Welcome to a series that I am continuing. I am going to go through Neil Gaiman’s now-classic series The Sandman
Issue # 50
Title: Ramadan 1
Artist: P. Craig Russell 2
Collected in: Fables and Reflections
Plot: Caliph Haroun Al Raschid, King of Baghdad, lives in a beautiful city of wonder, however, during the month of Ramadan, he becomes listless, wanting none of the pleasures that city or palace have to offer.
Finally, he descended deep into the lowest part of his palace, where he finds a magical orb. Returning to the very top of his palace, he warns that if the Dream Lord does not come, he will shatter the orb, in which a number of evil creatures have been imprisoned. Receiving no answer, he heaves the orb above his head and tosses it out over the city. Moments before it makes contact with the ground below, a pair of pale white hands catches the orb.
Dream appears, and confiscates the orb, demanding to know why he was summoned. The Caliph explains that he would like to make a bargain, and in order to do that, they had best go to the marketplace. He fetches a magic carpet, and the two ride out into the city. Dream remarks that the city is a remarkable place. The Caliph Haroun wonders if Dream might like to buy it from him.
Caliph explains that he knows the city will one day fade. He worries that the wonder and beauty of his city will die. He wonders if Dream will purchase the city from him; take it in to the Dreaming. In exchange, he wants the city never to die. Dream responds that he can do this.
Not long after, the Caliph wakes in the market place with little recollection of his dream. He passes by a tall pale man and wonders what it is that he’s holding. The man responds that it is a city in a bottle, but that it is no longer for sale. The Caliph returns to the crumbling, dusty palace as the pale man watches.
Historical references Caliph Haroun Al Raschid. 3 At the time of publication Bagdad was recently bombed during the First Gulf War.
Keep an eye on: We’ve seen that city in a bottle before in Season of Mists
Issue # 51
Title: World’s End : A Tale of Two Cities
Artist:Bryan Talbot & Mark Buckingham (framing story) Alec Stevens
Collected in: World’s End
Plot: Brant Tucker and Charlene Mooney to Chicago for a sales conference. On the way, however, Charlene falls asleep, and Brant begins to experience dream-like hallucinations. The car crashes, and Brant drags a grumpy Charlene out, hoping to get to the nearest town. Brant and Charlene arrive at a weird looking Inn called “World’s End”. 4 All of the patrons are stranded at the inn until the storm passes, but this is no ordinary storm – it is a reality storm. 5 The next day, Brant wakes to find all of the patrons gathered around telling stories. One man tells a story which he calls a Tale of Two Cities: 6
Robert works at a normal desk job, and he loves his city. One day, he caught a glimpse of a silver road, and tried to follow it, but it went nowhere. Later, on his way home from work, he waited at the subway platform, and was greeted by a strange kind of subway car. The train’s only passenger was a tall, pale man. The man said nothing, but when the train stopped, the city he emerged in was not the same as the one he loved. He wandered empty streets until one day he found an old man lying on a bridge. The man suggested that each city has a soul, and that this city is the dream of the real city’s soul.
After some time, Robert met a woman, 7 who was confused as to where they were and what was going on. Before he can utter a reply, he notices a doorway that seems familiar. He pushes her aside and rushes through it, only to find himself back in the real world, in his city.
With his tale told, the old man turns to the others and asks “who’s next?”
First appearance: Brant Tucker, Charlene Mooney, Mister Gaheris, The Landlady, Chiron
Issue # 52
Title: Cluracan’s Tale
Artist: Bryan Talbot & Mark Buckungham (framing story) John Watkins
Collected in: World’s End
Plot: The faerie Cluracan tells his story to those assembled around the table. Queen Titania had sent Cluracan on a mission to the Lords Carnal in Aurelia of the Plains, a beautiful and strange land. A monk met him on the road, and helped him toward the home of the Psychopomp, 8 ruler of the area. That night, Cluracan sent off a preliminary report, and returned to his room to find a man named Otho looking to speak with him. Otho was the Psychopomp’s uncle, and he hoped for a Psychopomp who would do what was right, but before he would say anymore, he stopped himself and left Cluracan alone.
The next day, at the meeting, Cluracan felt an impulse to speak the truth. Angrily, the Psychopomp had the faerie manacled and locked away behind cold iron bars – which cannot be penetrated by faerie magic. In prison, Cluracan dreamed of being visited by his sister Nuala, who promised to send him help. After the dream ended, he was visited again by Dream. With some reluctance, Dream frees the faerie at Nuala’s request.
So, Cluracan influenced many of the citizens of the city to make statements that called the Psychopomp’s validity into question. The result is that the citizens went into revolt. The Psychopomp locks himself away in a room full of the corpses of the previous Carnifexes. Suddenly, the body of the previous Carnifex rose up and grabbed the Psychopomp, threw them both through a window to their deaths.
Cluracan had been on his way home when the storm rose up. The others are not sure that they believe the faerie’s story, so he demands that someone else tell a story.
DC Comics characters: The two human characters are old DC fantasy characters named Claw the Unconquered and Stalker the Soulless.
Issue # 53
Title: Hob’s Leviathan
Artist: Bryan Talbot & Mark Buckingham (framing story) Michael Zulli & Dick Giordano
Collected in: World’s End
Plot: At the World’s End Inn, a sailor named Jim tells his tale:
On his thirteenth birthday, Jim had run away from home and joined a sailing ship’s crew to Singapore. One day, a gentleman had come to see the Captain. The captain introduced the gentleman as Hob Gadling, and stated that the man would be their passenger back to England. The captain assigned Jim as Mr. Gadling’s steward for the voyage.
One day, Jim and some other crew men discovered a stowaway in the hold. It was a small indian man, who had a great need to get to Liverpool. Against the captain’s protests, Mr. Gadling paid the man’s way to Liverpool, and the Indian man became their newest passenger. He told a story of a strange holy man who came to the palace of a king who loved his wife more than life itself. The holy man offered the king a fruit which he claimed could extend his life eternally. The king took the fruit to his wife and gave it to her instead of himself. However, the wife was unfaithful, and she gave the fruit to the captain of the guard. The guard gave it to a courtesan, and that courtesan returned it to the king. Angrily, he had his wife and her lover killed. He dressed himself as a beggar and ate the fruit himself. He left his palace, and was never seen again.
One day, a massive sea-serpent rose up from the waves. When they got ashore later, Gadling asked Jim whether he had told anyone. Jim confessed that he did not. Gadling surmised that this was because Jim didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that he was, in fact, a girl. Jim confessed that her real name was Margaret, and Mr. Gadling likewise confessed that he was actually quite old indeed. The two of them agreed not to reveal each other’s secrets, and they boarded the ship again.
First appearance: Jim the sailor
Keep an eye on: Hob had once referred to a wife of his named Peggy, it’s not a stretch to think that he married Margaret.
My take These were the first Sandman issues I read. I was instantly hooked and bought as many back issues as I could
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