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The Endless: Neil Gaiman's Sandman Series


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Written by Neil Gaiman.
Introduction to The Doll's House,
by Clive Barker -
May we open this celebration of the work in your hand by defining two kinds of fantastic fiction? One, the kind most often seen in horror novels and movies, offers up a reality that resembles our own, then postulates a second invading reality, which has to be accommodated or exiled by the status quo is it attempting to overtake. Sometimes, as in any exorcism movie-and most horror movies are that, by other names-the alien thorn is successfully removed from the suppurating flank of the veal. On other occasions the visitor becomes part of the fabric of "everyday" life. Superman is, after all, an alien life form. He's simply the acceptable face of invading realities.

The second kind of fantastique is far more delirious. In these narratives, the whole world is haunted and mysterious. There is no solid status quo, only a series of relative realities, personal to each of the characters, any or all of which are frail, and subjects to eruptions from other states and conditions. One of the finest writers in this second mode is Edgar Allen Poe, in whose fevered stories landscape, character-even architecture-become a function of the tormented, sexual anxious psyche of the author; in which anything is possible because the tales occur within the teller's skull.

Is it perhaps the freedom from critical and academic scrutiny that has made the medium of comic books so rich an earth in which to nurture this second kind of fiction? In movies is is the art-house product (Fellini leads the pack) that dares to let go of naturalism. But in recent years the most successful comic book creators are those who have strayed furthest from the security of the river bank, into the fury of white waters.

For instance, Mr. Gaiman. In a relatively short time his imaginings have made him the crowd's darling, but his stories are perfectly cavalier in their re-ordering of realities. He doesn't tell straightforward, read-it-and-forget-it tales; he doesn't supply pat moral solutions. Instead he constructs stories like some demented cook might make a wedding cake, building layer upon layer, hiding all kinds of sweet and sour in the mix. The characters who populate these tales are long past questioning the plausibility of the outrages Mr. Gaiman visits upon normality. They were boring into this maelstrom, and they know no other reality. There are creatures that dream of dreams; and others who dream about the dream-pretenders. Here are dimension-hopping entities who have a Napoleonic sense of their own destiny, occupying the same panels as tu'penny coloured beasties who look as though they've escaped from bubble-gum cards.

There is a wonderful willful quality to this mix: Mr. Gaiman is one of those adventurous creators who sees no reason why his tales shouldn't embrace slapstick comedy, mystical musings, and the grimmest collection of serial killers this side of Death Row. He makes this combination work because he has a comprehensive knowledge of the medium, and knows where it's strengths lie. He has also-and this is infinitely more important than being a Comic Brat-a point of view about the world which he uses anarchic possibilities of the medium to express. After all, where can the glorious, the goofy, and the god-like stand shoulder to shoulder? Where else can bubble-gum hearts, the dream travellers, the serial killers, and the occasional guest-star from beyond the grave occupy the same space?

If the sheer profusion of these inventions and the apt absurdity of some of the juxtapositions puts you in the mind of one of your more heated dreams, then surely that's what Mr. Gaiman intends. Forget what's written on the title page. Hero and author are here synonymous on these pages, Mr. Gaiman is the Sandman. And look! He just brought you a dream.

Clive Barker
London; 3rd APRIL 1990
Introduction © Clive Barker.

Meet the Endless
Death & Dream

Death & Dream
Meet the Endless
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