Classic Comic Canon. The Sandman. Issues 17-20

Welcome to a series that I am continuing. I am going to go through Neil Gaiman’s now-classic series The Sandman

Issue #17

Title: “Calliope”

Artist: Kelley Jones and Malcolm Jones III

Collected in: Dream Country

Plot: Author Richard Madoc has written a very popular novel, but has since suffered from writer’s block. He visits an eccentric old author named Erasmus Fry. In exchange for a bezoar, Erasmus shows Richard to a back room where he has been keeping a woman locked in a room. This woman is Calliope, one of the Greek muses. Fry bequeaths the muse to Richard, and the first thing the young author does after locking her in a room in his house is rape her.

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In despair, Calliope calls out to her mothers for help. They cannot help her, and they can think of no one who can intercede on her behalf. Calliope recalls how she was captured. Richard Madoc meets with great success over the next few years, striking film deals and book deals, going on talk shows and eventually moving to a trendy house in Chelsea. One night, finally, Calliope is visited by Dream. Desperately, she pleads for the sake of the love they once shared – however briefly – to have Madoc release her.

That night, Richard returns to his house to find Dream waiting for him. Despite Richard’s protests, Dream insists that Calliope be released, and he is disgusted with Madoc’s excuse that he “needs the ideas.” Finally, Dream decides that he will give Madoc more than he bargained for. In public, Richard suddenly begins to experience an overabundance of ideas. He can’t concentrate on any one thing because another idea pops into his head before he’s even acknowledged the last. Richard begs his friend to go to his house and free the muse. Calliope forgives Richard Madoc, and asks that he be released from his torment. After Dream has freed Richard Madoc, the man seems to have no more ideas at all.

Sandman 17-20

First appearance: Calliope, Richard Madoc, Erasmus Fry

Keep an eye on: Richard Madoc will appear again, and we will learn more about Dream and Calliope’s relationship

My take I have a story about this one. In the collection, they published Gaiman’s script for this issue. In college we had a theatre group and this guy suggested we do an adaption of the comic that he adapted. Of course it was Gaiman’s script verbatim. Can’t fool a fan. Another thing I like is that we start seeing different artists come in for different stories. The Sandman is a book that doesn’t need a “house style.”


Issue # 18

Title: “A Dream of a Thousand Cats”

Artist: Kelley Jones and Malcolm Jones III

Collected in: Dream Country

Plot: A kitten joins a group of cats who have gathered to hear a speaker. The speaker, a pure bred Blue-Point Siamese, tells how her owners drowned her litter of kittens. She seaks out the Cat of Dreams.

Sandman18-06 A Dream of A Thousand Cats

The Cat of Dreams welcomes her, and she explains that she wants to understand why the humans could take her children away, and why cats live as they do. Dream shows the Siamese a past in which cats ruled the earth and were served by humans. One day, the humans rebelled, learning that by all dreaming the same thing, they could change reality. Eventually, as if overnight, the humans dreamed themselves into a reality in which they were always the superior beings.

Sandman18-17 A Dream of A Thousand Cats

This gives the Siamese the idea that if the cats all dream of a life as rulers again, they will revert things to the natural order. So, she travels the world trying to convince other cats of her plan. They leave her, and that night, the kitten dreams of cats as rulers of men.


Issue #19

Title: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Artist: Charles Vess

Collected in: Dream Country

Plot: In 1593, William Shakespeare leads his band of actors across the hills of Sussex, England. Among them is his son Hamnet. Will meets with Dream on a nearby hill. Will and Dream have come to a deal wherein Dream has given Will the ability to have his words remembered throughout time in exchange for having two plays about dreams written for him. The first of these is A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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Instead of a human audience, Dream welcomes the fairies themselves to come and see the play which was written about them. During the interval, the actors petition Auberon for some payment, and he reluctantly gives them a small sack of gold. Meanwhile, Puck steals his own role from the mortal actor and decides to play himself in the next act. Tatania approaches Hamnet, and speaks to him of the wonder of the fairie land. Dream matter-of-factly informs him that Marlowe was murdered three weeks ago. Dream is surprised when Will seems distraught to hear the news.

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Dream explains that he called them there in order to show them that they will live on well beyond their time through the play. As it comes to an end, Auberon, Tatania, and the other fairies return to their world, but Puck decides to stay behind.

First appearance: King Auberon, Queen Titania, Robin Goodfellow

Historical references William and Hamnet Shakespeare, Will Kemp, Dick Cowely, Henry Condell, Richard Burbage. The Long Man of Wilmington

Keep an eye on: Puck plays a pivotal role in the endgame of the story. We will see Queen Titania again, and we’ll find out what the second play that Dream is.

My take So this is one of my favorite issues. I have always loved this play and I love the notion of it being commissioned for actual faries. This issue won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. A common rumor afterwards was that the rules were subsequently changed to prevent another graphic novel from winning. And I love Charles Vess’s art.


Issue # 20

Title: “Façade”

Artist: Colleen Doran and Malcom Jones III

Collected in: Dream Country

Plot: Urania Blackwell wants to die. Since she was changed into a metamorph, she has been alone, and dealing with the change to her appearance has been difficult. One day, she receives an unexpected phone call from an old friend from the Company, Della Kariakas. Della asks to meet her at a nearby Italian restaurant in order to catch up.

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Naturally, Urania is anxious, and struggles to make herself appear as she did before the incident which transformed her. Rather than attempt to make flesh for herself out of the elements, she creates silicate face-masks, and though they eventually harden and fall off, they serve her purposes. During her visit with Della, her face mask dries and falls off. In humiliation, she runs out of the restaurant.

She becomes determined to kill herself, but can’t imagine how she would be able to, given her special abilities. She is surprised when a pale woman enters her apartment and sits down beside her. Urania realizes that she is speaking with Death, and begs for help in dying. Reluctantly, though, Death offers to help. She explains that only Ra can help her, and he makes his home in the sun. Urania goes to the window and begs the sun to help her die. She hears a response, and when she looks directly into the sun, she turns to dust and blows away.

Sandman 20-23

DC characters Element Girl. Metamorpho and Algon are mentioned

My take There really isn’t anything that ties it in to the larger story, but it’s a great one shot story. Dream doesn’t even make an appearance. Look at that panel above to see what Colleen Doran brings to the table