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on 7 June 2000
I'll admit that there was a certain amount of trepidation involved in this, my first ever Amazon purchase.
The Sandman is one of those affairs that people tend to take to their hearts and, in the same way that deconstructing poems can destroy the illusion, I worried that applying the formaldehyde and pinning the Sandman's wings to the board might destroy the butterfly. In this, I'll put my hands up. I was wrong.
It was fascinating to learn how much had passed me by. The main thing that has come out of reading this highly readable (bed, bath & train) companion volume was that I am looking forward to going back to the original books again. Hy Bender's work throws light into corners I hadn't even realised were dusty! The wealth of allusion, in-jokes and references was always apparent to anyone but the most casual reader, (did the Sandman have any casual readers?) but a myriad of new references lay undiscovered until now. Gaiman comes across as a mixture of fanboy, technician and always artist but what was more interesting to me was his sense of humour.
Buy it, read it and go back to the originals. You thought you knew what happened. Now look again; the dream has changed beyond recognition...
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VINE VOICEon 20 January 2010
The Sandman Companion by Hy Bender

I had the honour of reading DC Vertigo's comic The Sandman as it was being released as a monthly comic in the 1990s, and Bender has written an excellent concordance, elegantly and clearly written, the kind of book that sends you straight back to the comics themselves to see what it is being talked about.

Part 1 (Overview) does what it says on the tin, it introduces The Sandman (Chapter 1) and gives a brief biography of its creator Neil Gaiman and his creative influences (Chapter 2).

Part 2 (The Sandman Collections) comprises chapters 3-12, each chapter is dedicated to of the 10 trade paperbacks that collected the 75 issues and 3 specials and this is done in chronological order. Bender begins each chapter with a well written synopsis of the comic issues covered by each tpb and then moves on to 'Some Things Worth Noticing' before finishing each chapter with an extended interview with Gaiman. Each chapter is interspersed with black and white illustrations and by grey text boxes which contain information, anecdotes and interviews from the dozens of pencillers, inkers, colourists, letterers, editors and celebrities that were involved with the series.

In the centre of the book is a gorgeous set of colour plates displaying some of the Sandman trading cards, tarot cards, proposal sketches, posters, figurines and Dave McKean covers.

Part 3 (Backstory) covers the origins of the major and some of the minor characters of the series (some are mythology, some have their roots in the older DC Universe, some from literature and some just out of Gaiman's imagination), repeating motifs and patterns, the nature of comic as medium and The Sandman's audience.

A worthy collection, certainly not just a cash-in
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on 16 September 2009
I thought this was a great book. It essentially looks at each collection in turn, with Hy Bender describing the story arc and 'Some Things Worth Noticing' and then he lets Neil Gaiman talk about the creative process and points of interest for that section. Neil Gaiman is a really articulate interviewee and gives great value, and its what he talks about that is the main interest in the book. Fortunately there's lots of space for him and its fascinating to read. The only slight disappointment is that the 'Some Things Worth Noticing' section for each collection is normally only a couple of pages long and, while it does give some interesting interpretations, this bit is just too short. It would have been interesting if this bit was expanded for the author to attempt more exploration and critical analysis of subtext, mythology etc. Neil Gaiman does touch on this at times but this feels like a missed opportunity.

For me, the book could have been twice as long as it is so readable and The Sandman is a massive work which fully justifies the attention. This isn't a criticism but rather an expression of how much I enjoyed reading this book. Highly recommended.
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on 8 January 2001
A truly essential book for all sandman fans. Informative, well written, and imaginative. This book takes you through Gaimans ideas the whole way through the series. Not enough information on the artists, but some wonderful previously unrevealed pictures. Plus a picture of the li'l Endless!!!!
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VINE VOICEon 12 March 2004
Bender's "Companion" is not so much a companion as I was led to believe it was; the general vibe seemed to suggest it would take you through the grand arc of "The Sandman" graphic novels, pointing out interesting little tidbits of information here and there which would provide a deeper understanding of just what Gaiman has done.
This it did not do. Bender, instead, conducted numerous interviews with Gaiman on each story arc. While Gaiman does himself provide the odd tidbit, the focus is more on the gestation of the stories and how Gaiman transfered them from his rather dark mind and onto the page. Which is fascinating, of course.
The main problem I have, though, is that there is not enough of Gaiman in this book. Since it's Gaiman who produces all the interesting information, 'why' I ask myself 'must Bender devote so many pages to her own description of the stories?' After all, there is probably one person on this planet who read this book before reading the graphic novels themselves, so we all know the plots. Equally, most of us will have noticed what Bender describes as 'Some things worth noticing'; almost everything she points out will be immediately obvious to a careful reader.
However, I would still recommend a Sandman fan buy this book, since Gaiman's interviews are fascinating reading, as is his account of how he got into comics and how he wound up revamping "The Sandman" in the first place.
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on 11 December 2000
At first I was considering whether or not to get this book - after all, so many 'Companions' are out there now for this and that, most of them drull 'facts' which you can already work out. This however, was a beautiful compilation of information, going through each graphic novel and analysing thm, with 'things worth noting' in each chapter. Alongside the running commentary from Neil Gaiman and Hy Bender, you have incerpts from illustrators who give glimpses into the world they inhabit. A lovely bit by Brian Talbot as well, and also on "making Cats talk" by the 'penwriter'. The one minor criticism I had with this book was it was too brief in some parts. If you have visited the annotations on the web you can understand this view, wanting all of that information in one book would be more of an 'encyclopaedia of the Sandman' (any takers..?), but for those who want to merely glance behind the scenes for a short while, then I highly recommend this book to you. Five stars for this companion, a must for those who know Morpheus and the Dreaming.
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