Last week I spent a goodly chunk of my paycheque on the second volume of The Absolute Sandman by Neil Gaiman (and artists). I did this for a few reasons. First, I don’t want Xmas presents this year (and am not buying them for anyone). These Absolute Sandman books are mainstays on the Xmas list, but now I could get it for myself. Second, for some reason it’s not available on Amazon.ca at a reasonable cost right now so I noticed it at McNally Robinson. Third, I wanted to read something in a big-ass tome, to feel like I was plumbing the depths of arcanity and such. That this volume of Sandman tales involves the lord of dreams coming into possession of hell makes it a good fit for that “reading a tome” experience.
Sandman comics are things I’ve known about through my entire comic-reading life (which isn’t actually that long). I may have only started reading comics when the original run was ending. I remember the spines of the trade paperbacks in the comic shop. I remember flipping through issues and not really being dragged in. One time at Campaign we were given a trade paperback by one of our book suppliers. I read it (it had the Midsummer Night’s Dream story in it) and I didn’t mind it, but I had other things to spend my money on like Transmetropolitan. So yes, I wasn’t a long-time fan or anything.
And then I started learning how influential it was, beyond the coolness of Neil Gaiman himself. How this was sort of a gothy bible, an artifact of the 1990s that I missed out on. But now I’m reading it. In Absolute form. While I would love to own books like Absolute Watchmen or the giant volumes of Sin CIty or Hellboy, I’ve read those stories, in many cases I on those stories already. But Sandman is this pristine land I’m walking through on these massive pages with their beautiful colouring et al.
Reading this doesn’t bring back memories of the first time reading these stories because this is my first time. I don’t know if this is forming the same kinds of memories for when I reread them in the future. Of being wrapped up in a blanket on my couch in my underheated condo, sipping tea and shooing away a cat. It’s not the same as if I’d been 17. Damned fine stories though.