Why is it that everyone is talking about Sandman but us?
With the release of Sandman: Endless Nights, Neil Gaiman has been getting tons of coverage in the mainstream media. Before the book even came out, CNN.com had run a feature on Gaiman, his career and his current works, and Publisher’s Weekly had given the book a feature article. On the day of the book’s release, USA Today ran a feature on Gaiman on the front page of its Life section. And in the weeks since the book came out, Entertainment Weekly did a four-page story on the history of Sandman, detailing why it was one of the best stories ever told in comic book form, while National Public Radio did an interview with Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell on the work.
Meanwhile, in the weeks before Endless Nights hit the shelves, there was a bit of buzz in the online community about the book’s impending release… but not near as much as there was over the return of Magneto over in New X-Men. I found that surprising; however, I figured that, when the book itself came out, then people would be unable to stop talking about it.
For a while, it seemed as if I was right. Reviews popped up everywhere, praising the new book continually. GamePro, Slush Factory, and Critiques on Infinite Earths at The Fourth Rail all gave the book perfect scores in their reviews of it. Also at the Fourth Rail, Snap Judgments said the collection of short stories was "a treasure to those who loved Sandman and wanted more as well as to anyone who enjoys quality comics," and 411 Mania put it simply, calling the hardcover "nothing short of brilliant."
Yet a number of comments have been made by fans on various message boards that, amazingly, find something negative to say about Sandman and Gaiman. Some people are complaining and saying that the story in the book is too thin for such a costly book, that it’s merely a showcase for spectacular art and has very little story to it. (Why this is a concern for them and not that Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Batman was all flash and no substance is beyond me, and I think that anyone grousing about spending $25 on a 160-pg. hardcover needs to get their heads examined.)
Even the comments that have been made by fans have been few and far between. Most of these fan reviews, favorable or not, were quickly lost amidst news that Mark Waid is staying on Fantastic Four or some other such "hot and breaking news." I challenge you to go to a message board and find a thread on Sandman: Endless Nights. Most likely, it will take some digging.
Now the news has been released that Endless Nights debuted on the New York Times best-seller list. Sure, it was only in twentieth place, but that’s still a huge deal! I’d expect the entire fan community to be fired up about it, raving over the book and excited about witnessing this historic event in comics’ quest for legitimacy.
So in the face of that news, what’s on the front page of Newsarama right now? Ron Marz is returning to Green Lantern, and Hank Pym is getting freaky with his wife in the pages of Avengers.
Few comments have been made about the book’s position on the list on the message boards either. Of those who did choose to voice their opinions about this news, an overwhelming number did so only to downplay Gaiman’s accomplishments. These nay-sayers were stating either that technically the book is not breaking any new ground here or that even if it breaks onto the list with its debut, it won’t stay on the list long.
What is wrong with us? We should be overjoyed at all of this news. In a time when major comic companies seem to view any publicity as good publicity, here we are ignoring what should be the story of the century. Despite what some people are saying to the contrary, never has a comic book from a major publisher broken this barrier, and we are lucky enough to bear witness of this watershed moment.
Why are people so reticent when it comes to Sandman? What is holding comic fans back from praising it as it deserves to be? I can’t help but admit that this circumstance is strong evidence for a certain negative point of view of fandom which I have long been fighting against. It seems that some of the fans out there have a negative view of Sandman simply because it is so popular. They seem to like their niche just as it is, thank you very much. And anybody that comes along and succeeds at breaking through any barriers? Well, that person is quite clearly pretentious and has an over-inflated ego. Such behavior goes against everything I stand for as a comic advocate and it literally disgusts me.
I have been running into a lot of people lately who have never read any Sandman and don’t seem to have the urge to. That too is wrong. This series should be required reading of every comic fan everywhere. It is an immensely popular series that is both wonderfully written and beautifully drawn, and it has drawn hundreds of fans into comics. It is not "just for Goths;" it is brilliant stuff. Like Watchmen, like Maus, Sandman is something you cannot be a true comic fan until you’ve read a significant portion of it.
Seriously, what is wrong with us? Sitting right in front of us is an advocate’s dream, the type of book that practically sells itself, mixing mainstream sensibilities with the best the genre of fantasy has to offer, all while maintaining a high level of both literate and aesthetic craftsmanship. And we’re doing nothing.
I’d bet you anything that more people will get fired up over Jemas’ removal from office than this article, and that is a sad state of affairs.