Re-Enter Sandman: Exit Light

(Enough with the Metallica references! Yes, I know the song actually has zero to do with the comic but I like running with joke.)

Did I learn anything new reading The Sandman this time? I certainly thought more about the relationship between pencilers and inkers in a way I never have before, which was an unexpected insight into the craft of comics I had not fully regarded before.

But there were few surprises — some of The Sandman I liked more, some I liked less. Mostly, though, I liked it in the same way I always have. It’s a rich and messy comic with plenty of highs and lows. I think it’s a masterpiece when taken as a whole work, even if individual parts are failures. I will forever admire Neil Gaiman’s wild ambition with this comic. It really does contain some of his best work.

A photo of the front of The Sandman shirt featuring Death, Dream and Delirium
My 20+-year-old The Sandman shirt. It’s seen better days but it’s still hanging in there.

While The Sandman only had a few women creating art for the comic, I don’t think we can overlook Karen Berger’s influence on this comic. She really let it grow and develop and I think her guidance is a huge part of why The Sandman succeeds. Good editors are remarkably important and I feel like she’s the reason why this comic ended up being so popular with women. It’s not so much I feel like she was trying to make a comic women liked so much as she wanted to make a comic she liked.

The Sandman was for such a long time “a comic girls liked.” It’s a good one for that, sure. It has a lot of interesting and complicated women as characters and whoever you are, you can find someone to identify with (or many characters to identify with). It’s still a good comic and I think certain people should read it (like, you know your friends and what they like, right?) but I’m also glad it’s not the only thing that gets recommended now.

I don’t know if I was waiting for some kind of revelation reading it this time, but I do know once I finished The Wake, I just took a moment and started sobbing. Not because that was beautiful (it is) or because it was sad (it is, in places). But I think I’ve been on more of a journey than I realized.

As I’ve said, I first got Preludes & Nocturnes the day after my 14th birthday. It was like nothing I’d ever read before and I actually remember not being sure how much I liked it. I was interested and intrigued but it was also dark and challenging. Was I too young for it? Maybe. I don’t think I was wrong to be reading it at 14 but I also don’t know how much I’d hand it to a 14-year-old now (although I’d leave it somewhere she could find it).

I think we can so rarely pinpoint life-changing moments, but that book changed me. Yes, I was 14. I was barely even a person. But it opened a door that I happily walked through.

Do I think The Sandman is responsible for all the good in my life? No, because that’s giving it too much credit. But I do know it introduced me to so many friends who introduced me to more friends — friends who became some of the most important people in my life. It made me want to read more comics, which led to reading more and more comics (and even more comics I still need to read).

Did The Sandman lead me to where I am? Maybe in a very abstract way. Maybe I would’ve gotten here anyway. Maybe I would’ve been somewhere else as good. But it’s also just weird to look back at my adolescence and adulthood and know most of what I’ve done would not have happened had I not read this comic.

Today is my 42nd birthday and yes, I pre-wrote this. When this posts, I’m probably already day drinking and watching some Wong Kar-Wai movies or putting together a Lego set. It’s good to be where I am and I do owe that in part to The Sandman.

Thank you to Greg Bennett for putting up with several weeks of me only wanting to talk about The Sandman and ask questions about The Sandman and having us look up things about The Sandman. (And also that we both individually decided that the 30th-anniversary boxset would be a good Christmas present.) Thank you to Steve Kopian for naming this “Re-Enter Sandman” and thank you to Carla Hufstedler for the Exit Light bit. Thank you to Dan Fowlkes for hosting my site and for his constant support. Thank you to my mom, Tracy Miller, for always being my champion and biggest fan. And thank you to everyone I’ve met because of The Sandman.