I don’t know why, but right now, I am completely, completely enamoured by Neil Gaiman’s comic book series (or should we say graphic novel?) Sandman. There are 75 issues in total and I have only read 40 of them so far. Reading comic books on a computer screen is no fun, but the mythic world Gaiman creates is so original, and so romantically enticing that draws you in from the very first frame.
Did I say original? Gaiman’s world is not an invetion like Middle Earth, but a re-adjustment of the existing myths in a new setting, very much like what what J K Rowling did in the Harry Potter series. Gaiman creates fairy tales for the MTV generation.
Honesty. Why must all fairy tales should have kings and queens? There were kings and queens in Hans Christian Anderson, for example, because, during his days there were kings and queens. So, in the modern New York City, where there are subways, and drug addicts, and cross-dressers, why cannot we create fairy tales involving them. That’s preciously Gaiman does. He creates modern fairy tales. And how?
The Sandman series centres around Dream, a personified figure. Wikipedia uses the word, “anthropomorphic,” meaning when you atribute human characteristics to a non-human entity... Anyway, he is Dream, known by various other names, as Morpheus, Oneiros, the Shaper, the Shaper of Form, Lord of the Dreaming, the Dream King, Dream-Sneak, Dream Cat, Murphy, Kai'ckul, and Lord L'Zoril... who is emotionally fragile like any other romantic young man. Centuries ago, he had fallen in love with a human queen, Nada, and when she spurned his advances, she being mortal, he being Endless, he torments her with eternal punishment in hell. He later rescues her, but that’s another story.
Dream isn’t a god, he’s Endless, and he has several siblings, Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium and the missing one, Destruction. They are all Endless and they live in their own realms, somewhere way beyond the earth, but they can walk easily in the mortal world, and can also show themselves to the humans if they want to.
Dream’s job, understandably, is to help people dream. Among other things, his realm has a huge library, which contains books that were planned but never written, for example, my favourite, ‘The Merry Comedie of the Redemption of Dr Faustus’ by Christopher Marlowe (Poor Marlowe, he was killed too early).
So, where are the Gods, and other supernatural beings? Gaiman’s world is also the so called DC comics universe, so we meet a host of DC comics characters, from Lucifer Morningstar, the keeper of hell, who after a while abandons it, to superheroes like John Constantine. Gaiman also has Gods for all pantheons... We meet Egyptian Horus, Nordic Odin Allfather and his two sons, we meet Greek semi-god Orpheus, who happens to be Dream’s son, Eve from The Bible, and Caine and Abel and various Angels.
What what about the God with capital G? Gaiman mentions him, fleeing, but there’s no heaven. There’s a place called Silver City, whose reflection is the Hell.
While creating the supernatural, metaphysical world Gaiman seems to have followed the Peter Pan creator James Barrie, who said: “Every time a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.”
So, Gods die in Gaiman’s world. He argues that the existence of the God’s hinges on the belief of the mortals. If people stopped believing in Gods, they’d be dead. Hence, the Greek and Roman Gods disappeared.
What is more interesting is that Gaiman never mentions Indian Gods. He mentions a Japanese God from Nippon though.
I wish if we had some fantasy comics involving our Gods. Sometimes back there was a comic book series called ‘The Sadhu,’ and something involving an Indian snake woman (not Mallika Sherawat), I haven’t heard much about them.
And, Amish in Meluha series humanises the Gods, which is also an interesting take.
More about Sandman here.
More about Neil Gaiman here.
More about The Sadhu here.