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Neil Gaiman's New Sandman Universe Isn't A First for Vertigo

It's been a good month for fans of the pioneering Vertigo comic The Sandman, particularly if you were at last weekend's Emerald City Comic-Con. Not only were attendees of the spotlight panel for Vertigo and fellow DC imprint Young Animal given a free exclusive digital code to redeem free copies of all 75 issues of the original series, they were also treated to a video of Neil Gaiman discussing the new Sandman Universe imprint launching to celebrate the iconic comic's 30th anniversary.

The imprint debuts on August 8 with The Sandman Universe #1, a one-shot comic plotted by Gaiman, co-written by Nalo Hopkinson, Kat Howard, Si Spurrier and Daniel Watters, drawn by Bilquis Everly and with a cover by Jae Lee. It will set up the story hook for this new imprint: twenty-three years after being appointed the Lord of Dreams, Daniel has gone missing and chaos reigns across the Dreaming.

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That will lead into four spin-offs (for which artists have not yet been announced), with September seeing the debut of The Dreaming (written by Spurrier) and The House of Whispers (Hopkinson) and October ushering in The Books of Magic (Howard) and Lucifer (Watters). As exciting as all these sequel spin-offs sound, however, this is not the first time the world of Morpheus and the Endless has been expanded upon.

Testing the Waters of The Dreaming

Chris Bachalo and Mark Buckingham's art from Death: The High Cost of Living

The very first Sandman spinoffs arrived in 1993, right as the original series was in the middle of its run. March of that year saw the start of the three-issue mini-series Death: The High Cost of Living. Written by Gaiman, pencilled by Chris Bachalo, inked by Mark Buckingham and lettered by Todd Klein, the mini follows a teenager named DiDi leading a suicidal boy named Sexton on a journey of self-discovery while claiming she's Death of the Endless, having taken human form as she does once a century to better understand humanity.

One of the first titles published under Vertigo (created that year to incorporate Sandman, Swamp Thing and other mature comics), it was a big success and won two Eisner Awards, with Gaiman winning Best Writer and the mini's editor Karen Berger winning Best Editor(the creative team would reunite for a similar miniseries, Death: The Time of Your Life, in 1996).

1994 saw the release of WitchCraft, a miniseries written by James Robinson, pencilled by Teddy Kristiansen, inked by Peter Snejbjerg, colored by Daniel Vozzo and lettered by Richard Starkings and Comicraft. The three-issue mini followed the Three Fates (who appeared at Morpheus' summons several times over the original series) as they helped a high preistess of theirs take centuries-long revenge against the chief of a barbarian clan that murdered an entire coven of their followers. A sequel miniseries, WitchCraft: La Terreur, written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Duncan Fegredo, followed in 1998.

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