#373 “Sandman”: Waking from the dream

sandmanAs it’s widely regarded as one of the best comic book series of all time, Dana and Kumar try their best to rekindle their love for Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN nearly twenty years after its conclusion, only to find the plotting leaden, the art inconsistent, and the world-building frustrating. Has time stripped the series of its lustre, or are these two jerks just too old for it?

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Resident of Japan since 1989, creator of "The Crazing Spider-Hag"

2 thoughts on “#373 “Sandman”: Waking from the dream”

  1. I don’t know where to begin. What a disappointment.

    This episode is far more about Kumar’s own ignorance, prejudice and hang-ups than it is about Sandman.

    First of all, there were so many obvious and glaring factual errors that I lost count of them.

    Sandman ran for 8 years, not 5.

    Sandman did NOT ship monthly. It was delayed and behind schedule all the time! Maybe sometimes scheduling was a concern, but the blanket statement that DC was forcing them to crank out issues to meet hard deadlines is absolutely false. It ran for 75 issues over 8 years. Do the math. It was not always monthly.

    P. Craig Russell was not the artist on the final issue. That was Charles Vess.

    There was no “Crisis on Infinite Earths” tie-in. I have no idea what the heck you’re thinking of there. “Crisis” happened like 3 years before Sandman even started.

    By the way, it isn’t like I rushed to Wikipedia or whatever to fact-check you. These are just obvious errors that most anyone with a passing familiarity would I know off the top of their head.

    I should probably pause here to let you know that I am NOT a super big fan of Neil Gaiman. And while I liked Sandman at the time, my appreciation of it has dimmed over the years. In this podcast I was looking forward to a discussion that had a lot of good pro and con. Instead, the “deconstruction” of the series here seemed very petty and wrongheaded.

    I can’t believe both of you guys took Gaiman to task for having his gods resemble humans. It’s mindblowing to me that you would care so much about that. You even note that perhaps Morpheus only has jeans and a T-shirt on because we the readers (people who often wear that sort of clothing) are looking at him. So why can’t you make the connection that Gaiman’s gods would probably look more like aliens if aliens were viewing him? On a pragmatic level, would you really like Sandman more if half of the characters looked like formless cosmic blobs? It’s a story for humans, so of course the gods are going to look like Earthlings. Get over it.

    The biggest shortcoming of this entire podcast, however, was Kumar’s own petty griping about religion. Everything he put forth in this regard said far more about his own spiteful personality than it did about Sandman. By the way, I would define myself as something between an atheist and an agnostic; in other words, I’m not precious or protective about gods or goddesses AT ALL. I don’t really believe in them, and yet I had no problem enjoying and getting a lot out of Sandman. I also think it’s pretty obvious that MOST fans of Sandman are certainly not religious fundamentalists. Gaiman’s text here is basically predicated on mixing together a ton of different religions and mythologies, so obviously anyone who subscribed very strongly to any particular religion would have a problem with the inclusive mythological “democracy” that he’s created here. So unless you’re a total religious extremist, you should be okay with it.

    And yet Kumar is wholly intolerant of it simply because there are touches of what he calls “Christianity”. Why is this? Well, it’s because atheists like Kumar can be just as bigoted as anyone else.

    First of all, as Dana attempted to point out, a lot of these aspects of Sandman that Kumar has a problem with aren’t really “Christian” at all. These are, at best, “Judeo-Christian” touches. But there is no Christ or Jesus involved, period. Angels and the Devil exist in far more religions than just Christianity, but Kumar seems totally ignorant of this fact. Or my guess is that he simply colors anything religious that upsets him as “Christian”, because he’s obsessed with doing so. If something rankles Kumar, it must be the fault of a Christian and/or a conservative and/or an American. This stuff has come out on the podcast again and again, in ways that are usually very predictable, annoying, and unwarranted.

    Secondly, whether any religions or mythologies are literally “true” or not is COMPLETELY BESIDE THE POINT. If such-and-such religion is a “lie”, that is completely irrelevant to a discussion of Sandman, because fictional works themselves are “lies”. Moreover, Kumar should understand that MOST religious people themselves do not take their religious texts literally. If you can’t appreciate a non-didactic work of fiction because something in it reminds you by extension of some other totally different people in real life, that’s more like YOUR problem. It’s like not being able to read any story with any German character in it because “OMG the Nazis!”

    The reference to Christianity just being “something some idiots made up” is actually just as offensive as anything I’ve ever heard a hardcore Christian say. Kumar ignores the historical Jesus — so, it wasn’t all just “made up” — and he also doesn’t seem to realize Christianity’s contribution to civilization. He paints everything involving religion in general as if it was ALL the same as the Spanish Inquisition or al-Quaeda or whatever. If you only see the negative side of religion, you just aren’t trying. Yeah, religion and religious people have a lot of failings, but thank god we’re all not spiteful nihilists like Kumar.

    I think it’s particularly important to point out that the Renaissance (and the Enlightenment and the entire progress of history since then) was very much started by a bunch of people who were more or less Christians but also wanted to learn from the good aspects of Greece and Rome. That’s what the Renaissance was, and it sparked everything afterwards. Look at the paintings, statues, and literature those Italians made: half of them showed Christian figures, and half of them showed Greek and Roman gods and heroes. That sort of inclusive pantheon is very much like what Gaiman shows in Sandman. Too bad Kumar can’t enjoy it or appreciate the whole big picture, because he’s too concerned about a few angels off to the side. That says WAY more about his own prejudice than it does about the actual work under discussion.

    I really with that Dana and Tim had done this podcast. Kumar just ruins everything with his spiteful negativity. Of course Sandman has faults. Of course Gaiman has his failings and indulgences. But, good god, man… it’s Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. It changed comics forever and helped give forthcoming creators the potential to do far more literary stuff. Vertigo wouldn’t have come into existence without the success of Sandman. (A lot of what you guys said here was the equivalent of saying “No black and white movie is worth seeing, because we have color now.”)

    Instead of exploring so much other content and FACT-based history, this podcast was far more interested in griping and obsessing over the fact that Daniel’s mother came *gasp!* from a superhero comic. That factoid doesn’t even play into ANYTHING in the actual story. But Kumar is super prejudiced against superhero comics, so it becomes a nagging pet-peeve for him.

    And by the way, the term “deus ex machina” came from ancient Rome. And it did indeed refer to things that happened in ancient Greek theater. It didn’t come from “Elizabethan” theater, as Kumar kept insisting. He probably thinks it came from 1600s England because there were more bad old Christians there. And EVERYTHING is the fault of Christians.

    Unless you were actually raped by a Catholic priest as a boy, you should really get over yourself, you pompous jerk.

  2. Thank you for your comments, Dan. Honestly I’m surprised we didn’t get more negative comments on this episode and get them sooner.

    You are right that my math was way off. But then, what’s the excuse for the frequently bad art? Also, if the schedule was flexible, why did SoM get stretched?

    My point about the humanoid gods was kind of that in a prose novel you COULD have them be like blobs or light or something and it would still work, and maybe Gaiman was biting off more than he could chew in terms of the scope of his ideas and what could be visually represented.

    I am indeed against religion as I feel the bad outweighs the good. These are my current opinions and my current personality. Since you disagree with them, I recommend you no longer listen to episodes in which I appear as they are bound to pop up again. I stand by my claim that the most religious texts were written by idiots. None of it adds up on the level of basic logic.

    The reference to Crisis was to Swamp Thing, not Sandman.

    Regarding the Christian touches I shoehorned into my reading of the book, you’ll note that I did try to assume that the angels were not even Christian angels — which Dana took away from me!

    I acknowledge the historical importance of Sandman. But I don’t think that improves the overall quality of it — some of which was wonderful, some of which was awful. Often the point of this show is to get into the nuts and bolts of the craft of the book, rather than its industrial significance.

    Regarding your color vs black&white analogy, I actually think that’s kind of true. As I approach middle age, I realize that I don’t have that much time for consuming media, and it’s often better to consume based on quality rather than historical importance. So yes, I would rather read something better than Sandman (yes, it exists!) rather than necessarily read Sandman which is good half the time just because it was such an influence on so many others.

    My mistake about Deus Ex Machina was not related to presumptions about Christianity. That still doesn’t excuse Gaiman’s weak use of it.

    Finally, I would like say, Dan, that I think you wasted a lot of time writing a long letter about something that’s ultimately not that important for a podcast that’s only listened to by a few hundred people about a guy whose opinion nobody really gives a shit about. Next time I recommend you do what I do and at the stage you start disliking the episode, just shut it off and move on to something else. Life is short.


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