Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Structure Of Two Series: Sandman And Lucifer

Neil Gaiman's monthly comic book, The Sandman, was collected in ten volumes: three trilogies and an epilogue. Each trilogy is one male point of view narrative, one female pov narrative and one short story collection. The epilogue contains the "Wake" trilogy, its sequel and sequels to the earlier Marco Polo and William Shakespeare stories. There are related volumes, like Sandman: The Dream Hunters, an illustrated prose story, but the collected monthly series is complete in ten volumes. However, an eleventh Sandman comic book collection is P. Craig Russell's graphic adaptation of The Dream Hunters.

Mike Carey's Lucifer, a direct sequel to Season of Mists in Gaiman's The Sandman, is collected in eleven volumes, differently structured. The middle volume, 6 The Mansions of the Silence, is the turning point when it is learned that God has left his creation. That turning point divides the rest of the series into two groups of five volumes. Each of these groups has a mid-point. In Volume 3, A Dalliance with the Damned, Lucifer opens gates between his new creation and every part of God's old creation. Lucifer welcomes immigrants but forbids them to worship him or anyone else. Carey's Lucifer, unlike Milton's Satan, wants not Godhood but freedom from either side of the God trip. A Satanic role as Lord of Hell is in his past but had accreted around him and he had left it in The Sandman.
In Volume 9, Crux, Michael's daughter/God's grand-daughter, Elaine Belloc, creates a third universe. This prepares her to succeed the departed God at the end of the series. Thus, the three turning points of Lucifer are: 

Lucifer liberates; 
his father leaves; 
his niece learns. 

By the end of The Sandman, the title character has entered the realm of his sister, Death, and we do not see him again. By the end of Lucifer, the title character has entered the Void between the worlds and we do not see him again.

These twenty two volumes should be read together with related works by both authors plus Swamp Thing and Hellblazer. John Constantine spun out of Swamp Thing into Hellblazer just as Lucifer spun out of The Sandman into Lucifer. Part of the Dreaming appeared in Swamp Thing before we saw more in The Sandman. Such multi-authored bodies of work are necessarily variable in quality but the particular works summarised here present continents of quality in an ocean of quantity.

Addendum (14 Nov 2010): A damned soul becomes a Duke of Hell in Lucifer Vol 3 and Lord of Hell in Vol 9 and empties Hell in Vol 10. In Vol 11, a fallen cherub says of the angel Remiel, "Former Lord of Hell - - which is something any schmendrick can add to his resume these days." (1) So how many Lords of Hell have there been?

It became necessary to distinguish between Satan in Hellblazer and Lucifer in The Sandman. Each must rule his own Hell or Hellish realm. This is possible because, in this scenario, the hereafter is whatever it is imagined to be. At one stage, Lucifer co-ruled with Beelzebub and Azazel. Later, Lucifer gave the Key to Hell to Morpheus who passed it on to the angels Remiel and Duma. Later again, Duma gave it to Christopher Rudd. After Rudd had emptied Hell, one last human soul gained access to the place, thus becoming sole ruler of an otherwise empty realm: a farce following the tragedy. Elaine's new universe has no Hell but Hell still exists later in Andy Diggle's Hellblazer so the universe has split again. This happens in comics as story lines converge and diverge. However, unless it is stated otherwise, Satan continues to rule the Hellblazer Hell. Thus, there have been nine "Lords of Hell":

Christopher Rudd
Culver Harland

(Insert, 30 Aug 2012: Satan had two co-rulers in Garth Ennis' Hellblazer so maybe the total number is eleven?)

15 Nov 2010: Since the first addendum, email correspondence with Mike Carey has disclosed that Garth Ennis writing Hellblazer called his Lord of Hell "the First of the Fallen" in order to keep alive the possibility that Hellblazer and The Sandman co-existed. They do co-exist somehow but it is clear that their two Lords of Hell diverged. Ennis' "First" remains a malevolent demon whereas Carey's Lucifer becomes an indifferent Nietzchean. The First actively hates Constantine. Lucifer abandons his hate for Morpheus, realising that all that really matters to him is the freedom of his own will. He casually destroys beings who stand in his way but no longer seeks to destroy a former opponent. His role in the "God and Devil" double act has tired him and become clearly pointless whereas Ennis' First remains consumed by hatred both of the divine and of the independent operator, John Constantine. 

(1) Carey, Mike, Lucifer: Evensong, New York, 2007, p. 92.

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