Sleep With One Eye Open, Collecting the Other Sandman Keys

Sleep With One Eye Open, Collecting the Other Sandman Keys



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Morpheus may get all the press, but comic fans know the Sandman has been around for 83 years. Today, let’s explore the other Sandmen whose key issues could turn serious profits.

Long before Dream and Death captured the imaginations of the comic world, the Sandman name had been in publication since the 1930s. Over the decades, he went from hardboiled detective to costumed superhero before Neil Gaiman took the title into supernatural territory. 

The comic world is waiting on the Sandman’s live-action debut when he stars in his very own Netflix series later this year. While the excitement has caused a frenzy for Gaiman’s opus, it has trickled down to the other Sandmen. Take a look.


Created in 1939 by Gardner Fox and Bert Christman, the first Sandman took his name from the gun that he used to administer sleeping gas to criminals. In what must have been a take on the Shadow, who was the quintessential pulp action hero of the time, Wesley Dodds sported a dapper green suit with gloves and a fedora, and he was often portrayed with a cape to complete the package. If you stopped there, he would be a Shadow clone, but instead of a Lone Ranger-style mask covering his eyes, the Sandman wore a World War I era gas mask. Technically, the Sandman made his comic debut a year before the Shadow, but the character who inspired Batman had been a radio and pulp novel sensation since 1930. No doubt, Fox and Christman likely drew from the Shadow to create their character.


The original Sandman, complete with that oh-so-cool ‘30s noir aesthetic, first appeared in 1939’s New York World’s Fair #1. Even without Dodds’ debut, this is a significant issue to own simply because of the comic’s age and the fact that it is the first comic from the ‘39 World’s Fair. In essence, this was a promotional comic, and all the short stories are set there. In the case of “Sandman at the World’s Fair,” Dodds has created a generic ray gun that falls into the wrong hands. He changes outfits and dons his gas mask to become the Sandman. The hero tracks down the thief and retrieves his ray gun before any serious harm is done. What a guy.

Besides the Sandman’s first, there are early appearances from Superman, Lois Lane, and Zatara. It’s for all the above mentioned reasons that his comic commands a mighty price tag. Surprisingly, there have been four recorded sales of graded 2.5s in 2022. In January, one sold for a high of $4,652, although last month saw the price drop to $3,360. Although that is still a steep price for such a low grade, it’s not terrible for such an historic issue.


A few months after Sandman burst onto the scene in World’s Fair #1, fans would get their second look at Dodds in his suit, tie, and gas mask. Like many of the Golden Age comics, this was more of an anthology with several short stories. The featured story, “Sandman: the Tarantula Strikes,” sees Dodds track down a kidnapper and rescue a movie star. All in a day’s work.

What makes this even more tantalizing is it happens to be Sandman’s first cover appearance, and those command much more respect in the modern market. That makes this issue the better of the two to own, and it comes with the holy grail price tags to prove it. 

Let’s face it; most of us will never own an Adventure Comics #40. We may never even hold one. If you could get your hands on one, you will have a piece of comics history. There’s only been one graded sale this year when a 4.0 sold for a staggering $31,200 in April. A year prior, an 8.0 brought $81,000.


 Although the Justice League gets all the attention, the JSA was the first superteam to hit mainstream. All-Star Comics #3 has been in the public spotlight as of late. Black Adam is set to introduce a live-action Justice Society of America to the DCEU, and I predict we’re going to see a JSA team up movie in the near future. After all, the movie is set to introduce the likes of original JSA members Doctor Fate and Hawkman, as well as future JSA stars Atom Smasher and Cyclone. Of course, the first iteration from 1940’s All-Star Comics #3 included the Spectre, Hourman, the Flash, the Atom, Green Lantern, and the Sandman.

As shocking as this may be, this is an expensive addition to your collection. There’s only been one graded copy sold in 2022, which happened to be a lowly 0.5 that’s missing the cover. In March, that shambled comic sold for $1,978. 


After seeing those high Golden Age prices, it will have you looking for some cheaper alternatives that won’t require a loan. Just like practically all DC’s classic characters, you will need to opt for the Silver Age firsts to keep the prices more reasonable. These days, with most speculators and investors leaning toward Gaiman’s Sandman keys, it leaves JLA #46 flying under the radar. While most of the JSA is introduced into the Silver Age in 1963’s JLA #21, Sandman wouldn’t arrive until 1966.

The story is a predecessor to the iconic 1980s crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Titled, “Crisis Between Earth-One and Earth-Two!,” this comic sees Batman transported to Earth-Two, where he meets Wildcat, Doctor Fate, and the Sandman. Together, the four heroes battle Blockbuster. The bigger implication is mostly connected to the “Crisis” title, which would be the foundation for the 1983 crossover that would spawn the sequels Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis


The solo adventures of Wesley Dodds as Sandman were relatively short lived. He starred in several issues of Adventure Comics into the early 40s, and he was became a second-tier member of the JSA shortly thereafter. Over time, he mostly fell into obscurity with occasional appearances in the 1970s and ‘80s. Then in 1993, writer Matt Wagner resurrected the concept with a new ongoing series, Sandman Mystery Theatre. The title would run for a respectable 70 issues from 1993-1999. 

Although the series is widely overlooked in today’s market, these comics are highly collectible, particularly SMT #1. The graded 9.8, feeling the effects of the Netflix series, sold for a record $149 last year. Just last month, another copy brought $130. 

If you are looking to complete the Mystery Theatre run, you will want to take aim at SMT #70. This was the final issue in the series, and it had a relatively low print run. It doesn’t get much attention, but it could be a diamond in the rough if Wesley Dodds is revived in light of the streaming show. The last time a 9.8 sold online, it brought $75 in June 2021, so you won’t have to gamble too much just in case it gets popular.


By the 1970s, the Sandman concept had widely fallen out of favor with readers. With Wesley Dodds only making sporadic appearances in the Silver Age, it was time for a reboot. This time, it was Marvel founding father Jack Kirby at the wheel after he joined DC Comics.

Although Kirby’s main influence on DC would be creating the New Gods, Darkseid, and Apokolips, he was the mastermind behind what would become the modern Sandman. You wouldn’t guess it from first glance. Kirby’s Sandman was a scientist who sported a yellow and red superhero costume. Although the character was not popular at the time, the concept of the Dream Dimension was established here, and that would inspire Neil Gaiman’s take on the Sandman.

SANDMAN #1 (1974)

Over three decades after Wesley Dodds made his mark on the comics world, DC Comics introduced the next Sandman, Garrett Sanford. What’s special here is that the ‘70s Sandman is that it was Kirby’s last collaboration with comics legends Joe Simon. The hallmark of this Sandman is that Sanford had much more of a superhero vibe. Complete with a brightly colored spandex costume and cape, he brought a more sci-fi tone than his predecessor. It also would serve as the groundwork for Gaiman’s take on the subject.

In this iteration, Garrett was a professor at UCLA with an expertise in dreams. After building a machine that allowed him to see into people’s minds as they slept, he was tasked with waking a comatose President of the United States. Using experimental technology, Garrett was transported into the Dream Dimension, where he became a superhero and donned the painfully loud costume. He defeated a monster that was keeping the president asleep, but Garrett was trapped in the dimension. 

With all the attention from the Sandman trailer, it is causing a spike for 1974’s Sandman #1. Just last month, a graded 9.8 sold for a record $660, though the next sale on June 3 saw that value dip to a more reasonable $239. 


Hector Hall would adopt the Sandman superhero moniker in 1988. At the time, Hall, who had previously been the Silver Scarab, died when the god Hath-Set turned him against his Infinity, Inc. teammates. Although his body lay dead, Hector’s mind lived on in the Dreaming, which would later be incorporated into Gaiman’s the Endless. There, he conjured the Sandman’s suit and powers, and he began visiting his widow, who was pregnant with Hector’s child. Once Morpheus was freed from his earthly prison, Hector was sent back to the Land of the Dead. He doesn’t care much for staying dead, and he later returned as Doctor Fate. 

Hector’s first appearance could be tempting, given his connection to Gaiman’s Sandman Universe. He debuted in 1983’s All-Star Squadron #25, a comic that has been getting more popular as of late. This month, the graded 9.8 has sold for as much as $400, which is only $60 from last year’s record. On June 5, the 9.6 also hit a respectable $200.


Once Gaiman’s Sandman reached comic shops in 1989, audiences mostly forgot about the former Sandmen. Since then, Dream has become synonymous with the title, but he was not the last Sandman. In 1993, a new would take up the reins as Morpheus’ heir and become the new dream master. That could very well be the direction taken in the Netflix series, and it could pay dividends to own his key issues.


You will want to start your hunting with 1991’s Sandman #22 for the first appearance of Daniel Hall as an unborn baby. This is the same unborn child that was featured in Hector’s trips into his widow’s dreams. During one of Hector’s visits into the Dreaming, Morpheus proclaimed the gestating Daniel to be his heir as the dream lord. 

In a storyline that is pure Neil Gaiman, Daniel was never actually born. Instead, Morpheus took him into the Endless, where he would spend his childhood in the dream world. Two years later, he would become the next Sandman in 1993’s Sandman #47.

That is exactly why this issue has been earning top dollar for the past year. In 2021, the 9.8 scored a record $350. So far in 2022, it has not surpassed the $280 mark, though that is still well over the 2020 average of $182.


It is much too early to say how audiences will react to Netflix’s Sandman adaptation. The trailer and casting choices has left much of the fandom divided, but with Gaiman having co-written the screenplays and serving as executive producer, it should stay true to the source material. Odds are, Dream’s Sandman predecessors will be featured in the show, though they may be relegated to cameo appearances. Either way, having them in live action should raise awareness for their old stories. 

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.

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