Zero Hour Strikes! Heaven and Hell’s Zeroes

Bass and Siskoid head to the more supernatural side of the DC Universe to cover The Spectre and The Demon's zero issues, as well as explore the possible/controversial connection between Zero Hour and Neil Gaiman's Sandman!

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15 responses to “Zero Hour Strikes! Heaven and Hell’s Zeroes

  1. DC’s supernatural side was not on my radar in 1994. It still isn’t really, but I have a greater appreciation of it these days. I did collect the first four issues of the Alan Grant Demon series (found them in a comic/card shop while visiting family in El Paso, Texas) and enjoyed them, but apparently not enough to keep up with the series. I liked the art and the writing was fun. Years later I would read the first issue of the Kirby Demon series and OH MY GOD WAS THAT THE BEST KIND OF CRAZY COMIC READING EVER.

    Sandman is weird. Not the book, though it could be, but it was one of those moments where I stared at a family member and said, “Are you freaking kidding me?” See, my sister Jane was the reader of the family and when I started collecting comics she was more than a little dismissive of my reading choices. Then, when I was 14, I visited family for three weeks and when I returned home I discovered that Jane had started reading this book called Sandman and was even picking up random books that looked like they were in the same mold, which is how I read the first issue of the Black Orchid mini-series. At the time I was resentful (even though I read her issues and dug them) but now I appreciate what Gaiman did for the medium. I realize now that the reason Jane was attracted to that book was that she was the target audience. Someone that didn’t read comics because the super-hero genre was so dominant but was into gothy/alternative things. At some point I really need to go through the entire series.

  2. What an extremely thoughtful episode! never occurred to me that the sandman of a given era was a reflection of storytelling for that particular time and place. Well played, Siskoid and Bass!

    Who posited that the Sandman was tied into Zero Hour? yes, seems like a mighty strong stretch.

    And Siskoid just sold me on the Phantom Tank meeting the Demon! Look at you , schilling for DC!

    Great episode, fellas. Looking forward to when you finally hit Starman.

    1. It is my personal head cannon that The Sandman’s end led to Zero Hour- Has been since I read the words “Cosmic Storm” in the “Worlds End” – I don’t think DC planed it- but it worked timing wise for me. It just seemed that’s what wold happen in a world made of stories if the personification of stories died.

      I’m writing this as I go in to dentist and haven’t started listening yet- so this may be covered
      Sorry if it is.

  3. Impressive podcast most impressive. Using the Dragon type and talk software again this time. My keyboard is still on the fritz. So hopefully this makes sense. That’s kind of an interesting origin for the specter. I think I only read one or two issues of this. I think it was more expensive than the other, Brooks of the time but they had one interesting one where one of his fullest turned into Hitler for a second before being reborn. The specter cover does look cool. And works for the character. Mandrake did a great job on the character. I do like the back story of the specter being the spirit of vengeance. And this villain was interesting enough. Though it does make me think of this a question I’ve always had about reincarnation. If it exists how soon does one get reborn? Is it the same day as it a few months a year? Is it instantaneous? So just a general curiosity. I’m not going to judge anyone’s fate. One should believe what they those correct. I am just generally curious about the process. Looked up a few videos online about it, but they could not answer that question. The skull border kind of works for this character. Though it can become problematic if overused. The pure black background also works for the border in the last page. If it’s the tone of the story.

    And used interesting page layouts. That once again worked for this character. Though you have to be careful with that. Still mandrake seems to be very good at it this. Having the baby dying anyways probably for the best. He supposed to be vengeance. And not just murdering because. The specter is vengeance, but he’s not John. So killing the innocent is not really in his playbook. He may be vengeful but he doesn’t have blonde hair and walking around in a trench coat. So he tries to be a bit more just. The Sandman story is not bad. Though it doesn’t really fit as an origin story. This does kill all the folks getting annoyed at the new casting of dream in the TV show. As a concept dream can take on any form they want. Or the new dream replacing the old dream. The destruction ever come back though? I know that character dies early on. Did a new destruction come into formation? One of those things I wondered about. I did once write a fanfiction that had the Zed, enchantress and Mme. Xanadu. As detectives. Where they acted as security while dreams siblings destiny and desire had a debate which was more important. And more necessary to the human experience. At the end of it desire pulls out something like a gun and kills destiny. The heroes are shocked. Though after a bit Zed calms down and just make sure she gets paid. That’s as close as I came to anything with sand man. I was more a fan of the superhero with the same name.

    Per the one from the JSA. So I don’t have a lot of thoughts on the character. Still this seems like a decent enough character and comic. From this I can see whyNeil Gaiman and Pratchett were friends. They do deal with interesting concepts. Though press it brought in more comedy. Back to that story I was talking about once in a while I would bring in despair to try to get revenge on the three detectives for her brother’s death. She didn’t go after designer because they were well family. Any rate moving on. This seems like a decent enough story. Though again I didn’t read Sandman mostly I know of the authors work from the 1806 story or whatever it was called with the Marvel heroes in a different timeline. Where Dr. strange was pretty much the hero. At any rate can’t wait to hear the next podcast.

  4. Thanks for another tremendous show. I never read The Spectre regularly, I’m not sure why as I like the character and creators. This story sounds terrific, though Beltane is an oddly British name for an Indian spirit, Beltane being the Gaelic May Day festival.

    The Voice being God made sense as at this time disembodied power-bestowing voices at DC tended to be Lords of Order or Chaos, so this gave The Spectre a USP.

    I read the John Wagner issues, they were huge fun, but didn’t enjoy the change of tone with Ennis greatly, though this sounds a good read. Blood isn’t that out there a name in the UK, check Facebook, there are even a few Jason Bloods (one of whom seems after trouble…).

  5. I’ve talked about the Spectre before, but the short of it is that I like everything about the character except his stories. Never read much/any of the Golden or Silver Age material, so I can’t speak to that. The Fleisher / Aparo Face-turn Freddy Krueger is fine but repetitive. 1980’s “Where No Superman Has Gone Before” was more my speed, but just a one-off. He’s too powerful and garish for the Vertigo side, so he seemed out of place in books like Swamp Thing. The role he’s typically given in solo stories would be a better fit for the Phantom Stranger, who no one expects to wrestle with the Anti-Monitor. He’s too inert and subdued for super-hero comics, as demonstrated by every major crossover he’s barely appeared in. The Pavlovian Fanboy response is “aww yeah– this just got REAL,” but the correct Santayana view is that this is where they’ll briefly explain why the Spectre isn’t going to do squat. Part of the reason why Marvel is a successful shared universe and DC is largely a failed one is that Marvel is decentralized and egalitarian. Spider-Man is extremely popular, so he’ll get a wildly disproportionate amount of action, but that’s usually as the P.O.V. everyman when the stakes outstrip his abilities. The DC Universe revolves around Superman (or worse, Batman,) so that all threats must be within his scope, and no one else is allowed to ever truly dominate. Realistically, there should be a threshold where Superman is out of his league and the Spectre takes over, but DC editorial would rather limit their cosmos than allow any such redistribution of narrative. Ideally, the Spectre should be a grindhouse Sandman, who only briefly dips into the lives of mere mortals, usually to grotesquely ill effect, then buggers off to deal in grand existential matches of Biblical consequence. Instead, he’s Casper the Immaterial Hulk, essentially a mirror image of Jason Blood/The Demon played suffocatingly straight.

    I still can’t believe they eked THIRTY issues out of the ’80s Doug Moench run. A lot of blame for the implosion was laid at the feet of speculation, but I think a case could be made for people who lost nearly three years of their lives supporting worthless runs like that swearing “never again.” Remember that time they slapped a prime Arthur Adams cover of a Deadman team-up on a promoted annual, only to switch to Jim Baikie interiors of another Hitler resurrection story? You mother —-ers! And don’t forget the Gordon Purcell back-up strip about the Asian girl that ran Jim Corrigan’s office. Or do. Yes, definitely do.

    I was a big fan of John Ostrander’s Grimjack run, and I used to swipe from the Tom Mandrake issues, but at some point I turned on the guys. While a step up from Tom Sutton, Mandrake never grabbed me the way Tim Truman and Flint Henry’s runs had, and he well overstayed his welcome (though Johnny O. was also creatively spent on the John Gaunt incarnation.) Mandrake is kind of the Rob Liefeld of dour mood, with a collection of stock facial types and sad bastard poses that feel samey-samey over the long term. Their Spectre run had Spawn-like levels of “just let the cape and the shadows do all the work.” I bought the first issue for a taste and the glow-in-the-dark cover, and while immediately, obviously superior to Moench, still didn’t grab me. I dipped in a bunch of times, particularly #17-22 for Eclipso tie-ins and a Spear of Destiny arc, but I’m not confident that I bothered to finish it. I was there for the #0, but even then, I thought it was icky to have the embodiment of the Judeo-Christian G-D’s wrath appropriate world cultures across various “incarnations” without regard for the inherent offense to conflicting religious principles. Well, that and his looking goofy with that stereotypical “Persian” mustache like something out of the oldest, least racially sensitive Looney Tunes. There were a few impressive stories though, and the G.O.D. going full Goya on archangel Michael was ballsier than Ennis’ Preacher finale (could read: most any Ennis finale.)

    Any resulting goodwill was wiped away by, basically, everything DC did with the property thereafter. Again, it’s very Hulk to have all of Spectre’s most effective moments be when he goes on destructive rampages. Has Spectre ever punished someone with a higher body count than himself? He can go on a crusade against “magic” and wipe out most of Atlantis, but the erasures of Zero Hour were too abstract? Or was it just that they were performed by another deeply compromised and prejudiced white guy who would end up walking a few miles in Spectre’s… shoes? Booties?

    Plus, there’s DC’s insistence on redeploying an Earth 2 staffed primarily by a Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern. The whole point of the ’70s stories was in seeing latter day versions of the Trinity have their own children and age out. Logic would dictate having a Huntress fill the Batman void, and Spectre could finally step up as a supernatural powerhouse. Jim Corrigan could be more easily race-swapped than Alan Scott was queer-baited, but no, let’s have secret agoraphobic Kryptonian who wants to schtup his cousin. That’s the essential ingredient to a modern JSA, yo. At least they stopped passing the mantle of Spectre to anyone with a penis to tuck into green trunks, like the cowl was the Helm of Nabu…

  6. Where Jack Kirby’s defeated ’70s Marvel Comics return were a bane of my childhood reading experience, his great DC betrayal was all far removed or secondary knowledge to me. With the miserable exception of Kamandi, all of those properties came to me through toys, teams, reference and revivals. I may have tossed through an issue of Kirby’s Demon once decades ago, though it remains on my to-do list. Most probably, I was introduced to Etrigan either through house ads for Swamp Thing, or more properly, the single new issue of Who’s Who that I purchased at I believe B. Dalton Bookseller. Volume VI was full of goofballs with fins that turned me off to the series, and more generally DC Comics. Among them were Despero and the Demon, both of whom I would much later develop a greater appreciation for. One Christmas, my stepsister randomly gave me a handful of comics, mostly Archies, clearly re-gifted. I can’t complain, because comics is comics, and I never gave her anything. Even more randomly though, one of them was the penultimate and very, very talky issue of the 1987 Matt Wagner mini-series. I doubt I ever actually read the thing.

    Etrigan kept appearing in the issues of series I collected but didn’t get. Blue Devil, Millennium, Action Comics Weekly, The Sandman. There was a copy of John Byrne’s Action Comics #587 in my buddy’s grocery sack of comics from the summer of ’88. I bought Blue Devil Annual #1 as a back issue in ’89, and got some Ditko-drawn Detective Comics dollar giants the same way over the next few years. I believe that’s where the rhyming began, in a story by Len Wein and Michael Golden. When the 1990 ongoing series launched, I assumed that it was on the strength of the mini-series, like you’d wait three years if that had been received well. My half-brother picked up an issue or two based on Etrigan himself, then waited for a run of issues guest starring Lobo. The Main Man was ultimately in as many issues of that series as there were issues in the Kirby run, 16. Lobo went on to have his own solo series, wherein Etrigan guested in fewer issues than the run of his ’87 mini-series mostly just the last few. I think we all know who was doing whom a favor in that association. Most of those issues were awful, cartoonish slugfests. I think that book was also my introduction to Val Semeiks, one of my least favorite artists, and continued Alan Grant’s streak as a writer best avoided. To me, Etrigan was simply too corny, dating back to Kirby, to be taken seriously. He was canary yellow with ludicrous frilled ears, a pirate shirt, schoolboy shorts, and elf booties. Simply one of those properties that never worked, but DC insisted on foisting onto the public because “The King.”

    I’m not sure is I sampled Garth Ennis first on Hellblazer or The Demon, but he had that cool ’90s Tarantino voice in his writing, and I warmed to him quickly. Demon #40 was just okay, a one-off where Etrigan slaughters some bikers while uttering doggerel. As part of my Bloodlines trial, I then got the second annual, which gave me a richer taste and introduced Tommy Monaghan. That was a gas, one of the best of those annuals, so I went back for #41… a fill-in issue? It was however by Kevin Altieri, a noted director for Batman: The Animated Series, and it was among the better “straight” Demon stories. #42 launched an extended arc (with interruptions) that ran through #54. Ennis, in my experience, has a rare gift for horror in comics, capable of instilling a true sense of dread in readers over what’s to come. This period, up through the early years of Preacher, made Ennis “hot” and solidified his reputation enough for him to coast for years at a time. His parallel and complimentary runs on Etrigan and John Constantine are, in my opinion, among the best comics. Full stop. Hellblazer spent a couple hundred issues chasing the ghosts of Ennis, Delano, and Ellis, and I get why people would have hung around just in case. It’s like how hardly anybody gives a rat’s ass about Swamp Thing after Moore left, but still waited around for another decade in hopes of a return to that level of craft.

    While Hellblazer got the critical acclaim and has remained in print, Ennis’ Demon remains an underappreciated cult title. In an absolute travesty, it didn’t make 66 issues, falling well short with #58. Admittedly, those last four issues were marking time, with a weirdly low stakes war in Hell, but who could expect a return to the intensity of the year-plus main arc when you know the ax has fallen? I also think a broad rejection on John McCrea’s art hurts its legacy. I feel like Steve Dillon had his own limitations (every Dillon character is a close genealogical relative,) but he could transition to more standard fare like The Punisher. McCrea’s style was never going to be a fan favorite, but one would hope his mood and action on Hitman would have won over more converts. For my money, Etrigan was his best fit, as the more gonzo qualities of the character were so outsized under McCrea’s pen that it made him extra scary. When you can be creepy and ultraviolent while looking like a clownfish with liver issues, that’s next level badass. It lent Etrigan a surreality and wrongness appropriate to a denizen of the infernal. Ennis also wrote Etrigan as an O.G. rapper, slinging verse and slitting throats, and malevolent mastermind. As an added bonus, it’s also quite funny, striking a balance between humor and horror to rival Raimi. Just a brilliant little under-loved run, finally collected in a couple of volumes a few years ago. I loved it so much that when Hitman launched a few years later, I created my own life-sized waist-up standee of the character as a counter dump. My shop’s sales of that title were exceptional, let me tell you, though creatively it never matched the pater familias.

    I have bought too many Demon comics in the years since, most bad. I liked Cosmic Odyssey well enough, and Mike Mignola’s another guy who handles Etrigan well. His appearances in B:TAS were pretty good, with Dini/Murakami having done a nice Batman Adventures Annual with him. I did go back to the Moore stuff, which was solid. So much of the rest though, I either disliked or never bothered to even try. As I type this, I have the glorious 2001 DC Direct action figure with the cloth cape tangling with J’Onn J’Onzz on a shelf. I hated that match-up in the comics, but I have a lot of Martian Manhunter action figures on that one shelf, so I made do. I regret not getting the now rather pricey 2010 bust (I don’t think I was working regular that year.) I really love the character and root for him, but readily confess that I have a very narrow range of interpretation that interests me. Stuffing him into every DC magic book for a few panels or a guest spot sure ain’t it.

  7. I always have to summon a lot of willpower to share my thoughts, so commenting anywhere within close proximity to Frank can be uncomfortable. Frank is constantly in need of an opinion exorcist, but he’s not wrong about the Ennis/McCrea Demon run being an over-looked gem. Hitman is better though. DC should reprint that in an omnibus and then they’d find they had another perennial seller like Fables.

    It seems I’m in the minority of listeners who read the whole Ostrander/Mandrake and I think it is terrific (that’s a pun because it introduced the modern-day Mr Terrific). Aids was a recurring thing in the series, so that may be why it was included here. It was too-DCU for Vertigo at that time, and was all the better for that approach. Fans of Suicide Squad 87 would get to see more Ostranderverse characters like Father Craemer and The Hayoth in the pages of Spectre. It’s another title that was let down by the lack of foresight from the decision maker on collected editions.

    I remember making some sort of Crisis connection to World’s End Sandman when I first read that trade.

    Glad you two had a good batch to read for this episode. You deserve it!

  8. Great episode as usual. I enjoy your discussion whether you’re working with good material or not, but good material helps. I have some thoughts about these characters like everyone else who commented — well, not like everyone else, ’cause their thoughts were much better. By “better,” I mean intellectually richer and more informed. So, I’ll talk about that first.

    The people who host, listen to, and comment on this podcast are really very bright (the other people — I’m not trying to be self-serving). And by very bright, I mean as smart as Green Arrow, Bass! The podcast and the comments not only reveal a thoughtful analysis of the art and the themes, they also reference philosophy, theology, fine art, literature, and business. I had to look up some of these references, and I enjoyed what I was learning so much I looked up the references I already understood and learned even more. Thanks for another reminder of why I love the Fire & Water Network.

    On to less important points.

    Spectre — From the perspective of either Christianity or Judaism, there’s a lot wrong with the theology and the cosmology here. That said, I think Ostrander was going for entertainment, orthodoxy be damned (pun fully intended). In light of that, and since I don’t think anyone looks at these books as holy scripture, I’ll excuse myself from having to list all the discrepancies — or heresies, if you prefer the traditional term.

    Bass & Siskoid, one piece I thought was interesting was that sometimes when you talked about the Spectre, it seemed like you were talking about him as an aspect of God Himself. Is that how the book presented him? I always thought of him as an angel, a created being serving God, with his particular task being carrying out God’s wrath. That’s hairy enough, but if the Spectre is supposed to be an aspect or an attribute of God, then the concept is as hirsute as the Shaggy Man. Regardless, I have a lot of the same issues with the character as Frank above, Why does the DC Universe need an angry Watcher?

    The Demon Etrigan – I discovered this character and his great transformation rhyme in Batman Family. I don’t know why The Demon was in the Batman Family, but in the seventies, he was. I assumed it had something to do with Gotham, darkness, and/or pointy ears. Whatever, I’m just happy they published him. The version in the #0 issue, where he’s actually malevolent, seems to fit better with the character’s origins, but I always liked antihero Etrigan. He was more fun, and a book with the same villain all the time can get old, even if the villain is Etrigan. In my head canon, I explained away his generally heroic motivations by attributing them to Blood’s influence and his separation from Hell. Like Michael Bailey, I also encountered the original Kirby run, or at least an issue or two of it. I found it on the old DC Universe app. I need to read more, because Michael was right, no matter what Shag says about him.

    The Sandman – I am exactly the reader you described, Siskoid. Years ago, I picked up a used paperback encompassing the first Sandman story arc to see what all the fuss was about. I had enjoyed the first Death miniseries after all, so surely I was sophisticated enough to enjoy this mature content, right? The concepts were interesting, but the hallucination-induced atrocities in the diner turned me off. I figured I was not the target audience for that book.

    To confirm what Bass said about Parks & Rec, my wife and I had a different experience there because one of our daughters curated our viewing. She was in her late teens at the time. She started us on selected episodes of the second season, and we watched all the rest from there. Now it’s one of our favorite shows.

    Thanks as always. Looking forward to your take on Zero Hour’s take on the Last(ish) Son of Krypton! I bet Michael Bailey will listen to that one, too.

    1. Well, in the sense that an angel can be The Voice of God, the Spectre is The Wrath of God. Whether that’s an aspect or not is a matter of opinion. I don’t think the Spectre IS God, but if the angels don’t truly have free will (a human gift), then being the instrument of God and doing His Will and only His Will (at least until the Spectre is merged with a human) kind of makes him God’s Old Testament Fist (aspect) or Sword (instrument). The latter is less blasphemous, surely.

      1. Thanks for engaging, Siskoid! Yeah, I don’t think Voice or Fist are blasphemous if used metaphorically, but I see your point. And whether or not angels have free will, or maybe the degree to which their will is free, is ambiguous to me. Clearly, Lucifer (and his followers?) rebelled against God, at least in the traditional understanding of Satan’s origin, and Lucifer received punishment from a just God, implying free will. But the Bible describes angels as more like soldiers of God than children of God, and the great drama of existence that Christian cosmology describes is not about whether angels will choose to serve God. That seems to be assumed as a given. So all that seems to diminish the freedom of their will.

        There’s a further complication I confirmed with some quick internet searches — that traditional understanding of Satan’s origin is built out of a few passages strung together by logic, and the meaning of some of those passages is a matter of debate. I’m not arguing with it, because I don’t have a better interpretation, but it seems that demonology as a subset of Christian theology doesn’t have as much primary source material as most other topics.

        Anyway, for a nerd of faith, this was fun to think about and research, so I appreciate the diversion. I also enjoyed the angel Zauriel in Morrison’s JLA. Morrison is not a Christian, but he played it pretty much straight, being careful not to contradict most Christians’ understanding of the Bible. I think he did this more as a creativity-inspiring constraint than anything else, like the forms of a haiku or iambic pentameter. It was another enjoyable experiment.

  9. The comic shop in Colorado that I was going to in 1992 had a copy of The Sandman #8 for $20 or less, but I was too busy working on my run of Rob Liefeld New Mutants to waste my money on a story I already had in a trade collection. Regrets, I have a few. I’d been hearing buzz about the book, but I don’t think it was turning up at the flea markets I frequented. Despite being turned off by the Dave McKean cover, in a rare (perhaps only) instance of visiting my half-brother’s neighborhood shop (we almost always hung on the neutral ground of our father’s family) I picked up #28. I think I only had money for the one comic, and coming in on the eighth and final issue of an arc was a bold choice, but it was still interesting. I believe that I missed the successive issue (not sure that I ever read it) and got #30 at either Third Planet or a mall bookstore. As a done-in-one, I actually understood what was going on, and was impressed. I carried on into “Three Septembers and a January,” which I was touched by. This was around the time we made that move to Colorado, and I’d just started using ordering catalogs, plus the new shop actually carried the series. Around or during “a game of you,” I ordered the collection of “The Doll’s House,” and the requisite t-shirts soon followed, rocking it like Darlene Conner.

    Not having read a lot of “literary” comics to that point, at least none that suited me, my mind was blown by The Sandman. The novelistic approach expanded my view of what comics could be, and made me a more serious reader overall. “Doll’s House” specifically was a favorite comic story, and made me want to read more horror comics (to no great positive impact.) It was a pivot point where I went from wanting to be Chris Claremont when I grew up to Gaiman, and he was a personal friend of Tori Amos! It’s ironic, because as my commitment to the brand was growing, the foundations were already shaky. The award-breaking “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” issue was entirely wasted on my modest Shakespeare experience. “a game of you” tried my patience, though I forgave it a lot by the finale. I read “Preludes & Nocturnes” at some point, and it was an okay Alan Moore pastiche. Thankfully, I went back to buy most of the “Season of Mists” issues, and enjoyed those. The Special with the glow-in-the-dark cover was also a boon, though it was clear a lot of shops ate overstock on that one. That one issue of Books of Magic I swapped for was really good.

    I missed an issue or two of “Convergence” during the move back to Texas, and then I struggled mightily during the nine-part “Brief Lives.” #50 had another (lame) enhanced cover, but was likewise quite good, as was the “Worlds’ End” story collection covered here. “The Kindly Ones” was interminable. Thirteen chapters, plagued by delays, abysmal art, plus the least interesting covers of an artist I never did warm to. Thankfully, “The Wake” had Michael Zulli and resolution, but if I didn’t know the end was near I may very well have bailed. It was all so very twee and self-important, without having much to say really.

    Like Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman was something of an industry hero of mine for a time, specifically for his role in the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and work on benefits/challenging material like Cherry Deluxe, Free Speeches, & Images of Omaha. I followed him to a lot of weird places, like Alice Cooper: The Last Temptation, Angela, and the Tekno Comics bait and switches. I specifically gave Mr. Hero the Newmatic Man WAY too much rope. Say, do you think Geoff Johns swiped his take on the Crimson Avenger from Lady Justice? After a promising start, I was ultimately disappointed by Death: The High Cost of Living. Violent Cases fell down the memory hole, discouraging me from trying several of his other pre-fame works, though I did enjoy the collected Books of Magic. I cannot recollect whether I returned for the sequel, or if I made it through the second arc of The Dreaming. I gave 1602 and Eternals an issue each before bowing out. It took me a long time to reckon with the fact that I didn’t much like Gaiman outside of Sandman and editorials.

    One episode of American Gods and a few chapters into the audiobook before the girlfriend and I lost interest. Ditto Good Omens. We both loved Coraline, but figure a lot of that was in the adaptation, with no desire to read the P. Craig Russell comic with normal looking people. She bought issues of The Sandman: Overture for a friend, but I didn’t bother to even toss through the, while in her possession. Oh, and he put a baby in Amanda Palmer. Oy.

    I decided to pick up the Omnibuses of The Sandman after divesting myself of the floppies when I still had my shop. Haven’t had the urge to read them yet, despite never having gotten around to quite a few issues of the original run. Much as I adored Gaiman once, I came to realize that to me, he was best in small, concentrated doses. I still own one of those t-shirts, and there’s still affection for the stories that opened up my own imagination. That said, I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever truly latched on to any of his character. Despite my frequent criticism of Alan Moore, he clearly created more work of note, broke more ground, and maybe even produced more stories that I like. I don’t bring up Gaiman as often because he’s never been as relevant to the discussion of comics as his reputation would suggest. An argument could be made for The Sandman being Vertigo’s Astro City, but I’d be more anxious to revisit that one as an omnibus. Over time, I’ve even kinda sorta started to side with Todd McFarlane. But at least he never became a total embarrassment like Frank Miller, king of cringe ex’s.

    1. It’s funny, because in his interviews for The Sandman Companion, Gaiman fully acknowledges that The Kindly Ones was going to be disliked, in particular for Hempell’s art, but that he knew it all ended with Michael Zulli so he’d be forgiven, He also notes, rightly probably, that stories like A Game of You, Brief Lives and The Kindly Ones play better in trade than on the monthly grind, but what are ya gonna do, that’s the format Sandman was saddled with.

      I’m not sure you can lay all the referenced works at Gaiman’s feet as he didn’t write Mr. Hero, The Dreaming, nor the Books of Magic monthly. He was just the ideas man on those. That said, I’m not a Gaiman fanatic. I’ve liked stuff he’s done, I’ve forgotten some, and he wrote both a great Doctor Who episode and a terrible one. I don’t put many people up on pedestals, and I certainly don’t exalt his work beyond their value. I certainly don’t think you should have a go at his choice of spouse though; what’s that about?

      1. I reread “a game of you” after it ended (or was it at the concluding chapter) and agree that was better off taken as a whole. Never did the same with “The Kindly Ones” because it was such a burden on the first pass that I can’t imagine it improving sharply taken en masse. I’m not a Hempel fan, but on a better story like Breathtaker it’s at least passable. Given that it wasn’t exactly intricate rendering, the production delays were clearly all on Gaiman, and for me in no way worth the wait. Sounds like Gaiman was throwing Hempel under the bus to cover for his own failings, and did he really need thirteen chapters to tell that particular story? Michael Zulli was prettier, but as with the Alice Cooper project, that wasn’t enough to redeem itself, much less a whole other arc.

        I’m aware that Gaiman didn’t himself write all of the listed projects, but they were referenced because he prostituted himself so shamelessly, and I was such a sucker that I subjected myself to them in his name. If you agree to putting out Neil Gaiman’s Technophage, I can serve your due shade for the lucrative association. Also, I only read the Gaiman written Books of Magic, so that was all I was alluding to (first as a single issue, then the collection.) The point was to contrast my earlier hero worshiping with Gaiman’s willing exploitation of his brand and fandom.

        Likewise, I had a run at Amanda Palmer to contrast against his earlier friendship with Tori Amos. Palmer is infamous for melodramatic oversharing and cultivating a small, devoted following for personal gain and heightened adulation. After their marriage, Gaiman developed similar predilections, to the point where he came off less like a Kurt Cobain and more like a Courtney Love. They put all their business out on main street, so I felt it was fair game, and anyway, haven’t you ever heard “Professional Widow”?

        1. And that’s how you learn that hero worship is not a good thing. I wonder when I learned that particular lesson? Probably just wrapped into my Oedipus Complex, honestly.

          To be fair to Gaiman on that first point, I only partially quoted him, Part of the reason he knew people wouldn’t respond to it was also in the writing, i.e. specifically writing for the trade with no recaps, no breaks to sum up the themes, etc. which he had done in all previous arcs.

          As for the music stuff, because of my heritage, I don’t know as much as you about the American side of things. I split my time between Canadian, French-language, and THEN everything else.

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