Gaiman's Sandman returns after seven years

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

NEW YORK -- It's a fan's dream come true: the Sandman is back.

Seven years after he stopped writing his groundbreaking, history-making comic book series, author Neil Gaiman has returned, again telling stories about Morpheus, the King of Dreams, and his six siblings, collectively known as the Endless.

"The Sandman: Endless Nights" was released last week as a graphic novel to mark the 10th anniversary of Vertigo comics, the publisher of the series during its run in the 1990s. The new book is a collection of seven short stories, one for each member of the Endless, illustrated by artists from around the world.

Since the series ended, Gaiman has published a story about Morpheus. But "Endless Nights" is a return to the comic book form. He acknowledged a slight case of nerves when he started back, but said he soon felt right back at home with the characters.

"I felt, 'Oh my gosh, I've missed you people. This is so much fun,"' Gaiman said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Gaiman started writing the Sandman comics in 1989, and finished in 1996 after 75 issues. Along the way, he revolutionized the whole genre, introducing work that stood out for its quality writing and adult themes, rather than superheroes in costumes.

"'Sandman' has been the key book that really got Vertigo noticed, and not only Vertigo but literary comics in general," said Karen Berger, vice president and executive editor at Vertigo, which is part of DC Comics.

"When you look and you say, 'Can comics be considered as literature?' you look at Sandman and say yes," Berger said.

The series attracted nontraditional fans, such as women, to the comic book world. It won every major comic book award and it still sells big.

"It was a demographics-buster in terms of the normal comic book fan you think of," said Matt Brady, editor of Newsarama.com, a Web site dedicated to the comic book world. "It really helped to open the doors for comics as they are today."

"For me, it's something that I started 14 years ago," Gaiman said. "But for so many people, it's completely new, and people are coming to it all the time."

For the new book, Gaiman was able to work with artists who had never worked with him. He also moved away from solely focusing on Dream to telling tales from the perspective of the other members of the Endless -- Death, Destiny, Destruction, Desire, Despair and Delirium.

"When I was writing Sandman ... I always felt that sometime the others got short shrift," he said.

And it was also a chance to step away from the novels he's been writing since the series ended.

"When I'm writing a novel, I find myself missing comics," he said.

After working on "Endless Nights" for the last two years, Gaiman is heading back to straight novels. He is contracted to write two books, which means saying goodbye to Dream and the Endless for at least the immediate future.

"I have to put my novelist hat back on," Gaiman said. But "when my novelist hat comes off again, I will look around and blink and call Karen (Berger) and say, 'OK, what are we doing now?"'

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