Out of all of my favorite comic books that I enjoy and endlessly recommend to everyone I meet this is the one that has probably enjoyed the most mainstream success. But before that we need a brief history lesson.
Vertigo is an imprint of DC Comics (for those of you who aren’t sure what an imprint is think of it like a company within a larger company that focuses on one specific thing) and is one of the most popular brands in comics. It was founded in 1993 with a lady named Karen Berger at the helm.
Mrs. Berger had originally been responsible for bringing some of the most popular British comic book writers of the modern era into American comic books. Names that included Grant Morrison
and Neil Gaiman
among many others. This “British Invasion” of comics created some of the darkest, edgiest, and most exciting work the industry had ever seen with new takes on heroes like Animal Man, Hellblazer (this is the title of the comic that has Constantine in it), and The Swamp Thing. This new sophisticated take on comics, coupled with an opportunity for DC to take over some projects that Disney comics had abandoned after an implosion in the 90’s (no really), led to the creation of the Vertigo imprint and the publishing of one of its most iconic series and my 4th most favorite comic.
4. Sandman (Vertigo Comics)
Author: Neil Gaiman
Artists: Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Jill Thompson, Shawn McManus, Marc Hempel, and Michael Zull
Number of Issues: 75
Sandman is very intelligent storytelling told by a man who is very passionate and interested in things that often seem a bit childish. It’s a fantasy series but this is most definitely not for children. Gaiman loves to talk and write about magic and mythology and one of the best ways to tackle such massive subjects is to give them humanoid shape and personalities.
The comic follows the imprisonment and subsequent escape of Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams.
After being imprisoned for decades by a black sorcerer Morpheus finally manages to escape and make his way back to his kingdom, a land where he rules over the dreams and imaginations of every human being in existence.
It’s a strange world that seems both familiar and unfamiliar to the naked eye and is home to a large cast of strange and mysterious characters such as Cain and Abel
Lucien the Librarian who looks after all the books and works ever created but were never made.
and a whole host of dreams such as the terrifying Corinthian.
It also turns out that Morpheus is not the only one of his kind. The Lord of Dreams is one of seven “Endless”, a group of immortals that represent various aspects of the universe: Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destruction, and Dream.
And that brings us to the second aspect of the comic and my personal favorite. While the crux of the series is about Dream and how he tries to piece his life and his kingdom back together after being held in captivity, the Endless are immortal and powerful beings that hold sway over so much of humanity and access to every corner of the universe. This gives the comic ample opportunity to jump across time, space, and dimension to bring stories about whatever the author wants to talk about. In one issue Dream could be conversing with his brothers and sisters and trying to figure out what to do with some strange universe shattering phenomena in the next issue Dream could be sitting in a bar with an immortal human being discussing the nature of life. The Sandman deals with the forces of Hell, Heaven, Norse Mythology, the French Revolution, Greek myths, inter dimensional travelers, super heroes, serial killers, Shakespeare, actors, and even normal everyday human beings trying to live their lives. The story is massive, sprawling, and offers a glimpse into an imagination that is ripe with wonderful stories and tales to tell.
If you would like to read the series you can buy it digitally on Comixology or the Vertigo store. Also, DC launched another Sandman title called “Sandman: Overtures” which is in stores and online right now.