The Sandman: Worlds' End

Cover of The Sandman: Worlds' End  (1995), trade paperback collected edition. Art by Dave McKean.
Publisher DC Comics
Publication date July–December 1993

Dark fantasy

Mythology in comics
Title(s) The Sandman #51-56
Main character(s) Dream
ISBN ISBN 1-4176-8617-0
Creative team
Writer(s) Neil Gaiman
Artist(s) Dave McKean
Alec Stevens
Mark Buckingham
John Watkiss
Dick Giordano
Mike Allred
Vince Locke
Steve Leialoha
Tony Harris
Bryan Talbot
Michael Zulli
Shea Anton Pensa
Gary Amano
Penciller(s) Alec Stevens
Bryan Talbot
John Watkiss
Michael Zulli
Mike Allred
Shea Anton Pensa
Gary Amano
Inker(s) Alec Stevens
Mark Buckingham
John Watkiss
Dick Giordano
Mike Allred
Vince Locke
Steve Leialoha
Tony Harris
Bryan Talbot
Letterer(s) Todd Klein
Colorist(s) Daniel Vozzo
Editor(s) Karen Berger
Shelly Roeberg

Worlds' End (1994) is the eighth collection of issues in the DC Comics series The Sandman. It was written by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Michael Allred, Gary Amaro, Mark Buckingham, Dick Giordano, Tony Harris, Steve Leialoha, Vince Locke, Shea Anton Pensa, Alec Stevens, Bryan Talbot, John Watkiss, and Michael Zulli; colored by Danny Vozzo; and lettered by Todd Klein. There is at least one website that claims the events in it are loosely associated with Zero Hour.[1] However, the original issues of Worlds' End and Zero Hour were published a year apart. The stories in the collection first appeared in 1993. The collection first appeared in paperback and hardback editions in 1994 with an introduction by Stephen King. The collection's title, setting, and a number of its themes and images are also found in G.K. Chesterton's poem "A Child of the Snows".


Like volumes 3 and 6, Dream Country and Fables and Reflections, "Worlds' End" is a volume of predominantly single-issue short stories, often only obliquely related to the principal story arc of the series. The issues in Worlds' End were written and published in sequence, using a frame narrative.

The story begins in the first person narration of Brant Tucker. He and co-worker Charlene Mooney are involved in a car crash during what seems to be a snowstorm in June while on their way to Chicago. Charlene is hurt, and Brant is directed by a talking hedgehog to a strange inn named "Worlds' End, a free house". This is revealed later as one of four inns where travelers between realms shelter during reality storms, which may be the consequences of particularly momentous events. Throughout the reading of the collection, then, the reader is aware that some kind of momentous event has occurred, to which the concluding procession alludes; the revelers at the inn gather by its windows to watch a funeral procession cross the sky, which ends with Death looking sadly into the inn and then looking down sadly at her crossed hands, as the crescent moon behind her slowly turns red. The framing sequence is penciled by Bryan Talbot and inked by Mark Buckingham, Dick Giordano and Steve Leialoha, with the exception of the funeral procession, which is penciled by Gary Amaro and inked by Tony Harris.

The stories within the collection are each narrated by a different person during a storytelling session at the inn; as the introduction notes, this is similar to the device used in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. This gives each a distinct style both in the telling and in the illustration, with the collection drawn together by the short sequences between stories set at the inn itself. Each story told contains at least one character telling a story within the story.


(#51) "A Tale of Two Cities"

The first story is perhaps the most distinctive in graphical style; it eschews the traditional comic style, with linked panels containing speech bubbles and panels which narrate the story. The narration appears as prose, with illustrations interrupting to provide snapshots of the action in the story. Gaiman had asked artist Alec Stevens to model the approach after that which he had employed in The Sinners, published by DC's Piranha Press imprint in June 1989. This approach is a unique, stained-glass-like style that takes a nod to the German Expressionists of the early 20th century.

"A Tale" concerns a city dweller who finds himself one day in what he believes to be the dream of the city in which he lives, where he meets another stranded city dweller, an old man who explains his fear that the cities are dreaming and will someday awaken before vanishing. He also encounters Morpheus, and a woman who looks like Death, but who Gaiman has said is not. When asked, Stevens said that he drew his own 'Mona' character from his Hardcore graphic novel, published by Piranha Press in January 1990. It ends with the frightened city dweller returning to "reality", whereupon he moves away from the city to a small village, where the storyteller meets him. He fears that one day, the cities will awaken. This story is influenced by the work of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, especially in its thematic concerns of a character nearly driven to madness after discovering a truth that humans were never meant to know. In his introduction to Lovecraft, The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft: Dreams of Terror and Death, Gaiman writes, "There's something about Lovecraft's fiction, about his worlds, that is oddly alluring for a writer of fantasy and horror. I've written three Lovecraftian stories: one obliquely, in Sandman—a quiet, dreamlike story (it's the first story in the Worlds' End collection. You can tell it's Lovecraftian, because I use the word "cyclopean" in it)."[2]

(#52) "Cluracan's Tale"

The second story is a fantasy adventure yarn, spun by the flamboyant representative of Faerie introduced in Season of Mists, Cluracan. He is sent to the city Aurelian to represent the interests of Faerie in the political upheavals currently occurring in that distant place, and causes uproar with a prophecy to the autocratic ruler of Aurelian. He is imprisoned as a consequence, but freed by Morpheus, who is alerted to his plight by Cluracan's sister, Nuala, currently in Morpheus' service. Using his faerie powers to disguise himself, Cluracan provokes the inhabitants of Aurelian to rebellion against their corpulent and corrupt ruler. John Watkiss draws this story with swashbuckling brushstrokes.

(#53) "Hob's Leviathan"

The third is a sea chanty told by a girl who poses as a boy, Jim, in order to be able to go to sea. It concerns the difficulties presented by extraordinary truths, and reintroduces Hob Gadling, whose story is first told in The Doll's House. Jim makes a voyage from Singapore to Liverpool, stopping in India. He meets Hob, who is presented as a guest on the ship, and an Indian stowaway whom Hob convinces the captain to let stay. The Indian tells a tale about a king who gives his beloved wife the fruit of immortality, who in turn gives it to her secret lover, which then passes to a concubine, then back to the king. The king in shame or despair leaves his city after having his wife and her lover executed, and wanders the earth, having finally eaten the fruit of immortality himself after all. The Indian stowaway shows a clear resemblance to the king in the story, and in a later scene, Hob remarks to him that helping him was the least he could do, seeing that there's so few of them (implying the two share something important, likely their immortality).

Before the end of their journey, a massive leviathan appears and surrounds the ship in a terrible display, then disappears. Jim is eager to tell people what he saw, but Hob states that the sea holds many secrets that sailors know but don't and can't talk about. The story ends with Hob revealing he knows Jim's true identity and Jim learning Hob actually owns the ship he sails on. The tale of Jim may be inspired by the traditional folk song "The Handsome Cabin Boy." The story is penciled by Michael Zulli and inked by Dick Giordano.

(#54) "The Golden Boy"

The fourth story is a story about America, told to Brant alone by an Asian man he meets upstairs in the inn.[3]

In this America, Nixon is not re-elected in 1972; instead, he is succeeded by a young man named Prez Rickard, as American youth — allowed to vote for the first time with the lowering of voting age to 18 — also vote to lower the required age for president and get behind one of their own. Prez is a great president, averting a conflict in the Middle East, solving the energy crisis and putting the USA's house in order.

Before he becomes President he is visited by Boss Smiley, a sinister figure with the "have a nice day" smiley face for a head. Smiley tempts Prez, offering him the presidency in exchange for allegiance. Prez refuses the offer, and is elected regardless.

During his successful first term, he is revisited by Smiley, who warns him not to seek a second term. Prez again disregards Smiley, and is re-elected. In Prez's second term, a deranged woman wounds Prez and kills his new fiancee to get a celebrity's (Ted Grant) attention (similar to John Hinckley). Smiley tempts Prez one last time, offering to restore her to him if he will serve Smiley. Prez finishes his term and retires to his hometown, declining many requests to return to public life and eventually vanishing altogether.

The man recounts "a matter of personal belief and revelation," that at the end of his life, Prez is taken by Death to heaven, where Boss Smiley warmly claims him as a good servant and offers Prez a job as a praiser. Dream arrives and takes Prez away from an angry Smiley, and Prez begins wandering between worlds to help out other Americas. Prez is ultimately a Messiah figure for the American dream; young, perfect, idealistic and brilliant, and therefore essentially fleeting and transitory. Prez's role as an ecumenical religious figure is emphasized throughout; his parallels with Jesus Christ are demonstrated through parallels with stories from the Gospels, including events similar to Jesus's discussions with the temple elders or the temptation of Christ, and stories from other religious traditions such as Taoism are included.[4] There are also subtle homages to Watchmen. The deranged woman who kills his new fiancee wears a smiley button. The panel which shows a zombie version of hers even has a blood spot on the smiley button identical to the one in Watchmen. Prez's backstory as a watchmaker also mirrors that of Dr. Manhattan.

(#55) "Cerements"

The fifth story is told by a 'prentice' (Petrefax) from the necropolis Litharge, a city devoted to the dead; its inhabitants know countless methods of burial from manifold realms and cultures. The most complex of the stories in Worlds' End, at one point it itself features a storytelling session - thus leading to a point where five frames exist at one time (taking into account the fact that the central plot is, at the end, revealed to be a frame). Petrefax tells of his apprenticeship, and relates the stories told by other masters and apprentices at an air burial he attends as punishment for daydreaming in class. The first story is that of Billy Scutt, a master hangman, told by Mig. Scroyle's tale, the second, features Destruction, who tells of an earlier necropolis, destroyed by Destiny for failing to honor the funerary traditions necessary to the first Despair's interment; this story, and the one that follows it, prove important to events in the tenth collection, The Wake. Master Hermas' tale comes third, telling of Mistress Veltiss who in relates four of her town tales: one of a mortician and a giant, another of a gravedigger, the third of a layover in a tavern at worlds' end, and her own tale, which also obliquely involves the Endless. When asked to tell a story of his own, Petrefax admits to believing he hasn't one. The Prentice's story arc is left unfinished as Master Klaproth silences him. Petrefax's story is penciled by Shea Anton Pensa and inked by Vince Locke.

Issues collected

Issue Title Writer Penciller Inker Colorist Letterer Asst Editor Editor
51 A Tale of Two Cities Neil Gaiman Alec Stevens / Bryan Talbot Alec Stevens / Mark Buckingham Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein Shelly Roeberg Karen Berger
52 Cluracan's Tale Neil Gaiman John Watkiss / Bryan Talbot John Watkiss / Mark Buckingham Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein Shelly Roeberg Karen Berger
53 Hob's Leviathan Neil Gaiman Michael Zulli / Bryan Talbot David Giordano / Mark Buckingham Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein Shelly Roeberg Karen Berger
54 The Golden Boy Neil Gaiman Michael Allred / Bryan Talbot Michael Allred / Mark Buckingham Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein Shelly Roeberg Karen Berger
55 Cerements Neil Gaiman Shea Anton Pensa / Bryan Talbot Vince Locke / Mark Buckingham Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein Shelly Roeberg Karen Berger
56 Worlds' End Neil Gaiman Gary Amaro / Bryan Talbot Dick Giordano / Steve Leialoha / Tony Harris / Mark Buckingham / Bryan Talbot Daniel Vozzo Todd Klein Shelly Roeberg Karen Berger


  1. "The Continuity Pages: The Sandman". October 12, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  2. Gaiman, Neil (1995). "Introduction". In Lovecraft, H.P.. The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft: Dreams of Terror and Death. Del Rey. p. x. ISBN 978-0345384218. 
  3. Peterson, Matthew (11 August 2013). "RETRO REVIEW: Sandman #54 (October 1993)". Major Spoilers. Retrieved 2013-09-03. 
  4. For example, when Prez declines an offer to return to public service, he tells a story about a White House tiger rug identical to the turtle story in the [[wikipedia:Chuang Tzu|]].

Further reading

External links

Category:Comics by Bryan Talbot Category:1994 books Category:Comic book collection books

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