Neil Gaiman’s Sandman is rightly called the “graphic novel that transformed a genre” (see the video in my first entry for Neil Gaiman Week). For me, it is transformative in an additional way. It helped molding the”new me”.
I do not recall when and where exactly I first heard of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, it was sometime in 1997 and I had only relocated to Nottingham a few months earlier. For me, 1997 was, so far, the most crucial year of my life.
I had come to Britain to start anew, to reinvent myself and to rid myself of the influences of a previous life that had been chosen for me without me ever being asked.
I was basically in a state of self-chosen void, ready to be filled. And there was Sandman and there was Page 45, always ready to order yet another issue or issues.
I drank it all in. I consumed every single letter, every speck of colour. It was, and still is, so immensely inspiring. There were stories of shattered dreams and of dreams, like it or not, becoming real. There was Emperor Norton, who was rescued from the edges of despair, or in this case, Despair, by Dream and a dream. There was Pres, the Golden Boy, who became the embodiment of The American Dream and who attracted followers and deciples from across the multiverse.
There was Dreams only true friend Robert Gadling, who lives his dream of never having to die, there was Lady Johanna Constantine, who enters as an adversary but later becomes an ally and takes Robespierre’s nightmare away.
There were Cain and Abel, Fiddler’s Green and so many others. It is this complete world that drew me in. It was haunting, sometimes even harrowing and always beautiful. It opened vistas to things and perspectives I had not seen or cared for before. It filled part of the void.
I started to construct a watered-down sort of philosophy and personal mysticism around the Endless, after all, they make just as much sense, even more, maybe, as any other religion. This hardcore-fanboy behaviour faded quickly enough, though. After that, it was simply collecting. But still, I was a very devoted collector. Spending money on a night out or another collected issue of Sandman was never a hard choice.
I also tried to emulate the lives of some of the people in the graphic novel, after all, I tried to reinvent myself, I had to find some point of reference. And it worked pretty well. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was a great contributor towards reinventing myself, and after that, it just became better and better.
By late 1997 I had settled in, had taken root and was at peace with the world once again (something I had not been since late 1993) but I had not yet finished my Sandman collection. So, collecting Sandman became an integral part to what was then the best time of my life. Now, whenever I open the pages of Sandman, I can smell my room in the little house in Chandos Street, Nottingham, and I can revel in the memories of those glorious days.
A part of what I am now was shaped by those graphic novels Neil Gaiman created. There will always be a special place for Sandman in my life. Without Sandman, I would not be who I am today.