Sandman cosmology (Spoilers)

I’ve just finished re-reading sandman and have been pleasantly surprised how much is added to the experience with the knowledge of how it all ends up and impressed at how smoothly the plot comes together. However the one thing that struck me as contradictory was the whole cosmology, I didn’t quite get how all the different elements (gods, the God, the endless, earth, parallel worlds etc) came together and I was wondering whether anyone else thinks they have it figured out.

Before we start I fully understand that this is all a work of fiction, therefore anybody who might otherwise feel the need to point this out (“Dude it’s just a comic, get over it”) can rest assured this is all in the spirit of fun. I am also aware that Mr Gaiman was probably under a lot of pressure to stick to the established DC cosmology/Not do anything too controversial with the big guy upstairs, and that if no one can make sense of the whole thing it probably wasn’t entirely his fault.

A few thoughts

The Christian God seems to be portrayed as distinct from all the other gods. Most of the gods in sandman seem to be similar to the small god idea (used by both Gaiman, Pratchett, and probably others) they are sustained by belief and created by their worshippers, once their worshippers die out they dwindle away into nothingness.
“The God” however seems to be an entirely different creature. This god (and Lucifer, angels, related characters) appears to be more powerful (It’s hinted that only he and Lucifer are more powerful than the endless) and older (Abel suggests that Cain and Abel’s own story happened a long time ago, not on earth, and that even the protagonists didn’t look remotely human at that point).

The same endless appear to operate through a lot of different worlds/dimensions. The Prez story shows what appears to be a parallel dimension with a separate god Boss Smiley who is described as being the head of the local franchise, but Death and Dream appear to be the same (however this story is presented as a tall story told by a stranger in the pub).

Despite this the whole story is very earth centric with most of the key plot events happening here. I’ve never really seen any problem with all the endless all looking human, I’ve always assumed the conceit here is that the endless look different to whoever is viewing them and that the reader as a human perceives them as portrayed (we even occasionally see Dream from a different characters view point in a different shape, e.g. Martian Manhunter seeing him as a Martian god/thing). The main problem seems to be that despite the vast number of universes in which things could occur they all seem to happen in one place, the only way I can see of explaining this (outside of the obvious comic book writer one) is that the earth is currently the only place in the universes with interesting things happening (life etc) which doesn’t really seem likely and probably contradicts a ton of other stuff. Can anyone else explain this?

On a separate note, did anyone else get the impression that Death wasn’t as nice a character as she seemed to be? Over the course of the series several powerful characters (who should know) make comments suggesting that she had a nasty streak and dream himself suggests that there would have been dire consequences had the magus succeeded in capturing her at the start of the story (it isn’t clear whether this would have been a result of her vengeance or her absence, but we have already seen that an endless’s function does not necessarily require his/her presence). I believe Neil has suggested that her niceness might be related to her being good at her job (which entails keeping the dead happy as she leads them to a potentially very nasty afterlife) moreover in the Orpheus story she grants a boon which she almost certainly knows will lead to tragedy and even her brothers death despite the fact she could easily have refused to/ helped out more directly

I’m unsure of the whole little gods/big god idea. So you’re on your own there.

Cain and Abel are the CONCEPTS of the first murderer and the first victim so if you assume life began on other planets their story is indeed much older then mankind.

There are different dimensions and I’m unsure how they all relate (perhaps they each have their own Dream, Death, etc.) But who cares what happens elsewhere? This earth is where we live. If he had 90% of what happened happing elsewhere it’d lose a lot of the impact of what was happening don’t you think? And all those lost culture references he littered throughout the books.

Dream and Company are reflections of how we view them so yes Dream looks different as different people view them and when everything that can dream/die/have fate dies off the Endless will end too. Though I’d like to shake the hand of the guy who first envisioned death as a Goth hottie.

Ummmm she’s the one that takes lives…everyone’s lives so of course powerful beings would look at her as the most dangerous being. But from what I get out of the story she’s one of the few endless that truly loves mankind. She understands the pain and desperation but she has a hard job that she has to do. And the dire consequences? Well look at all the bad stuff that happened when dream got caught? The Dreaming decayed people went into coma’s and went crazy and people sized Dreams objects of power…Imagine if death was caught instead? People dying for no reason (or living long past they should be dead) Souls wandering around not knowing where to go etc etc…

Have you read Endless Nights , which came out at the end of last month? One of the episodes deals with a thwarted romance of Dream’s that occurred billions of years ago. Below doesn’t give the whole story but gives a theme that you might rather read the book to know:

The story takes place at a convention of Stars [including red giants, novas, and our own Sol as a small “child”] in which the issues of life on other worlds and the hegemony of the Endless over each is discussed in passing.

All of the Endless can be many places at once- Death once mentioned her simultaneous presence at a holocaust happening on another planet. I’ve never quite understood what all was wrought by Dream’s century long captivity in England.

I think that “the God” is so powerful only because he is currently the most worshipped Deity. In their day, Bastet (I want to sing ‘Memory’ evertime she’s portrayed) , Pharamond and Ishtar were probably almost as powerful. It implies that Hell is only for Earth creatures though, and Lucifer Morningstar (who has his own
spinoff-comic incidentally, albeit not by Gaiman- in his self-imposed exile from Hell he’s the owner of a club called LUX) definitely goes to Earth when he relinquishes hell.

Cain & Abel have appeared as other than human before and are more archetypes than actual beings in the series (once being called “the First Dream”). In one episode Sandman refers to the dreams computers are having and machines in the past that could dream- it would be interesting to see inside one of those and see Cain & Abel as Alpha male and Omega male machines.

The Christian God does seem to be treated very differently to the other gods in Sandman. I seem to remember the Silver City being referred to as being “not of the order of created things”, which suggests that it, and the god that rules it, are something different from the other mythologies that we encounter.

Places other than Earth are mentioned, but only in passing. Right at the start of Preludes and Nocturnes I think Morpheus is referred to as returning in triumph, of a sort, from a distant galaxy when he is captured by Burgess. Doesn’t death also make a reference to some alien creatures (crystal beings?) dying on another planet?

In case you’ve wondered, incidentally, Neil Gaiman himself is a non-religious Jew who attended Catholic and Anglican schools. He says he was always far more fascinated by the “never mind that” mythology of the religions (Aggadah, parts of the Talmud, Lives of the Saints etc.) than the philosophical or ideological aspects.

Sure. Lots of things occur in vast numbers of worlds, but Gaiman’s work focuses mostly on our own. He could have written about how Desire is perceived on Newton’s desert planet or among the Vegetons, but that would have required additional backstory. Better to stick with the familiar.

She does indeed, and Dream was indeed returning from a distant galaxy when he was captured. Yet everything important that happens to any of the Endless happens on Earth. This is the one weak point of the entire Sandman series.

Neil Gaiman has also been a Scientologist, with some rank (Class VIII Auditor, head of the Birmingham organization)

Neil’s father, David Gaiman, was Public Relations Director for the Co$ in England in the late sixties/early 70s, and went on aa public hunger strike for a few weeks in 1970. At one point the elder Gaiman was the World Spokesman for the Co$. In 1983 David was kicked out (though he has since rejoined.)

Neil was also kicked out of the Co$ in 1983 and may or may not have returned(and left again?). He consistently declines to comment about his religious beliefs.

Well, Neil often says that he prefers mysteries to explanations, so I’d say the exact answers to these questions don’t exist. Like, at all. Not even in Neil’s head.

Anyway, I’d venture to say that the Endless hold sway even over those powerful beings whom they fear. I’ll grant you that we never see The Silver City’s god, but we do see Lucifer, who is obviously influenced by all of the Endless, even though he doesn’t want to admit it. Even the Kindly Ones, whom, I’m sure we all agree, the Endless have reason to fear, operate through the functions of the Endless. They certainly desire blood… Plus, the oft-described End of Everything is going to be when Death takes her brother’s book from him. She, as I recall, puts the chairs on the tables and moves on (or something). There’s no mention of, “oh, yeah, and we leave the Big Guy to himself.” I would venture to say that the God of the Silver City is merely an amalgam of all monotheistic beliefs in the Cosmos and that Lucifer is an amalgam of the Adversary. They are so powerful because there are so many believers in monotheism…

Of course, that leaves open the question of whose voice was in the shrine below the Necropolis. Eblis O’Shaugnessy goes down there and a gigantically lettered voice asks which of them has died. That suggests a power that watches over the Endless, even, because, if I recall correctly, it wails like a mother over a lost son.

Yes, it does bother me that all the important stuff that happens to Dream happens on Earth, but, even back in the infancy of the Universe, the Endless seem to have an affinity for some little, unregarded yellow sun called Sol. Neil may be suggesting that our world is one of the more interesting places in the Universe (I would note that Despair seems to be suggesting, in Dream’s Endless Nights story, a scenario like that which befell Superman on Krypton), or the story may focus on Earth because of Daniel. I mean, Daniel was from Earth, so, since the story focused on Morpheus’s, well, suicide, it follows that the story would focus on Earth more than anywhere else. The other possibility is that Neil only showed us the bits that happened on Earth, but I doubt that. Or, hey, if I haven’t given you enough reasons, it seems that Dream himself had a fascination with the women of our little planet. Perhaps they reminded him of Kigala of the Glow, so he had a fondness in his heart for them. And, really, all of Dream’s problems stemmed from his love affairs. That still doesn’t (and this is the bit of the story that really stuck in my craw) explain why Destruction spent all his time on Earth after abdicating.

enigimatic: Gaiman did not hint that the God and Lucifer were more powerful than the Endless, or at least some of them. In The Season of Mists, Dream flat-out tells Matthew that Lucifer is far more powerful than he, and, by extending a remark Dream made to Desire at the conclusion of A Doll’s House, Lucifer is more powerful than Desire, Despair, and Delerium. That same graphic novel implies that Azazel might be more powerful than Dream in some circumstances. Also, Odin does not seem too afraid to confront Dream after learning that Loki is free.

There are hints that the Endless’ powers extend to other worlds/planes/dimensions, i.e., Dream telling Rose Walker in A Doll’s House that a planet once perished because he shirked his duty and his appearance to the Martian Manhunter. However, consider the immense amount of work needed to create such a story. I think Gaiman was wise to create an Earth-centric Sandman; it made reader identification easier.

In re Death: I think the remark Dream made to the Magus has more to do with the consequences of Death’s departure from the scene than her inflicting any kind of horrible vengeance. Consider what would happen to the planet if insects, for example, couldn’t die. Lee & Kirby made use of this same idea in their run of Thor. Death was generally portrayed as being very nice, but she clearly did have a temper and could show some fangs. Examples: telling off Dream in Sandman #8 and Brief Lives, telling Desire to shut up in The Season of Mists, and telling the Kindly Ladies to back down in Sandman #69. However, note that she does not force Charles to return to hell in The Season of Mists. As Dream said in “Men of Good Fortune,” she is a capricious deity. I am also not sure if she had the power to foretell the consequences of granting Orpheus his wish.

As for the gods, I think Dream said in Brief Lives that the gods begin and end in dreams.