The Sandman HC / TP


Season of Mists (Sandman #21-28)

Release: Jul 23, 1992

Cover: Sep 1992



WriterNeil Gaiman
Cover ArtistDave McKean
PencillerMike Dringenberg, Kelley Jones
InkerGeorge Pratt, Malcolm Jones III
ColoristSteve Oliff, Daniel Vozzo
LettererTodd Klein

After binging Dead Boy Detectives last weekend, I thought I should take a quick look at the storyline that served as the point of origin for the dead boys and served as the point of origin for my reading of The Sandman.

I was aware of the series thanks to DC house ads and had read a fair amount about it – and about writer Neil Gaiman – in the comics press, and while I was intrigued, I had yet to pull the trigger until the day I decided to join the Science Fiction Book Club and saw that this volume was available. From what I’d read about the series, it seemed like any arc was a good jumping-on point, and this arc was one I’d read about, so I grabbed it.

It’s a cool and distinctive edition, with its faux leather cover and debossed details and is made even cooler by the fact that my copy is signed and sketched in by Gaiman himself:

After reading this, I was instantly hooked, and started working my way backwards and forwards to collect the rest of the series. Eventually, I would lose much of what I had after lending it out, but years later I went on to collect it all again in hardcover volumes, none of which is as cool as this one.

Anyway, the story: After a family meeting, Dream of the Endless – the titular Sandman – ventures to Hell to undo a great wrong he’d committed in the past. Upon arriving in Hell, he finds that it’s mostly empty and that Lucifer has decided to quit tormenting damned souls and kicked everyone out. Lucifer then locks all the doors and gives Dream the key.

In the waking world, chaos reigns, as all Hell has literally broken loose, and in the Dreaming, Dream’s kingdom, things aren’t much better, as the King of Dreams is descended upon by numerous entities and anthropomorphized abstract concepts, each looking to stake a claim on the piece of valuable infernal real estate Dream now possesses.

Amid all of that, we spend one issue focusing on a boarding school in England, where a boy named Charles is the sole student on campus during holiday, but he isn’t alone for long, as several dead students, faculty, and staff who had until recently been residing in Hell return to familiar grounds.

One of the returning students is a boy named Edwin who’d died nearly eighty years earlier, sacrificed to the Devil by some sadistic bullies. Those bullies also returned to the school, and took to bullying Charles. leaving him on the verge of death. As he’s dying, he and Edwin become fast friends, and when Death comes for Charles, he refuses to go, wanting to stay with Edwin. Death, who is rather frazzled by the mess Hell’s closure has caused, doesn’t have time to argue, so she leaves, which is what Charles and Edwin decide to do as well, turning their backs on the school where they died and venturing out into the wider world.

Eventually, the boys open up their own detective agency, and throughout the years have had their own series of comics, and now, after having made an appearance on Doom Patrol*, they have their own series on Netflix.

Dead Boy Detectives is actually the second TV series to spin out of this story arc, albeit not directly, as there were multiple comics appearances in between, with the other being Lucifer. I actually find that kind of amusing, given that this storyline has not yet been adapted on the Netflix series based on the comic it’s from.

Obviously, given that it made me a fan of the comic series and of its writer, this story arc is a personal favorite, though it’s not my favorite Sandman arc – that would be Brief Lives – so I thought that at the very least it deserved the Short Box treatment, especially given that it’s somewhat topical.

I immediately found the concept, characters, and plot of this story arc as engaging as I found Jones’s depiction of Hell horrifying, and it’s long been my go-to recommendation as a starting point for anyone interested in getting into Sandman, and it’s worked as something of a gateway drug as I’ve acted as a pusher trying to get others hooked.

Assuming it gets adapted, I’m looking forward to seeing what the adaptation of this storyline will be like on the Netflix Sandman.

As for Dead Boy Detectives, while it does seem to exist in the same universe as Sandman, it has been separated out from “Season of Mists,” which makes sense, given that the timing wouldn’t work, since, as mentioned, it hasn’t been adapted yet, but still feels like kind of a shame to me. The show keeps the broad strokes of how Charles and Edwin became dead boy detectives, but the version presented on the show fell a little flat for me, lacking some of the more interesting – and horrific – elements.

But this is a post about the comic, not the show, and while I would say Dead Boy Detectives is worth watching if you feel like it, reading “Season of Mists” – and the rest of Sandman – is, in my estimation, essential.

*The Netflix series recast the leads.

Born and raised in the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Jon Maki developed an enduring love for comics at an early age.

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