The Sandman Comics is the greatest piece of literature ever written by mankind. It is the best. It is the greatest.
There are 70++ (76 or 78 issues) plus a few specials. A few miniseries (Death) and a whole new series (Lucifer) sprang forth from it. To sum it all up, the writer Neil Gaiman said, "The King of Dreams learns that he has to either change or die. And he makes his decision."
Basically, that's it.
Though it's also about Dream's other siblings (Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Destruction, Delirium - all anthropomorphic personifications of their names) and a whole cast of characters. Rich, layered
But two whole English master's thesis were written on it. The Sandman Comics' A Midsummer Night's Dream also won the World Fantasy Award. After that, the snobbish motherfuckers who organised it banned comics from entering. Thus, it is the first and ONLY comic book which shall ever win the World Fantasy Award.
You can find the wikipedia article about it somewhere in cyberspace.
What I can give you, though, is what the series meant to me.
I am delightfully surprised to find that the series works in different phases of my life.
I remember a lot of the lines Gaiman has written. I remember all the plots and story-arcs. And it makes sense and more sense as I grow older.
The characters I most relate to were Lucifer and Destruction.
Lucifer went to hell in defiance of Yahweh, the God of the Covenant, but he is still serving Yahweh's wishes as he fulfills a function there.
So he leaves. Satan quits. "You can stop being anything."
Destruction also leaves. He leaves his realm, but does not pass on the baton to another.
In essence, he is still fulfilling his function. By leaving, he destroys the system of the seven siblings. Geddit?
And if Destruction has left his realm, then why do things keep on getting destroyed? Why do things keep on changing?
He left during the Age of Reason. Because humans have discovered the potential relation between energy and matter (Newton suggested something, but was then more interested in gravity and apples).
"Reason. It is no more reliable a tool than instinct, myth, or dream. But it has the potential to be far more dangerous..."
- Destruction ("Brief Lives")
Certain things become inevitable, he said. And he was, of course, talking about nuclear energy. Nuclear bombs. Which will one day destroy the world.
Refusing to be responsible for the destruction of the world, or allowing another to be faced with the same dilemma, he abdicated. He left.
A fan favourite is Death. Who is protrayed as a foxy black-haired chick with an ankh as a symbol. Ironic, since the ankh represents life. And of all the characters, Death seems to value and understand life most of all.
Most of the series' focus, though, was on Dream. Morpheus. Ka'ickul.
Dream has this thing about responsibility. He does not comprehend why Destruction would simply leave and let go of his responsibilities, and does not understand why some of his other siblings does not seem to value responsibility as much as he does.
Morose, a tad pretentious, and is forever unlucky in love, Dream is also neither evil nor good. He is just is.
But he has conviction. When Orpheus, his son with the muse Calliope, turned around because of a lack of faith only to see his lover dragged into the depths of Hades, Morpheus simply walked on and never looked back on his son.
The Sandman Comics also dealt with the French Revolution, Robbespierre, yo! characters like William Shakespeare and Mark Twain. Marco Polo. Haroun Al-Rashid in the wonderful tale of Ramadan, which Gaiman began with "In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful". Fictional places and events from the Faerie to Hell.
References to old books. Hob's Leviathan is a play on philosopher Thomas Hobbe's book, Leviathan and a nod to Moby Dick at the same time. Old comics like Prez Rickard from Prez. John Constantine. Erasmus Fry. Augustus Ceasar.
The riches of thousands of years of wisdom and literature and art. In 70++ issues of comics.
It is the best. The greatest.