Volume 6: Fables and Reflections
Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by Bryan Talbot, Stan Woch, P. Craig Russell, Shawn McManus, John Watkiss, Jill Thompson, Duncan Eagleson, Kent Williams, Mark Buckingham, Vince Locke and Dick Giordano
In which we run out of stuff to say about The Sandman and so mainly just send out pics of chibis and Michael Cera and work out who’d we cast in a Sandman movie. Plus: whose art looks most like Turkish Delight?
MACRO POLO: “Are you a dream?”
BARRY SANDMAN: “Yes. I am Dream.”
I mean – really?
(In fact that’s my one sentence review of pretty much every story in Fables and Reflections: “I mean – really?”)
Before I actually picked it up and started reading I could have sworn that it was only 3 or 4 stories long (obviously getting it mixed it up with Dream Country): but then yeah – when I started getting into it: it’s stuffed. And reading through it I was like: “oh yeah – this one. With the Emperor.” “Oh the one with the werewolves.” “Oh – that French Revolution one.”
But yeah I think whereas before (reading it back when I was a lot younger) I was all: wow. This is totally cosmic stuff – being a much more bitter and twisted adult who’s already knows what the tricks are going to be – most of the time when I reached the end I couldn’t help but shrug and well say (to no one): I mean – really?
If I had to sum up my overall reaction in just one word then that word would be “trite.”
Like: “His madness keeps him sane” is nowhere near as interesting a line as Gaiman (or maybe rather Gene Wolfe) thinks that it is. And speaking of Gene Wolfe: and oh my god – I mean The Sandman has some pretty awful introductions – with Samuel R. Delany’s A Game of You one coming first overall: and man oh man – at some point it would be fun to write down a take-down of just how confused and rubbish that is: but yeah – Gene doesn’t exactly cover himself in glory especially how he starts off by saying that most people don’t know how to write introductions and then just sort of muddles along until he (mercifully) runs out of steam…
But then I guess that my main problem mostly comes from the ways that the stories wrap up. There’s that saying right? That “the ending is the conceit” – well: if that’s true (and I’m inclined to think that it is) then the problem with so much of the stuff here is that Gaiman keeps wanting to hit the nail on the head with a resounding: “THIS is what this is about.” And it just kinda diminishes (well for me anyway) all the coolness that came before.
First story: Sometimes when you fall – you fly.
Second story: His madness keeps him sane.
Third story: people in authority shouldn’t be evil.
(Or is this just me? Maybe I’m reading it wrong? I dunno….).
I recently discovered a very cool writer called Philip Sandifer who writes a very cool blog that writes about Doctor Who in a way that is – well – very cool (him describing his own blog: “Its primary goal, however, is to tell one particular history of a half-century of British culture through the idiosyncratic but terribly useful lens of an at times ropy but always clever sci-fi program”). He also talks a lot about comics (and about Alan Moore in particular which – you know (for me): is always a good sign) and so I guess it’s not much of surprise that of course he also managed to get around to The Sandman. In fact – he wrote a whole big long post about it which you can read here: Pop Between Realities, Home in Time For Tea 37 (Sandman): Choice quote: “Even comics coming out today that unambiguously owe a massive debt to Sandman – Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery, Mike Carey’s The Unwritten, or Bill Willingham’s Fables, for instance – come nowhere close to a premise that’s just “so there’s this guy, and he’s the literal embodiment of dreams.”
But yeah – the main reason I mention him is that there’s this very cool bit where he says: “The final thing we should note about Gaiman’s style is his propensity for throwing the “show don’t tell” maxim out the window at strategically opportune moments. This is a trick he inherits from Alan Moore’s deft narration, but Gaiman hones the technique into a particularly effective trick that became, for better or for worse, one of his most enduring influences. It’s now standard practice for genre stories to just blithely declare big thematic concepts without attempts at subtlety – the outright declaration, for instance, that “the Doctor is worth the monsters” in The Girl in the Fireplace, for instance.”
And yeah – I guess that’s the bit that bothers me. As it feels like that at the end of nearly each story here Gaiman always kinda blunders in and goes – well – like I said before: “THIS is what this is about.” I mean – even in The Hunt where it seems like it’s sabotaging that with the granddaughter going: “oh right – so that story was all about how we should just stick to our own kind?” and the grandfather is actually like: no – it’s actually about how – I am a werewolf! (Actually – maybe that example doesn’t make sense seeing how “I am a werewolf” isn’t actually a meaning that a story can have – can it? And yeah – maybe I’m actually getting something wrong and someone else can point it out to me?).
This is the point where I’ll stay that I haven’t actually got to the end of the book yet (still have “Ramadan” left to go…) but what I will say is that “The Song of Orpheus” is actually the exception to all of the hate that I’m slinging Gaiman’s way because actually yeah – ok: that’s the one point in the whole collection where it feels like all I can say (for now at least) is that yeah – ok: that’s actually just a really effective blow to the heart. No messing around. No triteness. Just non-stop complete emotional devastation.
So you know – it was worth reading for that.
(And yeah – ok: (ha!) Sandman babies is pretty cool too).
The chibis are super cute.
Shannon Garrity does them for her skin horse (comic) characters.
Here is Dr Lee, scavenging brains to implant them in helicopters (she not very evil, almost a good guy), or is perhaps the brain vending machine she fixed to get the zombie apocalypse under control? The other two are secondary characters.
Idris Elba to play The Sandman in a movie? I had to be the first to say it…
Well – Mr Gaiman recently nominated Tom Hiddleston for the playing of Barry Sandman but if I was making a Sandman film then I’d cast someone who’s a lot less cool.
Like Michael Cera.
For serious: Michael Cera would make an excellent Sandman. All that moping around and posing would be a lot easier to take if it was George Michael who was doing it. No?
I could make an awesome Sandman movie with the cast of ‘Scott Pilgrim vs The World’.
Michael Cera- Morpheus.
Alison Pill- Despair.
Mark Webber- Destruction.
Ellen Wong- Delirium.
Kieran Culkin- Lucifer.
Brie Larson- Desire.
Well, it’s a start.
I remember this volume as being a bit of a slog at the time, a number of the stories having tangential relationships at best to the wider Sandman world, but it grew on me afterwards, especially with his version of the Orpheus myth which sets up Brief Lives and the tragedy of the series. But several of the stories are forgettable, Johanna Constantine in the French revolution and Augustus, although he is many ways is a human mirror for Morpheus. My favourite story has to be Ramadan, with the beautiful P. Craig Russell art.
I’ve always thought that P. Craig Russell’s artwork looks like Turkish Delight.
Like – if Turkish Delight could draw or was to be represented as a drawing – then it would look like P. Craig Russell’s artwork.
It’s just seems kinda – I dunno – fragrant? You know? All those swirls and stuff.
I thought someone at some point might have mentioned the erm implications of a scrawny white guy like Neil Gaiman setting a foot into the waters of Orientalism (that’s the right word right?): but I guess everyone else must have fallen asleep before they got there…. (Ho ho ho).