Neil Gaiman is an incredible storyteller with an impressive repertoire of comic books under his belt. Gaiman’s breakthrough in the literary world came with his legendary Sandman series, which ran successfully for several years with DC Comics. However, Neil Gaiman is extremely popular for several of his other comic books as well, including The Eternals and Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
The Sandman Series
This is one of the most popular works by Neil Gaiman to date. Eclipsing even some of his famous novels and short stories, the Sandman series was the first major work for which Neil Gaiman received recognition.
In the late 1980s, Karen Berger of DC Comics hired Neil Gaiman to take an old comic book character and put his own twist on it. Thus, the powerful character of the Sandman was born. The Sandman series revolves around the story of Morpheus, who goes by several names in the DC universe, including Dream.
The series ran for 75 issues for more than 6 years (from 1989 to 1996). The Sandman became so popular that it became one of the best-selling DC comics, even overshadowing Batman and Superman at one point. Uniquely blending mythology and history to produce a masterpiece within the DC setting, the Sandman comic books are best known for their incredible storytelling.
Originally sold as DC Vertigo’s flagship title, The Sandman tells the story of Morpheus being captured and ultimately learning that change is inevitable. Morpheus, one of the Endless, is an ageless and anthropomorphic character. This series has been critically acclaimed as one of the best comics of all time, with Norman Mailer even calling it the “comic strip for intellectuals.” The Sandman has gained incredible recognition, including being one of the first graphic novels to be put on the New York Times Bestseller List. It was also one of the few graphic novels that were placed in the 100 Best Reads from 1983 to 2008 by Entertainment Weekly.
Most comic book writers acknowledge the immense influence The Sandman has had over the genre of fantasy and the medium of graphic novels itself. Several spinoffs and adaptations have sprung forth as well, with a full-cast audio drama being developed for Audible in 2020, and an adaptation for Netflix being developed since 2019.
Comics with Dave McKean
Before his massive success with The Sandman series, Gaiman wrote a moderately successful set of graphic novels with his long-time friend, illustrator, and favorite collaborator, Dave McKean. This set of novels were Violent Cases, Signal to Noise, and The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch. Much like The Sandman, Violent Cases is a story about stories. It explores the nature of relationships, the fleeting nature of time and memory as well as the fascinating theme of childhood perception. The book was nominated for the Harvey Award in 1992 for Best Graphic Album: Previously Released Material and won the Mekon Award for Best British Work in 1988.
The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch, or simply Mr. Punch is the most famous of the three books. Chilling fans with its nightmarish art style and a mysterious plot full of murderous jesters and strange puppeteers, this graphic novel has been adapted for radio, song as well as the stage.
Neil Gaiman’s collaboration with Dave McKean caught the attention of DC comics, who hired him in 1987. This is when he wrote a limited series called Black Orchid in collaboration with Dave McKean once again. This series, which is published in three issues, tells the story of the mystical Black Orchid, who is a strange flower-like figure in Neil Gaiman’s version of things. Born out of a science experiment, Black Orchid is drawn towards a path of self-discovery. On her journey, she meets several DC regulars including Batman, Lex Luther, and Swamp Thing.
The Death Series
Death is a character from The Sandman comics. She is the sister of the protagonist, Morpheus (also known as Dream). Death prompted a spin-off series which was published under DC imprint Vertigo. Over three issues, Death takes the form of a human being and goes on a fascinating journey to help those in need.
Transforming herself into a teenage goth girl, Didi, Death is a likable and versatile character. She learns several valuable lessons about people on this altruistic and memorable journey.
The Books of Magic
The Books of Magic is a four-part mini-series that was written by Neil Gaiman and published by DC comics in 1990. The series revolves around a young English teenager who believes that he is destined to become the greatest wizard in the world. He goes on a journey of self-discovery through the DC universe, a world that is shown to us in all of its mythological and magical glory. The series acted as a tour of sorts to the DC universe itself and it became popular enough to warrant an ongoing series, now written by John Ney Reiber.
Marvel 1602 is a limited edition graphic novel series that was written by Neil Gaiman. Published from 2003-2004 over 8 issues, these graphic novels follow the stories of the Marvel superheroes in the Elizabethan era as they struggle to defend their world from a mysterious force.
The graphic novels feature some of Marvel’s favorite characters including the X-Men, Nick Fury, Spiderman, and the Fantastic Four. Villains such as Magneto and Doctor Doom make an appearance as well. The graphic novel series was so successful that it led to the birth of several sequels including 1602: New World and Marvel 1602: Fantastick Four among others.
Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Is a graphic novel that was published in 2009 by DC comics. In this story which was released in two parts, the character of Batman is revisited by Neil Gaiman as the very last story of the “Caped Crusader” i.e., Batman.
Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? is an incredible reflection of the various feats of DC’s most popular hero, Batman as he lays in a coffin in Crime Alley. This comic book comes right after the severe psychological trauma that Batman undergoes in Batman R.I.P and his fateful story in Final Crisis. The title of this graphic novel is a nod to Alan Moore (who has been a constant source of inspiration for Neil Gaiman) and his story, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, the last purported Superman story.
Is Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology accurate?
Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is a retelling of old Norse stories with a modern twist. As such, the dialogue and actions of the characters are not very accurate. That being said, Gaiman has remained true to the essence of the stories themselves, and the major details have not been altered.
Does Neil Gaiman own The Sandman?
No, Neil Gaiman does not own The Sandman. The owner of this comic book character and his storyline is DC comics. As such, if you wish to use The Sandman for your own purposes, you would have to contact DC comics for permission.
Why is The Sandman so good?
The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman is an incredible series of graphic novels that revolve around a powerful DC comics character, The Sandman. Part of the reason why this series is so good is because of Neil Gaiman’s impeccable storytelling and in-depth characterization. His abilities as an author leave readers with a sense of awe and wonder at the goings-on in the series.
Should I read The Sandman Overture first?
It would be best to start The Sandman series with Preludes and Nocturnes. This is what Neil Gaiman has acknowledged on his Twitter as well. After Preludes and Nocturnes, you should read the ten Sandman books. Endless Nights comes next and The Sandman Overture, last.