Dream a Little Dream of Original ‘Sandman’ Pages at the Fall Comic Book Auction
WITH MORPHEUS: BATMAN, SPIDER-MAN AND SHE-HULK
By Robert Wilonsky
NOTeil Gaiman is sprawling Sand seller, a 75-issue epic long considered untranslatable on screens of all sizes, is a dream finally made tangible. And its leap from the comics to Netflix was (mostly) celebrated by admirers and sidekicks who once believed that Gaiman’s Dream of the Endless Morpheus would (and should!) forever walk the printed page.
SIGNATURE® 7279 COMIC ART AND COMIC ART AUCTION
September 8-11, 2022
Yet the true believer will continually insist that Sand seller must be consumed first and foremost in its original form – like the “comic book for intellectuals” (says Norman Mailer!) written by Gaiman and drawn by his small army of collaborators from the fall of 1988 to the spring of 1996. Sand seller, which spanned over 2,000 pages and introduced readers to the unseen universes that co-exist with our own, was a sprawling, moving, disturbing and disturbing epic. It mixed new myths with old legends, mixed fabricated fables with established history, and offered a universe populated by gods and monsters, Shakespeare and serial killers and superheroes.
Sand sellerwhose dream weaver Gaiman would become an acclaimed novelist, sits alongside other titles that reinvigorate and reinvent comic books, forcing them into adulthood: Frank Miller’s Batman: Return of the Dark Knightby Alan Moore watchmen and Swamp Thingby Grant Morrison Doom Patrol. The experiments of the 1980s spawned a revolution. The comics got deep, dark, surreal, cerebral, and suddenly the racks were overflowing with timeless literature.
“This era of comics, these versions of these stories have become the versions in the popular imagination,” said Todd Hignite, vice president of Heritage Auctions. “watchmen and Sand seller and Black Knight are explicitly and openly responsible for everything that happens now. They reinvented superhero stories in terms of sophistication and literary depth. And of anyone involved in comics, I can’t think of anyone, off the top of my head, who has become as beloved and adored a pop culture figure as Neil Gaiman.
Original work by Sand seller, especially the first issues forming the backbone of the Netflix series, are rarely available. But Heritage Auctions is honored to feature in its signature Comics & Comic Art September 8-11® Auction of original artwork from early comics and Dave McKean’s original fifth issue cover.
McKean’s Sand seller Cover No. 5 is an extraordinary work whose scale surprises you: it is an oversized multimedia work under glass featuring Mister Miracle, Scott Free, surrounded by real chains, locks and circuit boards. “It’s a big deal,” literally and figuratively, Hignite says of the work that has long been part of novelist Darren Shan’s collection.
The original pages, plus a 1992 rendering of Dream and the Raven Matthew by original Sand seller artist Mike Dringenberg, come from the collection of Mimi Cruz and Alan Carroll. They’re the longtime owners of the beloved Salt Lake City comic book store, Night Flight, where Gaiman and co. held their first Sand seller signatures.
“When almost no one knew Neil, it was the strength of the writing in Sand seller it got people excited to meet him,” Cruz says. “He wasn’t someone that people would have immediately recognized, but we were able to build an audience of readers early on based on the strength of the writing. We all knew it was damn good.
One of their offerings is a page of Sand seller #3 in which Morpheus goes to see the Hellblazer himself, John Constantine, about his stolen sand-filled leather pouch, which Morpheus uses to put people to sleep or take away their ability to sleep. It even features a nod to Swamp Thing, whose run under Alan Moore was perhaps the most direct influence on Gaiman. Sand seller.
Of Sand seller #4 comes one of the story’s key sequences, as Dream confronts Lucifer Morningstar about the stolen bar which was both a nod to DC’s original Sandman and Gaiman’s signifier from the station of his creation in infinity. What makes this Dringenberg and Sam Kieth spread so significant, in addition to its powerful storytelling, is that it only appeared in the original issue. The Absolute Sandman and trade paperbacks feature very different artwork, with Lucifer looking more like David Bowie than in the newsstand original.
Also here is Dringenberg’s illustration featuring Dream and Matthew, used for promotional posters during the author’s and artists’ visits to Salt Lake City. Indeed, Cruz and Carroll believe that Gaiman first met his collaborators, including Dringenberg, at Night Flight.
The couple accumulated several pages and original works of the Sand seller team and exhibited them for 30 years in their guest bedroom – “the Sand seller room,” Carroll calls her. “It’s about time someone else had the opportunity to enjoy them since we’re having so much fun watching them. Now it’s time to hang something else on the wall.
Morpheus is joined in this auction by many key pieces, among which the work that adorns the cover of the catalog: Steve Ditko’s homepage which launches the years 1964 amazing spider man #18, which threatened “The End of Spider-Man!” This job marked the third appearance of Green Goblin, who debuted four issues earlier. It is also his first appearance at an auction.
Original Fred Guardineer cover from 1939 Detective comics No. 25 is no less historic: it’s one of the few pre-Batman Detective blankets to have survived. And while the actions on the cover aren’t exactly super powerful, Guardineer is one of the unsung heroes of the Golden Age. During his decades behind the drawing board, he created Zatara, DC’s ever-working magician, who first saw the light of day in the pages of 1938. action comics #1 alongside Superman.
Superman appears alongside Batman in another of the centerpieces of this auction: Jim Aparo and Mike DeCarlo’s 22-page Complete Story “A Death in the Family: Chapter 6,” set in Batman No. 429. Here the Man of Steel works for the Federal Government – shades of Return of the Dark Knight – and determined to stop Batman from prosecuting the Joker for the murder of Jason Todd. Mike Mignola’s original cover for this issue, featuring a coifed Joker, is also offered at this event.
The timing couldn’t be better: in June, Heritage sold the complete “A Death in the Family: Chapter 5”, which took place in Batman #428, for $288,000; Mignola’s original cover for this issue grossed $228,000.
Speaking of Batman: Return of the Dark Knight, Heritage is also offering in this auction page 11 of Book 4, featuring Batman in silhouette astride a horse as he leads “The Sons of Batman” into battle. As Miller told Heritage Auctions earlier this year, these are among his favorite pieces: “I like to say that silhouette is the most important language you have. What you can convey in silhouette is going to impact minds and emotions more intensely than anything else.
And speaking of small-screen adaptations, this auction also includes Pat Olliffe’s original cover for The Sensational She-Hulk No. 55 – a book in which a resurrected Jen Walters is so horrified by her “wild” appearance that she stops to complain about the artist. Catching her reflection, Jen roared, “Someone’s playing Games with me, and it has to be – YOU – Patrick Olliffe, Mr New Artist!! Olliffe even appears in the book long enough to blame the writer. As in the new Disney + series, She-Hulk smashes the fourth wall.
ROBERT WILONSKY is an editor at Smart Collector.