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In The Sandman, Neil Gaiman drew from comics history to create his own

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Neil Gaiman has famously summarized The Sandman with a single sentence. “The Lord of Dreams learns that one must change or die, and makes his decision.” It’s a funny little statement: poignant in its accuracy, mysterious in its vagueness.

Another good way to describe The Sandman is: “a story about stories and their relationship to our humanity.” William Shakespeare appears in it.

So does the Martian Manhunter, the mythological figure of Loki, Marco Polo, and Eve — like, from the Garden of Eden? If you want a third stab at a description, “a horror comic that swiftly turns into a high-concept mythological fantasy comic” could fit the bill.

The Sandman is many things: pulp horror, mythopoetry, urban fantasy, a superhero reboot, a goth’s style handbook, Succession with anthropomorphic personifications, a flawed but earnest attempt to portray queer lives struggling for actualization and safety in the 1990s, a graphic novel, a collection of short stories, and a work that’s canonical with DC Universe.

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