Academia/A Toast Against Resentment


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A toast against resentment: Death and Dream in Deleuze and Gaiman

by Marcelo Bolshaw Gomes (1)

We intend here to make some approximations between the work of the English contemporary writer Neil Gaiman (specially the Sandman comic series) and the deleuzian thought: reality seen as virtual multiplicity inside of a single plan of immanence, the change in social sense of Christian guilt sorrow to the regimen of limitless moratoria and the Devenir (Becoming) (the accident as factor of the event). And, mainly, to cover the subject of death and the fight against resentment - central convergence of the work of both.

Neil Gaiman, for the ones who do not know him (2), is one of the most important contemporary writers, with many published books ( Don't Panic, American Gods, Anansi Boys, Fragile Things, among others), films (Stardust, Beowulf) and comics, or better, graphic novels: Violent Cases, Black Orchid, Books of Magic, Harlequin Valentine, The Last Temptation, 1602, The Endless and the Sandman series, his master-piece, mode out of almost a hundred stories, organized in ten narrative arcs, telling the tragic epic of Morpheus, the master of the dreams.

'How to tell' a story is just as important as the story itself. In the vast majority of the stories and narratives about the dreams, the oneiric world is a universe parallel to the sensorial reality, a dimension that is beyond the immediate perception of the senses. That is: dreaming is a transcendence of what is real. But, in the Sandman series, written by Neil Gaiman, dreaming is immanent (and not transcendent) to reality, it is inside and not beyond our daily reality. They are the stories (the inherited narratives) that form History (our narrative).

By the way, the journey starts when, in 1916, the occultist Roderick Burgness, Lord Magnus in The Order of Ancient Mysteries, trying to invoke and to imprison Death in a magical ritual to conquer immortality, capture its younger brother, Morpheus, The Endless master of dreams, provoking a great disenchantment in all universe.

Note that the whole series of histories starts when the dream is captured and imprisoned inside reality. The first arc of the saga - Preludes & Nocturnes (GAIMAN, 2005) – tells exactly the period that Morpheus was captured (and its social consequences), his escape in 1988 (year when the Sandman series starts to be published in U.S.A.); and the search of three magical instruments that had been stolen during the captivity: its pouch of magic sand, its helmet and its dreaming ruby. The pouch of magic sand was with John Constantine (protagonist of Hell blazer, another successful story from the DC Comics). The helmet was with a demon. And the ruby ended up in the hands of Dr. Destiny, eternal enemy of the Justice League (that congregated Superman, Batman, the Wonder Woman, among others super-heroes from different origins. (3)

Many parallel stories are told simultaneously. Many relative universes plan on a single plan of absolute immanence. As “a lunatic cook making a marriage cake”, says Clive Barken (GAIMAN, 2006a, p.7) “constructing layer after layer and hiding all type of sour and sweet flavors in the mixture”. And in this mixture, there are some doses of humor and terror; philosophical, literary and mythological references; citations from the cinema, pop music and the universe of comics itself. The different filo-genetic historical references (real and fictional) are what form the ontogenetic story of the Master of the Dreams. That is: different worlds collide and interpenetrate, but there is no distinction between a single reality and fantasy. One (imaginary world) is only one allegory of the other – with no hierarchy.

We have already said that Sandman (Master of Dreams, Lord Morpheus, Oneirec among others assignments) and his sister Death are The Endless – but we did not yet explain the singularity of this adjective. The Endless are not gods, but aspects of the human soul. Gaiman makes not only a mythological revision (a time that several gods from different pantheons visit his stories), but proceeds philosophical and theological update of our symbols, placing them inside and below these entities immanent to human living, or better to all the livings creatures - a time that the Master of the Dreams may transform according to the sight of dreamers who visit him, appearing as a black cat for the cats that dream and as a fox to the dreaming foxes. (4)

Endless Nights (GAIMAN, 2006a) brings a story for each Endless, using different artists and narrative styles for each characterization: Death, Desire, Dream, Despair, Delirium, Destruction and Destiny. (5) By the way, the Endless Death, due to its undeniable appeal and charisma, got her own series. (6) The relation between The Endless is something fascinating. For example, in many moments, Death lifts Dream up, taking him away from his depressions, making him more objective and conscientious of his duties of Endless. And the same can be said in relation to the respect that both nourish for Destiny (who Death affectionately calls `Big Brother'): the domains of Dream and Death are circumscribed by Destiny - but in a predetermined or fatalist way or, as we will see ahead.

We could even say (based on the stories of Gaiman) that, if it was not for sister Death, Dream would have surrender to the enchantments of Desire. By the way, this is the central subject of the Doll’s House (GAIMAN, 2005a). To Destiny, Death and Dream the human beings are who manipulate The Endless (from there doll´s house) and to Desire and the youngest, the human beings (and the other beings, including the different types of gods) are mere puppets. Destruction, however, occupies an intermediate position and has one third attitude: nor submitting to the human beings (as Destination, Death and Dream), nor manipulating them (as Desire, Despair and Delirium). He simply abandons the role of Endless and goes live his life the best way possible, together with the human beings.

Besides (or beneath) the Endless, also he has whole gamma of secondary and tertiary personages, who are intercross between different times and dimensions. (7) Inhabitants of Dreaming, characters stolen from other stories, historical people who had really existed (as Shakespeare and Marco Polo) – are all mixed in the narrative of the story of the master of the dreams. By the way, Sandman himself had, in the universe of the DC Comics, two previous versions: the Golden Age Sandman (Wesley Dodds) and the Silver Age Sandman (Garret Sanford). (8) The detective Wesley Dodds, secret identity of the original Sandman, also, reappears as one of the characters tormented by dreams, during the confinement period of Morpheus in reality.

The arc Dream Country (GAIMAN, 2005b) is an anthology of stories of the Master of Dreams, that, although independent, earn a cohesive interdependence when we extend the focus of the narrative: the story of the muse Calliope (former wife of Morpheus and mother of his son Orpheus) imprisoned by an unsuccessful writer; a dream of a thousand cats, where the felines claim to its fellow creatures to rescue the control of dreaming, usurped by the human beings in an immemorial time; Midsummer Night's Dream (9); the sad story of the death of the elemental girl.

The sixth arc of the Saga, Fables and Reflexions (GAIMAN, 2006c), is also a collection of nine smaller stories, passed in different places and times, in which elements of different references find each other, under the auspices of the master of dreams: the emperor of U.S.A., Augustus Cesar, Marco Polo. The stories that stand out tell more about Orpheus, his marriage, from tragic destination of going down to the Hades, and his curious adventure of having his head decapitated by the bacchants in the terror of the French revolution promoted by Robespierre.

The stories of Sandman are fractals, that is, each series of stories will tell the whole Saga from a specific point of view, each story is full of details and subtitles that advance and explain what it is to happen or what happened in another story, in a gigantic secular puzzle. As Frank Mc Connell says, in the introduction of The Kindly ones:

“The first Sandman stories, closely, for more brilliant they were, seemed irregular: work of a genius, but lacking a defined center, with no defined direction. Then, with Brief Lives, the whole thing started to gain impressive speed and form: the detours and digressions of the first stories started to unite on a single and stupefying final movement: It is not inadequate to make comparisons with the structure of a symphony.” (2008, P. 09)

In the book Brief Lives (GAIMAN, 2007) it was solved both the disappearance of the Endless Destruction and the relation of Morpheus with his son Orpheus - subjects that had been anticipated up to then in the previous stories and that close some cycles and questions left opened.

In the Epilog of mortality and change, Peter Straub analyzes the refusal of Destruction to take back his responsibilities as Endless, to awake the desire of change in Morpheus and his desire to set free his son, Orpheus. Brief lives are the weakening of the conscience of impermanent time (The Moirae) in the interior of dreaming.

In the arcs Worlds' End (2007b) and The Kindly ones (2008) this movement of closing of the narratives initiated in the first stories becomes even more intense and convergent. In the first arc, Gaiman pays homage to Geoffrey Chaucer, adopting the same structure of the Canterbury Tales, where, imprisoned in a mysterious pension, travelers from ages and places tell each other stories while wait the end of the storm. The storm, however, is a storm of realities, a vortex of dreaming, where the narratives of different times and places meet. On its turn, in the arc of The Kindly Ones the tonic is the relation of dream with time and with even death/transformation.

But, we do not intend here to ruin the pleasure of the ones who had not yet read the story(ies) of Sandman, summarizing or slightly describing its multiple and complex narratives. On the other hand, however, we will not be able to come to our goal that is to point out some connections between the ideas of Gaiman and the post-modern philosophy, without saying some pieces of these stories. Then, we will tell only some parts, related to our present interest, letting the reader (that still doesn’t know all the Saga of the master of the dreams) the fair right to get to know the work of Gaiman directly.

One of these points is on the role that Hell, as one of the imaginary spaces where the story of Lord Morpheus is carried through, plays in relation to mankind and its sovereignty before dreaming. At the beginning of the Saga (GAIMAN, 2005), Sandman goes down to hell to rescue his Helm, that had been stolen by the occultists that had imprisoned him and have been given in exchange for protection to a demon. In hell, Chorozon challenge the Master of the Dreams for a duel for the Helm. The fight happens in the most ancient way, each one imagines a being superior than the one of to his opponent – the same style of the duels between Merlim and Madam Mim in the Disney classic the Sword in the Stone. After a scaling of animals that get defeated, Chorozon 'is' a supernova exploding; Sandman, the universe that overtakes everything; the demon, the darkness, the anti-life of all the universes; and Lord Morpheus, the hope. The demon cannot imagine something to win hope and dream wins the duel. Lucifer, however, did not like to see his demon defeated and threatens Sandman with his legions. Morpheus says that hell only exists because his prisoners dream with heaven. And even if he has not created sky and neither hell, both existed due to its domain over dreaming. And leave (to search for others magical instruments in other dimension). And Lucifer, humiliated before his demons, promises to destroy Morpheus.

In the arc Season of Mists (GAIMAN, 2006), Sandman goes back to hell to ask for forgiveness and to rescue Nothing, his love convicted to endless suffering (we will not get in the details). But, hell is empty. Or nearly: he finds Lucifer putting the last demons out and closing all the doors. Lucifer, then, asks Morpheus to cut his wings and to keep the key of hell (It is a matter of revenge: a time that hell does not have sovereignty before dreaming, he no longer wants the responsibility of managing it). With hell closed, the demons start to wonder in other dimensions and the deceased come back to earth, causing great disturbance. Also to the heart of dreaming, the palace of the master of dreams, delegations of different worlds and dimensions arrive and demands the ownership over hell. (10)

After many events we will omit, Lord Morpheus delivers the key of Hell to the archangels Remiel and Duma. Hell is a reflex of Heaven, its shade: “there must be a hell because without hell, heaven does not make sense”; (P. 176), rewards and punishment; hope and despair. The 'Shaper of Form’ (that is how the archangels call the Master of Dreams, recognizing his role in Creation) did not create hell nor the silver city, therefore he must deliver it to their true managers. The hell under the new administration of Duma and Remiel goes through deep changes. They promoted the end of meaningless torments, of pains with no intention. Suffering is not to punish, but to redeem. Damnations are substituted by correction. Well, such idea is similar to the evolution of the traditional Christian guilt to the different modalities of post-modern redeeming neurosis, to the regimen of `ilimited moratorium,' of the Societies of Control, described by Gilles Deleuze in the book Negotiations (1992, p.219). And as the ghost of little Charles Rowland affirms, in a story passed in 'reality' during the period when hell remained closed and the deceased haunted earth: “I believe hell to be something that we take with us and not a place to go to.” (2006, P. 139) Besides the way of glimpsing multiples immanent virtual universes in a single reality and understanding the changes in the suffering regime, there is it a third important approach between the visual-graphic philosophy of Gaiman and the post-modern thought, that is the prevalence of chance in the course of the events: the Devenir. That is particularly visible in the book a Game of You (GAIMAN, 2006b).

In this series, God is called 'Murphy' (from the Murphy law: “if something can go wrong, it will go wrong”). There are many expressions used, such as: “Thank Murphy” or “For the love of Murphy”. Such treatment does not invalidate the fact of, in the previous series, God to have been treated as `Creator' - a distant being that communicated only with the archangels of the silver city. Neither the existence of Destiny, the older brother of Dream. It only means, I believe, that the characters are left to their own luck, the Devenir (Becoming). A game of you is also a game of identity constructed by other. This is a key idea that is passed through all the work subtly and obsessively, with every character. The central idea of the story is the Cuckoo of Dreams. The cuckoo is a bird that places its eggs in the nests of other species, putting its offspring to feed from the offspring of its hosts. In the story, there is a (egg of) cuckoo in the dream of Barbie and now it grew, became its double, and wants to invade other dreams to place its eggs. A good part of the story deals with the fight between Barbie and the Cuckoo, or I and the other.

But, Lord Morpheus does not consider the Cuckoo a villain, only a being that acted according to its nature. But with Thessaly, the witch who tried to help Barbie against the creature, the Master of the Dreams gets really upset, because, when she was invoking the moon to penetrate in the dream of the girl, she putted at risk places the order between the reality and dreaming. The overturn in the narrative not only discloses the great ethic amoralism of Morpheus, but, overall, the chance and its multiple possibilities of interpretation.

Or as Barbie says on the tragic death of travestite Wanda: “There is no moral in this, except, maybe, that we should always say goodbye whenever we have possibility”. (GAIMAN, 2006b, p.186) Perhaps this anti-moralism is a characteristic of the Graphic Novels, or at least of the great scriptwriters as Alan Moore and Frank Miller, an inversion of the roles of protagonist and antagonist, of what we assume to be 'good' and 'evil'. Desire and Lucifer, for example, are adversaries of Dream, but act as protagonists of their stories and not as enemies and to be destroyed or overcome. In Sandman there are no enemies and death is a pleasant company that promotes transformation.

By the way, the main convergence between Gaiman and Deleuze is the magic and realistic way they see the Death and in the fight of dreaming against resentment, central ideas in both works. Gaiman himself, when invited to synthesize the story of Sandman in twenty and five words, summarized: “The Master of Dreams learns that a person must change or die; and takes a decision”. (GAIMAN, 2006a, P. 08)

Possibly, the confinement in reality had a deep effect on Morpheus - “time passes faster for my species than for mankind and, in prison, it dragged as a slug” (2005, P. 36) – it made him know himself better and change his attitude with many dear people: his former-wife Calliope, his son Orpheus, his former-girlfriend Nothing; it made him understand better his sisters Death and Desire, modifying the cyclical standard of the dreaming vortices, special women that, from time to time, threaten the order of dreaming, generating a collective dream, knocking down the individual barriers of the mind of several dreams.

But that is not all! Desire awakens the Dream desire for freedom; Delirium disorganizes his imagination; Destruction defies it him to change; and Death, it would not be different, humanizes her myth, showing that even the endless are temporary and we are all subdued to transformation.


[1] Communication professor in UFRN, doctor in Social Sciences.

[2] Biography in Portuguese <> and official site in English <>

[3] Do not confuse with the homonym villain from Marvel Publishing company, enemy of Man-Spider and the Fabulous Four. The DC Comics never use characters from Marvel and vice versa - therefore they are competing companies.

[4] As cat, in the story A dream of a thousand Cats, in the arc of the Dream Country (GAIMAN, 2006c) and as fox in Sandman – Dream hunters, a traditional Japanese Fable (the monk and the fox) told as a tale with illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano (GAIMAN, 2001)

[5] For the interested parties, a detailed description of the Endless ones (and all the arcs of the Saga) can be read in the Brazilian Sandman fan club website.

[6] Death - the party, drawn and written by Jill Thompson in the Manga style. Conrad Publishing company, 2004; Death - the price of life, Ed. Globo, 1994; e Death - the great moment of life, Ed. Abril, 1992. The two last ones had been relaunched by Vertigo in 2006, in an special edition of the complete Sandman collection.

[7] For example: the three witches (a young, another middle-age and an old one) are the Hecatae or Moirae belong to Greek (and Roman) mythology; they represent past, present and the future; they come many times in the Sandman stories as an oracle to different characters and, in the penultimate arc, The kindly ones (2008a), incarnate the time, placing themselves above Destination and The Endless. They had appeared in the DC comics in the 70's in the terror magazine The Witching Hour and had been recycled by Gaiman. Also Lucien, butler in Morpheus mansion of dreams, was created by Paul Levitz and Joe Orlanado in 1975 in the Tales of Ghost Castle. The Crow called Mattews (observer and spy of the master of dreams) were married to Abigail in the series the Monster of the Quagmire. He lives with Eve, second wife of Adam, also a recurrent picture in the stories of the DC Comics, Secrets of Haunted House and Secrets of Haunted House. Caim and Abel, children of Eve, are, in the world of comics, still older: they participated of the magazines House of Mistery (1968) and House of Secret, of the National Periodical Publications, that would come to be called DC Comics from 1976 on.

[8] taken from ""

[9] This comic story, based in homonymous play from Shakespeare, won a literary prize in 13º World Fantasy Convention 1991, in Tucson, Arizona: 1º place of the category shot story of Howard Philips Lovecraft.

[10] Cluracan and Nuala, of the Faerie court; Odin, Thor and Loki from Asgard; the princess Jemmy from the kingdom of Chaos; Kilderkin of the kingdom of Order; Anubis and Bast of the Egyptian pantheon; suzano-o-no-mikoto of the archaic nipponic pantheon; the demons Azazel, Merkin (the spider woman) and Chorozon; and of the archangels sent by the Creator: Remiel and Duma.


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DELEUZE, Gilles e GUATTARI, Felix. O Anti-Édipo. Lisboa: Assírio e Alvin, 1972.

DELEUZE, Gilles e GUATTARI, Felix. Mil Platôs – Esquizofrenia e Capitalismo, v. 1, 2, 3, 4 e 5. Rio de Janeiro: editora 34, 1980.

DELEUZE, Gilles e GUATTARI, Felix. O que é Filosofia. Rio de Janeiro: editora 34, 1991.

GAIMAN, Neil. Sandman – os caçadores de sonho, uma fábula tradicional japonês (o monge e a raposa) narrada na forma de conto com ilustrações de Yoshitaka Amano São Paulo: Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2001.

__________ Sandman: Prelúdios et Noturnos. Ilustrada por San Kieth, Mike Dringenberg e Malcolm Jones III (originalmente publicado na forma de revista Sandman 1-8; DC Comics, 1991). Tradução Ana Ban. São Paulo: Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2005.

___________ Sandman: A Casa das Bonecas. Ilustrada por Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo e Steve Parkhouse. (revistas 9-16) Tradução Sérgio Codespoti. São Paulo: Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2005a.

___________ Sandman: A Terra dos Sonhos. Ilustrada por Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Collen Doran e Malcolm Jones III. (revistas 17-20). Tradução de Daniel Pellizzari. São Paulo: Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2005b.

___________ Sandman: Estação das Brumas. Introdução de Harlam Ellison; Ilustrada por Kelly Jones, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Matt Wagner, Dick Giordano, George Pratt e P. Craig Russel. (revistas 21-28). Tradução de Daniel Pellizzari. São Paulo: Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2006.

___________ Sandman: Noites sem fim. Ilustrado por Glenn Fabry, Milo Manara, Miguelanxo Prado, Frank Quitely, P. Craig Russel, Bill Sienkewicz e Barron Storey. Tradução Sérgio Codespoti. São Paulo: Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2006a.

____________ Sanman: Um Jogo de Você. Ilustrado por Shaw McManus, Collen Doran, Bryan Talbot, George Pratt, Stan Woch e Dick Giordano. (revistas avulsas 32-37). Tradução de Daniel Pellizzari. São Paulo: Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2006b.

____________ Sandman: Fábulas e Reflexões. Ilustrado por Bryan Talbot, Stan Woch, P. Craig Russel, Shaw McManus, John Watkiss, Jill Thompson, Duncan Eagleson, Kent Williams, Mark Buckingham, Vince Locke e Dick Giordano. Tradução de Daniel Pellizzari. São Paulo: Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2006c.

________Morte. Ilustrado por Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham, Mark Pennington, Dave McKean, Rick Berry, Bill Sienkiewicz, Moebius e Greg Spalenka. Originalmente publicado como em duas revistas: Morte – o preço da vida (Ed. Globo, 1994); e Morte – o grande momento da vida (Ed. Abril, 1992).Tradução Ana Ban. São Paulo: Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2006d.

____________ Sandman: Vidas Breves. Ilustrado por Jill Thompson e Vince Locke. Tradução de Daniel Pellizzari. (revistas 41-49). São Paulo: Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2007a.

____________ Sandman: Fim dos Mundos. Ilustrado por Michael Allred, Gary Amaro, Mark Buckingahm, Dick Jordano, /tony Harris, Steve Leialoha, Vince Locke, Shea Anton Pensa, Alec Stevens, Bryan Talbot, John Watkiss e Michael Zulli. (revistas 51-56) Tradução de Daniel Pellizzari. São Paulo: Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2007b.

____________ Sandman: Entes Queridos. Ilustrado por Marc Hempel, Richard Case D'Israel, Teddy Kristiansen, Glyn Dylon, Charles Vess, Dean Ormston e Kevin Nowlan. (revistas 57-69) Tradução: Daniel Pelizarro. São Paulo: Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2008a.

____________ Sandman: Despertar. Ilustrado por Marc Hempel, Richard Case D'Israel, Teddy Kristiansen, Glyn Dylon, Charles Vess, Dean Ormston e Kevin Nowlan. Tradução: Daniel Pelizarro. São Paulo: Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2008b.

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