Mercer Finn was a regular HU commenter for a while. Not sure where he is now, but way back when he had some interesting thoughts on Gaiman’s Sandman, and I thought I’d reproduce them here.
Being only twenty years old, and a relative comics newbie, these fond reflections on Sandman have been very enlightening and moving. I feel compelled to justify my own ambivalence towards the work.
Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller, for sure. You start reading and you *keep on* reading. But in the end, I felt that the intellectual rewards he offers are too meagre to justify the pretentious tone.
Basically, my feeling is that:
1) Sandman is too coy with its themes and characters. I understand that this works for you. It left me cold. I needed more, from Morpheus and from Gaiman.
2) The themes I *have* detected (an important qualification) seem to me simplistic and unoriginal. Maybe it was because I grew up reading Terry Pratchett books, but Sandman wasn’t telling me or showing me anything new.
An example: I roared through American Gods. But at the end, I didn’t think Gaiman had said anything particularly meaningful or interesting about America or religion. Again, I may not be a subtle enough reader to pick these things up.
Or perhaps it’s a matter of expectations. Strangely, I’m rather enamored of Gaiman’s film projects. Patterns, symbols and themes that I found disappointingly bleh in Sandman suddenly become very sophisticated and satisfying when placed in a kid’s film (Mirrormask) or in a film about dragons (Beowulf).
Sorry for spamming your post. It really has been interesting reading. I hope that, 20 years from now, I’ll be able to look back on all the Bendis/Ennis/Ellis stuff I read with the same fondness. Or perhaps it will be more like disappointment…
Mercer went on to add some thoughts on Bendis, Ellis, Ennis, et al.
I do prefer Bendis/Ennis/Ellis. The tone isn’t pretentious and weighty, but pulpy and silly. Their comics have energy. Reading them is wild fun. And yet at the same time they manage to build those grand, operatic, mythic moments. It’s a bit like what Tarantino does, except that Bendis/Ennis/Ellis are all much cleverer than Tarantino.
Bendis believes high output improves your writing. But he’s stretching himself too thin nowadays. His early graphic novels are much more sophisticated and moving than any of the events he is orchestrating at the moment, even if the artwork is crappy. If female characters in comics are an interest, there is a lot to enjoy in his Marvel MAX series Alias. Be warned: Powers, apart from the artwork, is uninspiring.
I think Preacher is one of Ennis’s weakest works. Again, like American Gods, I didn’t gain any special insight into America or religion by reading it. His lauded Hellraiser run is OK, but doesn’t improve on Jamie Delano. Ennis is much better doing ultra-violent nihilism in Punisher, or the superhero farce of The Boys or The Pro.
I think Transmet’s science fiction competes admirably with Sandman’s phantasmagoria. But it does wear thin. Ellis is better doing short stories – Ministry of Space, Desolation Jones, Orbiter and his brief bursts at Marvel.
Dave McKean’s cover for Sandman #1