The Sandman: Brief Lives
Cover of The Sandman: Brief Lives  (1994), trade paperback collected edition.Art by Dave McKean.
Publisher DC Comics
Publication date September 1992 - May 1993

Dark fantasy

Mythology in comics
Title(s) The Sandman #41-49
Main character(s) Dream
ISBN ISBN 1-85286-577-6
Creative team
Writer(s) Neil Gaiman
Penciller(s) Jill Thompson
Inker(s) Vince Locke
Dick Giordano
Letterer(s) Todd Klein
Colorist(s) Danny Vozzo
Editor(s) Karen Berger
Lisa Aufenanger
Alisa Kwitney

Brief Lives (1994) is the seventh collection of issues in the DC Comics series, The Sandman. Written by Neil Gaiman, penciled by Jill Thompson, inked by Vince Locke and Dick Giordano, coloured by Danny Vozzo, lettered by Todd Klein, with cover art by Dave McKean. The introduction was written by Peter Straub but was published as an afterword; Gaiman wrote a brief introduction explaining this.[1]

The issues in the collection, #41-49, first appeared in 1992 and 1993.[2] The collection first appeared in paperback and hardback in 1994.

It was preceded by Fables and Reflections and followed by Worlds' End.


The story revolves around Delirium's wish to visit her brother Destruction and to make everything 'like it was'. To this end, she first contacts Desire and Despair, each of whom refuses to accompany her on her quest. A flashback to the Black Plague shows the last time Despair and Destruction had talked in private with each other, the memory of which causes Despair to weep. Delirium then visits Dream in his realm. Dream, who is brooding over his failed relationship, eventually agrees to accompany Delirium (after confirming that this is not another of Desire's plots against him) so that he will have something to take his mind off his troubles.

Dream arranges transportation with an old god, Pharamond - now Mister Pharrel - whom Dream had counselled during the days of Babylon to become someone who arranges travel for people. Armed with a list Delirium wrote, Dream and Delirium start looking for people who knew Destruction. Unknown to them, these people have incidents that either kill them (such as a 15,000 year old lawyer who is killed by part of a building falling on him) or cause them to flee (such as The Alder Man, who changes himself into a bear and has his shadow assume his appearance). After their driver Ruby dies in a fire (from smoking in her motel bed), Dream has his raven Matthew help Delirium drive their car to a strip club, where Dream briefly talks with Ishtar, a former lover of Destruction. Ishtar does know know where Destruction is, and after Dream, Delirium and Matthew leave she performs one final dance as she used to, blowing up the strip club and herself in the process.

Realising that the various deaths are being caused because of their quest, Dream refuses to continue. Delirium goes back angry to her realm and closes it off from the rest of the family, represented by a black area where her sigil should be. Dream meanwhile talks with the cat goddess Bast, who told Dream that she knew where Destruction was. When Dream asks Bast, she confesses that she lied to Dream, and asks if there are no oracles to find someone of the endless. Dream becomes silent and returns to his realm. Death comes to Dream's realm and chides Dream, tasking him with talking with Delirium to make her feel better. Dream enters Delirium's realm and tells her that he'll accompany her once more.

Dream and Delirium visit Destiny (using a carnival fun-house as a 'labyrinth' to enter Destiny's realm), who tells Dream that there is indeed an oracle who can help them. Destiny also states that Dream will see his lover one more time and that she will never love him despite his wishes. When Dream starts to despair, Delirium forces herself to 'keep it together' (represented by normal speech and both eyes the same color) to convince Dream to keep going. As they leave, Destiny's book flips through pages, showing a flashback to when Destruction announced that he was abandoning his realm, as well as a scene showing Dream returning to Earth exhausted beyond endurance just prior to his imprisonment, Death visiting a young boy in China during her one day a century when she assumes human form, and a white-robed Dream talking with the Corinthian. Dream visits his son Orpheus, who tells them how to find Destruction. Dream and Delirium eventually find Destruction, having retired to a small cabin where he makes paintings and writes poetry, all of which is criticised by his dog Barnabas. Destruction, who had kept the sigils of his family members along with a scrying pool (which bubbled over due to people looking for him), knew of Dream and Delirium's arrival and had made dinner for them.

During dinner, Destruction reveals that rather than allowing himself to be destroyed and have another aspect of himself take over - as had previously happened to Despair - he decided to abandon his realm. Destruction also admits that he placed safeguards up in case someone came looking for him; these safeguards were responsible for the accidents that befell the people who knew him. As they all walk out to view the night sky, Destruction reveals that he once had a conversation with Death, who claimed that everything is already known to everyone, but they all wilfully choose to ignore this information. Destruction views his function as having been completed, seeing as how Death defines life, he defines Creation and Dream defines reality. Destruction finally dismantles his gallery, shrinks down his scrying pool and sword for easy carrying, and after having Barnabas accompany Delirium travels off into the stars to somewhere else.

Dream then goes back to visit Orpheus, who had dreamed that he was singing to an elderly Eurydice and their two children. For having given Dream the information he needed, Orpheus asked Dream to grant him a boon - his death. Orpheus apologizes to Dream for not having listened to him, and Dream kills Orpheus, getting his hands and arms bloodied in the process. When Despair comes to visit them, Dream takes leave of them. Despair, having regretted not going with Delirium, picks some flowers that sprouted from the blood of Orpheus that dripped from Dream's hands. Despair goes to her realm, where she hands a flower to Desire, who claims that although she's happy she witnessed Dream finally spilling family blood is also scared of the consequences of what happened.

Back in his own realm, Dream appears to be softer with his servants (such as allowing Nuala to keep a pendant that Thessaly had given her before she left, even though Nuala was warned previously not to even mention Thessaly again, much less show something she got from her). Dream talks with Andros, the custodian of Orpheus' head, telling him to bury Orpheus but without a marker. Dream washes his hands off, seeing in the bowl of water the scene where he told Orpheus to mourn Eurydice and 'to live'. Some of the people who met Dream along the way are shown in what happened to them later, and Andros is shown burying Orpheus' head under a cherry tree with his son and grandson, realising that he will not live to see the next year but being content anyway.

Issues collected

Issue Title Writer Penciller Inker Colorist Letterer Ast Editor Editor
41 Brief Lives - Chapter 1 Neil Gaiman Jill Thompson Vince Locke Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein Alisa Kwitney Karen Berger
42 Brief Lives - Chapter 2 Neil Gaiman Jill Thompson Vince Locke Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein Lisa Aufenanger Karen Berger
43 Brief Lives - Chapter 3 Neil Gaiman Jill Thompson Vince Locke Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein Lisa Aufenanger Karen Berger
44 Brief Lives - Chapter 4 Neil Gaiman Jill Thompson Vince Locke Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein Lisa Aufenanger Karen Berger
45 Brief Lives - Chapter 5 Neil Gaiman Jill Thompson Vince Locke Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein Lisa Aufenanger Karen Berger
46 Brief Lives - Chapter 6 Neil Gaiman Jill Thompson Vince Locke Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein Lisa Aufenanger Karen Berger
47 Brief Lives - Chapter 7 Neil Gaiman Jill Thompson Vince Locke / Dick Giordano Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein n/a Karen Berger
48 Brief Lives - Chapter 8 Neil Gaiman Jill Thompson Vince Locke Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein n/a Karen Berger
49 Brief Lives - Chapter 9 Neil Gaiman Jill Thompson Vince Locke Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein n/a Karen Berger


  1. Gaiman, Neil (1994). Brief Lives. NY, New York: DC Comics. ISBN 1-56389-138-7. 
  2. Gaiman, Neil (1994). Brief Lives. NY, New York: DC Comics. ISBN 1-56389-138-7. 
  • Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 811: attempt to index field 'IdAccessLevels' (a nil value).

External links

Preceded by
Fables and Reflections
The Sandman
collected editions
Succeeded by
Worlds' End
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