Hy Bender, |
The Sandman Companion
(DC Comics/Vertigo, 1999)
It's been said that The Sandman did for comics what The Beatles or The Clash did for rock 'n' roll. I'm not sure everyone would agree completely, but anyone who's ever entered "The Dreaming" can realize that Neil Gaiman created a stunning world, full of interesting characters and beautifully-crafted stories. Hy Bender interviewed Gaiman over a five-day period in New York, and the edited transcripts comprise The Sandman Companion.
As Bender states in the introduction, The Sandman can be read without a guide. The good thing about The Sandman is that is operates on multiple, sometimes very subtle, levels; these interviews help peel back some of those layers. And besides, who hasn't wondered at some time or another exactly how an author came up with a character or story?
The interviews with Gaiman are good, if a little repetitive. About one-third of the information presented in The Sandman Companion has seen print in other interviews in almost the same manner. You'd think Gaiman could at least tell the stories differently every once in a while. Then again, he's been asked the same questions so often that I'm sure he's sick of them.
Gaiman walks us through each story arc (apparently he had all the copies sitting in front of him, since he quotes extensively from each), pointing out repeating characters, literary allusions and other visual tidbits. Most of this is stuff that the careful reader has already noticed, but it's nice to know the story behind the story.
The Sandman Companion also includes interviews by the artists, inkers and letterers responsible for bringing Dream and the rest of the Endless to life: Charles Vess, Todd Klein, Michael Zulli, Dave McKean, Sam Keith, Mike Dringenburg and Jill Thompson, among others. The book also includes promotional artwork and idea sketches, along with a color section of artwork.
Bender does a nice job of discussing the thematic motifs of each storyline, although some of what he says is simply personal interpretation and isn't necessarily supported by Gaiman. However, Bender gets much too long-winded during the interview segments, launching into explanations of key parts with that attitude that screams, "Am I right? Did I get it right? Aren't I so smart?" Aside from that, The Sandman Companion is a snazzy little guidebook into Neil Gaiman's world of the Endless. Even the most perceptive reader will surely find something within its pages that s/he didn't already know.
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