Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Overture to a Classic

 

The Sandman: Overture is finally at an end. It was a long, agonizing wait—and now that it’s done I’m not sure what to feel. Part of me wants more, but the other half just wants to dive back into the original series. Gaiman has scripted an engrossing prequel that will feed The Sandman’s legend, and J.H. Williams III has depicted that story with incredible images that push the limits of what comic art can be.

At first, the series felt like little more than an Easter egg for Sandman fanboys. Considering the richness of The Sandman’s universe, that isn’t much of a criticism. Much like the original, The Sandman: Overture celebrates the power of stories to shape our world. In doing so, the series also celebrates comic books. As the Sandman’s realm encompasses all dreams in existence, its landscape is littered with the debris of childhoods spent reading comics. Dream’s librarian was first imagined in DC’s Weird Mystery Tales, his raven was once a man in the pages of Swamp Thing, and Batman can be spotted lurking in Dream’s library. With Gaiman’s previous nods to DC titles, it only makes sense that The Sandman: Overture should celebrate Gaiman’s classic title and add depth to its universe.

While Gaiman may have intended readers of The Sandman: Overture to be left itching to read the original, the story stands strong on its own; I can imagine it being a fun introduction  to The Sandman for the uninitiated. It also highlights the eye candy possible when a truly gifted writer collaborates with a uniquely talented artist. J.H. Williams III has been wowing me since Batman: The Black Glove, and each issue of the new Sandman takes eye-popping comic art to new heights. Fold-outs transport you through the universe, figures fluidly blend with the action, and panels coalesce into ethereal landscapes. Together, Gaiman and Williams revel in the medium’s interplay of language and pictures. It’s this willingness to play with form that truly makes the story fresh. The Sandman: Overture did not need to push boundaries to be good, it merely had to uphold the legacy of the original. Instead, it envisions new ways for artists to bring stories to life. Most of the series’ memorable cosmic action sequences eschew frame-by-frame formatting and complicate traditional comic art’s linear narrative approach. It makes for exciting storytelling that brings The Sandman universe to life like never before.

In the introduction to the special edition of The Sandman: Overture #6, Vertigo Executive Editor Shelly Bond suggests we “raise a choice glass of liquid” to this prelude to a classic. I concur, and might I suggest my new favorite cocktail recipe:

The Chancellor.

The Chancellor

2 oz Single Malt Scotch
½ oz ruby port
½ oz dry vermouth
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
Combine scotch, port, vermouth, and bitters in mixing glass. Fill glass with ice and stir well. Strain into chilled coupe.

I stumbled  upon The Chancellor in Food & Wine’s Cocktails 2014, but it all started with a bottle of Laphroaig Dale had collecting dust on his bookshelf. Scotch fanatics everywhere are sure to recognize the name of this single-malt and gnash their teeth at the idea of using it in a cocktail. Laphroaig, described to me by C’n’C co-conspirator Matt Chartrand as”the Scotchiest scotch Scotland could scotch up,” was my first experience with the spirit aside from Johnnie Walker, which I’d still prefer to avoid. Finding Laphroaig’s intense smokiness too abrasive, the bottle was gifted to me after I found myself asking for another taste every time I visited Dale’s. Slowly but surely, I warmed to its uniquely earthy and peaty flavors.

Food & Wine describes The Chancellor as “a nicely dry variation on the Manhattan.” Making the drink with Six Grapes Reserve Porto, the chocolate and cherry flavors of the port danced beautifully with the salty, peaty, and smokey character of the Laphroig. When I switched to Glen Moray, I found the drink quieter and much closer to the dry Manhattan description, but no less delicious. In both cases, the 50-50 mix of port and dry vermouth balance with the scotch and showcase its best flavors. I can imagine sipping this drink in Dream’s library enveloped by the musty smell of old paper and leather. The Chancellor begs to be explored with different scotches, ports, and vermouths, much likeThe Sandman: Overture invites readers to explore The Sandman and its influences.

And make no mistake: I will definitely be exploring The Sandman series a second time. While my first foray into Gaiman’s world was American Gods as a pre-teen (which showed me you can write great fantasy without setting it in a world of castles and dragons), reading The Sandman shortly after college rekindled my passion for comics and cemented my Gaiman fandom. Prose and poetry demanded most of my attention as an undergrad, and Dream’s adventures helped heal the rift between my inner English major and pre-teen comic book nerd by imagining a world where “literature” and comic books share equal footing. Denizens of The Dreaming not only include obscure characters from the pages of DC  comics, but myths, legends, and literary figures. While The Sandman reminds us comics can be every bit as rich and powerful as timeless fairy stories, The Sandman: Overture reminds us there are always fresh ways to read both. I’m looking forward to returning to The Dreaming of ’89-’94 with The Chancellor as my companion.

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Sandman Overture #1

The second issue of Neil Gaiman’s new Sandamn series hits stores today. I must admit, when I first heard talk of a new Sandman monthly, I was skeptical. How do you revive one of the most imaginative, innovative, and memorable comics of our time? As both a Gaiman and Sandman fanboy, I had to pick-up up the first issue to find out. I was rewarded with an answer to my question as soon as I turned to the first page: Dream is Endless. Gaiman’s mythology allows for infinite variation. As long as there is consciousness in the universe, Dream of the Endless will shape the unconscious imagination.

J.H. Williams III’s art shines in this first issue. His work is some of the most vivid and intricate I’ve ever seen in a monthly comic. It’s the perfect eye candy for this sprawling story. If you’ve never read the full Sandman series, do it. There’s never been a better time to start. Then make sure to pick-up the first two issues of Sandman: Overture. Judging by #1, they’ll be worth every penny. If you really need any extra motivation, check out this sneak preview of issue 2 here: http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/25/showbiz/neil-gaiman-sandman-overture/index.html?hpt=hp_c3

Up Next: Gaiman and Batman Surrealism!

P.S.
While I’ve never known Morpheus to be much of a drinker, I enjoyed his latest story with a Beefeater gin & tonic. Why? Because even though Dream is more immortal than any God, he’s also British-as-fuck.  And so are gin & tonics.  I’ve always taken my G&T’s with a lime, but Beefeater recommends lemon for their brand, so why not mix it up?  Lemon makes for a brigther, crisper cocktail–just enough tartness for a pleasant pucker. If that doesn’t strike your fancy, limes are the classic garnish for a reason. Or you can get crazy and try an Evans ( that’s lemon and lime). What’s most important is the gin: next time you’re craving a G&T, skip the Seagram’s. You don’t have to go top-shelf, just grab a London dry gin. London gins don’t have any extra sweeteners or colorants, so you know your gin will have that fresh, pure, juniper berry character. Mmm.