With Vertigo closing its gates and The Sandman opening shop on Netflix, it's time for a look at the character who truly launched the imprint.
Morpheus of the Endless was originally part of DC's "Dark Fantasy" line of comics, but it was The Sandman's success, alongside other titles like Animal Man, that persuaded the big comics company to start a new imprint.
30 years after the character's advent, what has kept him in readers' minds and hearts for so long? While he's not the type of character that fights alien invaders or otherwise goes around saving the cliched day he is mind-bogglingly powerful. What makes him one of DC's most OP characters? Well, he's the master of many talents.
10 He Is Master Of The Dreaming
The Dreaming is the nation that Dream rules. Some of its features are static, or at least they are when Morpheus (or Daniel) wants to find them. These include the House of Mysteries, the House of Secrets, the Palace and the Library of Dreams. It's a realm of ideas and concepts, inhabited by a loyal, functionally infinite population.
At the start of The Sandman, Morpheus was absent from The Dreaming for 50 years; 4 dreams defected. As the master of the Dreaming, His Lordship has hand-crafted every dream. As such he has a window into every head in the multiverse.
9 He Has A Foot In Every Reality
The Dreaming exists adjacent to every universe in DC's multiverse. Dream can access not just every mind from there, but can also effortlessly travel to any reality using Omniversal teleportation. While he clearly prefers to exist as a single body, he doesn't have to. Standard dream logic means that he can be all places, all ages, at all times.
There's no world or universe Dream can't travel to, or that doesn't need him. He's a strictly neutral party except in times of extreme dream-related crisis, which is probably the reason there are no "Dream went crazy and became a monster" stories. Anyone with this much power imposing his personal morality over reality would go off the rails.
8 He Can Take All Faces And All Forms
Going back to classical mythology there's a tradition of gods appearing to people in disguise. Dream, like all of The Endless, mostly doesn't bother. When Dream briefly invades the Justice League's Watchtower, J'onn J'onnzz sees Dream as a Martian dream god, but his colleagues see Morpheus in his traditional "pale dude in a cloak" form.
This may not seem OP on the surface, but taken in context with the rest of the series, it's the PERFECT disguise. Dream walks the Earth whenever he wants, but he's almost never recognized as someone worth paying attention to. Supernatural types usually recognize him but the power to effortlessly blend in with any species in the universe - flowers, humans, bacteria- is tremendously overpowered!
7 He Is A Master Of Illusions
Dreams are not just illusions, of course. While you're in the dream, the dream is 100% real. Dream has the power to construct reality around himself-- and can be anywhen and anywhere. Whether his power's subjects are awake or asleep, the realities he creates are ephemeral - they can vanish in an instant.
They are also intensely personal. A de-powered Dream's battle with Doctor Destiny showed that Morpheus drew on the supervillain's fears to create illusions hand-crafted to overwhelm him.
These aren't hypnotic illusions like Marvel's first iteration of the Miracle Man wielded, they're much more powerful. People conceive children inside these dreams. For his part, Miracle Man nearly defeated the Fantastic Four and almost conquered the world!
6 He Invades The Consciousness
Dream controls sleeping and waking. It's simple but profound. What's super strength compared with the power to make a world sleep? Not only can Dream put almost anyone to sleep with a thought, but he also controls what happens in dreams.
Sometimes he uses this ability to have a private chat, just strolling uninvited into a dream. Other times he changes the dreams themselves. The nastiest example is the punishment Dream inflicts on Alex Burgess, the son of the wizard who imprisoned him and kicked off The Sandman series. Dream is at his weakest moment in the series, but he imprisons Alex in an eternal series of nightmares. Each time Alex wakes up in fear, he finds himself in a different nightmare... forever. This is Dream at his weakest. What could he do at his strongest?
5 He's An Inspiration
The power to inspire dreams isn't as impressive as punching meteors but dreams in The Sandman don't vanish when their dreamers wake. The best in-series example is the story "Three Septembers and a January." This tale takes the historical figure Joshua Norton and explains how the man was caught up in a Job style bet between members of the Endless.
Dream finds the man snagged by Despair after a catastrophic business failure and gives him a strange, impossible dream: he is the Emperor of the United States. Set in mid-1800s California the story checks in on Norton regularly throughout his nearly 3-decade "reign," living a life that inspires tens of thousands of people.
Dreams offer purpose, help us live beyond mortality and despair. What happens if Dream inspires the same dream inside a billion minds? A character like Galactus only destroys. The Sandman creates.
4 He's The Dream King
When gods, concepts, and demons need something from Dream - say, the Key to Hell - they come to him. As Azazel found out, they're in his universe then. Stars, gods, and monsters all have to dream. This is a soft power but it's built into reality's structure. Everyone sleeps and everyone dreams. This makes Dream more powerful than even his siblings, with the possible exception of Destiny, who has power but never seems to use it.
Everyone dies as well, but we only meet Death once. Everyone has their own delusions, but only a few live under Delirium's banner. Dream rules every molecule of a universe that everyone visits, usually nightly. This might be the most ridiculously overpowered ability in all of fiction.
3 He Is Endless
Vandal Savage is a supervillain whose only power is immortality. Savage is tens of thousands of years old, stretching back to the dawn of humanity. He's not just dangerous because he's unkillable. Savage has had countless lifetimes to develop his skills and knowledge. He's a peerless warrior and tactician. He's also influenced society for millennia. Every investment he's made has been compounding since the invention of money, and he can afford to play an unimaginably long game. Why fight superheroes when you can just go into hiding for 50 years and let them die?
Dream is not just immortal. His existence stretches billions of years, from the beginning of the universe to the moment Destiny closes his book. Multiplied by the billion realities he inhabits Dream's influence is incalculable.
2 He Has Serial Immortality
Dream can't really die. He's a person, but he's also a force of nature as essential as gravity. If you kill Dream, the universe just makes another one. Readers made this discovery in The Kindly Ones, one of The Sandman's final stories. Dream mercy-killed his deathless-but-bodiless son, Orpheus, putting himself at The Furies' mercy. As in classical myth, they slowly destroyed Dream's friends and kingdom, forcing him to make a terrible choice. To save everything he cares about, Dream obliterated himself.
Instantly Daniel, a child conceived inside a dream, became the King of Dreams. His personality was a bit different and his robes were white. Overall, though, he retained the original Dream's memories and understandings. He lost none of his power. Dream isn't just unkillable. For him dying is like changing clothes.
1 He Has A Powerful Family
Destiny. Death. Destruction. Desire. Despair. Delirium. Dream's 6 siblings are as nearly omnipotent as himself. Some like him, some hate him; Destiny seems indifferent to everything. Still, he's family, and when he calls they listen.
The most polite way to call them is via his Gallery, where he keeps each of their sigils, but he can always ask to talk. When the others call The Endless usually come.
A man killed Despair. We don't know what happened to her killer, but we know her family did it to him. We know his suffering is endless.