12:44pm

Thu May 19, 2011
Monkey See

Enjoying Your Trip to "Dream Country?" Here's Some Other Places to Visit

We're just about done with the current I Will if You Will book club selection, The Sandman: Dream Country. Just one story left, "Facade," which deals with the little-seen underside of super-herodom.

Linda's slammed this week, so if it's okay with y'all, let's hold off on that last discussion until next Monday.

I'll just note here, again, how much I appreciate that our discussions have been so fun, wide-ranging and substantive (the author of the book we're reading thinks so, too). Y'all rock.

So let's take stock for a second. Those of you who've never read a comic before: What do you think? Will you be glad when we're done with this IWIYW selection? Or are you a bit curious about some other comics out there?

If you're not: No harm, no foul. Thanks for playing. Other sports phrases.

If you are: Know that you have made this nerd right here very, very happy. And I've got some ideas for you.

IF YOU LIKED: All four stories, more or less equally.

BECAUSE: You could tell there was much, much more to the world they were set in, and it seemed like a place in which you could see yourself getting happily lost, for a time.

YOU SHOULD TRY: The rest of the Sandman series, doy. If you're ready to dive in, start with Volume I: Preludes and Nocturnes.

But if you're still not sure, and think you'd like to paddle around in the shallow waters with maybe a few more short stories set in this universe, look for Volume VI: Fables and Reflections. This trade collects stand-alone stories from later in the series run, and is, perhaps as a result, a chewier and more immersive read than Dream Country. (Note: It includes my favorite Sandman stand-alone story, "Ramadan," a sad, haunting tale that manages to distill everything I love about the series, with freaking gorgeous art by P. Craig Russell.)

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IF YOUR FAVORITE STORY WAS: The first one, "Calliope."

BECAUSE: You liked its dark, moody tone, and the the way it dealt with writers on writing.

YOU SHOULD TRY: The Unwritten, written by Mike Carey, with art by Peter Gross. I tell you why (after a bit of throat-clearing) here. Or maybe Daytripper, by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, about which you will learn more if you click on this here blue type.

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IF YOUR FAVORITE STORY WAS: The second one, "A Dream of 1,000 Cats."

BECAUSE: You dug its fable-like feel. And, to be honest, the talking cats were pretty cool, too.

YOU SHOULD TRY: Another, longer stand-alone Sandman story, The Dream Hunters, a bittersweet love story of a fox and a Japanese monk. ... No, not like that. Ew. It's available as a novella, with illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano, or as a graphic novel, with art by P. Craig Russell. (I wrote about the graphic novel version here.)

Bill Willingham's Fables is an obvious choice for a follow-up, but a solid one. This series about fairy tale characters trying to make a go of it in New York City starts slow, but builds steadily.

Skewing a bit younger, there's Mouse Guard, David Petersen's lovingly illustrated tales of musketeer mice with teensy swords. There's also Mice Templar, written by Bryan J L Glass with art by Michael Oeming, which throws a coating of myth and magic over the mice/swords/capes schematic.

(Mm? What's that? You say you want a more detailed mouse-epic compare-and-contrast? I got your back, buddy.)

Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson's Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites is another book I've mentioned before — all about a pack of suburban pets who investigate mysterious goings-on. Very fun, kinda twisted, and features Thompson's beautiful watercolors.

Easily one of the strangest and richest "funny animal" comics going — (note: it's not particularly funny) is the noir adventures of pussycat P.I., Blacksad. Why, yes, I HAVE written about it.

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IF YOUR FAVORITE STORY WAS: The third one, "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

BECAUSE: You like that it was about Shakespeare, and therefore worthy of your beautiful mind. Also you like the mix of history and Faerie.

YOU SHOULD TRY: Kill Shakespeare, by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery, with art by Andy Belanger. Murder mystery set in a world where Shakespeare's character interact with one another. I've talked to Shakespeare nerds who find it a lot of fun, and to some who sniff at it; personally, I bailed after a couple issues, but I've been meaning to pick up the first trade. Decide for yourself.

Gaiman wrote a mini-series called The Books of Magic back in 1990, which was on one level Where's Waldo for obscure DC characters, but on another a solidly built story of a young man deciding whether or not to accept magic into his life. If you're new to comics, the guided tour of the DC Universe elements might not grab you, but the trip to Faerie in the third chapter is a lot of fun. (If you dig it, check out the ongoing Books of Magic series that followed it, by John Ney Reiber. It's lousy with Titania and Oberon.)

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IF YOUR FAVORITE STORY IS: The one you're reading now, "Facade."

BECAUSE: Well, that would be telling. I'll save these suggestions for after our discussion, as a couple of them would spoil the story's ending.

Get to reading! We'll see you on Monday.

NON-COMICS READERS: Take to the comments with any general thoughts on how, or if, this experience is meeting or confounding your expectations.

COMICS READERS: Let them know your suggestions for further reading. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.