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