Jul 14, 2012

Neil Gaiman! J.H. Williams III! Sandman! With Stats!

So I'm calling it. This is going to be the biggest piece of news to come out of San Diego this year. For me, anyway.

Neil Gaiman is writing a SANDMAN prequel for the 25th anniversary of SANDMAN. It will tell the story of what happens right before SANDMAN #1, which I've always been curious about. And now we'll get to see it.

It will be drawn by J.H. Williams III.

I'm just going to say it — this is either gonna be the top-selling comic every single month it's out, or it'll be the top-selling hardcover or trade paperback/ This is gonna be huge, and I don't know if there are any people saying it wouldn't be. It's got everything going for it. Let's look at them:

  • J.H. Williams III is on it. Williams adds Gaiman to the list of writers he's worked with, which includes Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Warren Ellis. He's really the 800-pound gorilla of comics at the moment, who can pretty much do anything he wants, and fans will follow. In addition to just being an incredible and innovative artist, he's also a proven draw financially. Check out the sales for BATWOMAN #3, when he was drawing it. It was the 13th highest DC book at the time, beaten only by the books you expected it to be beaten by (JUSTICE LEAGUE, the SUPERMAN books, the books that BATMAN stars in, GREEN LANTERN, and... fine, I'm surprised by WONDER WOMAN, but BATWOMAN came right after it). Now check out the sales for BATWOMAN #10, when he'd been off it for four issues. It's moved to the 25th bestselling book (20th if you don't count the BEFORE WATCHMEN books). That's not to mention that he's got three — THREE!! — Absolute Editions to his name. To put it into perspective, George Perez and Jim Lee each have two. Sure, Williams' Absolute Editions are all of PROMETHEA, but these are DC's most expensive products, so making them has to be justified by cost. And they made an Absolute Edition of PROMETHEA before an Absolute Edition of THE KILLING JOKE or Alan Moore's SWAMP THING. I'd say Williams is most likely in demand.

    In addition, here's a Delirium commission he did to whet your appetite:

    Not enough? How about a Death?

  • It's the first Sandman in 9 years. Aside from the SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS comic adaptation that P. Craig Russell did a couple of years back, which wasn't an original story, there has been no original SANDMAN story since 2003, when Gaiman did the ENDLESS NIGHTS hardcover with a variety of artists. Fans are starved for more SANDMAN, and this particular prequel has actually been in the works for years. How popular was SANDMAN, really? Well, I was leafing through old WIZARD issues, and I noticed the sales figures from July 1996.. Check it out.

    Notice anything? Well, aside from the X-Men and Image dominating? Yep, the two bestselling DC books are Sandman spinoffs! Sandman spinoffs without the leading character beat out Batman and Superman. But that was back in 1996. How did ENDLESS NIGHTS do in 2003? Well, it only ended up as the first comic book to ever get on The New York Times Best Seller List. So, you know, take that for what it's worth.

  • There's no controversy here. Unlike the Alan Moore situation affecting BEFORE WATCHMEN, this is just driven by a desire by the creator of the property to do something with that property. There will be no calls for boycotts, no one saying "But it's not the original guy." And even with those factors, the four BEFORE WATCHMEN books in June were beaten only by four books — two of them being AVENGERS VS. X-MEN. Furthermore, it doesn't even have the whole narrative argument that's levied against BEFORE WATCHMEN, which is that the original is a complete story and shouldn't be tampered with. Nor does it have the controversy the DC reboot had, as this is just building from what's already been established. With those factors gone, it's hard to imagine a SANDMAN fan not wanting to buy this.

  • Gaiman is on it. Let's face it, Gaiman is huge. In fact, he's probably the biggest crossover talent the industry has. He's been brought here to the Philippines twice by Fully Booked. To put that into perspective, it costs a lot of money to fly someone here from America and give him luxurious accommodations, and make sure the bookstore doesn't lose money, and he's been here twice. When I was in Washington DC, I went to go see him at a bookstore, and they had to move the event to a nearby church, and I still ended up sitting on the floor. Behind him. Because everything in front of him was taken. All that, and I haven't mentioned the fact that he brings in a higher proportion of  female readers more than anyone else. There may be better writers, but I doubt that anyone is as big of an instant draw among the non-comics-reading crowd. And he's working on SANDMAN, the comic he made his name on! So there's this big nostalgia/loyalty factor as well. And it's gonna be great.

Of course, Gaiman once wrote a Batman story that was supposed to be an "end of Batman" tale called WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE CAPED CRUSADER?, and practically no one talks about it anymore and it seems to have come and gone, so I don't know. On the one hand, maybe people are getting sick of too many evergreen Bat-books. On the other hand, I would have imagined a Gaiman-Batman connection being not just an instant sale, but a highly demanded book for years, and I guess judging by the fact that I never see people discussing it (or even saying "So I finally read it..."), it's fallen short of that expectation. So I could be completely wrong with everything I said above. But personally? For me? It comes down to a simple combination: It's Neil Gaiman working on SANDMAN again, with the greatest artist of the modern era in charge of making it come to life. I cannot wait.


Madeley said...

"Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader" was a good read with some nice bits, but wasn't really a patch on "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" which it was, of course, a riff on. While it fit pretty well into the atmosphere of the Morrison Bat-era, I don't think Gaiman really had much to say about the character. I didn't get the feeling he had a depth of feeling for Batman in the same way that Moore did for Superman.

That said, I haven't read it for a while, so I might find something to love on a re-read. I just think it fell between two stools. Wasn't Gaiman-y enough to feel like the best Gaiman, wasn't Batman-y enough to feel like the best Batman.

Duy Tano said...

Still, wouldn't the instinct be that a Gaiman-written Batman book would a consistent seller? I don't think muck of 1602, but I know it sells pretty well.

Madeley said...

Yeah, I see what you mean. But 1602 also benefits from being a standalone thing with a strong gimmick.

Any idea how his Eternals series sells? I know I don't hear much chatter about that, either.

Duy Tano said...

Ouch, good point about Eternals.

JV said...

Believe it or not, Gaiman's had his lows as well (The Eternals and American Gods comes to mind). Out of all his Marvel work, 1602 is his strongest (which isn't saying much) while Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? was decent, it wasn't at par as Alan Moore's Superman story. Still, I have faith that Gaiman returning to the character that made him a Geek God, will be a return to form for him.

Duy Tano said...

Wasn't a fan of the Eternals, and like I said on Facebook, still haven't been able to finish American Gods. Gaiman is obviously a flawed writer, but 1602 is one of Marvel's continuous bestsellers. Quality isn't really an indicator of what sells (true not just in comics); it's usually name + property, which is why I'm surprised that Gaiman + Batman doesn't sell as much. At the very least, it should be an easy sell to newbies. (Then again, maybe Gaiman's got one hell of a royalty deal on it.)

JV said...

It's funny how DC treats Gaiman like gold while they continue to offend Alan Moore...

Duy Tano said...

I've heard it theorized (and it makes sense, I think) that the reason DC treats people like Gaiman, Morrison, Robinson -- basically all the Brits -- really well is that before Moore, they pretty much treated writers as workhorses. Then Moore left and they realized, damn, we better actually treat them nice.

In defense of DC (I never thought I would type that), I don't think there's anything they could possibly do that would both appease Moore and be good for business though.

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