Posts Tagged ‘comics’

I’ve never been into comics – strange, I know, but true. I read The Beano when I was a child, and, more recently, I discovered the wonderful What’s Michael? books (‘the Japanese Garfield‘). The recent Watchmen film with it striking visual style, bleakness and political content made me contemplate buying the graphic novel – but I never got round to it.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman books are highly regarded and were possibly first recommended to me by someone I knew at university. She also bought me a copy of Gaiman’s Neverwhere, which I didn’t like for its paint-by-numbers imaginary world and its simplistic thesis of rich people = bad, poor people = good. On the other hand, I enjoyed Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Stardust.

More recently, Habiba, enthused by visiting the new What the Book? store in Itaewon, bought Preludes & Nocturnes, the first of the Sandman omnibuses, and recommended that I read it. So, as I always say, her wish is my command, and I complied.

In short, I didn’t really get much out of it. I’m not really sure if that’s because of its inherent merit (or lack thereof) or because I’m just not au fait with the medium.

The Sandman, aka Dream, is one of a group of immortal beings, personifications of aspects of human life, called the Endless. Others include Desire, Despair and Death. In the first chapter, the Sandman is trapped by an Aleister Crowley-type wizard in the early 20th century. After better part of a hundred years of patiently waiting silently in his cell, the Sandman finally has a chance to break free. The story of the graphic novel concerns his retrieval of his possessions and return to power.

As the introduction and afterword both suggest, as a whole, the graphic novel is a somewhat uneven. One subplot concerns a pre-existing character, Doctor Destiny; another sees Dream descend to Hell to challenge Hell’s triumvirate rulers; another has the Sandman team up with John Constantine. From what I’ve read, in later editions Gaiman follows his own inspiration more, without trying to shoehorn the Sandman into others’ worlds and mythoses. The graphical style also changes a lot throughout – the Sandman himself getting more good-looking towards the end.

I’d say I never particularly enjoyed any of the stories in Preludes & Nocturnes, the surprises didn’t surprise me, the horrors didn’t horrify me. This may be due to a prejudice against comics as a medium worthy of adults. It may also be that, after years of reading prose, my brain is simply wired to understand and appreciate that particular form. I can’t help think that, just like radio, the pictures are better in prose stories – one’s imagination isn’t limited by an artist’s interpretation of the story.

However, Habiba has already bought book two in the series, and it doesn’t take much effort to read, so I’m willing to give it another chance and see what develops in the next book.

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