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The Sandman Reading Order, Neil Gaiman’s comic universe

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Before becoming one of Vertigo’s hits, The Sandman was a DC series created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and published between 1974 and 1976. When DC offered Neil Gaiman the possibility to write a new series, his only obligation was to keep the name.

This is about Dream, one of the seven Endless. He is the all-powerful master of the Dreamworld. In simple terms, he is the personification of dreams.

The story began with the capture of Dream (aka Morpheus). During his 70 years of captivity, nobody controlled the dream world and, when Dream won back his liberty, he needed to rebuild his kingdom in order to get back his powers. It’s a journey in a metaphorical world that blends mythology and history with thoughtful and complex characters.

From The Sandman grew a whole universe of series, miniseries, and one-shots, from the successful Lucifer to the cult Death miniseries.

The Sandman Reading Order:

Dream of the Endless made a brief apparition in Hellblazer No. 19 (a really optional read) that takes place before The Sandman #3.

We met Matthew the Raven in The Sandman #11, but his origins are in Swamp Thing vol. 2 No. 84 (March 1989) in which Dream and Eve allow Matthew Cable to live in the Dreaming, because he died there, resurrecting him as a raven.

The storyline of Lucifer in The Sandman series ends here. A few years later, a new continuing series started, picking up the story from that point – the reading guide is here.

Sandman Midnight Theatre (optional)
This one-off collected in Neil Gaiman’s Midnight Days Deluxe Edition takes place during Dream’s imprisonment, but there’s an epilogue in The Sandman #72. It is a crossover with the 1930s set Matt Wagner’s Sandman Mystery Theatre series (take place between #36 & #37 of that series)

  • The Sandman: The Wake
    Collects The Sandman #70–75. This is the end of the original run of the series.
  • After the end of the Sandman original run, Vertigo launched a new spin-off called The Dreaming. It was followed by the anthology The Sandman Presents when The Dreaming became more serialized. See below.

  • The Sandman: Endless Nights
    A classic short story collection by Neil Gaiman.
  • Sandman: The Dream Hunters
    Collects Sandman: The Dream Hunters #1-4. The miniseries is an adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Neil Gaiman.
  • The Sandman: Overture
    Collects The Sandman: Overture #1-6. It’s a prequel mini-series about the events that occurred before Dream’s incarceration in the first issue of The Sandman. It’s better to know the world of Dream before reading it, but you still can start with it.

The Sandman, other collections:

The Sandman Reading Order Box Set

You can find new Absolute editions of the Sandman TPBs, but also:

The Sandman The Deluxe Edition

The 2022 Sandman Reprint (Black Label imprint)

  • The Sandman: Book One
    Collects The Sandman #1-20 (Preludes and Nocturnes, The Doll’s House, and Dream Country).
  • The Sandman: Book Two
    Collects The Sandman #21-37 (Season of Mists, the first part of Fables and Reflections, and A Game of You), Sandman Special #1, and segments from Vertigo: Winter’s Edge #1-3 (“The Flowers of Romance”, “A Winter’s Tale”, and “How They Met Themselves”).
  • The Sandman: Book Three
    CollectsThe Sandman #38-56 (the remainder of Fables and Reflections, Brief Lives, and World’s End) and “Fear of Falling” from Vertigo Preview #1.
  • The Sandman: Book Four
    CollectsThe Sandman #57-75 (The Kindly Ones and The Wake), “The Castle” from Vertigo Jam #1, and “The Last Sandman Story” from Dust Covers: The Collected Sandman Covers.
  • The Sandman: Book Five
    Collects Sandman Midnight Theatre #1, The Sandman: The Dream Hunters (prose edition), and The Sandman: Endless Nights.
  • The Sandman: Book Six
    Collects The Sandman Universe #1, The Sandman: Overture #1-6, and The Sandman: The Dream Hunters (comic edition) #1-4.

After The Sandman:

The world of Sandman goes beyond the main series. As time goes on, finding all the mini-series, one-shots, anthologies, and others became harder and harder. If you can find them, here is a guide. You can read them in whatever order you prefer. Preferably, read them after the main series, even if it’s not an obligation for most.

The Dreaming

The Dreaming was a monthly comic series that ran for 60 issues (June 1996 to May 2001). The Dreaming concentrates on characters who had played minor roles in The Sandman, including The Corinthian, Matthew the raven, Cain and Abel, Lucien the dream librarian, the faerie Nuala, Eve, and Mervyn Pumpkinhead (janitor of The Dreaming). It also introduced a number of new characters, most notably Echo and a new (white) dream raven, Tethys. There were brief (but often important) appearances by The Endless during the series, including cameos by Dream (both Morpheus and Daniel), Death, Destiny, and Desire.


The Sandman Presents

As I wrote earlier, after it was decided that The Dreaming would be retooled, The Sandman Presents became the new anthology with stories in the Sandman’s world. Published between 1999 and 2004, the series collects tales of various supporting characters related to the franchise.


More independent stories:

  • WitchCraft & WitchCraft: La Terreur
    Two three-issue mini-series featuring The Three Witches (also The Fates, Introduced in The Sandman #2).
  • Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold
    A three-issue mini-series featuring Destiny of The Endless, his booktag=howtoread06-20, and a post-apocalyptic world.
  • The Sandman: Book of Dreams (novel)
    A collection of short stories featuring the world of The Sandman in some way. It contains work from some notable contributors, among them Caitlin R. Kiernan, Tad Williams, Gene Wolfe, Tori Amos, and Colin Greenland.
  • Sandman Special: The Song of Orpheus
    A Sandman Special which retells the Greek Orpheus myth, placing it within the Sandman Universe with Dream as Orpheus’ father.
  • Vertigo: Winter’s Edge #2
    A 10-page story named The Flowers of Romance about Desire The Endless. Also contains a short story set in The Dreaming World.

 


Dead Boy Detectives Reading Order

The Dead Boy Detectives are the ghosts of two dead children, Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine, who, rather than enter the afterlife, stay on Earth to become detectives investigating crimes involving the supernatural. They first appeared in The Sandman #25 collected in The Sandman: Season of Mists. After that, they made multiple apparitions:

The New Sandman Universe Reading Order

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Sandman and Vertigo’s 25th anniversary, a new Sandman Universe was created under the supervision of Neil Gaiman. The idea is to expand The Sandman’s part of the DC Universe. It’s a new beginning, but it is recommended to read the original Sandman series before.

  • The Sandman Universe
    One-shot you must read before anyone of the following series.

The Dreaming

Daniel, the Lord of Dreams, has abandoned his kingdom, leaving its borders broken and bloody. Lucien, his faithful warden, can feel his own mind slipping away as the Dream King’s realm decays around him. And the other residents of the Dreaming, from the monstrous and mercenary Dora to the gruff, unflappable Merv Pumpkinhead, are fighting among themselves to preserve what they can. But the true nightmare is yet to come.

House of Whispers

From her bayou, Erzulie scries upon the mortal realm and sees four human girls open a mysterious and magical journal filled with whispers and rumors that, if they spread, could cause a pandemic unlike any the Earth has seen, with the power to release Shakpana, the loa lord of infectious disease and nephew to Erzulie, who is currently banned from the human plane. Meanwhile, mysterious infection doctors are calling “Cotard’s Delusion” spreads, trapping countless souls in the Dreaming and leaving their physical bodies yearning for death.

Lucifer

Go to Lucifer Reading Order for more. The Prince of Darkness is missing, and from the look of things, he’s not coming back. Blind, crippled, and without a penny to his name, the onetime ruler of Hell is now a wizened, unkempt old man trapped in a small town where sinister forces torment him at every turn and nothing is as it seems. He has no memory of how he got here, no hope of escape, and no way to track down his child–the only entity capable of preventing the end of the world.

Books of Magic

Go to the Books of Magic Reading Order for more. Timothy Hunter may be destined to become the most powerful magician in the universe, but he’s still a London teenager, and having magical abilities is about to turn his world upside down…

John Constantine, Hellblazer

Go to John Constantine, Hellblazer Reading Order for more.

The Sandman Universe, Black Label

Following the Netflix TV adaptation of the Sandman series, DC launched new series from the Sandman Universe starting with Nightmare Country by James Tynion IV which has been described as a standalone story–meaning you don’t need to read anything before.

Last Updated on July 21, 2023.

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