Banned Books Week: The Sandman

Sandman-covers
SOURCE: http://archive.wired.com/geekdad/2012/06/serious-comics-1/

Because a Friday evening is the best time to start on a series like The Sandman.

The Sandman is a comics series that was written by Neil Gaiman, with various artists contributing to each issue, with covers (usually) illustrated by Dave McKean. The series is published by Vertigo. It was initially released as monthly issues between January 1989 and March 1996, and now it is available as a set of 10 volumes (pictured above). Vertigo has also released their Absolute Sandman collection (and one day I will have all 5), as well as three annotated books (which I also want for my own).

Absolute Sandman Vol. 1

Okay, so, Sandman is an amazing body of work that follows the adventures of The Dream Lord a.k.a Morpheus (actually, he is known by a whole bunch of names including the stuff I call him when he does something mean), who after being held captive by a bunch of stupid people, has a to-do list of sorts- punish his captors, rebuild his kingdom, right some past wrongs, and change with the times or perish. With the existence of this series, and stuff like MausThe Watchmen, and Persepolis etc, I do not actually see how people can argue that comics are for kids, and can not be considered serious literature. But that is a rant for another time. The series movies fluidly between the horror and fantasy genres, makes an astounding number of references to fairytales/folklores/mythologies/theologies/literatures* from all over the world, and to my knowledge is one of the first comics series to include a transgender character who is an actual, fleshed out character.

In an unsurprising turn of events, the series is one of the most frequently banned graphic novels, for the following reasons:

  1. Anti-Family
  2. Offensive Language
  3. Unsuited to Age Group

I’m honestly surprised they didn’t have more reasons, but I guess that the mysterious, faceless “they” never got through the first volume? Or perhaps, “anti-family” encompasses everything from gore to representations of gender?

Addressing the last point, however, Neil Gaiman had this to say:

I suspect that having a reputation as adult material that’s unsuitable for teens will probably do more to get teens to read Sandman than having the books ready and waiting on the YA shelves would ever do.

And it really is the case isn’t it? You are told you cannot do something, and your instinct is to do exactly that. So, why bother your librarian? Not every book is for every reader. Some books come too early to their readers, and some too late. I certainly would not have responded well to this series at 16, but at 19 years old, I fell in love with it. There are so many factors that affect one’s reading experience. You can’t always get it right, but that doesn’t mean you shy away from the experience entirely- or worse, black bag the books so no one else can has the chance to make a happy mistake.

Why You May Like This Series: You like comics, you like horror that doesn’t just scare you but makes you think why, you like fantasy, you like Gaiman’s haunting storytelling, you like fairytales/folklores/mythologies/theologies/literatures, you want to read great comic books characters, you live for Dave McKean’s sweet art style, or all of the above.

Why You May Not Like This Series: I can see people being put off by the weighty references and some graphic representations of gore and violence. Apart from that, I cannot think of a reason. I suppose you could say you don’t like comics, but reading comics is something you learn to do and appreciate. It isn’t the same as reading a novel- it’s not meant to be! So that’s no excuse, sorry.

*I seriously need those annotated books!