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Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean on the birth of ‘The Sandman’

Sandman Overtures #1 Cover for the 25th-anniversary story Neil is currentlyI like this too-brief piece for The Guardian in which writer Neil Gaiman recounts the beginnings, and the “end,” of The Sandman and artist Dave McKean recalls the evolution of the comic’s distinctive covers.

“I’d been keeping it secret that the story would one day end. But, around issue 30, I began dropping hints,” says. “And it was explained to me that this couldn’t happen: with a successful monthly, when a writer leaves, a new one comes in. I decided not to argue. But in every interview I did, I said I hoped they would stop it when I left, because if they did I would keep on working for them. That percolated into the world and one day I got a call from Karen [Berger] saying: ‘You know, we really can’t keep this going after you’re done.’ That was the biggest thing Sandman changed: DC’s most successful comic was stopped because the writer was done. Otherwise, the brand would have been tarnished.”

As a nice bonus, there’s also a gallery of McKean’s favorite Sandman covers, complete with commentary. The Sandman: Overture, by Gaiman and J.H. Williams III, with variant covers by McKean, debuts Oct. 30.

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Six things DC Comics is doing right

AdventuresofSuperman1DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.

I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.

So here are six things DC is doing right:

1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.

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City to rename road for Neil Gaiman’s latest novel

ocean at the end of the lane

Neil Gaiman will be in Portsmouth, England, on Sunday as the city renames a road after his new novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

The author’s first novel for adults since 2005′s Anansi Boys, the modern fairy tale follows an unnamed man who returns to his childhood hometown for a funeral only to be caught up in events that began 40 years earlier. The book was published in June.

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Comics A.M. | Singapore cartoonist’s arrest part of crackdown

Leslie Chew cartoon

Leslie Chew cartoon

Legal | Kevin Lim and Evaline Danubrata add some context to the story of Singaporean cartoonist Leslie Chew, who was charged Thursday with contempt of court for several cartoons critical of the Singapore courts that appeared on his Facebook page Demon-cratic Singapore. This isn’t the first time Chew has run afoul of authorities; he was charged with sedition earlier this year for alleging official discrimination against the Malay population. Singapore recently enacted a law requiring licenses for news sites that report regularly on the country, a move that critics of the ruling People’s Action Party see as an attempt to silence dissent. [Reuters]

Retailing | Comic-store owners in the Tampa Bay area agree that sales are up, but they differ on the reasons why. [The Tampa Tribune]

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J.H. Williams III reveals ‘Sandman: Overture’ cover in all its glory

sandman-overature3-cropped

The New York Times premiered a small image of the cover for The Sandman: Overture #1 in its article about concentrated efforts to rebuild Vertigo, but artist J.H. Williams III wasn’t happy with how dull it appeared on the newspaper’s website. And so, lucky for us, he’s revealed super-sized versions on his own blog, both with text and without.

Debuting Oct. 30, the bimonthly six-issue miniseries details the events that led Morpheus to be exhausted and so easily captured in 1989′s The Sandman #1. Boasting covers by Williams and original series cover artist Dave McKean, the title will alternate with The Sandman: Overture Special Edition, which includes Gaiman’s original scripts, Williams’ concept art and sketches, interviews with the creative team and more.

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6 Vertigo characters that could follow Constantine to the New 52

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In March, DC Comics debuted Constantine, a new series focusing on the hard-living occult detective John Constantine. No big deal, right? Not so. For more more than two decades, the character was one of the pillars of the the publisher’s “mature readers” Vertigo imprint, starring in the long-running Hellblazer.

Following brief minor dalliances in some event titles in 2010 and 2011, Constantine was made a key figure in the New 52 title Justice League Dark. The aforementioned Hellblazer ended earlier this year with its 300th issue, paving the way for a full-fledged transition of the Liverpudlian warlock into the realm of superheroes. Readers greeted the new Constantine series with both hope and trepidation, and although the first issues are out — so is the jury.

With that in mind, it’s interesting to look at other characters that have called Vertigo home, and how they might fare in the DC Universe of the New 52. Some, like Constantine, crossed over with a bang, while others like Lucifer Morningstar and Kid Eternity, not so much. For this installment of “Six by 6,” I pinpoint six characters or teams that could possibly make the transition well. Please note than many of Vertigo’s best-remembered series aren’t wholly owned by DC but rather in creator-participation deals like Preacher, Transmetropolitan and 100 Bullets; so while the idea of Spider Jerusalem reporting on the state of things in Gotham City might be amusing, I’ve left those off the table for reality’s sake.

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The legacy of Karen Berger and Vertigo

The news of Karen Berger leaving Vertigo spread quickly. It wasn’t so much that it was a surprise, but that it finally happened. DC Comics Entertainment has been going through significant changes over the past couple of years, including grabbing characters long associated with Vertigo and returning them to the DC Universe, and rumored changes to creator contracts. Despite the unfortunate end, Berger leaves behind an amazing legacy no matter what becomes of the nearly 20-year-old imprint.

I have a very clear memory of high school in the 1990s where kids much cooler than me were reading The Sandman. These were kids who otherwise didn’t read comics, and certainly not the superhero stuff from Marvel and DC. This was not an isolated incident. Vertigo in the ’90s brought a new audience to comics, a maturing audience with interests in horror, fantasy, suspense and mythology. These readers didn’t have access to, and probably weren’t ready for, the underground or alternative comix scene. As superhero comics turned into garish collector items, Vertigo provided the alternative: stories.

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What Are You Reading? with Mark Sable

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our guest is Mark Sable, the writer and co-creator of Image’s Graveyard of Empires with Paul Azaceta and the upcoming Duplicate from Kickstart Comics with Andy MacDonald. You can find his work and thoughts at marksable.com and contact him @marksable on the Twitter.

To see what Mark and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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Quote of the Day | ‘That’s not Sandman!’

"The Sandman" art by J.H. Williams III

“I’m imagining a hypercritical audience of roughly 50 million people going, ‘That’s not Sandman!’ But then I think, the great thing about Sandman was that from the moment I discovered the internet, and that people were talking about Sandman on the internet — which would have been, like, rec.art.comics.dc circa 1989, end of ’89 — what people were saying then never changed for the next seven years of comics. All they ever said was, ‘It’s not as good as it used to be.’ And the earlier stuff was always whatever somebody had picked up first and loved. And it carried on, with people talking about when Sandman was good, all the way up through 75.”

Neil Gaiman, discussing his expectations for the release of the newly announced prequel
to his celebrated Vertigo series The Sandman

Six by 6 | Six other series DC could revive, Before Watchmen-style

Despite the considerable critical backlash, DC Comics’ Before Watchmen line of titles has become one of this summer’s top sellers, and the publisher announced at Comic-Con International that it’s revisiting the classic Sandman in a prequel written by Neil Gaiman. With that in mind, I’ve come up with six other wells the company could return to for new projects. I’m not saying they should or shouldn’t, but given recent events this might be where fans, and DC, could look next.

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SDCC ’12 | A roundup of news and announcements from Thursday

Sandman

Thursday may have started a bit slow in the news department, but it sure ended with a huge bang. Here’s a roundup of announcements that hit today from Comic-Con International in San Diego:

• Neil Gaiman announced via video that he will write a new Sandman miniseries that will detail what happened to Morpheus to allow him to be so easily captured in The Sandman #1. J.H. Williams III will provide the art. “It was a story that we discussed telling for Sandman‘s 20th anniversary,” Gaiman said, “but the time got away from us. And now, with Sandman‘s 25th anniversary year coming up, I’m delighted, and nervous, that that story is finally going to be told.” The series will be published by Vertigo sometime next year.

• Mark Waid, Shane Davis and Max Brooks will team to create Shadow Walk, a graphic novel coming out next year from Legendary Comics.

• Legendary will also publish the Majestic Files by J. Michael Straczynski, which will feature art by Geoff Shaw and Matt Banning.

• Terry Moore will write a Strangers in Paradise prose novel to coincide with the comic’s 20th anniversary next year. He also plans to do an all-ages comic after Rachel Rising finishes in 30-40 issues.

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Pro-gay group springs up after One Million Moms’ Facebook defeat

Following  the temporary retreat from Facebook by the anti-gay One Million Moms, a pro-gay group has sprung up on the social-media site hoping to capitalize on its absence.

Called, yes, One Million Moms, the group describes itself as “One Million Moms and friends of moms who support LGBT rights. Let’s put a positive spin to the group name One Million Moms by supporting equal rights to people of all orientations, creeds, genders and colors.” To further tweak the other One Million Moms, the new Facebook page flies the banner of the Human Rights Campaign and uses an image from the current JC Penney Father’s Day ad that has so enraged the other organization.

The new OMM explains that, “Using a ‘Risk’ metric, any time a territory like this is contested, it weakens the prior occupier’s footing and destabilizes their hold on that particular region of Cyberspace. Fundamentalist mothers looking for the original page will be confused, join the wrong thing, or not join at all; it muddies the message and strengthens the position of the new occupiers. This new page might not garner all that many followers initially, but its presence WILL deny the previous owners their beachhead and create a blockade to one of their most persuasive channels.”

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Neil Gaiman joins Homer’s book-writing team on Sunday’s Simpsons

Fox has released images and an official synopsis for this week’s episode of The Simpsons, which features a guest appearance by Neil Gaiman. In addition, Gaiman posted a clip from the show which, as you can see from the above screenshot, includes a glimpse of a bookstore display showcasing the author’s work, including The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1, and The Absolute Death. Clearly they’re not in the Springfield Barnes & Noble.

Here’s how Fox describes the episode, called “The Book Job”: “Lisa becomes disheartened when she learns the shocking truth behind the ‘tween lit’ industry and her beloved fantasy novel characters. But Homer decides to cash in on the craze and forms a team to group-write the next ‘tween lit’ hit, with the king of fantasy, Neil Gaiman (guest-voicing as himself), lending his expertise to the effort. After catching the eye of a slick industry publisher (guest-voice Andy Garcia) at the Springfield Book Fair, the team gets an advanced copy of their work and discovers that the corporate lit business is a bigger operation than they imagined.”

Gaiman previously appeared in animated for in a 2010 episode of Arthur. Check out the clip and images from “The Book Job” below. The Simpsons airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

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Previews: What Looks Good for October

Spera, Volume 1

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes, and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Jeff Lemire’s Frankenstein is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.

Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

Archaia

The Grave Doug Freshley – A lot of publishers are doing Weird Western comics lately and that’s just fine with me.

Spera, Volume 1 – I like the sound of this fairy tale in which a couple of princesses combine efforts to save their kingdoms. It’s not that I’m anti-prince, but that’s a cool, new way to do that story.

Avatar

Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island – Warren Ellis doing Steampunk sounds thrilling, but really all they had to say was “pirates.” I bet this is still really good though, even if you’re pickier than I am.

Boom!

Roger Langridge’s Snarked #1 – After a well-loved zero-issue, Langridge’s version of Wonderland gets its real, official start.

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Comic Strips To Comic Flicks: Neil Gaiman Movies They Haven’t Made (Yet)

In recent years, we’ve seen a boatload of comic books and graphic novels make their way to the silver screen, from Big Two stalwarts like Spider-Man and Batman to independent titles like Scott Pilgrim and 30 Days Of Night. Among the various adaptations, some creators have emerged as magnets for Hollywood types — although in this case not specifically for his comic work: Neil Gaiman.

We know Gaiman best for his comics work, but it’s arguably his prose work that made his name for the mainstream public-at-large and the Hollywood types that have hired him for jobs. While none of his comics work has been adapted to the screen, his prose and prose/art hybrids have come to life in the movies for Stardust and Coraline, and the BBC series Neverwhere. He’s been brought in to write episodes of Doctor Who and Babylon 5, and has written original screenplays for movies like Beowulf, Mirrormask and several unreleased projects. Be that as it may, people have attempted film adaptations of his comics work in the past, including an adaptation of Death: The High Cost of Living several years back.

But with Gaiman’s stock in people’s minds continuing to ride high, I’d bet money on more of Gaiman’s comic work making it to the screen. Here’s a crib sheet for the Hollywood-types on what they should do and how they should do it. Take note, I chose to leave out the variety of prose work that would be natural fits for adaptation, even the prose work that’s later been adapted to comics.

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