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Sandman (vol.2) #6 (1989)

Sandman (vol.2) #6 (June, 1989)
“24 Hours”
Neil Gaiman – Writer
Mike Dringenberg & Malcolm Jones III – Artists
(w/special thanks to Dom Carola)
Robbie Busch – Colorist
Todd Klein – Letters
Art Young – Asst. Editor
Karen Berger – Editor
Cover Price: $1.50

Coming from a time before Vertigo Comics was the imprint/home of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, 24 Hours features former Justice League villain Doctor Destiny, now John Dee, as he spend an entire day making the patrons and waitress of a small diner into his playthings.  This was a fun era of Sandman, and honestly the only one I could really get into.  I have the complete run, but usually stop reading in the mid-to-late-teens.  I have heard so much good about this title, that I suppose I’m afraid it won’t live up to the hype.  Perhaps it’s time for another try…

John Dee is in possession of Morpheus’ ruby that had earlier absorbed much of Morpheus’ powers.  He is biding his time at diner, until Morpheus eventually arrives.  While he waits, he makes the other people around him act out.  His very presence (along with the ruby) has caused madness and suicidal activity to occur.

We open on a waitress, Bette, who fancies herself a writer.  She writes about her usual customers, telling their stories in the way she thinks they should play out.  She always makes sure to end her stories on a happy note… as she states, it’s important to know when to end a story… if not, it will always end in death.

Among the diner patrons are Judy, a young woman who is currently going through relationship troubles with her girlfriend; A young man who is grabbing a cup of coffee while he waits for a big job interview; The Fletchers, a husband and wife who may not be as happy as they let on; Marsh, a widower and truck driver; and a quiet stranger who is seated in the corner.  He appears frail, dark, and balding… he is holding a shiny red stone on a chain.  He is John Dee.

Throughout the first several hours of the 24, the young man decides not to go through with his job interview, choosing instead to remain at the diner… A children’s television host, playing on the diner’s TV set instructs his young viewers to slash their wrists… and Mr. Fletcher becomes frustrated and discombobulated, knowing they had been at the diner for too long, yet at the same time feeling as though they had just arrived.

Later, Dee lets the patrons live out their dreams… The young man has a high powered job, Mr. Fletcher is sitting in an expensive convertible being serviced by a prostitute, Mrs. Fletcher has killed her husband, Bette is an accomplished best-selling author…

Conflict is introduced during hour nine, and the patrons physically fight.  The people name Dee as God during the tenth hour, carrying him on their shoulders… one even offers him their finger for sustenance.  Televised news shows a wave of hopelessness and malaise taking hold on an international level.  He learns their darkest secrets and allows them to give in to their more carnal urges.

Fifteen hours in, he briefly returns them to their right minds.  They become painfully aware of how they had been acting thus far.  When asked why he was doing this, Dee replies “Because I can.”

As the day winds down, Dee reduces the patrons to their most primal level.  The men fight over the women, and the women huddle together in fear.  Dee later uses the women for entertainment, they dance and sing for his pleasure.  The final patron we see alive is Judy, the young woman.  Dee shows her how she may finally “see the glory”.  In a disturbing row of panels, Judy jams long skewers into her eyes.

Over the past 22 hours, John Dee turned a diner into a horrific and gory scene.  All that’s left is to wait.  Two hours later, as though Dee planned it… Morpheus arrives to take back his ruby.

This is definitely my favorite issue of Sandman.  Admittedly, I haven’t yet read the series in its entirety, I just can’t imagine it getting much better than this… this is an amazing story!  This issue was incredibly engaging, and caused me to actually form a measure of empathy for its small ensemble cast.

The story is so well told… very dense, but at the same time it felt as though I read through it in no time flat.  It comes as no surprise (or at least it shouldn’t), Neil Gaiman is, ya know… pretty good.  The art is not really a style that I normally dig, however, it is quite fitting for a tale of this kind.

It’s crazy to think that this story is actually taking place in the DC Universe.  In the issues leading up to this one, Morpheus meets with both Mister Miracle and the Martian Manhunter, while in pursuit of his ruby.  Proto-Vertigo was such a fun playground… the current “DC Dark” or whatever they are calling it (if its still a thing, that is) has absolutely nothing on it.

This issue was part of a lot I stumbled across during a Half Price Books Independence Day sale… I found the entire series (minus issues 1 and 15), for ten-cents apiece.  Sandman is always available in trade, and though I am a “single issue” guy, I would definitely recommend picking this one up as part of a collected edition.  This issue is fantastic on its own, however, reading in trade really helps put the reader where they need to be.

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Caption: “They weren’t just customers.  They were raw material.”

Soap Opera: “But if my siamese twin is HIV positive, Doctor, doesn’t that mean–*gasp*…?”

Children’s Show Host: “…We’re going to die.  Dino says we’re all going to die.  Dino told me.  He says we should slash out wrists now…”

John Dee (to Morpheus): “Hello.  I’m glad you’re here.  It was starting to get a bit boring.”

UPDATE 5/7/2023 – “Remastered” for WordPress

0 thoughts on “Sandman (vol.2) #6 (1989)

  • Yeah the first few years of Sandman was awesome. The pinnacle was "Season of Mists". After that…well, Gainman will be Gaiman I guess…it became so overblown and pretentious the sheer fun of it all was lost. I've often wondered what Sandman would have been like if he kept the tone of these issues and "Season of Mists". Closest approximation would be the various volumes of "Lucifer", which keep some of that classic Sandman vibe from those days.

    • It's funny you say that… I, too couldn't get past the sorta-kinda pretentiousness of later Sandman… damned if I haven't tried to over the years though! I usually get to the mid-to-late teen-issues when I give it a proper "go", but never get much further than that.

    • Just start at #21 and read the seven part "Season of Mists". You'll thank me.

    • I'll shift those a bit higher up on my "to read" pile!


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