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The Return of the Sandman

mysandmanlibrarySo, the new Sandman series, Overture, premieres tomorrow. First issue of five or so, I believe, shipping bi-monthly. Which means almost a year of new Sandman comics, albeit ~8 weeks between issues instead of 4 (or in the case of ridiculously over-shipped Marvel titles, 2ish).

DC‘s already gonna get my money twice on this, barring something REALLY ticking me off a la Action Comics #2 or such. I’ll certainly buy the issues as they come out–I’m not waiting a couple years to get to read this! And I’ll of course want the paperback collected volume to shelve with the rest of my Sandman paperbacks.

I have a bit of “history” with the Sandman comics, certainly plenty of sentimentality to the experience of acquiring the books as well as real-life stuff going on at the time.

The earliest I recall “hearing of” the series outside of “house ads” and other DC/Vertigo-produced promotional materials was late in high school–my senior year, I believe (though it could have been junior year). A classmate who I never would have pegged for having any interest in comics was talking about this phenomenal series she’d read–something called The Sandman.

sandmanvol3dreamcountryFlash-forward a couple years, to the summer of 2001. I was working as a camp counselor in Michigan, and found out one of the other guys working there was a comics fan…though he had a preference for the non-superhero stuff. One of his favorites was Hellblazer, and through that summer he loaned me all the Hellblazer he had with him (thoroughly getting me hooked on the series, but that’s another post entirely). He’d also told me about this other series, The Sandman, and highly recommended it. Amidst the various issues of Hellblazer I read that summer, I saw plenty of house ads for Sandman stuff, which kept it on my “radar.”

Not long into the new school year, dealing with some frustration and heartache, I came across a quote that a friend had posted on his webpage that perfectly fit how I was feeling with stuff that was going on. I wound up tracking down the quote’s source, which turned out to be a volume of The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman.

Have you ever been in love?  Horrible, isn’t it?  It makes you so vulnerable.  It opens your chest and it opens your heart and it means someone can get inside you and mess you up.  You build up all these defenses.  You build up this whole armor, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life.  You give them a piece of you.  They don’t ask for it.  They do something dumb one day like kiss you, or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. […] It’s a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain.  Nothing should be able to do that.  Especially not love.  I hate love. [Rose Walker, The Sandman: The Kindly Ones, Neil Gaiman]

So I was interested in the source material if only for context of the quote…but “the hunt” for the volume and my interest in the series as a whole actually caught my parents’ attention.

sandmanvol6fablesandreflectionsTheir notice in my interest led to them giving me a couple volumes for my birthday (Dream Country and Fables & Reflections). Meanwhile, my friend (who’d inadvertently introduced me to the quote) picked up Season of Mists…and as I’d let him read my books, he let me read his.

Dad specifically had me confirm on the other volumes at the comic shop shortly before Christmas–I “suspected” from that that I was getting a couple more; that they were completing the series was a memorable, meaningful shock. (My parents have virtually never gifted comics/graphic novels for any occasion as they don’t keep up with all I get on my own; THAT the series was a gift from them given that makes it that much more a sentimental thing to me beyond the stories themselves).

It took me a few weeks to read everything; I read a couple volumes at my grandmother’s in early/mid January 2002 while sandmanvol11endlessnightsDad and I were there; and once back at school got to share the rest of the series with my friend, which gave us loads to talk about (also a great experience: SHARING the reading experience and having someone IMMEDIATELY to talk to who also was only reading any of the books for the first time).

I don’t recall exactly when, but I’m pretty sure I acquired the two Death volumes (The High Cost of Living and The Time of Your Life) via ebay that winter/spring.

Then in 2003 when Endless Nights was announced…it was quite the thing to look forward to. But, I recall being rather disappointed at it being an oversized hardcover…making it really stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of my volumes. But it was Sandman, it was Gaiman, and I quite enjoyed the volume.

So now, we jump an entire decade. Late 2003 to late 2013. And there’s new Sandman. By Neil Gaiman.

Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes…when you fall, you fly!

Can you tell that I’m excited?

The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics Annual #4

actioncomicsannual004Eclipso: The Darkness Within / Living Daylights

Written by: Dan Vado
Pencilled by: Chris Wozniak
Inked by: Karl Altstaetter, Trevor Scott, Karl Kesel, Steve Mitchell
Lettered by: Albert De Guzman
Colored by: Matt Hollingsworth
Assistant Edited by: Dan Thorslan
Edited by: Mike Carlin
Cover by: Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.50

Offhand, this issue is my earliest memory of the Captain Marvel character. If I was “aware of” him prior, it’s not a conscious memory. I wanted to re-read this issue given my recent foray (October 2013) into the Shazam/Captain Marvel character, as well as for the nostalgia. That, and while not from the 1970s or 1980s, I would have pegged this as a perfect issue for the Superman vs. Shazam collection…and this is certainly the issue that I think of when I think of the two characters fighting.

The issue’s cover is fairly iconic for me, showing an Eclipsed Superman struggling with Captain Marvel, captioned The Evil of Eclipso vs. the Power of Shazam! It’s rather interesting to realize the cover is by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, given Quesada‘s eventual and current involvement with Marvel. The 11-year-old Me certainly had found it engaging, igniting curiosity as to the Eclipsed Superman and who this other guy was that he was fighting.

The interior art, while not nearly as thrilling, gets the job done. Particularly on this re-read, I was more interested in the characters and interactions than the actual art, though nothing about it particularly screamed “go find more that matches this art!” Given this is an extra-sized issue produced simultaneous with the weekly ongoing saga in the main Superman books, and is from 21 years ago, it’s not a great concern and largely gets a pass as such.

The story itself is a bit mixed. On one hand, I’ve read this before, I know the overall bit of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within ‘event’ and where things go; I have a fuller context all these years later of the characters, situations, and so on, so it’s hardly as engaging as it was originally.

The story picks up with a town having been captured by Eclipso, and the heroes are unable to reclaim it. The only condition by which he’ll relinquish his hold is in trade for Superman’s body–which he has, thus far, been unable to possess. Given this is Superman, of course he agrees–willing to sacrifice himself for the good of others (regardless of all the potential harm that could be done by Eclipso controlling his body and powers). While he makes the deal with Eclipso, the other heroes begin a plan to combat an Eclipsed Superman, which involves bringing in Captain Marvel–the only one to truly have a chance of going toe to toe with the Man of Steel.

The story itself isn’t terribly deep…though it does provide reasonable motivation for what occurs…stuff doesn’t come outta nowhere (such as Captain Marvel just happening to “fly by” at the exact moment he’s needed…he actually has to be called in). We have broad, ongoing plot points of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within story in general, and this feels much more like a key point in the event rather than “just” the “encounter of the week” with a Black Diamond.

I actually paid $4 for this copy of the issue, for the immediate gratification of getting to re-read the thing without having to dig through umpteen longboxes or quintuple the issue’s cost paying for shipping, etc. Despite paying that kind of money for a 21-year-old comic that typically oughtta be 25 or 50 cent-bin fodder, it was worth it for the reading experience…especially given the cost matched virtually any current Marvel, many current DC, and anything presently on my pull list–yet this issue has more than twice the content of a current series (in some cases, nearly 3 times the content!).

If you can find this in a bargain bin or just have an interest in Superman and Captain Marvel/Shazam fighting, this is definitely a worthwhile issue. Ditto if you’re looking for just a handful of the Eclipso Annuals from 1992.

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