I’m not sure if any comic has had the same impact on me as The Sandman has. While it wasn’t the first comic I read, it’s the one that’s stuck with me the longest and perhaps most shaped the way I approach storytelling in comics. So you can imagine I was absolutely beside myself when it was revealed today that, in celebration of The Sandman‘s 30th anniversary, that DC and Vertigo plan to launch a new “Sandman Universe” line of comics.
The line, curated by original series writer Neil Gaiman, will begin this August with the release of a special The Sandman Universe one-shot, which will catch readers up on the goings-on of the Dreaming since the end of The Sandman. While we’ve had small glimpses of what’s happened to the Dreaming since original Sandman, Morpheus, died, the Dreaming has generally played a role in facilitating other DC Universe stories rather than playing host to its own. Most recently, Daniel, the current Sandman, made an appearance in Dark Knights: Metal.
Now though, much like Morpheus before him, it seems that Daniel has gone missing. And in The Sandman Universe one shot, we will discover that the Dreaming has fallen into disrepair without its king. And in the chaos, a variety of new stories find their genesis.
The synopsis to The Sandman Universe #1, per DC’s official press release:
Daniel, the lord of Dreams, has gone missing and it causes chaos in the kingdom of dreams…
A rift between worlds has opened, revealing a space beyond the Dreaming. Meanwhile, A book from Lucien’s library of all the unwritten books ever dreamed is discovered by a group of children in the waking world.
Simultaneously, a new House appears—the House of Whispers—joining the Houses of Secret and Mystery in the Dreaming. Its proprietor is a fortune teller called Erzulie, whom the inhabitants of the Dreaming suspect may be responsible for all the strange goings on.
Elsewhere, Lucifer has fallen again, only this time he might be in a Hell of his own design.
And in London, a young boy named Timothy Hunter sleeps, in his dreams he becomes the world’s most powerful magician, but in his nightmares, he becomes the world’s worst villain, which future will become reality?
From the mind of Neil Gaiman, a new world filled with dreams and nightmares, all of his wonderful characters living together in a shared universe for a story unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
The Sandman Universe one shot will be plotted by Gaiman and co-written by Nalo Hopkinson, Kat Howard, Si Spurrier, and Dan Watters, with art by Bilquis Everly and a cover by Jae Lee. Evely has, in the past, made a splash at DC with her work on Wonder Woman.
Following the issue’s release, the four co-writers will separate to explore the storylines introduced by the special in their own series.
Nalo Hopkinson is set to write House of Whispers, which will focus on a new third house that has sprung into being in the Dreaming next to Cain’s House of Mystery and Abel’s House of Secrets. Per DC, House of Whispers will focus on what happens after a comatose woman named Latoya is woken up by her girlfriend and Layota’s two younger sisters, who have used the Book of Whispers to “steal the essence of Erzulie, a deity of voodoo mythology.”
The psychic blowback of the spell causes her house to crash into the Dreaming, beside the Houses of Secrets and Mystery and their custodians, Cain and Abel.
In the real world, the awakened young woman suffers a mystical form of Cotard’s Delusion—she believes she is already dead, and she’s transmitting her belief to others, causing them to become guardians of the Gap that has appeared in the Dreaming.
Hopkinson is new to comics, but has made a name for herself in prose over the last several decades. Her novels have been nominated for a variety of awards including the Philip K. Dick Award, Hugo Award, and have received the World Fantasy Award.
Kat Howard will pen Books of Magic, a follow up to the 1990 mini-series written by Gaiman and drawn by John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charless Vess, and Paul Johnson. The story will see the return of Timothy Hunter, last seen in the New 52 version of Justice League Dark, as he is “torn between two powerful destinies.”
Timothy Hunter is destined to become the most powerful magician in the universe, but that doesn’t mean he gets to cut class, skip exams, or is impervious to bullying by his mundane peers. After all, he’s still a London teenager and having magical abilities complicates things more than it helps. And while Tim’s trying to study and attract the cute girl in his class, there are cultists who want to kill him, believing his power will eventually corrupt him, turning him into a merciless mage. Luckily, the new substitute teacher for his school wants to mentor him and educate him in the magical arts so that he can discover the master behind the Books of Magic…
Howard has penned several novels and has had her work featured in the anthology Stories, which was edited by Gaiman.
Si Spurrier, who has recently carved out a space for himself as a leading writer of stories based in mythology thanks to Cry Havoc and Godshaper, will write The Dreaming. This will follow the denizens of Dream’s realm, particularly Lucien the librarian and Matthew the Raven, as they attempt to navigate a Dreaming without Daniel.
There is a place where gods are born and stories are spun. But twenty-three years after he was anointed as its master, Dream of the Endless has inexplicably abandoned the dreaming. His absence triggers a series of crimes and calamities which consume the lives of those already tangled in his fate, among them Lucien the librarian, Matthew the Raven, and Dora, a monstress without memories. But while they struggle to restore the King to his throne, they face intrigues from within and conquest from without. As usurpers circle the defenceless domain and an impossible shadow awaits its own birth beside a rip in reality, the denizens of the Dreaming play out their stories of loss and love, resignation and resistance.
Those familiar with the original The Sandman series will note that at the start of that series, Morpheus himself had been locked away from the Dreaming for a long time. In his absence, while the Dreaming generally maintained its existence, a variety of unfortunate things happened to the realm and the world at large. The Dreaming seems to borrow from this concept to create something that evokes the light anthology structure of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
Finally, Dan Watters, writer of Limbo, will take on the latest incarnation of Lucifer. This incarnation of the series will see the former ruler of Hell recast as a “blind, destitute old man” living in a boarding house in some sort of purgatory that no one can escape.
A few years ago, the devil vanished. Some people say he died or simply ran away, while others believe he never existed at all. But we aren’t some people. No. This is the one true story of what happened to the Prince of Lies, the Bringer of Light—Lucifer, the blind, destitute old man, who lives in a small boarding house in a quiet little town, where nothing is quite what it seems and no one can leave. He’s trapped, you see? Trapped in a bizarre prison with no memory of how he got there or why. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, a dying policeman believes his suffering may be a call to a divine mission—one that draws him towards revelations regarding the devil himself.
In the past, DC Comics and Vertigo have flirted with the production of new Sandman universe stories. Those flirtations have given birth to a variety of mini-series including Sandman: Overture, Dead Boy Deectives, Death: The High Cost of Living, and The Sandman: The Dream Hunters. However, this “Sandman Universe” initiative reflects DC’s first concerted effort to put the Dreaming firmly in the limelight of their lineup in a more permanent way. It’s another in a growing family of boutique imprints under the DC umbrella following the launch of Gerard Way’s Young Animal and Warren Ellis’ WildStorm over the last several years.
It’s also Mark Doyle’s first major move as the new Executive Editor of Vertigo. Formerly the head of the Batman group, Doyle says:
“Vertigo changed my life. I found Vertigo at a time when I was bored with comics, then I read SANDMAN and my head exploded. Suddenly I saw all these endless storytelling possibilities. I knew I had to get into comics and I had to get into Vertigo. To return to the imprint and work with Neil Gaiman to expand the Sandman Universe—it’s honestly a dream come true.”
No artists have been attached to the four ongoing series at this time. DC Comics plans to host a Vertigo panel at Emerald City Comic Con this Saturday to provide more information about the new Sandman Universe series. In the meantime, here’s a collection of character designs by Evely and key art provided to us by the publisher.
Alex is the New Media Editor of the Comics Beat. He is also a freelance comics editor with previous credits at First Second, Top Cow, and Papercutz. He primarily covers DC Comics and Magic: the Gathering.