A reader named Chris S. suggested that I devote October to the scariest comic books of all-time, as suggested by you readers out there! Sounds like a plan to me! So all October-long, I'll be featuring 31 comic book tales of terror, based on YOUR suggestions! So e-mail me at email@example.com your scary suggestions! Here is an archive of all the comics featured so far!
A whole pile of you want me to feature Sandman #6 by Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III, the famous "24 Hours Diner" issue featuring Doctor Destiny tormenting a random group of diner patrons. So that's just what I'll do!
A standard superhero trope is the notion of showing the big bad guy kill off an established character who we know to be powerful in his/her own right. This way the reader knows that the bad guy is a real threat to the hero of the book. In his own particular fashion, that is what Neil Gaiman does with Doctor Destiny in Sandman #6, the penultimate issue of the initial storyline in Sandman (where Morpheus is freed after decades in captivity and proceeds to search for his totems of power). Doctor Destiny has the last totem, the powerful ruby, which can help re-shape reality itself!!
Before the confrontation between Morpheus and Destiny, though, we see the power of the ruby in action at a 24 Hour Diner that Destiny has chosen to hang out in until Morpheus comes a-callin'.
Gaiman does a wonderful job introducing the issue as we meet the "powerful" waitress, Bette, who, in her mind, controls the lives of all her regular customers through her stories.
Of course, Destiny ends up ACTUALLY controlling all of their lives (and then there is the whole matter of where Gaiman himself plays into the comic, as the writer who is controlling EVERYTHING in the comic).
As time goes by, Destiny slowly begins to impose his will on the customers and Bette...
Things slowly descend even further than this.
It is a grim, stark and often disturbing avenue that Destiny takes these people, but all the while it is stunningly brilliant in its depravity. In addition, Gaiman is sure to find the quiet nobility in the hearts of these average schmoes who have gotten caught up in Destiny's web.
The artwork from Mike Dringenberg and Jones III is powerful and well stylized.
This is an excellent, if harrowing comic book, and it showed that even quite early on in Sandman, Gaiman was a force to be reckoned with (okay, the battle between Morpheus and the demon in #4 already made that perfectly evident, but whatever!).