Tag Archives: Dave Stewart

The Sandman: Overture

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Sandman: Overture [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Neil Gaiman, J H Williams III, and Dave Stewart, with Todd Klein and Dave McKean.

Gaiman Williams et al The Sandman Overture

The six-issue Sandman: Overture comics series was the last to be created for the title character. It was published more than fifteen years after the seventy-fifth and last number of the original Sandman title, which had in its day been fantasy writer Neil Gaiman’s largest and highest-profile comics work. As “Overture” suggests, this later sequence supplies a story set immediately prior to the main series, anticipating its themes and forms.

Although I was an active comics reader during the heyday of the lauded former serial, and it certainly fit my general tastes, for whatever reason, I haven’t read it–even though it has remained in print in trade paperback collections ever since. It has new currency now with the release of the big-money-small-screen version from Netflix. So when I considered reading some of the comics this summer, I decided to start with Overture. After reading the copious creators’ notes and interviews in this volume, I realize that the intended audience for Overture were really longtime fans and knowledgeable readers of Sandman. Oh, well. I didn’t find it difficult to follow, although I suppose it would have been a richer read if I had been familiar with the other work.

The art in this book is outstanding, with the lines and shades by J.H. Williams III (of Promethea fame) and amazing colors by Dave Stewart. Another key contributor, who doesn’t appear on the cover but still features among the creative personnel interviewed in the end matter, is letterer Todd Klein. Perennial Gaiman collaborator Dave McKean also provided cover art for the series.

Among comics, I was most reminded of the Eternity story arc from 1970s Doctor Strange, although Williams and Gaiman in their remarks refer to Jim Steranko rather than Gene Colan as a visual comics influence. In literature generally, Gaiman’s “Endless” characters reminded me most of Tanith Lee’s “Lords of Darkness” in her Tales from the Flat Earth books. They are not mere personifications of abstract concepts. It might be more accurate to call them hypostases of cosmic principles–but ones that somehow elicit the reader’s human sympathy.

The Doom that Came to Gotham

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Batman: The Doom that Came to Gotham by Mike Mignola, Richard Pace, Troy Nixey, Dennis Janke, and Dave Stewart.

Mignola Pace Nixey Janke Batman The Doom that Came to Gotham

When Grant Morrison wrote Arkham Asylum to blow Bat-minds in 1989, he infused Gotham City with actual occultism, but in terms of the Yog-Sothothery suggested by “Arkham,” he didn’t make any significant impositions. He certainly didn’t go half as far as Mike Mignola and Richard Pace’s Doom that Came to Gotham. The latter is part of the DC “Elseworlds” imprint, and it reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s Marvel 1602 with the full transposition of a multi-superhero character matrix into another setting and time. For Doom that is the Lovecraftian 1920s. Originally a three-issue limited series, the breaks between issues have vanished in the trade edition that collects them into a single graphic novel.

Besides Batman, Alfred, and Bruce Wayne’s wards (none of whom have Robin or Nightwing identities or powers), key characters include Oliver Queen (not quite Green Arrow), Barbara Gordon (not Batgirl, but certainly some sort of Oracle), Jason Blood (every bit the Demon), Harvey Dent (who doesn’t start as Two-Face), Talia al Ghul, and Ras al Ghul (this world’s version of Abdul Alhazred). Alternate, Cthulhvized versions of such Bat-villains as Mister Freeze and Poison Ivy are also clever and outre.

Nixey & Janke’s internal art is suited to the mood of the story, but it pales against Mignola’s covers. To fully enjoy this book requires appreciation of both the Lovecraft source material and the Batman franchise as it has evolved into the 21st century. Once those are granted, it is a fast, broody, macabre, and worthwhile read.

Spirit Vol 1

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Spirit Vol. 1 by Darwyn Cooke and Jeph Loeb, art by Darwyn Cooke and J Bone.

Darwyn Cooke J Bone Dave Sewart The Spirit

Will Eisner is a comic book artist’s artist, and I’m a mere comic book reader. So I haven’t much explored his oeuvre, though I did once read A Contract with God. I hadn’t read Eisner’s own Spirit comics (much-reprinted in the 1990s), but I was intrigued by the trailer for the recent film that Frank Miller based on them. I had also noticed that the 21st-century DC “reboot” of the character had received some critical praise. This reprint volume containing the first six issues of the latter I borrowed from the public library on a lark.

So I don’t know how “faithful” it is to Eisner’s character, but it sure is fun. Darwyn Cooke’s art is vivid and accessible, and his stories are wide-ranging. The Spirit is a vigilante of the amazing-but-not-quite-super hero type, like earlier pulp protagonists such as the Shadow and the Phantom Detective. He’s more fallible than his archetype, especially when it comes to women. Both Cooke and his Spirit have a sense of humor.

Appended to the initial run of the DC series, this volume includes a reprint of the Batman/Spirit crossover story that served as a prequel to it. This piece, a collaboration by Cooke with writer Jeph Loeb, highlights the parallels between the two heroes to an almost painful degree. A telling exception is the omission of the Spirit’s counterpart to Robin the Boy Wonder. In the 1940s Spirit comics, a sidekick named Ebony White was largely a blackface stereotype that could only be read as racist if rendered that way today. Evidently, Cooke hadn’t yet come up with his solution to the Ebony dilemma, although the later Spirit issues introduce the character as an updated stereotype: a streetwise black kid with plenty of criminal experience but a good heart.

Cooke’s willingness to trade in today’s stereotypes may leave him open to certain types of criticism, but it is one of the features that make the comic fast-paced and diverting. No one will be particularly enlightened by this fare, but anyone with a fondness for the fantasy detective story will be entertained by it. [via]