A Dream Journal, As It Were: Too Many Thoughts on “The Sandman” Season 1

Tom Sturridge IS the Sandman!

Remember, kids: don’t dream angry!

I was in high school when The Sandman #1 hit comic shop shelves in the fall of 1988. Springing forth from the mind of Neil Gaiman, whom I chiefly knew from Miracleman and Black Orchid, it was unlike anything I’d read before in comics or other media, and was a must-buy over the next seven years — through its transition to DC Comics’ subsequently inaugurated Vertigo line, in its rise to alt-culture superstardom, and even during some of the least favorite parts of my life. The Sandman lasted longer in my life than I lasted in college. I still have all 75 issues, the special with Orpheus’ story, the two Death miniseries, the lovely hardcover edition of my favorite arc (Season of Mists), and some (not all) of the other ensuing spinoffs. (Of most recent vintage, I loved the Gaiman-approved two-issue crossover with Locke and Key, which may have meant more to fans of the latter but contained key prequel scenes to the world of Dream, including front row seats to the fall of Lucifer.)

I rarely allow myself high expectations for anything anymore, but The Sandman left a deep enough mark on my psyche that I insisted the all-new Netflix adaptation — closely supervised by Gaiman — simply had to be The Greatest Netflix Show of All Time. Nothing less would do. The jury’s out on that for now, but after having watched all ten episodes within a 21-hour span (with wasteful intermissions for sleep and life, not necessarily in that order), I can enthusiastically say for now it’ll do. It’ll very much do.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Thor: Love and Thunder” End Credits

Tessa Thompson and Natalie Portman in "Thor Love and Thunder".

“Y’know, if we let Gorr end him, we could have the movie all to ourselves…”

Unlike some actors we know who used to earn eight-figure paychecks from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and now probably have to subsist on seven-figure residuals, Chris Hemsworth isn’t going anywhere. The star and Executive Producer is back for Thor: Love and Thunder, as is Taika Waititi, costar and director of Thor: Ragnarok, the Best Thor Movie Ever and possibly the funniest MCU film to date. Perplexingly, he’s followed up with my least favorite Waititi film to date.

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Fan Expo Chicago 2022 Photos, Part 3 of 4: Apollo and the Clone Wars

Ashley Eckstein and Matt Lanter!

“Snips and Skyguy”, as the delightful Star Wars panel was billed.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

This past weekend Anne and I attended the inaugural Fan Expo Chicago, the comics/entertainment convention formerly known as Wizard World Chicago, and before that the unbranded Chicago Comic Con. As a proud continuation of that chain of comic-con provenance, a 50th-anniversary logo featured in their decor and con souvenirs. Their initial guest-list game was strong enough to lure us back to the suburb of Rosemont for our first time in four years to see what we could make of this latest iteration. Would it be an all-new all-different Chicago Comic Con, or Wizard World under a bed sheet with two eye-holes poked in it?

If we reused headline formats from our past comic-con write-ups, this one would be the Friday edition of “What We Did and Who We Met”. Once we emerged impatient and unscathed from Chicago construction traffic, Friday was a laid-back stroll around the exhibit hall because most of the action was scheduled for Saturday, when nearly all the scheduled guests would be around. Friday, they weren’t so much, but we had the pleasure of attending a pair of Q&As with actors who graciously dropped in a day early.

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My 2022 Reading Stacks #1

Barry Windsor-Smith Monsters!

Maybe not the best place to start while writing over July 4th weekend…or is it?

Welcome once again to our recurring MCC feature in which I scribble capsule reviews of everything I’ve read that was published in a physical format over a certain page count with a squarebound spine on it — novels, original graphic novels, trade paperbacks, infrequent nonfiction dalliances, and so on. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text, though I do try to diversify my literary diet as time and acquisitions permit.

Occasionally I’ll sneak in a contemporary review if I’ve gone out of my way to buy and read something brand new. Every so often I’ll borrow from my wife Anne or from our local library. But the majority of our spotlighted works are presented years after the rest of the world already finished and moved on from them because I’m drawing from my vast unread pile that presently occupies four oversize shelves comprising thirty-three years of uncontrolled book shopping. I’ve occasionally pruned the pile, but as you can imagine, cut out one unread book and three more take its place.

I’ve previously written why I don’t do eBooks. Perhaps someday I’ll also explain why these capsules are exclusive to MCC and not shared on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites where their authors might prefer I’d share them. In the meantime, here’s me and my reading results, which I should’ve begun tracking months ago…

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 3: How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way

Amazing Spider-Man #252 cover!

I was 11 when Amazing Spider-Man #252 debuted his black costume and blew my mind. Art by Ron Frenz and Klaus Janson.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

Now we’re to my favorite part of the Marvel exhibit at Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry. The statues were fun and the MCU film props and costumes were quite a sight to behold up close, but original comics art is a rarity for me to see in person. Growing up, buying original art was something rich comics investors did for fun and showiness, nothing a poor kid like me could ever afford. In adulthood I’ve climbed up the ladder high enough that I now own a few modest pages, nothing fancy.

The Marvel exhibit features over six dozen pages drawn by the original artists across 80+ years of the medium’s history — not just reproductions, the real thing, largely loaned by private collectors identified below each frame for provenance and gratitude. Some were autographed by the artists; in a few of the older pieces, you can see where artists (and Stan “The Man” Lee) autographed them years after the fact. The following gallery, less than half the total works on display, is a selection of those that stuck out to me for various reasons and didn’t succumb to blurry photography. One of them even has color. (Painted, at that!) A few have behind-the-scenes Easter eggs, such as our lead photo — if you click on the cover to ASM #252 you can read Klaus Janson’s notes in the margins addressed to George Roussos, the colorist who handled all Marvel covers at the time. For me, the little details add to the thrill of comics art appreciation.

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 1: The Merry Marvel Museum Menagerie

Spidey and jazz hands!

I began collecting Amazing Spider-Man at age 6, around the first time Aunt May died. 44 years later, one of us has aged better.

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Whether through a lot of lucky cosmic dice rolls or by divine interference, I’ve just now lived to see 50. We’d had to keep Anne’s own 50th-birthday outing modest because the pandemic curtailed our options. It was her wish that we wouldn’t have to compromise the same way for mine. After weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio. We’ve driven through them several times on our way to other states, we’ve checked out their As-Seen-on-TV giant burgers, we’ve twice attended the most awesome indie comics show in the Midwest, and we’ve even been inside their capitol dome. We dug a little more deeply and learned they have still more to offer, especially in my fields of interest.

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A Night with Neil Gaiman in Indianapolis

Neil Gaiman at Clowes Hall Indianapolis!

Artist’s rendition of the evening. (DISCLAIMER: Artist never learned how to Photoshop.)

Dateline: Monday, May 16, 2022 – Tonight I stepped foot on the campus of Butler University for the first time in 19 years because the Neil Gaiman thoughtfully included Indianapolis on his current cross-country speaking tour, and Clowes Hall was the venue of choice for the occasion. In exchange for this rare opportunity, strict rules were implemented. Rule #1: Masks were required. Freebies were handed out to those who needed them. No problem: I brought my own.

Rule #2: No photos or video during the performance. This isn’t an unusual or oppressive rule to me (especially not video — no pivoting to same on this website), but whenever this rule is laid down and I’m itching to share the story online, most venues have something I can photograph as a memento of the event in lieu of the performers themselves — a marquee, a billboard, a cardboard standee, any kind of one-night-only visual prop as evidence that a festive occasion was in store. Clowes Hall had absolutely nothing. We might as well have been walking into calculus class.

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My Free Comic Book Day 2022 Results, Ranked

Free Comic Book Day 2022!

The reading pile, in random order.

It’s that time of year again, but slightly delayed on my part! Saturday, May 7th was the 21st Free Comic Book Day, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or in rare instances real-world protagonists. It’s one of the best holidays ever for hobbyists like me who’ve been comics readers since the days when drugstores sold them for thirty-five cents each and comic book movies were sad, cheapskate abominations.

Each year comic shops lure fans and curious onlookers inside their brick-and-mortar hideaways with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration. After the online-only FCBD of 2020 A.P. (Annus Pandemus) and the delayed-gratification post-vaccine FCBD of August 2021, this year’s model returned to the traditional observance on the first weekend in May. Also per tradition, a major comic-book movie was released the same weekend and sucked up an awful lot of my free time that otherwise might’ve been spent reading and then writing-about-reading.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” End Credits

Dr, Strange 2 IMAX Poster!

We don’t always pay extra for Marvel movie upgrades, but this time…eh, why not.

A coworker of mine was invited to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on opening weekend despite the fact that she’d never watched a single Marvel product in her life. While I chuckled for a few minutes and mentally judged the invitee for his selfish chutzpah, another coworker generally on the same pop-culture page as me graciously tried to recap both the first Doctor Strange and Spider-Man: No Way Home in hopes that it might give her the slightest help before being dragged into the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s kind to show someone how to dog-paddle at least a little before they’re shoved into the deep end of the pool by some dude eagerly looking forward to giving her swimming lessons while she’s drowning. Oh, the gleeful countdown he probably kept in his head for days until that heroic moment when he could point at Benedict Cumberbatch onscreen and proudly, loudly whisper to her, “That’s Doctor Strange!”

Meanwhile, I’m unhelpfully daydreaming how this exchange might’ve been twice as entertaining, but only half as helpful, if at all helpful, if coworker #2 had delivered the recap in the style of Ant-Man’s pal Luis. I am arguably an enabler of the problem here.

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My 2021 Reading Stacks #6-Up: The Super-Sized Finale

Reading Stack 2021, Books and Graphic Novels!

All 41 books and graphic novels featured in this series, not including the two I borrowed from Anne.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Welcome once again to our recurring MCC feature in which I scribble capsule reviews of everything I’ve read lately that was published in a physical format over a certain page count with a squarebound spine on it — novels, original graphic novels, trade paperbacks, infrequent nonfiction dalliances, and so on. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text, though I do try to diversify my literary diet as time and acquisitions permit.

Occasionally I’ll sneak in a contemporary review if I’ve gone out of my way to buy and read something brand new. Every so often I’ll borrow from my wife or from our local library. But the majority of our spotlighted works are presented years after the rest of the world already finished and moved on from them because I’m drawing from my vast unread pile that presently occupies four oversize shelves comprising thirty-three years of uncontrolled book shopping. I’ve occasionally pruned the pile, but as you can imagine, cut out one unread book and three more take its place.

I’ve previously written why I don’t do eBooks. Perhaps someday I’ll also explain why these capsules are exclusive to MCC and not shared on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites where their authors might prefer I’d share them…

Among the may disadvantages of scaling back my internet writing hobby is I now a massive backlog of entries that I tell myself I must do someday, which are now trapped in a bottleneck in my mind. Rather than drag these out to October, here’s all the other books and graphic novels I finished reading in 2021. Some capsules have been truncated to save time and to cut corners in instances where the work left an unmemorable impression on me. As usual, these aren’t ranked or even listed in reading order. They’re simply the order in which I’m grabbing them off the towers that have been sitting next to our computer for months and waiting for me to do this. So LET’S DO THIS.

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