BY MATT TUCK, BLOGGER SUPREME
FB@The Comic Blog
The Sandman’s first trailer has arrived, and he is bringing the entire cast of characters from the comics. It could pay dividends to keep an eye on these in particular.
Arguably Neil Gaiman’s most popular work, The Sandman is the epic fantasy-horror tale of Morpheus who ventures across worlds as the Lord of Dreams. As we see in the trailer, it all begins when a group of mortals looking to trap the personification of Death casts a spell that nets her brother instead. Dream then sits in his cage, refusing to speak for decades until the spell is broken.
While he has been gone, his kingdom, the Dreaming, has been corrupted and his magical items have been stolen. Meanwhile, the nightmares have been unleashed on Earth. Now that I put it into words, Sandman sounds a lot like a roleplaying game. Nevertheless, it has become a modern classic and essential reading for comic fans that is long overdue for a series.
THE ROAD TO NETFLIX
It’s been a long and winding road for the world of the Sandman to finally come to life on the small screen. Only months ago, fans were getting antsy after Netflix suffered its biggest first quarter loss in the company’s history. That prompted the corporate executives to begin slashing the budget, beginning with trimming its slate of upcoming live-action and animated originals. It left many to worry that The Sandman may be next on the chopping block. Neil Gaiman, however, assured audiences that everything was on track. To get a trailer after the budget scare was a victory in itself.
Of course, the journey goes back further than Netflix. The first character to use the name Sandman was created in 1939. This version had no powers of his own, and he was more along the lines of the Shadow than Morpheus. Sporting a fedora and gas mask with his three-piece suit and cape, he solved mysteries throughout the Golden and Silver Ages. He was even a founding member of the Justice Society of America.
While Dream’s helmet is meant to inspire visions of the original Sandman, Gaiman’s inspiration came from the master himself, Jack Kirby. In the 1970s, Kirby was working at DC Comics when he reimagined the Sandman. As the story goes, he wanted the second character to actually step into the Dream Dimension, a concept that Gaiman would expand on to create the Endless as well as the Dreaming. Hopefully the Netflix series will find a way to incorporate Kirby’s Sandman into the show in some fashion.
One key difference will be the connection to the overall world of DC. Although Morpheus’ adventure was published under DC’s imprint, Vertigo, the character existed in the Earth-One timeline and interacted with many superheroes. It appears the Netflix show will only be loosely tied to the larger DCEU. Still, there is room for a minor cameo or two from other DC characters, particularly the former Sandmen.
Being a fantasy epic, there will be many unique worlds inhabited by a wide assortment of characters in The Sandman. The likes of Lucifer, Death, Johanna Constantine, and the Corinthian have all been confirmed for the show, and we expect many other surprises along the way. That is helping the Sandman key issues earn record prices over the past year.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at five comics that will become much more important when the series is released later this year.
SANDMAN #1 (1989)
There’s no denying which issue is the king of the mountain when it comes to Sandman speculation. Other characters had used the title since the ‘30s, but it wasn’t until Neil Gaiman took the concept into a horror-fantasy realm that it became a full sensation. The original Sandman run is among the most well-written comics ever published, and it truly catapulted the author to superstar status. It all began with this issue, and it is deserving of all the praise heaped upon it.
One of the unsung heroes of the ‘89 Sandman series is the artwork. Dave McKean’s ethereal cover art captures the essence of each issue perfectly. Truly, each cover is a masterpiece and worthy of being framed and hung in an art museum. The interior work from Sam Kieth embraces the fantasy with a style that has a distinct 1960s Lord of the Rings atmosphere. Put that together with Gaiman’s impeccable script, and this was bound to be a classic.
The values for a high-end Sandman #1 have been on the move for years. It started when DC Comics reintroduced the world of the Dreaming with 2018’s Sandman Universe #1. While the series didn’t capture imaginations in near the same fashion as the original, it was enough to create buzz around the property. Once the Netflix series was announced, buyers were more willing to open their wallets to the inflated prices. Now that we have our first trailer, Sandman #1 has never been more popular.
Like most hot keys, 2021 was the big year for investment. Thanks to a combination of superhero fatigue and historic inflation levels, things have calmed down on the comic market front. Still, Sandman #1 isn’t falling off the pace by too much. Last August, a graded 9.8 sold for a record $1,800, and it routinely brought well over $1k later that fall. So far in 2022, that same grade has reached as much as $1,500, and it’s only sold for less than $1,000 on two occasions this month.
With the current economic state, many buyers will be put off by those figures, but don’t think you can’t have a high grade for an affordable price. Unless you are convinced that only 9.8s are worth collecting, veer toward the 9.6. These two grades are virtually identical to the naked eye, but that 0.2 change will save you money. In fact, the last 9.6 to trade hands online went for $350 on June 14.
There has been some controversy surrounding The Sandman’s casting. Fans of the television/streaming series Lucifer were ready to finally see Tom Ellis’ titular character come face to face with Dream. Despite Lucifer being a much different depiction of the Lucifer Morningstar from the comics, it was based on the same character from Sandman. When the producers announced that Brienne of Tarth herself, actress Gwendoline Christie from Game of Thrones fame, would play the part in the Netflix series, many fans were bitter. Gaiman has since explained the reason for the casting change, saying that because Ellis’ Lucifer is so far from the comics that it made more sense to start from scratch with a new interpretation.
What is tantalizing about Lucifer Morningstar being part of the show is the chance to see Gaiman and Kieth’s fantastical depiction of Hell come to life. In Sandman #4, Dream traveled to Hell to get back his magical helmet that was stolen while he was imprisoned. When he arrived, he discovered that Hell had undergone a civil war. To end the conflict, Lucifer, Azazel, and Beelzebub agreed to share the kingdom as equal partners. Along the way, Dream encounters another famous Kirby creation, Etrigan the Demon. Considering Sandman’s roots like in Kirby’s 1974’s Sandman, it was a perfect cameo.
Since this is not Lucifer Morningstar’s first live-action appearance, the 9.8 Sandman #4 was already a popular issue, though it was cheaper to buy. Two years ago, it was commanding a $313 price tag on average. After the 2021 string of Netflix announcements, the FMV bumped up to $546. The last 9.8 to sell online brought $720 in May.
Ever since the Sandman Netflix series was made official, collectors and investors have been banking on Sandman #8 to turn huge profits. This issue featured the debut of Dream’s sister, Death.
Throughout history, many writers and artists have compared death to sleeping, so it is fitting that Gaiman personified the analogy with his two characters. The interesting aspect here is that Death is not the terrifying Grim Reaper with a black robe and sickle. Instead, she is depicted as a young woman with a punk rock/goth flare. Instead of filling her victims with fear and dread, Gaiman’s Death is closer to the Grim Reaper’s inspiration, Charon from ancient Greek mythology. She is not a monster but a friend aiding souls on their path to the afterlife.
Death was so popular in Sandman that she would appear in multiple comics outside the title. She eventually landed her own spinoff series with 1993’s Death: the High Cost of Living. Depending on the show’s success, we could get a live-action Death series on Netflix, and that would add more value to her first appearance.
The prices for the graded 9.8 have nearly tripled in the past two years. In 2020, this was a $540 comic on average. Things exploded in 2021. Beginning in February, it didn’t sell for less than $1k, eventually earning a record $2k on March 11 and ending the year with a $1,281 FMV. So far in 2022, it hasn’t sold for under $1,125, and the most recent transaction was for $1,439 on April 30. Like Sandman #1, the better deal lies with the 9.6, which last sold for $305.
Here is another issue that has been injected with a huge dose of inflation thanks to the Netflix series. The main selling point has been the first appearance of the Corinthian, a hellish creature that escaped the Dreaming. On the surface, he appeared as a normal man, but under his sunglasses, Corinthian has mouths with predatory teeth for eyes. Dream had created him as a nightmare, but Morpheus was forced to kill his creation after the Corinthian terrorized the physical world.
His isn’t the only first appearance tempting collectors and investors. Although Fiddler’s Green was initially shown as a place within the Dreaming in Sandman #10, comedian Stephen Fry will portray the human version of Fiddler’s Green for the Netflix series. There’s also the debuts of two more characters from the Endless, Desire and Despair, as well as Rose Walker, who will appear in the show.
All those new faces that will be in the Sandman show have elevated Sandman #10’s collecting status. Since 2020, prices for the 9.8 have ballooned. After averaging $412 two years ago, it’s sold for anywhere from $800 to $1k since February. Again, the 9.6 will save you money. Just this month, the most recent sale was for $275.
The internet was shocked and outraged with another Sandman casting, this time for a new Constantine. Over the years, Dream and John Constantine have had frequent encounters, so the two characters are directly linked. With the rumors of a Justice League Dark movie or HBO Max series in the works, many fans assumed the chain-smoking, petty dabbler in the mystic arts would be part of Sandman. Then Gaiman and the show’s creative team threw the world a curve by announcing Johanna Constantine’s casting.
While the internet begrudged the casting choice, longtime Sandman readers understood what was actually happening. John and Johanna Constantine are two different characters. Lady Johanna is John’s ancestor who first appeared in Sandman #13. Since she is part of the Sandman Universe, it was fitting that she is being included in the show. Fear not, John Constantine fans, because he is not being replaced, and we could see him in future seasons.
Compared to everything else on today’s list, Sandman #13 is a bargain. Even at a 9.8, it has been selling for under $300. Of course, that’s a stark contrast to 2020’s FMV of $84. Kick the grade to a 9.6, and the price tag is $175. To think, you could have owned a copy for $34 in 2020.
ENDLESS SANDMAN KEYS
These five key issues only scratch the surface of all those from the Sandman Universe. With each episode, I expect we will see more new faces and events straight from the comics. The real treat will be seeing the other characters who have called themselves Sandman over the years. Who knows? Maybe we will get a Swamp Thing or possibly a John Constantine Easter egg during the course of the first season.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and the Blogger Supreme. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog, or on Instagram at matt.tuck.writer.