AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #18 November, 1964
Steve Ditko original artist
“The End Of Spider-Man” is one of my very favorite Lee-Ditko wall-crawler tales—which means it's also one of my favorite comics of all time—but we're not gonna talk about it here today. Uh uh. Nope, because if you take a closer look, that's NOT Flint Marko stalking the city streets in search of a cowering Webhead. Oh, it's the Sandman alright, but NOT the one with the radioactively spawned ability to turn his body into an ever shifting collection of granular particles, all the while still maintaining the sense of haute couture associated with your everyday, penny-ante cheap thug.
Nosirree, it's the individual known as Dream. Morpheus. Or, most accurately, Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Y'know—the character published by DC Comics, the anchor of a rather lengthy and widely praised limited series that wowed 'em back in the nineties? Yeah, uh huh--THAT Sandman!

(Someday, I'll do up the cover of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #18 all proper like, and THEN I'll take the opportunity to rhapsodize about its many delicious virtues, but for now, nix on that--we're here to discuss the Vertigo veteran.)

In case you're wondering, no, this wasn't one of MY so-called clever ideas. I was commissioned by a customer—one whose name long ago escaped off into the ether—to produce this novel crossover illustration. Where it is now, I couldn't tell you, as I stumbled across it being sold on eBay several years after I'd sent it off to its original owner. Perhaps its taken on some sort mystical life of its own, changing hands from one haunted art aficionado after another, causing sleepless nights to everyone who touches it, like a... a...a CURSE?

Or maybe the guy just didn't much like it, and needed some quick bucks? Who's to say?...

That may've been my first shot at drawing the Dark Dressed Dude of Dreams, but it wasn't my last. I was subsequently commissioned to do two more specialty illos (neither of which were cover redos—I don't imagine my silly style and the sophisticated SANDMAN covers would be a very comfortable match, truthfully...).

This first one I like to call “Sandman Black, Sandman White”, sort of a Vertigo twist on the “Superman Red, Superman Blue” story arc that was running at approximately the same time. And check it out--I even got to write some quips for the mirror-image duo.

Then there's that OTHER obvious pairing, as we finally see ol' Flint and mordant Morphy in the same place at the same time! Two Sandmen, two companies! (The Ditko character that REALLY should confront Dream, I suppose, would have to be Nightmare. Those fellas have a whole lot in common, after all, starting right at the top—isn't it obvious that they both patronize the same BARBER?...)

I found that I quite enjoyed drawing the character, and I hope you've gotten a smile from my slightly off-kilter interpretations of same. THE SANDMAN was a series I read faithfully as it was being published, and while I probably would've gotten more out of it had I read it in large chunks (i.e., book collections), I still have fond memories of its run. True, horror-fantasy of the sort often found in its pages has never registered high on my list of preferred genres. Undeniably, though, there were a LOT of remarkable moments to be found in those issues, and I salute author Gaiman and his talented crew of artistic collaborators on producing such a vast body of superior work, material so edifyingly erudite that it all but defied my mutant ability to somehow reduce it a level of low-brow goofiness.

Until now, that is...