Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

The name of four US Comic-book characters, all associated in some manner with sleep and Dreams.

1. Masked crimefighter (> Masked Avenger) with a green business suit and cape, a slouch hat, kid gloves and stylish white spats over his shiny black shoes; he wears a yellow gasmask and carries a sleep-inducing gas gun of his own invention. He is the alter ego of millionaire playboy Wesley Dodds, whose adventures often came about through the capricious behaviour of his girlfriend and confidante Dian Belmont, a reformed safecracker. No origin story was ever published. He was created by Larry Dean (a pseudonym of writer Gardner Fox and artist Bert Christman) and first appeared in New York World's Fair Comics (April 1939), a special information book about the World's Fair with back-up comics features. He started as a regular feature in Adventure Comics #40 (July 1939) and, despite his vow to bring "justice in a world of injustice", was in the early stories generally seen as an outcast, wanted by the police. He was a member of the original line-up of The Justice Society of America, reappearing, rejuvenated, when that superhero team surfaced again in the 1960s (in Justice League of America #21, 1963). Other artists – e.g., Ogden Whitney, Creig Flessel (1912-2008) and Chad Grothkopf (1914-2002) – also drew the character; it was Grothkopf, with DC editor Whit Ellsworth, who was responsible for a complete revamp of the character into a costumed Superhero (> 2) in 1941. The original gasmasked S was resurrected in Sandman Mystery Theater (1993-1999) with excellent scripts by Matt Wagner and Steven Seagle. Set once again in 1930s New York, in this latest version Wesley Dodds, traumatized by his father's death by mustard gas in WWI, becomes Sandman as a kind of exorcism.

2. Costumed Superhero with sleep-inducing powers who wears a yellow tunic and tights, mauve shorts and hooded cape, initially drawn by Grothkopf (> 1) and then Paul Norris (1914-2007). His first appearance was in Adventure Comics #69 (1941), when he acquired a juvenile companion, Sandy Hawkins (aka Sandy the Golden Boy). From #72 (1942) Joe Simon (1913-2011) and Jack Kirby took over writing and art, spinning action-filled fantasy plots dealing mainly with dreams and nightmares. This version suddenly replaced 1 in the Justice Society line-up without explanation in All Star Comics #10 (1942). 2 last appeared in Adventure Comics #102 (1946).

3. Costumed fantasy figure kitted out in yellow vest and tights with red trunks, boots, cape and mask; created by Simon and Kirby (who drew only one issue – their last collaboration). 3 featured in The Sandman #1-#6 (1974-1976). A denizen of "another dimension", he entered people's nightmares and fought the surreal beings responsible for them.

4. Hollow-eyed, sickly-looking "Keeper and Lord of Dreams", with tousled, early-morning hair and a long, black, figure-hiding gown, also known as Dream or Morpheus, created by Neil Gaiman, who draws upon a wide range of literary and mythical sources for inspiration. In many stories he makes little more than a token appearance, and is something of a Wandering-Jew figure; rarely a catalyst. Gaiman has a unique agreement with publishers DC Comics which states that no other graphic writer shall use the character, and that this version of Sandman will cease when he tires of writing the series. The Sandman Book of Dreams (anth 1996) ed Gaiman and Edward E Kramer is an anthology of original text stories based on Gaiman's version. [RT/DR]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.