Mark Reads ‘The Sandman’: 8×04 – The Golden Boy

In the fifty-fourth issue of The Sandman, well, that was strange. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.

“The Golden Boy”

You know, I’ve really enjoyed a very specific thing through Mark Does Stuff that I don’t know that I’ve ever spelled out for y’all. I read the comments on my posts every day, and it’s been utterly fascinating to see how so many people can come to so many different conclusions about the exact same thing. Even if something is straightforward and direct, it’s been a pleasure to read unspoken, non-cannon narratives that people come up with. It’s so lovely to see how people find ways to connect fiction. And it’s all so different. I tend to like fiction that does this. I don’t want a movie or a book to give me all of the answers. I like to connect the dots by imagining my own scenarios. I like to spend time in a fictional world in my head long after I’ve finished a book or a film. And I like when stories do that naturally.

It seems that no matter how I look at “The Golden Boy,” I can’t find a single explanation for this story that fits every piece. That’s okay! A lot of the fiction that I truly love is ambiguous as all hell. The Stranger. LOST. Rubicon. THE PRISONER. No, okay, seriously, if you have never seen The Prisoner (AND NOT THE SHITTY REMAKE THAT RUINS ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING BECAUSE THE PEOPLE WHO MADE IT CLEARLY HAD NEVER UNDERSTOOD THE ORIGINAL can you tell i’m hella pressed over this), go watch it, I beg you. It’s one of the most surreal, frustrating, and frightening shows in the history of world, and every serialized sci-fi/fantasy “mystery” show stole from it. But it has an ending that… oh my god, you have no idea. YOU HAVE NO IDEA. It’s so satisfying in the most unsatisfying way imaginable, and I am not going to say another thing. PLEASE, CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS AMAZING SHOW IN THE COMMENTS?

The only reason I bring that up is because I got a (somewhat) similar feeling while reading this issue. The strange man’s story about an alternate America is not inherently about parallel universes. I know that much. But as to any sort of message or point to it, that’s where things get a little muddy for me. Again, that’s okay! I don’t need a story to be straightforward to enjoy it. The first thing I picked up on was the fact that Prez Rickard sure does resemble Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen a lot. Well, not physically, that is. But they’re both characters obsessed with watches, both were visited/spoke with Nixon, and both represented a hope for American society for a time. That parallel is probably the most fascinating one to me. While both Dr. Manhattan and Prez do help American society at the height of their lives, the both become increasingly dissatisfied with how others depend on them.

But I think Prez (whose name is incredibly distracting because all I can think of is Prez from The Wire) exists as a commentary on how American culture craves a savior. In a way, Prez is kind of Jesus-like, isn’t he? I feel like there are a few parallels to the Gospel in this story, especially when Prez is tempted by Boss Smiley. Actually, let me take a moment to say this: I cannot look at any of the pages with Boss Smiley on them. I can’t. I have volume 8 open right now, and it hurts to know that hideously creepy face is on the next page. Why does it unsettle me so much?

Anyway, whether this parallel version of America exists or not isn’t the point, at least not for me. Prez represents everything Americans at large want. He solves peace crises. He cares about the everyday citizen. He’s white and attractive. (Sorry, I couldn’t avoid commenting on that. I mean, seriously, the perfect American is a blond, blue-eyed model.) He isn’t arrogant, he’s kind, and he falls in love with his high school sweetheart. These details are intentional, as is the conclusion of his tale. He is the stuff of legend, drifting between various versions of America in order to be there for his citizens. He represents a fleeting hope that people here have for the future. I suppose that’s relevant these days, given that we’re approaching a pivotal election in 2012 here in the US. (For real, if Mitt Romney becomes President, I’ll probably sleep for a week in the hopes that I’ll wake up and it will all have been a dream.) How many people in my country are awaiting for their perfect Prez to lead them into a better world? But then I start thinking about people who believe Romney is their version of Prez, and I get very sad.

I’m interested in what others got out of this story. It’s clever, touching, and ambiguous enough that I feel like we could spend all day talking about what it means to each of us. Technically, too, it’s one of the sharpest issues in the entire series, and I especially love how Death and Dream were drawn. There are so many different artists who have captured these two characters, and it’s been a joy to see their take on them. Also, fuck Boss Smiley, I just saw his face again. UGH I DON’T LIKE IT.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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2 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Sandman’: 8×04 – The Golden Boy

  1. ScarlettMi says:

    As an atheist who was raised in a conservative Christian religion I may have taken away a different “message” from the story than others. For me, it all came down to Prez’s rejection of the God-figure of his universe and the actual unimportance of the answer to the “is there a watchmaker” question. All Prez cared about was that there was a broken watch for him to fix. I took it as a rejection of the idea that religion would be necessary to fix the world and whether or not you believed in a god was incidental to whether you could do something to help.

    But in the end Prez became a mythological figure himself and people looked to him, as they would a deity, to fix the world for them. Maybe it was about humanity craving a savior and if religion fails to provide one, they’ll provide the religion to create one?

    And now we’ve reached the portion of the morning commute where I’m just typing random philosophizing sentences into my phone and hoping autocorrect leaves them somewhat readable.

  2. S.Patry says:

    Hi, i just read that story for the first time 10 minutes ago, and i have to say the heavy “watchmen” references kinda ruined it for me. I felt Neil Gaiman was trying to make a statement regarding the message behind that other comic penned by a brit about America. The smiley, even one with blood on it, Nixon, the watches, God as a uncaring figure (hinted at thru doc Manathan in watchmen), the era, the masked vigilante. It is too blatantly aimed at Moore, yet it is neither satire or parody.

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