The Sandman: Who is The Lord of Dreams?

Mister Sandman, Bring Me a Dream

Dream:It is never “only a dream”, John Constantine. Here less than other places…”

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes

Your quest is near its end. You have traveled far to find a forgotten story and arrive at a castle, guarded by a dragon and a griffin. They allow you in, but warn you to not enter other rooms. You proceed, following the castle’s winding halls. You see a man tending to a library that stretches on forever. A pumpkin smokes a cigar as he sweeps. A forlorn fairy stares at her reflection. Through all this, you stay in the main hallway until you arrive at the throne room. 

A raven precedes you, perching on the shoulder of what looks like a man. He is rail thin and wears dark robes. His skin is moon-white, his hair the color of night, and stars shine in his black eyes. He hears your plea and nods before taking a pinch of sand from his pouch and blowing. You wake up and go to your writing desk. You’ve had an idea for a great new story. You never notice The Sandman quietly watching you.

If Watchmen is the Citizen Kane of comic books, then The Sandman is Casablanca. An attempt to update a lesser-known Golden Age superhero resulted in one of DC Comics’ biggest hits. So who is The Sandman? Where did he come from? Is he a hero, villain, or something else? Let’s find out.

Enter Sandman: The Sandman’s Backstory

Dream:You barred me from my realm with your foolish circle. You threatened, cajoled and pleaded for a gift that was not mankind’s to receive or mine to give. Lord what fools these mortals be. Well? Have you no excuse? No explanation? No reason I should not take reprisal?
Alex:We didn’t want you. It was all a mistake. We weren’t trying to capture you. We wanted to capture Death.”
Dream:WHAT? You wanted Death? Then count yourself fortunate for the sake of your species and your petty planet that you did not succeed. That instead you snared Death’s younger brother. You’ll never know how lucky you were.

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes

The Sandman, also known as Morpheus and Dream of The Endless, debuted in The Sandman #1 in 1989. He was created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg.

A cult wanted to achieve immortality by capturing the personification of Death. Their spell went awry and captured Dream, The Sandman, instead. The cult’s leader imprisoned him for seventy years, trying to force Dream to make him immortal. Dream eventually escaped with weakened powers and returned to his realm, The Dreaming.

The Sandman’s return was not a joyous affair. His realm had fallen into disrepair and several inhabitants had left in his absence. Dream learned the only way to restore his power and The Dreaming was to gather three treasures that had been stolen. Dream worked with John Constantine to reclaim his pouch of sand, went to Hell for his helmet, and battled the mad villain Doctor Destiny for control of his ruby moonstone. With the three items gathered, The Dreaming was restored.

Requiem For A Dream: The Sandman’s History

Dream: [narrating]Flowers gathered in the morning
Afternoon, they blossom on
Still are withered in the evening
You can be me when I’m gone.

The Sandman: The Kindly Ones

Many of The Sandman’s stories were presented as an anthology, with the protagonist character encountering Dream or his siblings. Even plot-oriented volumes used him sparingly as an observer or supporting character. But there were times Dream stepped into the limelight.

While rounding up escapees from his realm, Morpheus encountered retired superheroes Fury and Dr. Fate. They were trapped in a dream dimension by a pair of rogue nightmares and later had a son named Daniel. The heroes didn’t know that their son was being raised to develop control of The Dreaming. Morpheus captured the nightmares and freed the heroes, but placed a claim on Daniel as his price.

Dream once attempted to rescue a former lover from Hell, only to find the infernal realm empty. Lucifer had quit and gave control of the realm to Dream as revenge for outwitting him. Morpheus played host to dozens of pantheons seeking control of Hell before choosing to return it to Heaven. As for Lucifer, he was spun-off into a popular self-titled series which was eventually adapted by Fox.

Dream’s time came to an end when he mercifully euthanized his son, Orpheus. Doing so enraged The Furies, who attacked The Dreaming. The Sandman was lured from his realm into one where they could physically harm him, but Death intervened and allowed Dream to pass peacefully.

This wasn’t the end for Morpheus. His essence merged with Daniel, transforming the child into a new incarnation of Dream of the Endless. Daniel helped several of Morpheus’ friends cope with his death before entering The Dreaming to fulfill his duties. Dream is dead. Long live Dream.

Dream a Little Dream of Me: The Sandman’s Powers and Personality

[Dream is traveling with Death]
Death:…Gets me down too. Mostly they aren’t too keen to see me. They fear the sunless lands, but enter your realm each night without fear.
Dream:And I am far more terrible than you, my sister.

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes

The Endless are some of the DC Universe’s most powerful beings, and The Sandman is no exception. He has complete dominion over sleep, dreams, and stories. He can trap victims in constant waking nightmares, force story ideas into their heads, travel through dreams, and his mood affects what everyone dreams about.

Dream is able to warp reality, but rarely does so outside of The Dreaming. It’s implied that only Death, Destiny, God, Lucifer, and The Furies are more powerful than him. However, The Sandman is bound by many ancient laws dictating when he can intercede and use his full power. The only two that have been revealed are that The Endless must not spill familial blood and that anyone who falls in love with them will suffer.

Dream is dour, aloof, traditional, narcissistic, and a drama queen. He prioritizes his duties to The Dreaming above all else. Several characters observe that he is lonely and makes himself unapproachable as a defense mechanism. Readers are led to understand that The Sandman’s imprisonment gave him time to identify his faults, and he set up the rest of the series to force himself to change.

Daniel-Dream is similar to Morpheus because he has his memories. His human upbringing makes him much kinder than Morpheus and more willing to help people if he can get around the rules. Daniel also goes out of his way to avoid his predecessor’s mistakes.

The Actors Who Play The Sandman

James McAvoy – The Sandman (Audio Drama)
Tom Sturridge – Netflix’s The Sandman

Didya Get All That?

The king of dreams and stories

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