Sandman #1 (Winter, 1974)
Penciller & Editor – Jack Kirby
Script – Joe Simon
Inker & Letterer – Mike Royer
Cover Price: $0.20
Engaging in a little bit of review-synergy today as we discuss Simon and Kirby’s Sandman #1. Over at Weird Science DC Comics, my pod-ner and pal Reggie is reviewing Sandman OVERsize Special #1, as part of DC’s celebration of The King’s 100th Birthday.
So, after you read about
Garrett Sanford… er, Sandman’s first outing, you should definitely check out Reggie’s review of his most recent… ish, um, if it’s in continuity that is. Eh, we’ll just say it is.
Now let’s hop back to the mid-70’s.
We open with a young boy named Jed in the midst of a terrible nightmare. A shipwrecked man is bobbing in the angry sea while holding a doll that looks like a mix between Annihilus and a Skrull. The boy’s struggling is overheard by his grandfather, Ezra who runs in to check on him. Jed is positive that his dream was real, and despite his doubts, Ezra accompanies him outside… where they find the same man from the dream! How can that be? Wellllll, there might just be a garishly dressed man behind all of this.
Jed and Ezra pull the man out of the drink, just in time for him to die. His last words are in reference to his Annihilus-Skrull doll… he pleads with them not to let it fall into “their” hands. He also calls it a Werblink. Jed thinks the little stuffed beast is pretty cool, while Ezra appears more than a little skeeved out by the thing.
Jed returns to bed with his new doll beside him… and he does what he does best… has terrifying dreams! In this one, an over-sized Werblink is chasing his grandfather across a strange barren planet. Jed tries to catch up, but falls into a crater. We flip to Sandman-vision, where our hero just received a “Nightmare Alert”. He knows should Jed hit bottom, he’d… I dunno, probably die in real life. Sandman’s nightmare buddies (?) Brute and Glob are all “screw it, let’m fall”, but he ignores them and fetches the lad anyway.
As Sandman flies Jed out of the danger zone, he instructs him to wake up. This must’ve been another loud nightmare, because Ezra has come to check on him again. Jed explains the dream… and so Ezra dishes out some Dolphin Island justice on the little toy… smashing it repeatedly against a table.
Realizing that what he’d just done was flat-out batty, Ezra does what anybody would do in that situation… grabs a shovel and buries the evidence. After shoveling the final scoop of dirt over the little beastie, he says that he hopes that their lives will be “peaceable” again. Dude, the doll like… just got there… like 15 minutes ago, what are you talking about?
Now for something completely different… the introduction of General Electric! We shift over to Japan where a pair of neurosurgeons discuss the impressive developments in “Japanese brain surgery”. Doctor Masugi informs Doctor Kaufman that this is due to their ability to “observe” the brain. B-b-but how? Ya see, there was this fella who led the Kamikazes during World War II who somehow survived a crash despite his head being basically destroyed. And so, they rebuilt his head… out of electric devices, and covered the whole thing with a glass dome!
The pair of Em-Dees then visit with the General, who is busy building… uh-oh… dolls! Dr. Kaufman goes to reach for one of the dolls, at which time General Electric becomes rather violent.
A gaggle of guards bust in the door to see what the hub-bub’s about. Masugi tells them that GE’s gone mad… though, before he can be restrained he throws himself through a window to escape. The guards raise their guns, but Masugi stops them from firing… because, between all dem circuits and know-how, there’s a ton of Yen invested in that man’s noggin.
We hop back to Dolphin Island, and one week has passed. We join a curious dog… who approaches a curious clump of (ticking!) Earth. After digging a bit, the doggy finds quite the… er, curious creature.
That night, Sandman’s Nightmare Alert once again goes off… however, this time it’s a Four-Alarm Nightmare Alert! It would seem all of the children in the area of Dolphin Island are not only having a nightmare… they’re having the same nightmare! Brute and Glob ask to be released from their glass encasements (via Sandman’s “hypnosonic” whistle) to attend to the crisis. Sandman refuses, claiming they’d just bungle everything. He slides down his Ejector Tube, which looks like a lot of fun, and arrives in the mortal world… where an Earthquake is causing all sorts of damage! He immediately lends the first responders a hand.
Turns out his assistance isn’t all that welcome. He’s approached by an officer who begins reading him the riot act. When Sandman begins pouring some mystical sand over an injured man, the officer raises his gun. This leaves our man no other option than to start tossing sand every which way to put his pursuers to sleep for a bit. I guess we’ll forget that there’s an Earthquake occurring, and how the officers may have been of assistance to those affected.
Elsewhere on the island, young Jed is digging up his doll. As soon as he nyoinks the Werblink from the ground, a uniformed man demands he hand it over. Sandman rushes in to save the lad, and gets in a few good shots… before being clobbered by a Jeep.
We shift to the backroom of a doll repair shop on the mainland. It’s adorable… it’s got beds and everything. We learn that the man behind the mischief is… shocker (pun!) General Electric. The uniformed men hand over not only the Werblink, but Sandman and Jed as well. General Electric states he’s been working on exacting his revenge on the United States since World War II.
His plan includes… dolls. Well, to be fair… they’re computerized dolls. When he links both Werblinks together, electric charges will blow Washington D.C. clear off the map. Sandman wishes he’d have let Brute and Glob out of their pods… and as luck would have it, just then one of the baddies discovers the odd whistle he’s carrying in his glove. For whatever reason, he gives it a toot.
This frees Brute and Glob… who fetch their sacks of snips, snails, and lizard tails with which they can torment the bad guys. They arrive in the mortal world and dump out their bags… terrifying the uniformed guards. General Electric hasn’t the foggiest idea what could’ve gotten into them.
Brute and Glob are invisible to General Electric, and are able to quickly untie Sandman without a hitch (pun! I think). Glob gives the whistle a high-frequency toot, which… shatters poor G.E.’s fishbowl beanie… which is immediately followed by the entire doll shop going boom!
We wrap up with Sandman bidding Jed farewell, and saying he will forget all about this misadventure… just as though it were a dream. The issue ends with a note asking for a letter campaign should the fans want to see more of these characters. Wow, it’s like 1st Issue Special up in here!
Hey, now that was pretty weird! Dug the heck out of it, though. Definitely gave me 1st Issue Special vibes. I’m sure if this had come out a year later, it would’ve been an issue of 1st Issue! It’s strange to consider that the next issue of this series wouldn’t hit until several months later… and feature a completely different creative team! You’d (or I’d) figure the main draw to an oddball book like this would be the Simon and Kirby collaboration… not sure anybody’s really chomping at seeing what Michael Fleisher and Ernie Chua have in store for these characters.
Now my history with this character comes from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and a bit from the JSA, where he’s a bit batty… actually, he’s a different dude altogether. Here, he’s more of a straightforward heroic type… who just so happens to be able to cross from the dreamworld into the mortal realm. Though, I do suppose it’s worth mentioning that this fella was originally intended to be the actual Sandman or myth… and not a costumed vigilante, per say.
Now the story itself… is really quite out there. It’s crazy to me that two of the elder statesmen of the comics (and the craft of comics) are responsible for so many daring and outlandish 1970’s concepts (several of which were introduced in 1st Issue Special). I’d reckon that had I read this as a child… it might just have disturbed me a bit. There’s an odd loneliness to it… an isolation. Even when we hear that “all children” are being affected by nightmares… we still only see Jed. The Earthquake victims… just a mere handful of firefighters and officers. Not sure if Jack just didn’t feel like flooding panels with humanity, or if the cast was left sparse on purpose.
General Electric is a strange villain, and his punny name makes me think of Prez for some reason. I could totally see him fitting in there, standing beside Boss Smiley or something. Man, these were some wild times… I feel like I really missed out.
Overall, this is one I’d definitely recommend… based on weirdness alone. The fact that the story is a lot of fun (and nice to look at) is just gravy! This has been reprinted a couple of times… in The Jack Kirby Omnibus, Volume Two (2011) and The Sandman by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (2009). Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem to be available digitally. That’s actually a bit of a surprise.
Anyhoo, before we wrap up… now that you’re more familiar with this Sandman, I want to again recommend checking out Reggie’s review of Sandman OVERsize Special #1 (released today! er, August 16, 2017 for time-travelers) over at Weird Science DC Comics.
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