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Dream Country

Dream Country (1991) is the third collection of issues in the DC Comics series, The Sandman. Written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Kelley Jones[?], Charles Vess[?], Colleen Doran and Malcolm Jones III[?], and lettered by Todd Klein[?].

Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers

The third collection belongs with the sixth, Fables and Reflections and the eighth, Worlds' End. All three are not primarily single coherent storylines that contribute to the series' main story arc, but sets of disparate, self-contained issues which belong with the main series by virtue of the shared characters.

Dream Country is the shortest of the ten Sandman collections, featuring just four issues ("Calliope", #17; "A Dream of a Thousand Cats", #18; "A Midsummer Night's Dream", #19; and "Façade", #20). It holds its own nevertheless, and includes an issue widely regarded as one of the best in the entire series.

Table of contents

Calliope This is the story of a frustrated author (Richard Madoc), whose first book has been released to critical acclaim but who simply cannot write a page of the promised follow-up. He bargains with an elder writer (Erasmus Fry) for Calliope, one of the Muses of Greek mythology, whom Fry had captured early in his life. Fry kept her imprisoned and raped her, which provided the inspiration for his successful novels. Madoc at first follows in Fry's footsteps, but Calliope calls upon one of the series' most intriguing characters, the triad of witches known variously as the Furies, the Kindly Ones, the Gracious Ladies and many other names, for help. They direct her to Morpheus, whom we are told was once her lover (this a thread continued later in the series), who at that time is imprisoned. Upon his release he comes to avenge Calliope, and visits a terrible punishment upon Madoc.

A Dream of a Thousand Cats This is a curious piece of whimsy, a flight of fantasy concerning an inspirational cat with a vision of an alternate reality where cats are huge and humans merely their playthings, tiny organisms which groom their bodies and which the cats can kill at their pleasure. She preaches her vision to motley assortments of pet and wild cats around the world, hoping that if she can make enough believe in and dream of this reality, it will once more become the truth. At first seemingly a complete diversion from the basic story of the Sandman, in fact it illustrates one of the core themes of the series; the idea that reality is shaped in the most literal sense by the dreams of humans, and of other animals too.

A Midsummer Night's Dream This is a core issue of the Sandman series, sometimes cited as the best in the series. An extremely skilled piece of writing (and beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess), it concerns the premiere of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, which we are told was commissioned by Morpheus as part of a bargain whereby he gifted Shakespeare his powers of writing. Performed on a hillside before an audience from Faerie - the very characters who appear in the play, Titania, Oberon and Robin Goodfellow (Puck) amongst them - the Sandman's version of reality and Shakespeare's play are merged and intertwined to an extraordinary degree. The issue received a World Fantasy Award for short fiction in 1991, which caused an outcry of indignation amongst people who felt that a mere comic book should not have won the award. Its companion issue, "The Tempest", is the final issue of the entire series, #75, and appears in the tenth collection, The Wake.

Façade This is another odd issue, featuring one of the methods Gaiman played with especially in the first and to a lesser extent in the second collection; it takes one of the neglected characters from the DC Comics archive, this time Element Girl (Urania Blackwell), and shows her in a completely uncustomary situation. A reluctant superhero at best, she has now retired, and lives a meagre existence, rarely leaving her flat due to self-loathing of her "freakish" appearance. An extraordinarily poignant piece, dealing with identity and, subtly, the gap between the world portrayed in the more naive of DC Comics' superhero comics and the reality of everyday life, it ends on a curiously happy note, with Death answering "Rainie"'s telephone and informing the caller that "she's gone away, I'm afraid".

The standout issue of the third collection is undoubtedly #19, A Midsummer Night's Dream. The issues in the collection first appeared in 1990. The collection first appeared in paperback in 1991 and in hardback in 1995.

It was preceded by The Doll's House and followed by Season of Mists.

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