Friday, 20 December 2013

No Good Guys Bad Guys Routine

The Golden Age Sandman was a masked vigilante who apprehended criminals;

Jack Kirby's Sandman was a supernatural or super-powered being who fought nightmare monsters in a dream realm (I think - I am less familiar with that version);

the central character of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman is called Dream, Morpheus, Oneiros, the Shaper etc, not "the Sandman", and rules dreams without being dedicated to combating crime or evil.

Dream was obliged to overthrow a few opponents at the beginning of his series, a magician, a demon and a super-villain, but, having regained his full power, he needs only to locate escaped nightmares in order to neutralize them. Thereafter, his main problems are with himself and with his personal relationships, to family members and to former lovers.

To rescue a former lover condemned by himself, he invades Hell only to find that Lucifer has retired and that a different kind of problem, of supernatural diplomacy, awaits him. The Lords of Chaos threaten to hound him forever but theirs is an empty threat. When the Furies attack the Dreaming, Dream's response is not to fight them but to make alternative arrangements.

Dream coexists with all myths and with all DC Comics characters. Thus, endless conflicts between good and evil are regular business but occur elsewhere. The Egyptian sun-god, Ra, still recruits metamorphae for his never-ending battle against Apep, the serpent that never dies, although Death tells him that she took Apep three thousand years ago.

A CIA agent's controller tells her:

"Rainie, in that tomb's the doohickey that turned Rex Mason into a super-man. You're going in there a top company officer. But you're going to come out an American super-woman. For Uncle Sam." (Dream Country, New York, 1995, p. 94)

But, when we see Rainie, all that she wants to do is to end her indestructible "Element Girl" body. Gaiman shows us the other side of a super-hero universe.

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