Neil Gaiman, The Quotable Sandman (DC Comics, 2000)

This is an exquisitely tiny tome, measuring no more than six and half inches to a side and beautifully illustrated outside by Neil Gaiman's frequent collaborator Dave McKean. Contained between those two hardbound covers is the distillation of seven years' worth of Gaiman's noteworthy prose, drawn from the seventy-five issues of Sandman. Ninety-two pages are home to forty-five quotes and their accompanying pictures.

The quotes begin without preamble, on page two, and while it's hard to argue with removing any impediments between readers and Gaiman's words, there is at least one question begging to have been answered in a forward or introduction: who chose these particular quotes and why? Without an answer, the quotes lack immediate context. Indeed, there doesn't seem to be a defined order to them, though there do seem to be some loose groupings: quotes about the Endless' responsibilities ("Our existence deforms the universe. That's responsibility." — Delirium) or quotes about endings ("Nobody died. How can you kill an idea? How can you kill the personification of an action?" — Cain).

Regardless of intent, the quotes are a delightful reminiscence, if you're a Sandman fan (and a great introduction to Gaiman's prose ability, if not). My favourite has to be "Me? Lady, I'm your worst nightmare — a pumpkin with a gun," quoted from Mervyn Pumpkinhead, because, well, a pumpkin, with a gun! Each quote is presented in its own type-face, and every one seems to be randomly placed and spaced on its respective page. The font changes succeed in finding each character's voice for that particular quote, but the erratic spacing is somewhat annoying to actually read.

Pictures are placed directly opposite the quotes they illustrate, and while their origins aren't detailed, they appear to come from the comics, rather than being original to this book. Thirty different artists offer their talents, including Charles Vess, Jill Thompson, Michael Zulli and Glenn Fabry. This provides a fantastic opportunity to see how different artists interpret the Endless. The most gorgeous illustrations include two of Delirium, one by Sherylin Van Valkenburgh, one by Greg Spalenka; two of Death, one by Spalenka, one by Rick Berry; one of Desire by Berry and one of Daniel, by Mark Hempel and Richard Case.

The quotes wrap up with an oddball bio of Gaiman, wherein the publishers claim that while he does indeed have eyes, he does not have a vestigial tail. Gaimain's illustrated this page himself, a quick line drawing self-portrait with a feral looking cat. What follows is an index indicating where each quote came from, a must-have for a collection like this.

Compact and gorgeous, The Quotable Sandman is a pleasant addition to any Sandman or Gaiman collection.

[April Gutierrez]