and my own views.  I rarely agree so much with a fictional work asserting so many philosophical concepts.

Besides that, the art is stunning:
(Screw Thor, the Sandman's inclusion and interpretation of Norse mythology is far better.)

A variety of artists work on each issue, and switch out frequently in favor of letting as many people as possible have a hand in the artistic process of Sandman.  This is part of its glory and genius.  Also, it's known for its unique approach to the traditional comic paneling style, using methods sometimes favoring effect over efficiency--but overall considered quite successful.

Sandman is about the Endless and how they interact in various worlds.  The Endless are neither gods nor mortals nor angels, but concepts solidified, ex. Dream, Morpheus, The Sandman himself, who rules over the realm of dreams...which encompasses storytelling, sleep patterns, ambitions...a lot of things.  Including Shakespeare.  Dream's a really fascinating character.
(Just look at him.  That mysterious face is every goth's fantasy.)
(Gotta love the hair.)

The concepts within Sandman assert ideas that resonate strongly with my own, as I stated, and I've found them to exist in many philosophical and social contexts which I also agree with.  They opened the doors to a lot of material I have been examining for Shadowed Lives and other projects as well as my own life and well-being.  Many concepts seen in modern spirituality appear in Sandman, as well as concepts of fantasy and science fiction relating to the universe instead of singular worlds and peoples.  I have always enjoyed far-reaching works in this particular space, such as His Dark Materials and other works by Gaiman, and much of my own fantasy and horror work deals with similar setups of shifting places and the idea of a fragile, thousand-faceted universe of universes.....I could go on.
The Endless themselves have been praised for not only having "real" women in their ranks but for just being such enjoyable, believable characters.  They may be solidified concepts but they act as real people and feel as real people.  They are an incredibly complex, beautiful cast.
(Meet the family.)

Things containing so much mythology and history appeal to me.  I love studying other cultures and places through the stories they tell...and Sandman is so much about stories of various cultures and historic times.

The art itself has influenced my approach to character design, atmosphere, and technique, especially playing more with bottled inks and try for looser, more atmospheric work.  Also, the way each of the Endless has their own speech bubbles is really cool.
Delirium's speech bubbles include wobbly text and tie-dye like colors which to me suggest not just her...well...delirious state, but her constant lack of certainty resulting.  Also, I want to draw Emilie in this outfit really badly.

Despair's is gravelly and flat.

Sandman is most easily seen in Lance/Emilie (who got "Delirium" hair when I invented them, about two years before I even touched the series) and Liam, actually (his starling tattoo has a Sandman quote on the banner).  I  see so many of them as living by Sandman, in a way, since it has so many good quotes one can apply to life and how it should be approached.....

"You are alive, so live." - Fables & Reflections
"Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost." - The Wake
"We not only could know everything.  We do.  We just tell ourselves we don't to make it all bearable." - The Kindly Ones

The last one in particular I often include in bios about myself online (including this site) since that quote has really stuck with me since I first read it.  I was obsessed with examining it from as many angles as possible for a long time after and have it fully committed to memory.

(Sandman: The only literature I truly want to put on my skin.)

Sandman's inclusion of the queer community is also someone such as myself, considering he is writing more than a decade ago about queers who were raised in the 70s, it's interesting (and upsetting) to see how society dealt with the community and to see how the community dealt with itself--the attitudes people were expected to present, etc. which can be examined through other works of fiction, but the fantasy inclusion to me makes it somehow more powerful.  This is, by the way, a subject you will probably see quite often on Inspirational Sunday....most of the comics and graphic novels I read are at least a little queer.  Volume 5 in particular contains a bunch of queer characters and allies.
(Wanda is my hero and one of my favorite characters in the entire series.  Also thus far the only trans character I've seen in the non-indie comic world.)

Now I'm all excited to go write and make some short comics!  Sandman does this to me.  I hope those of you who have not read the series are eager to pick it up now.  I've tried to stray from discussing plot too much, as there's too much I could accidentally give away....

NOTE: To those interested in starting the series, some argue sequence does not matter.  I don't believe this.  Some of the stories are indirectly related to the main plot lines, but they DO go forward and reading out of order will cause confusion.

Also, these stories work with some truly horrifying concepts and the art does not shy away from anything.  Nothing isn't shown.  If you are easily disturbed these may not be for you.

With that in mind, I recommend these more than any book, movie, band, artist...anything.  Due to their popularity, most libraries will have at least some of the issues available, which is how I recommend reading the books due to the cost of each individual volume.

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