This is the one-hundred and eighty-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and eighty-three.
COMIC LEGEND: Neil Gaiman was inspired by the Bob Dylan song "Mr. Tambourine Man" to create the main character in Sandman.
Reader Rob wrote in the other day to ask:
Some people at my comic shop were discussing how Neil Gaiman said he got the idea to do the Morpheus incarnation of Sandman after listening to the lyrics of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man". Is this true?
Well, Bob Dylan IS pretty awesome, so I would not be surprised if he influenced the creation of pretty much every comic character, but in this particular case, it is a fairly reasonable story that Gaiman might have taken some inspiration from the lyrics to Mr. Tambourine Man...
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to.Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.
Though I know that evenin's empire has returned into sand,Vanished from my hand,Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping.My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet,I have no one to meetAnd the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.
That's not hard to believe that it could be an influence for Sandman, the Master of Dreams, no?
However believable, it is not, in fact, true.
For the truth, I went to no other than Neil Gaiman himself, creator of The Sandman, who was gracious enough to give this reply when I asked if it was real or bogus:
Bogus, I'm afraid.
The Golden/Wagner/Bissette book "Prince of Stories" mentions the influence of the Lou Reed/ Velvet Underground song "I'm Set Free", and you can find many songs referred to in the online annotations and the Hy Bender Sandman Companion, but there's no Dylan in the mix.
The book Neil is referring to, by the way...
Well, there you go, Rob!