Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Sandman, Volume 5: A Game of You

 As I reread Neil Gaiman's brilliant SANDMAN saga in these spiffy new "Fully Remastered Editions", I notice one glaring omission that makes for a lesser reading experience for an old fart like me that's been here on more than one occasion: DC, for all of their endless milking of THE SANDMAN in various and sundry editions (Floppy, trade, hardcover, Absolute, Omniboo, Annotated, digital...), has never really strayed from the format of the original collections. (Call me on this, if you know differently.....I didn't spring for the Absolute hardcovers, because I thought they were overpriced, and I'm kicking myself for not buying the two omniboo, but I'm just too poor right now...) Considering what a game-changer THE SANDMAN was (And IS...), DC has stuck to those original collected editions like they were The Bible, never adding any behind-the-scenes material of any kind to the volumes.

 This volume, in particular, hit me hard with that fact, because it seems like there were some changes made to the art. (This seems to be a thing with THE SANDMAN, as THE ANNOTATED SANDMAN, VOLUME 1- Review HERE, seemed to suggest.) The creator's Bios at the end list George Pratt and Dick Giordano as "Original Inker(s), chapter 3". The credit box for SANDMAN #34, as collected here, lists only Colleen Doran as artist. (A quick bit of research reveals this tidbit, taken from http://www.enjolrasworld.com/:

Credits:  Yes, the art looks really bad.  It's George Pratt's fault. 
According to hearsay, Pratt inked Doran's pencils in two days. 
According to Neil Gaiman, Pratt left for vacation leaving the last 
four pages undone. Dick Giordano inked those, deliberating using a 
style similar to Pratt's. Doran has threatened to "break Pratt's 
fingers" if he ever comes near her art again, and now has an "inker 
approval" clause in her contracts with DC.)
 Interesting stuff...but I generally don't like these kinds of 
"Greedo shot first" changes...When it's done, it should be DONE, and 
not changed later on. There were quite a few ugly SANDMAN issues, so 
why change THESE in particular? DC/Vertigo probably should have made 
better artistic choices in the first place. But I digress..mystery 
solved.
 

 THE SANDMAN, VOLUME 5: A GAME OF YOU puts the spotlight on Barbie,
 a minor character from THE SANDMAN, VOLUME 2: The DOLL'S HOUSE 
(Review HERE), focusing fully on the dreamworld that Barbie has 
created for herself, which we glimpsed briefly in the aforementioned 
collection. This is probably one of the most effective, touching, 
heartfelt SANDMAN stories (Based on the reviews, most readers 
disagree with me on that....)...It's also one of the goriest, 
although its grue factor is kind of mitigated by artist Shawn 
McManus' cutesy artwork, which just happens to fit the subject 
matter to a tee. In addition to Fantasy, Horror, gore, betrayal, 
and heartbreak, this volume also features the first appearance of
Thessaly, one of my all-time favorite comic-book characters. 
 

 One other brief bitch about DC's collecting decisions: They collect
most of the SANDMAN one-shot stories in the next volume, FABLES &
REFLECTIONS, which means that three stories that were originally 
published BEFORE A GAME OF YOU come after them in the collected 
editions....that drives me nuts, so I broke format and read them in 
their original order. It didn't seem to hurt anything, and it made 
my collector's OCD feel better.
 
(Forgive the bizarre look of this review...the formatting went all
wonky and nuts, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how 
to fix it. Mea culpa.)