In the seventy-fifth and final issue of The Sandman, Dream commissions the final play he is owed by William Shakespeare, and Shakespeare demands to know why Dream wanted a specific story told. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.
Oh my god.
“I am not a man. And I do not change. I asked you earlier if you saw yourself reflected in your tale. I do not. I may not. I am Prince of stories, Will; but I have no story of my own. Nor shall I ever.”
It’s a bit odd talking about the final issue of The Sandman because this last story is so centered on Neil Gaiman himself. I don’t know the man. We’ve exchanged Tweets from time to time, I enjoy his writing, and he seems rather pleasant. But “The Tempest” has got so much of him in the story, and I feel strange commenting on the life and motivations of someone I’ve never met.
And I suppose that even though I consider myself a writer, I don’t know that I’m at a point where I feel comfortable commenting on what this experience is like. I am hard at work on my first fiction novel, but the writing I’ve done for Mark Does Stuff over the last three years feels different. I have been lucky enough to feel comfortable sharing some very personal things, as well as some silly, creative stuff in the past, but writing has been such a constant thing in my life. I only occasionally get the chance to be reflective, like Gaiman is here in “The Tempest.” For me, I’m already thinking about what’s coming next. Where will the story go in the following week? What am I writing in my books? What projects do I have coming up?
I’m glad that through Mark Does Stuff, I’ve been able to appreciate storytelling more than ever before in my life. But the end goal of all this – the one thing I want more than anything else in life – is to tell my own stories. That’s not to suggest that I’m going to finish this first novel and then STOP BLOGGING FOREVER AND EVER, so let me just squash that rumor before it starts. I just enjoy reading stories so much that I want to tell them, too. I have, though, and I don’t want to ignore that. But I guess it’s also weird that the stories I have shared with y’all are generally super personal and unbelievably depressing. I have other things inside my head that I want the world to know about!
And that’s what “The Tempest” has me thinking about. I admit that I was completely lost about why this was going to be the final issue of The Sandman. I’ve only read the actual The Tempest once in my life, and I was seventeen years old then. I didn’t remember much of it, so I spent most of this issue scratching my head. I liked the chance to see Shakespeare try and write The Tempest. I enjoyed that Gaiman included a lot of in-universe criticism of the way Shakespeare wrote, as well as giving me the historical context for this final play of Shakespeare’s. But what did this have to do with The Sandman?
I should have re-read The Tempest after high school, because the parallels between the two stories are kind of obvious once you think about it. There is a happy ending at the end of The Sandman, despite that I feel sad that Morpheus is gone. This is also a tale of a “man” who leaves his kingdom behind willingly. He “drowns his books, and breaks his staff.” It’s about choice. It’s about humility. And it’s an answer to Dream’s belief that he will never leave his island. Neil Gaiman took the time to tell a set of stories about the Prince of Stories. He has made this character his. Hell, I don’t even know that I can ever look upon Shakespeare again without imagining that Morpheus helped him along the way. But for a comic book series that at times could be remarkably dense and challenging, I found that the heart of this tale centered around Morpheus’s gradual change. I miss Morpheus so much, and I know that I’ll miss these tales, too. It’s weird to think that this story took just short of nine years to write; each of these chapters/issues that I spent time with were set a month or more apart, and I just conquered all seventy-five of them in just a few months. I’m not ready to post my final thoughts on The Sandman just yet, considering we have some more material to go through, but I already know that this is unlike any experience I’ve ever had in terms of fiction. The Sandman stands alone.
Anyway, check the Master Schedule for the upcoming companion issues and volumes that I’ll be reading! However (and I’ll explain this in detail tomorrow), we won’t be doing them IMMEDIATELY due to evil postal thieves. Never fear! I will complete the reviews for them in the next week or so, and then you’ll get double posts. I can also announce definitively that on August 20th, I will start my next project: Mark Reads Good Omens. It will take about two weeks to read, and the Master Schedule has been updated to reflect how it will be split up. Thank you all for joining me on this journey!
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– I am now putting Mark Watches videos on Vimeo as well (they’re all located here) to avoid copyright issues I’m having on YouTube. This also means that all videos CANNOT have audio from the show in them, or I risk losing my YouTube AND Vimeo account and then no one gets videos. So for now, this is the solution to this problem.