Fables & Reflections (1993) is the sixth collection of issues in the DC Comics series, The Sandman. It was written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Bryan Talbot, Stan Woch, P. Craig Russell, Shawn McManus, John Watkiss, Jill Thompson, Duncan Eagleson, Kent Williams, Mark Buckingham, Vince Locke and Dick Giordano, coloured by Danny Vozzo and Lovern Kindzierski/Digital Chameleon, and lettered by Todd Klein. The introduction is written by Gene Wolfe.
The issues in the collection first appeared in 1991, 1992 and 1993. The collection first appeared in paperback and hardback in 1993.
Like the third collection (Dream Country), and the eighth (Worlds' End), Fables and Reflections is a collection of short one-issue stories. Most of the stories do not contribute directly to the overall story arc of the series on a textual level but rather comment on its themes and provide subtext. The most conspicuous exception is the story "Orpheus", originally printed as the one-shot Sandman Special, which is central to the main story of the series.
The book contains four tales under the banner of "Distant Mirrors", which are about emperors and the nature of power. These issues all take their name from months ("Thermidor", "August", "Three Septembers and a January" and "Ramadan"). Three of the issues making up the "Distant Mirrors" group were published between the "Season of Mists" and "A Game of You" story arcs. The last, "Ramadan", was written contemporaneously, but because of art delays DC published it as Issue #50, after the "Brief Lives" arc.
Three other issues appearing in Fables & Reflections, published as the Convergence story "arc", are also single-issue short stories in which Morpheus appears very little. Each of these issues details various characters' meetings with one another, and each is structured as a story within a story (this is a theme to which Gaiman will return in the Worlds' End arc). "Convergence" appeared between the "A Game of You" and "Brief Lives" story arcs.
Because Fables & Reflections partakes of so many elements, some believe it lacks the thematic or artistic consistency that is present even in the other short story collections. Perhaps in an effort to make these differences less apparent, DC has shuffled the issues in the volume instead of presenting them chronologically with "Distant Mirrors" at the front and "Convergence" at the back. Some readers may choose to read this volume cover-to-cover after "A Game of You", while others read individual stories in their place as originally published.
Due to its nature as a collection of short stories, Fables & Reflections is probably the least essential volume of the series in terms of the surface plot of The Sandman (with the exception of "Orpheus"), but perhaps the most accessible as the reader can dip in and out without needing a thorough grounding in the characters and previous stories. That said, some of the stories in Fables and Reflections provide key subtext that is invaluable to the close reader attempting to understand Morpheus' motivations in the rest of the series.
"Fear of Falling"
This is the story from Vertigo Preview #1. This is a very short story, concerning a theatrical author/director who is afraid of the consequences of his new play, be they success or failure. Drawn by Kent Williams.
"Three Septembers and a January"
A playful story concerning the (mostly true) history of Joshua Abraham Norton, first, last and only Emperor of the United States of America. Despair challenges Dream to keep him in his realm for the remainder of his life. While Dream is uninterested, Despair harkens to the memory of their brother's departure which Despair states was caused by Dream's lack of caring. Neatly dovetailed with his story is an explanation for his strange career centering on a challenge between Morpheus and Desire. The story also ties into Desire's actions in the second collection, The Doll's House. Drawn by Shawn McManus.
An altogether darker story set in the heat of the French Revolution, featuring the character of Lady Johanna Constantine (who first appeared in "Men of Good Fortune") and introducing, briefly, Orpheus. The villains of the story are Robespierre and Saint-Just. Penciled by Stan Woch and inked by Dick Giordano.
A Fairy tale of the East European tradition concerning a young man of 'The People' (werewolves) who comes to possess a portrait of a beautiful princess. It makes reference to The Death of Koschei the Deathless and the witch Baba Yaga. Penciled by Duncan Eagleson and inked by Vince Locke.
Another story concerning a month. An extremely bleak tale about the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar set in 7 AD. Disguised as a beggar, he talks of his life to the dwarf who instructs him in this disguise. We learn that as a young man, he was raped by his great-uncle, Julius Caesar; and we learn that Augustus chose the future of the world from two sets of prophecies, one in which the Roman Empire grew to cover the whole world and lasted millennia, and one in which it died out after a few hundred years. He spends one day a year disguised as a beggar because Morpheus told him, in a dream, that if he does so the gods cannot spy on his plans. It is implied that, during his days in disguise as a beggar, Augustus plotted for the Roman Empire to fall after his death out of his hatred for Julius Caesar. Penciled by Bryan Talbot and inked by Stan Woch.
In the story, Augustus uses the phrase "quick as boiled asparagus", a reference to I, Claudius.
Most of this story is based on The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius.
A story of Marco Polo as a boy becoming lost in the desert; he enters one of the Soft Places, a place where the boundary between reality and the Dreaming is not so clear as it is in most places. There he encounters Rustichello of Pisa, Gilbert (or Fiddler's Green), who featured in the second collection, The Doll's House, and Morpheus himself, who is making his way back to his realm via the dreamscape after his captivity in "Preludes and Nocturnes". The story is something of a piece with "Exiles", a story from the tenth collection, The Wake. Drawn by John Watkiss.
"The Song of Orpheus"
This is the central story of the collection. It is a telling of part of the Greek myth of Orpheus, in a similar vein to the story "A Midsummer Night's Dream" from the third collection, Dream Country; behind the main story Gaiman layers an explanation and interpretation based on his own characters, as Morpheus and Calliope are the boy's parents, and his uncle Destruction and aunt Death are vital in allowing him to reach the underworld, after the death of his wife. Gaiman's version of the story reinforces the tragedy of Orpheus with the different, subtler tragedy of his parents, both Morpheus and Calliope's estrangement, part of which is echoed in the seventh collection, Brief Lives. Penciled by Bryan Talbot and inked by Mark Buckingham.
"The Parliament of Rooks"
This story follows Daniel Hall - the child of Hippolyta Hall, first mentioned in Volume Two, The Doll's House, and introduced in Volume Four, Season of Mists - as an independent character. It is a story featuring stories, a device that is used extensively in the eighth collection, Worlds' End, as Cain, Abel, Eve, Matthew and Daniel gather for a storytelling session. The stories told concern the three wives of Adam, how Cain and Abel came to reside in the Dreaming, and the natural phenomenon, the parliament of rooks. In a series of panels illustrated by Jill Thompson, this story introduces the so-called "'Lil Endless" characters, renditions of Morpheus and Death as children, who came to be very popular with fans of the series. Penciled by Jill Thompson and inked by Vince Locke.
A story told, illustrated and lettered in the Arabic tradition. The Caliph Harun al-Rashid rules over the brilliant city of Baghdad, the greatest city the world has ever seen; but he is troubled by the impermanence of this very perfection. He goes to the very top of his palace and threatens to shatter a crystal globe full of demons, if Morpheus will not come and talk to him. There is no answer, and he drops the globe; Morpheus appears and catches it, however, and he and Harun go to the marketplace to talk. Harun proposes a unique bargain; he will give the city of Baghdad to Morpheus, if Morpheus will make sure that the city will endure forever. Reluctantly Morpheus admits that he can do this "After a fashion". After the deal is completed, Raschid's flying carpet crashes into the ground. Harun awakes to find himself in a far more dreary and normal version of Baghdad, with no memory of its previous fantastical nature. As he returns to the palace, he passes by Morpheus, who has the old city in a bottle. Harun is enamored with it, though Morpheus explains that it is no longer for sale. The story ends with an abrupt shift to war-torn modern-day Baghdad, where an old man has been telling this tale to a young child in exchange for money and cigarettes. At the end the boy asks how the deal worked, but the old man does not answer, telling the boy that he should return home. Nevertheless, when the boy leaves he has clearly been enchanted by the tale and then it becomes clear: by taking the city into stories, with the tales lingering behind, Dream has made sure that the legends will be told and retold, keeping it alive forever in memory. Drawn by P. Craig Russell, coloured by Lovern Kinzierski and Digital Chameleon.
This tale contains numerous references to the One Thousand and One Nights, the famous collection of Middle Eastern fables; Harun al-Rashid is himself the protagonist in many of those stories. It is thus implied that the Nights is one of the results of Harun al Rashid's bargain with Morpheus.
|Vertigo Preview||"Fear of Falling"||Neil Gaiman||Kent Williams||Kent Williams||Sherilyn van Valkenburgh||Todd Klein||n/a||Karen Berger|
|31||"Distant Mirrors - Three Septembers and a January"||Neil Gaiman||Shawn McManus||Shawn McManus||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Alisa Kwitney||Karen Berger|
|29||"Distant Mirrors - Thermidor"||Neil Gaiman||Stan Woch||Dick Giordano||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Alisa Kwitney||Karen Berger|
|38||"Convergence - The Hunt"||Neil Gaiman||Duncan Eagleson||Vince Locke||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Alisa Kwitney||Karen Berger|
|30||"Distant Mirrors - August"||Neil Gaiman||Bryan Talbot||Stan Woch||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Alisa Kwitney||Karen Berger|
|39||"Convergence - Soft Places"||Neil Gaiman||John Watkiss||John Watkiss||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Alisa Kwitney||Karen Berger|
|Sandman Special||"The Song of Orpheus"||Neil Gaiman||Bryan Talbot||Mark Buckingham||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Shelly Roeberg||Karen Berger|
|40||"Convergence - The Parliament of Rooks"||Neil Gaiman||Jill Thompson||Vince Locke||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Alisa Kwitney||Karen Berger|
|50||"Distant Mirrors - Ramadan"||Neil Gaiman||P.Craig Russell||P.Craig Russell||Lovern Kindzierski / Digital Chameleon||Todd Klein||Shelly Roeberg||Karen Berger|
|This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (January 2009)|
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