When Neil Gaiman created The Sandman over 30 years ago, he and his collaborators built a world that was populated by countless characters and concepts. The popularity of the comic has allowed creators to create various spin-offs and follow-ups which flesh out these ideas in ways that the original series didn’t have space for. As a result, there are now hundreds of additional Sandman comics you can read after the classic series.
But which ones are worth reading? This list spotlights seven must-read Sandman spin-offs. These are a mix of critically acclaimed and fan-favourites written or consulted by Neil Gaiman and scratch that Sandman itch for those who have finished the original series.
Disclaimer: The following list makes the assumption that you have read the original run of The Sandman. If you haven’t read it but want to start, this comprehensive guide will point you in the right direction.
The Sandman: Overture
Written by Neil Gaiman. Art by J.H Williams III and Dave Stewart.
The Sandman #1 explores what happens after Morpheus is captured by The Order of Ancient Mysteries’ ritual. How this was able to happen was always left open-ended. Well, that was until The Sandman: Overture, the prequel miniseries that uncovers the moments that lead up to that event.
As a prequel, it joins the dots with the original series, showing characters such as The Corinthian, Merv Pumpkinhead, members of The Endless, and others. While it includes hints at what would come in the original series, Overture works well as a self-contained story – one that reaches into outer space, other realms, and deeper into The Endless family tree.
The original series is known for its surreal moments, but Overture takes it to a whole new level with artist J.H Williams III. Not only does it look fantastic, but he implements his with inventive page layouts that flow like water over the page. The result is a reading experience that challenges the perception of how a comic can be presented.
Mike Carey’s Lucifer
Written by Mike Carey. Art by Scott Hampton, Chris Weston, Peter Gross, and Dean Ormston.
Lucifer abdicated the throne of Hell when he gave Dream of the Endless the keys to his dominion in the classic Season of the Mists story arc of The Sandman. Much later, Neil Gaiman revealed that Lucifer was in Los Angeles and was running a piano bar. Writer Mike Carey took these kernels of story and crafted a spin-off series that was just as long-running as The Sandman.
The series goes deeper into what Lucifer does while he’s on Earth – much of which revolves around a devious and cunning plan. While I’ll keep it coy as to what this plan is, the lengthy groundwork allows the comic to explore destiny vs free will and how the struggle is bound to the character. By extension, Lucifer Morningstar’s tumultuous relationship with God is brought up and becomes a driving motivator for him.
Mike Carey takes Neil Gaiman’s characterisation and expands on it. Lucifer is the gentleman devil, cunning, smart, cold, and deceptive. He’s bound by rules but will bend them to his advantage, making for some interesting twists throughout the series.
It’s worth noting: You may be disappointed if you’re expecting a comic that’s like the TV series. Mike Carey’s Lucifer is firmly in the world of The Sandman comic series, while the show takes elements from the comic and turns it into its own thing. Check out the comic based on the show if that’s an issue for you.
Single Issues: The Sandman Presents: Lucifer #1-3, Lucifer #1-75, and Lucifer: Nirvana on-shot.
Collected Edition: ‘Lucifer Book One-Five’ or ‘Lucifer by Mike Carey Omnibus Volumes 1-2’
Buy: eBay | Amazon/Kindle
The Sandman Universe: The Dreaming
Written by Si Spurrier. Art by Bilquis Evely, Abigail Larson, Matías Bergara, Dani, and Marguerite Sauvage.
The Sandman Universe is a Neil Gaiman curated line of spin-offs that explore the various corners of the classic series in a way that feels additive to it. The most notable of these is The Dreaming, which follows the characters of Morpheus’ realm.
The series begins with the discovery that Daniel has abandoned the realm, leaving it in disarray. It’s now up to characters such as Lucian, Merv Pumpkinhead, Matthew, Cain & Abel, and others to hold the fort. This will not go smoothly, with chaos reigning supreme.
While we saw glimpses of The Dreaming in The Sandman, this series goes much deeper to make it richer and more immersive. Readers are treated to lushly illustrated corners of the realm, populated with expressive characters doing their jobs. As a result, It feels more lived-in and lively than when it was introduced to it more than 30 years ago.
It’s hard to live up to the standard that Neil Gaiman set. However, Spurrier does an excellent job at understanding what makes a Sandman comic tick while adding his unique voice.
The Sandman Universe: The Dreaming – Waking Hours
Written by G. Willow Wilson. Art by Nick Robles and Javier Rodriguez.
Where our previous pick revolved around the ongoings of The Dreaming with a familiar cast, Waking Hours branches out with new characters and different realms. In this instance, it’s a ragtag group of misfits that includes Ruin, a nightmare who has fallen in love; an angel; and a sorceress whose family has a connection to Dream’s past.
As his name implies, Ruin tends to make circumstances worse. It all begins when he actually traps a Shakespearean scholar in The Dreaming. From there, it’s a series of bad situations which cross over the realm of Faerie.
While it’s its own story with plenty of new ideas, Waking Hours makes many callbacks and connections to the original series. Without giving too much away, some elements go back to The Sandman #1; the performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in The Sandman #19, and the ongoing happenings of the Faerie from various issues, just to name a few.
Death: The High Cost of Living
Written by Neil Gaiman. Art by Chris Bachalo.
Ever since her appearance in The Sandman #8, Death has been a fan-favourite character. After subsequent appearances in the original series, she starred in a few of her own comics – the most notable being this miniseries.
Death becomes mortal for a single day to remind herself of human mortality every hundred years. On this particular day, she meets a pretentious teen considering suicide. However, this kid is not depressed and doesn’t have a terrible life, but simply has a deeply cynical outlook on life.
While the overall structure is different, this miniseries parallels The Sound of Her Wings (The Sandman #8) in ways. Again, Death is the unconventional voice of wisdom who knows when to entertain someone’s nonsense and when to push back. There’s also a familiar setting, which helps drive home the nature of her advice.
For continuity fans, The High Cost of Living also contains cameos from characters who originally appeared in the Game of You arc.
BONUS PICK: Death: The Higher Cost of Living has a follow-up miniseries called Death: The Time Of Your Life.
The Sandman: Endless Nights
Written by Neil Gaiman. Art by Dave McKean, P. Craig Russell, Milo Manara, Miguelanxo Prado, Barron Storey, Bill Sienkiewicz, Glenn Fabry, and Frank Quitely.
Endless Nights is a 2003 graphic novel collection of short stories which revolve around The Endless. Neil Gaiman focuses on a different character with each and is joined by an excellent curation of artists.
Each artist has been chosen for a particular tone or qualities that align with the focal character. For instance, Milo Manara – best-known for his erotic comics – is the artist for the Desire story – while Bill Sienkiewicz’s grimey mixed media approach is perfect for Delirium. Matching the artists this way elevates the tale, allowing for a great expression of tone and theme.
While readers have mostly experienced The Endless as the supporting cast, this anthology allows us to see them through a different lens. This works quite well in the context of the characters who had fewer appearances in the original series and gives them a moment to shine.
The Sandman: The Dream Hunters
Written by Neil Gaiman. Art by Yoshitaka Amano (prose) and P. Craig Russell (comics).
The Sandman: The Dream Hunters has a strange origin. Neil Gaiman was asked to write the English dialogue for Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke. As part of this, he read as much Japanese history and folklore as he could get his hands on. Gaiman discovered in his research a folk tale called “The Fox, the Monk, and the Mikado of All Night’s Dreaming”, which has some coincidental similarities with The Sandman.
The Dream Hunters is Gaiman’s version of that folktale presented as an illustrated novel with stunning art by the renowned Yoshitaka Amano. It tries to stay true to the original story but replaces some elements of it with those of The Sandman where it made sense.
Where the story really shines is in Amano’s lush illustrations. The full-page illustrations are mesmerising, with elegant characters and dreamy environments. It’s also fascinating to see how he interprets characters like Dream of the Endless, finding a way to merge feudal-era settings with the goth appearance.
A comic book version was also created as part of The Sandman’s 20th anniversary by P. Craig Russell. His is a faithful interpretation, which uses much of Gaiman’s dialogue and narration. Where it differs is in its visual presentation. While his style is very different to Amano’s, Russell is an excellent storyteller in his own right who has completed many fantasy adaptations.
Writer’s note: I contemplated putting Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country on this list. While it’s been good, at the time of writing, there have only been three issues released. Not enough to give a definitive recommendation in this venue. Perhaps I’ll add it to this later in the year when there has been more story.