05 September 2011

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Sandman Spin-Offs, Part XV: The Little Endless Storybook

Hardcover, n.pag.
Published 2004 (originally 2001)

Borrowed from the library
Read August 2011
The Little Endless Storybook by Jill Thompson

Despite having the usual Vertigo "Recommended for mature readers" warning on the back, this is essentially a children's picture book, about Barnabas, puppy of Delirium, the craziest of the Endless. With Delirium missing, Barnabas must journey between the realms of the different Endless in an attempt to locate her. Basically the whole thing is an excuse to see Jill Thompson draw all the Endless in her manga-esque style. It works. I liked her Destruction the best. (Surprisingly, the whole thing feels like it fits into continuity just fine, after "Brief Lives" but before "The Kindly Ones." Is there actually a break there?) It does show up how underdeveloped the realms of all the other Endless are compared to Dream's, though; all the other Endless seem to hang out by themselves!

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Sandman Spin-Offs, Part XIV: Taller Tales

Comic trade paperback, 216 pages
Published 2003 (contents: 2000-02)

Borrowed from the library
Read August 2011
The Sandman Presents: Taller Tales

Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Mark Buckingham, Zander Cannon, Duncan Fegredo, Peter Gross, Niko Henrichon, Adam Hughes, Phil Jimenez, Michael Kaluta, Marc Laming, Jason Little, Shawn McManus, Linda Medley, Albert Monteys, Kevin Nowlan, Andrew Pepoys, Paul Pope, John Stokes, Daniel Torres, Bill Willingham
Colorists: Lee Loughridge, Daniel Vozzo
Letterers: John Costanza, Todd Klein

This collection brings together a disparate set of stories by Bill Willingham, who I guess is kind of a big deal because he wrote Fables or something? I don't know, I never read it. (Should I?) As Willingham himself points out, all of the stories here are about the telling of stories, but that's appropriate; this is the Dreaming, after all.

First off is "Merv Pumpkinhead, Agent of D.R.E.A.M. I've said it before, but Merv, the Dreaming's janitor, is my second-favorite Sandman character, and this story is every bit as good as you'd expect a James Bond story featuring a man with a pumpkinhead to be, dirty sex jokes and all. The idea of a world-level threat doesn't feel very Sandmanesque, but on the other hand, I thought the car that could move out of people's dreams and even become a matchbox car when need was awesome. (But why is Matthew the Raven, my favorite character, now white?)

"The Further Adventures of Danny Nod, Heroic Library Assistant" is all right. The premise is okay-- it doesn't really do anything new or interesting with the idea of wandering into different stories-- but the art sells it, as each couple pages is illustrated by someone else, Danny himself remaining the only visual constant in the story. There are fun bits. Nice to see Goldie again. (But didn't he leave the Dreaming?) "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Dreams... But Were Afraid to Ask" takes a similar point, with a bunch of two-page vignettes all illustrated by different teams. My favorite stories were the ones explaining why dreams can be sexual (it's because Merv is a bit of a sleaze) and whether dreams have dreams (they do and it's weird).

The bulk of the book is "The Thessaliad," about Thessaly, the last of the Thessalian witches, who featured in the Sandman story "A Game of You." There's some great ideas here, such as the fact that if Thessaly just reenacts the tropes of a quest story, she'll automatically end up wherever she wants to be, and I liked the interplay with her "fetch," but sometimes the characterization was a little too straightforward, and the difficulties a little too easily escaped. The end sets up some mysteries; I hope these are solved somewhere. (There's a lot of comments about Lucifer being up to something; I guess this is a reference to the concurrent Lucifer spin-off?)