Dream a Little Dream of Me introduces the next Vertigo Comics character, John Constantine (the Hellblazer comics are written by Jamie Delano). Constantine is an English wizard who—most of the time—is found fighting demons. He’s had plenty of friends fall in battle, and is haunted by most of them. Despite this fact, Constantine manages to keep a fairly upbeat, cocky attitude.
Throughout the entire issue, it would appear that “something is trying to tell [Constantine] somebody.” When he wakes up in the morning, the radio plays Dream a Little Dream of Me and Mister Sandman. When he gets his lunch and tries to play I Heard it Through the Grapevine, Sweet Dreams plays instead. Then Mad Hettie, a two hundred and forty-seven year old witch, simply lays it out for him: the Sandman has returned. Mad Hettie has also appeared in Hellblazer comics, so it’s no surprise that she would appear in the same Sandman comic Constantine guest stars in.
As Constantine spends some days looking into it, but eventually the Sandman finds him. “John Constantine, I presume,” Dream says, and Constantine jokes that he’s not Dr. Livingstone. His wit is wasted on Dream, who doesn’t appear to have a sense of humor. He demands to know where his pouch of dream sand is, since Constantine was the last person said to have it. Ironically, Constantine informs him that he bought it in a garage sale, and that it’s probably in storage.
As the two of them set out to find the pouch, another joke is told.
Constantine tells Dream that he should change his clothing from the usual long black robes with flames at the base to something less embarrassing. Looking at Constantine’s tan trench coat, Dream changes his appearance so that he, too, is dressed in a black trench coat. When Dream asks if this is better, Constantine replies, “I ought to introduce you to the big green bloke, you’d like him. He hasn’t got a sense of humor either.” Constantine is, of course, referring to Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing (this is also Neil saluting the man who gave him his start in comics working on Miracleman).
Constantine’s storage reveals a picture of him with his ex-lover, Rachel, who he believes may have taken the pouch. They drive to Rachel’s parent’s place. Things look decent enough from the outside, but nightmares run rampant on the inside due to Rachel’s unchecked use of the dream sand. First, they encounter a man who entered the house, attempting to rob it, who is now being eaten alive by dreams. Then they enter a room where Rachel’s father has been turned into sticky wallpaper (the concept is better than the artwork, as Gaiman himself admits). Before finally reaching Rachel, the Sandman must banish a group of nightmares blocking their way. Hy Bender and some other authors who have written about The Sandman claim that Dream was bluffing, but I would argue that there was really no contest. While Dream was weakened without his tools, he is still the Lord of Dreams, and therefore has absolute power over the nightmares in the house.
When they do find Rachel, she has become so addicted to the dream sand (having used it much like heroin) that she can barely speak coherent thoughts. Dream quickly retrieves the pouch, utterly disgusted by its misuse. He intends to leave Rachel to die, but Constantine demands that he do something to ease her pain. Unable to do anything else, Dream sprinkles the sand over Rachel’s face, sending her to Death painlessly with a dream of Constantine.
Dream bids Constantine farewell (after agreeing to rid Constantine of a recurring nightmare), and informs him that he is now setting out for Hell. The issue ends with Constantine singing Mister Sandman as he walks into the distance.
Dream a Little Dream of Me was a decent issue, considering it accomplished all it was intended to do. It used an already popular Vertigo comics character as a sidekick for Dream while also establishing the horrific power of dreams. Another obvious goal was to comment on drug abuse. While I used the analogy of heroin, I also wonder if the dream sand was meant to be a metaphor for methamphetamine, considering that Rachel looks every bit like a meth addict when she is first revealed to us.
The last accomplishment shows us that, despite his strong aversion to change, Dream has in fact done so. Had Constantine not convinced him otherwise, he probably would have left Rachel to die without a second thought. Yet his imprisonment has, perhaps, given him an understanding of humanity that allows him to change his mind and ease the suffering of one who may or may not deserve it. Dream has learned kindness, and will continue to display it throughout the remainder of the series.
Next: Old Wounds and Older Games