Well, I was going to post about the 2008 Eisner Award winners, to let you know about the very best graphic novels and comics this year had to offer, but it turns out that I jumped my own gun when I posted about the nominees way back in April.
So instead, I’ll tell you about some dreamy graphic novels. Dreams and dream interpretation are among some of the most sought-after subjects here, and they’re also something I think about–and read about–often.
When it comes to oneironautical comics, few are as famous as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. In the series the cast of seven siblings, the Endless (personifications of abstractions like Delirium, Death and, of course, Dream) and their rich saga of adventures in fantastic or realistic realms are laden with archetype, and whimsically dreamlike in logic and imagination.
The series proved as inspirational as it is enjoyable, and spawned a variety of crossovers and spinoffs, successful in their own rites. Among them are Sandman Mystery Theatre, Lucifer, John Constantine, Hellblazer, Death: The High Cost of Living, to name a few.
Fortunately for us, Gaiman isn’t the only comics creator to mine what Joseph Campbell called our “private myths.” In fact, several recently published graphic novels have expertly harnessed dream magic. We’ll just have to wait and see if they earn nominations for next year’s Eisners.
House of Clay by Naomi Nowak follows a hemophobic woman seeking to pay for nursing school with her earnings from a clothing factory through numerous dream sequences and dream-like encounters in waking life. Nowak gorgeously illustrates the subtle narrative with muted hues in cleverly layered panels or unframed full-page illustrations lush with swirling amorphous plant life and tangled hair curls.
After you read Anders Nilsen’s Dogs and Water, you’ll be moved to look up the eponymous objects in a dream dictionary. Plot is sporadic and symbolic rather than linear. The hoodie-clad main character walks along a deserted road into a desert. But does he stumble into a war zone? Or is he actually drifting far from land in a boat? Or is he underwater? Wherever he is, the character has only his teddy bear—with whom he’s apparently very angry— strapped to his back pack to talk to. Landscape is reduced to its most suggestive elements in sparse black and white line drawings that blend rapidly shifting settings via common walls, ground, and clouds.
Finally, and my favorite, comes Jessica Farm by Josh Simmons. The project alone is remarkably ambitious. He began the volume in December 2000 and drew a page monthly until January of 2007, a process he plans to use as a model, releasing a volume every seven years, and completing the series in 2050. As the title heroine wanders through her house, she encounters inhabitants who range from sweet to homicidal, which creates irresistible tension between reverie and nightmare. Simmons expertly arranges panels to develop and sustain different moods, varying light and dark, and simple scenes with staggering panoramic vistas. Its sole downfall is that I’ll have to wait so long for the sequel.
“I have no theory about dreams, I do not know how dreams arise. And I am not at all sure that my way of handling dreams even deserves the name of a ‘method.’ …On the other hand, I know that if we meditate on a dream sufficiently long and thoroughly, if we carry it around with us and turn it over and over, something almost always comes of it.”
Surely these graphic novelists have carried these dreams around long enough to make them fruitful. Why not sleepwalk your way to the shelves and explore them yourself?