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Dream of the Endless
"There are seven beings that are not Gods,
that existed before humanity dreamed of Gods,
that will exist after the last God is dead.
There are seven beings that exist because,
deep in our hearts, we know that they exist."
The Wake

The Sandman is a Comic Book series published by DC Comics (with later issues released under the Vertigo imprint), written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by a revolving group of artists, chronicling the story of the King of Dreams and his family of fantastic anthropomorphic personifications of cosmic powers. Described as "a story about stories," The Sandman was a comic series that could tell any tale, in any time period, in any style or setting. Historical figures were common, as were allusions and homages to many classic works of fiction, such as the Arabian Nights and the plays of William Shakespeare. The series lasted for 75 issues, from January 1989 to March 1996, with a one-shot special in November, 1991. A prequel mini-series, The Sandman: Overture, was released in 2013, the original series' 25th anniversary, and was written by Gaiman with art by J H Williams III.

At the center of the series is Dream, also known as Morpheus, the Sandman, and dozens of other titles. He rules over the dreaming world that mortals enter when they sleep, and he is also the patron of writers and storytellers (described as "The lord of all that is not, and shall never be."), since a story and a dream are in many ways the same thing. As old as the universe and more powerful than many gods, Dream is vain, proud, and stiff-necked. Throughout the series, tragedy and suffering teach him humility and compassion for others, but it's hard to change for the better when you're billions of years old and very set in your ways...

Like many experimental comic book series of its era (like Alan Moore's Swamp Thing and Grant Morrison's Animal Man), The Sandman is ostensibly a reboot/revival of a third-string character from DC's early days, whom Gaiman was given free license to play with as much as he wanted. Hence, the series' name is taken from a detective series created by Gardner Fox in the 1930s, which followed the adventures of a gas-masked private detective who put criminals to sleep with anaesthetic gas. But while most of Gaiman's contemporaries at least kept the general premise of the characters that they were working with, Gaiman essentially just took the name and ran with it. The original Sandman is given a token mention in the first issue, and Dream often wears a helmet that resembles a gas mask — but other than that, the story is wholly original.

These days, new readers usually consume the series via ten oft-reprinted trade paperbacks, each containing an entire storyline or a series of related short stories. For more information on the individual arcs, collected in the following trade paperbacks, see the Recap page.

The comic spawned a number of spinoffs, a list of which is located here.

In 2018, it was announced that a line of shared universe Sandman comics would begin as part of The Sandman's 30th anniversary, called The Sandman Universe. Though not writing any of the new titles himself, Gaiman serves as a creative consultant, and helped select each of their creative teams. Despite Vertigo's eventual retirement as an imprint in 2019, it was confirmed that the Sandman Universe will continue to run as DC titles, now under the DC Black Label imprint.

The comic has been adapted into an audio drama starring James McAvoy beginning in 2020, and a live-action television show starring Tom Sturridge in 2022. Other media based on it include DC Showcase: Death and Lucifer (2016).

Not to be confused with The Sandman of Marvel Comics fame. For the linked Vertigo revival of the Golden Age masked vigilante Sandman, see Sandman Mystery Theatre.


The Neil Gaiman series provides examples of:

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    A 
  • All Are Equal in Death: Death is a rather benevolent version of this trope. She never misses the opportunity to say that everybody dies at the end, but because they do and since she knows everything about everyone, she never hates anyone; they are all the same to her, because she is intimately acquainted with them all.
  • Alliterative Family: The Endless: Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium (formerly Delight).
  • All Abusers Are Male: Subverted; Foxglove's ex Judy was abusive towards Foxglove, then named Donna, which caused their breakup. Foxglove has mixed feelings on hearing that Judy died.
  • All-Loving Hero:
    • Death, who knows and loves every living thing in the universe.
    • Prez Rickard, who is essentially a Messianic Archetype as President of the United States. He even offers clemency to the woman who tried to assassinate him and killed his wife in the process. After his death, he continues to travel across the multiverse, helping people in every version of America.
  • All Myths Are True: If you dream it, it exists somewhere. Not only do various pantheons (we meet members of the Egyptian, Greek, Norse, and Japanese ones in Season of Mists) exist, so do folk tales, fairy tales, and mythical locations.
  • All-Powerful Bystander: Destiny has knowledge of the entirety of time but is completely passive, only walking his garden and reading his book without ever interfering with the events written within.
  • All There in the Manual: Matthew's oft-mentioned — but never shown — backstory appears in Swamp Thing.
  • Ambiguous Gender: While the gender of the Endless are almost always consistent, at least to the reader, on occasion Desire and Delirium have been drawn with more androgyny than any of their other siblings — Desire, due to their androgynous nature, and Delirium, because she is, well, Delirium, and is also the youngest of the Endless.
  • An Aesop: The entire series could be taken as two: finding the balance between responsibilities and obligations to others, and accepting the inevitability of change, even when it's painful.
  • Anachronic Order: The series takes advantage of the Endless' immortal nature to spend a lot of time covering events prior to Dream's capture in the first issue, and not in any particular order. The focus can switch between ancient Greece or Rome to William Shakespeare at the drop of a hat. At most, only half of the series anchors itself in the events between issue #1 and the events of The Wake.
  • Angelic Transformation: Played with, where Lucifer resigns as the ruler of Hell and gets Dream to cut off his wings, appearing to give up his angelic abilities. However, in a later arc, he claims that he never actually gave up his powers.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The Endless, personifications of the concept embodied in their name. Destruction claims that by existing they also define their opposite, though Dream is skeptical. A great many dreams are this (though some are less anthropomorphic than others). An early pair of villains are Brute and Glob, the dream personifications of Brute Strength and Base Cunning. The Corinthian and his successor were created as Morpheus's attempt at a masterpiece: the personification of the dark side of humanity. In Endless Nights, we meet Anthropomorphic Personifications of individual stars (the ending narration reveals that it was all a bedtime story from Sol to Earth). Overall, the trope is thoroughly deconstructed: what is it like to personify a timeless concept, especially a tragic one, like Death or Despair or Destruction? Are you eternally bound to your cosmic duty, or is your role in the universe escapable?
  • Anti-Hero: Dream is often pretty unsympathetic, and he kicks the dog quite a lot. For example, at the end of A Game of You, he's ready to abandon the main human characters to live eternity on a featureless floating platform because they entered the Dreaming without his permission, even though he fully understands that most of them did so in ignorance and with good intentions. Even at times when he's more sympathetic, he's generally cold and aloof.
  • Anyone Can Die: Plenty of sympathetic characters die — often very suddenly — and while gods and immortals aren't generally seen to die, the series makes it clear they are vulnerable as well. Even the Endless aren't completely immune; though what they personify is eternal, they themselves can die, as apparently happened once to Despair. And even the Endless have lives they consider 'brief', because none of them except Death will outlive this version of the universe.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: Death calls Dream out on his treatment of his former lover Nada, simply because she rejected him (after their love affair had already destroyed her kingdom, mind you!). Her words wake Dream up to his being in the wrong, so he decides to go to Hell to free Nada, which in turn sets so much in motion throughout the rest of the story...
    Dream: (sullenly) I would have made her a goddess.
    Death: Maybe she didn't want to be a goddess, little brother. Did you ever consider that? Anyway, condemning her to an eternity in Hell, just because she turned you down...that's a really shitty thing to do.
  • Ascended Extra: Much of the human cast. It's practically a tradition to introduce a character in one story arc as a minor background character, only to have them reappear in a later arc as the protagonist.
    • Unity Kinkaid. In Preludes and Nocturnes, she briefly appears as one of the victims of the sleeping sickness. In The Doll's House, she is revealed to be the grandmother of that story's protagonist, Rose Walker, who is herself the granddaughter of Desire.
    • Barbie. In The Doll's House, she's one of the guests at Hal's boarding house. She later turns out to be the protagonist of A Game of You, which follows her adventures in the Dreaming after she divorces her husband Ken.
    • Martin Tenbones. He first appears in one frame in The Doll's House, where he's one of the creatures in Barbie's dream. He later appears as a living being in A Game of You, when Barbie travels through her dreams.
    • Lyta Hall. She briefly appears in The Doll's House as a prisoner of Brute and Glob. Then Dream vows to take away her child, and ... things get more complicated. After a few sporadic appearances in later issues, she becomes the Villain Protagonist / Anti-Villain of The Kindly Ones.
    • Daniel Hall. He's introduced as Lyta Hall's baby, who Dream vows to take away when he's old enough. After a few background appearances, he plays a central role in The Kindly Ones. In The Wake, he becomes the new Dream after the original's death.
    • A strange one in the three witches. They started off as the narrators of older DC horror anthology comics, such as House of Mystery and Witching Hour, then had a bit part in the first volume of The Sandman telling Morpheus where to go to get his items back They turn out to be the Kindly Ones, AKA the Furies, beings that exist purely to avenge the spilling of family blood who even Death cannot actually stop.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Daniel goes from a human toddler to the metaphysical lord over all imagination.
  • The Atoner:
    • Dream. In fact, the entire story of the series is of him trying to atone for his past mistakes once suffering teaches him humility. But of course, being who he is, he has to go about it in a particular way, and that way isn't always the best for everyone, including himself.
    • Death before her off-screen Character Development was a Jerkass and apathetic to humans. Having one mortal day to live every hundred years, however, has given her perspective and made her kinder to everyone who passes.
    • Matthew the Raven is really Matthew Cable from Swamp Thing making up for his sins.
  • Author Appeal: The two plays Dream commissions from William Shakespeare are A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest, which Gaiman admits are his own favorites.
  • Author Avatar: Depending on the artist, Morpheus bears a striking resemblance to writer Neil Gaiman, almost dressing like he did back then too. Other artists attempted to avoid this.

    B 
  • Back for the Dead:
    • All of Barbie's friends from the Land in A Game Of You. Martin Tenbones is the first casualty.
    • Orpheus in Brief Lives. The fact that his father, Dream, is who ends his life has very important consequences later on.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • Lucien spends the series managing the library of Dream, only to subdue Morpheus's (highly dangerous) prisoners in The Kindly Ones.
      "A couple of them took refuge in the Library. I ... dealt with them ..."
    • Thessaly is a several-thousand-year-old Greek witch who's first introduced as Barbie's nerdy neighbor. She then kills a man, and forces his spirit to come back so she can interrogate him via his face which she cut off his skull and nailed to a wall. She then goes into the Dreaming to help Barbie. In The Kindly Ones, she tracks down Lyta Hall, brews a potion, and kills a lamb to protect her. After Lyta comes to, she sees Thessaly reading a book; Thessaly warns her that a lot of people are angry about what she did and calmly tells her to run, because those people want revenge. And Thessaly's one of them.
  • Balancing Death's Books: Death's lingering fondness for the protagonists of Death: The Time of Your Life leads her to agree to bring their baby back. But, she warns, she'll be back, and someone will be leaving with her. Her return five years later is the catalyst that starts the story. And it turns out that she didn't have to take someone else as replacement — it was simply that that was the bargain Hazel came up with.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Orpheus sports an impressive one after he returns from the Underworld. Strangely, Dream gets one as well, seemingly minutes after he brings back the Key to Hell, which may be because Dream is essentially a trope-based entity. He develops more stubble later when Thessaly dumps him.
  • Because Destiny Says So: And he says it right to you. Notably, this applies to himself as well.
  • Beelzebub: One of the triumvirate rulers of Hell, alongside Lucifer and Azazel.
  • Berserk Button: You call them "the Kindly Ones" (even though they're nothing of the sort) because they do not like being called "Furies".
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Endless. Oh lordy.
    • This is Morpheus' primary dynamic with pretty much all of his family members. Desire, in particular, spends nearly the entire series trying to get him killed, and calling his relationship with his son an estranged one is putting it lightly — after their first argument, they spend several thousand years avoiding each other.
    • Destruction abandoning his realm is another huge rift, with the other Endless trying (and mostly failing) to deal with his absence in different ways.
    • An example of how strangely detached and dysfunctional they are as a family (although they do have strong familial bonds with select other siblings, such as Dream and Death, and Destruction and Despair) is evidenced when Destiny assembles all of them (minus Destruction) and suggest that they should just... talk. This should be simple enough for siblings, but for them, it isn't.
    Destiny: It has been centuries since we were all together. We must have much to discuss.
    [group Beat Panel]
  • Big Sister Instinct: Death and Desire act this way towards Delirium, with the former chewing out Dream for mistreating "Del" and the latter helping her get home from the mortal world.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Dream's castle. Large as it is, it only has a size at all because on some level, it has to look like a castle, which requires appearing to occupy space. But since spatial relations in dreams are completely arbitrary, inside, the castle is exactly as large (or as small) as Dream needs it to be. In one memorable full-page spread, Dream's throne room alone is large enough to contain the entire night sky.
    • According to Delirium, Tiffany looks smaller from outside her head. Barbie similarly observes that no matter what people look like on the outside, all of them have enormous, complete worlds inside of them.
  • Biography à Clef: The Shakespeare episodes more or less present Morpheus as William Shakespeare's patron, directly and indirectly leading him to the path of inspiration and genius. Most specifically, it presents A Midsummer Night's Dream as the Lord of Dreams' commission from Shakespeare and staged before The Fair Folk who inspired it. The audience is especially amused to see the relatively tame and harmless Puck in the play compared to the far more terrifying and nasty one they know, while Puck rather enjoys the play, so much so that he decides to take part in it himself.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Each arc can be counted as having one: The Wake ends with this for the overall comic. "The King of Dreams is dead. Long live the King of Dreams". For context, Dream allows the Kindly Ones to kill him after they use Hippolyta's Mama Bear vengeance to breach the Dreaming. It's implied that he either orchestrated his death or foresaw it with killing Orpheus, and is fine with the decision, as it means that Daniel Hall becomes the new Dream. Hippolyta has to go on the run from a bunch of unknown deities and at least one known demi-mortal who want her head for killing Dream; and Daniel, while giving her eternal protection, also silently exiles her from the Dreaming, so they won't reunite for this arc, though he hints that things may change in the future. But Rose is pregnant, and her brother Jed is recovering from the childhood trauma of his foster relatives abusing him.
  • Bloody Bowels of Hell: Hell is occasionally fleshy and nasty, with rivers of blood and great towers of contorted bodies. At one point, demons are seen sailing down a river of semen.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Zig-Zagged with the Endless. They have an alien perspective because their values are based on performing their cosmic function, but they still have personalities that are pretty close to human. Even still, this can lead to some strange behavior and actions. For example, Morpheus is upset that the Corinthian became a serial killer in the waking world...not because he was hurting people, but because it's too prosaic.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Issue 4 of "Seasons of Mist" sees a boy be abandoned in the middle of an boarding school during the holidays just as the damned are freed from Hell, fully reoccupying the school with its cruelest bullies, strictest teachers, and even some of their mothers. They quite literally torture our protagonist and each other as if they had never left Hell to begin with.
  • The Body Parts That Must Not Be Named: At one point, some adults talk about men thinking with their "dorks". This is because at the time, DC Comics was squeamish about rude language. In the Audible adaptation's version of that same conversation, the trope is averted as the word "dicks" is actually used.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Destruction is one, being a large man with a larger-than-life cheery personality who gladly welcomes his siblings and offers them a feast after their long journey...who, of course, embodies destruction and all that implies.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Once. Even you, the reader, were there at Dream's wake and funeral.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • On a cosmic scale, as Delight became Delirium. Before, she was cheery, flighty, and pretty harmless. After, she's still cheery, but completely nuts, and will break your mind if you piss her off. She might also break your mind while trying to do you a favor, though.
    • Rose Walker spends most of A Doll's House looking for her brother Jed, tracking him down with Gilbert's help. Then she finds out his relatives abused him after he goes missing, nearly gets raped by one of the convention attendees, and finds her comatose brother thanks to Gilbert. After a night of worrying about Jed's health, she then uses her power as the Vortex unwittingly and nearly kills everyone, including her friends and housemates. To survive, she sacrifices her heart to her grandmother and watches the latter die. For the next several years, struggling with the reality of what she saw and her subsequent loss of feeling, Rose then gets manipulated into losing Lyta's son Daniel, becomes impregnated, and gets her heart back. As she puts it, "I don't believe in magic. I believe in weird shit."
    • Barbie in A Doll's House and A Game Of You. First, Rose inadvertently exposes Barbie's dreams to Ken, which leads to their divorce and Barbie no longer being able to dream to enter the Land. Then, her dream-friend Martin Tenbones enters the mortal world, only to die before giving Barbie the Porpentine. She reenters the dream world, then sees her friends die one by one thanks to The Mole betraying them, while the Cuckoo captures and compels her to destroy the Porpentine and Land, so that the Cuckoo can fly off and mature. Even worse, Dream says outright that the latter events should have happened sooner, and would have if Rose hadn't interfered.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Destiny, in a Previously on… text piece originally published in issue #8, implies that the only reason Dream was captured at the beginning of the series was that he was weak after fighting something else. Given that Dream is several orders of magnitude more powerful than the Physical Gods we see in the story, our sanity probably wouldn't survive knowing what it was. The Sandman: Overture covers that particular story.
  • But We Used a Condom!: Invoked; Rose returns to England at one point and has a one-night stand with her family's new solicitor, and they did use a condom. Well, condoms, actually. But she didn't use any spermicide, and one of them broke. She's fairly happy about being pregnant, though.
  • Byronic Hero: Dream, rather pointedly and perhaps an intentional decision on his part.

    C 
  • Cain and Abel:
    • Dream and Desire. They were once as friendly as Dream and Death are in the story's present time. Now, Dream is as cold and distant to Desire as he is to most anyone who offends him, and Desire can't stand Dream and constantly messes with his life, which infuriates Dream to no end.
    • Cain and Abel themselves live in the Dreaming, continually acting out their Biblical roles as the first murderer and the first victim. Cain kills Abel repeatedly, but Abel just regenerates.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Daniel, when he becomes the adult Dream, calls out Lyta for her Roaring Rampage of Revenge, since ultimately the previous Dream dying means that her Daniel was lost forever, and caused countless damage in that realm by unleashing the Kindly Ones. With that said, he does acknowledge she was manipulated into causing such destruction, and offers her eternal protection.
  • Came Back Wrong: Inverted; the Corinthian is better when he comes back. Well, he's better at being the most perfect and terrible nightmare ever to be dreamed. One may disagree if that's a good thing, but at least he's not so petty and small-minded as before.
  • The Cameo: The Wake features several DC characters unaffiliated with The Sandman:
    • Clark Kent, Batman, and Martian Manhunter appear for one panel, where they bond over shared dreams.
    • The Phantom Stranger and Commissioner Gordon of the DC Universe compliment each other's overcoats in a one-panel appearance.
    • Darkseid appears among the crowd in a dream Rose Walker is having.
  • Cast of Personifications: The main characters are "The Endless", a family of seven anthropomorphic personifications of universal concepts, around whom much of the series revolves; while they can die, a new being representing their concept will always appear to replace them. From eldest to youngest, they are Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium.
  • Character Development: Dream becomes kinder and more empathetic to others after his imprisonment. Indeed, it is his desire to make amends is at the core of major plot points, such as rescuing Nada in Season of Mists and killing Orpheus in Brief Lives.
  • Character Title: He's more often called Dream or even Morpheus, but "The Sandman" is another name for him, although almost nobody actually calls him that.
  • Chekhov's Army: Virtually every single character turns out to be vital to the resolution of one story arc or another, albeit in ways that often take a long time for the reader to realize.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Every representation of three women chatting amongst themselves, or being questioned by an outsider, is implied to be an aspect of the Three Witches, Maiden, Mother, and Crone. These manifestations can be as overt as the apparitions of the Fates and Grey Ladies or as subtle as the varying appearances of Eve in her three forms.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Dream's method of storing pieces of himself inside objects, which he uses in the final arc to have Daniel become the new Dream.
  • The Chessmaster: Dream is so good at this that even he doesn't consciously understand the extent of his plans.
  • The Chosen One: Prez Rickard, who is something of a deconstruction of the modern concept of the political messiah.
  • Clever Crows: Matthew the raven is friendly, not a trickster (though a bit of a wise guy), pleasant, and the most loyal guy in the Dreaming.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Delirium, although she will from time to time start making sense. When she does, you should either listen very carefully to her, or panic...or maybe both.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: When Delirium starts making sense, everything that comes out of her mouth is absolutely true.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Depending on the artist:
    • Delirium is sometimes Tori Amos.
      • Word of God also indicates that she's novelist and friend of Neil, Kathy Acker.
    • Destruction is sometimes BRIAN BLESSED.
    • Lucifer is sometimes David Bowie.
    • Dream is often Bowie as well, but is mostly Neil Gaiman himself, and occasionally Freddie Mercury and Robert Smith of The Cure.
    • Hob Gadling's look in his final appearance was based on Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.
    • There's no "official" casting for Death, but often "Death is Björk" will pop up. And if not that, then Siouxsie.
    • Thessaly is modeled after artist Colleen Doran.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Cain of the famous Cain and Abel duo. He almost always ends up brutally murdering his brother at the end of any scene they're in, and it is almost always played for laughs (even making him into sausages as a stage show for visiting deities).
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Merv Pumpkinhead first appears in a background cameo in Preludes and Nocturnes, when he's shown driving the bus in the Dreaming that Dream uses to get to the Justice League's old warehouse. Much later in the series, after Merv has been properly introduced as one of Dream's retinue of assistants, he mentions that he briefly "drove a bus" during Dream's absence.
    • The uniformed monkey, Prinado, from Game of You is seen entering the restroom in World's End and manages to freak out one of the stranded travelers. Later in the arc, the innkeep describes The World's End Inn as a refuge for those left after a world end's. Considering how Game of You ended, Prinado is getting a well-deserved rest before moving on.
  • Cool Big Sis:
    • As essentially the second-oldest entity in the universe (only Destiny being older), Death basically fulfills this role for everyone, but especially so for Dream. She's the only one who's able to break him out of his funk after he frees himself.
    • Desire fills this role for Delirium in Brief Lives, showing us a rare sympathetic moment from them.
  • Cool Gate / Portal Network / Portal Picture: Each of the Endless has a gallery in their realm which connects to the other Endless' realms. This is usually through sigils specific to the Endless in question. It's revealed in a later issue that the entire thing with the sigils and galleries is more of a formality than anything else.
    Despair: [to Dream] I am not in my gallery and neither do I hold your sigil. Will you speak to me?
  • Cool Old Guy: Fiddler's Green, who is a place rather than a person.
  • Crapsack World: Subtle, but there. Delirium is no longer Delight, meaning there isn't anyone governing the function of happiness in the universe. We know from the example of Destruction that this doesn't mean that it's impossible for anyone to be happy anymore, but it does mean that it's harder, and that there is no longer any rhyme or reason to who is happy in life, and why, and for how long. Similarly, Destruction has gone AWOL, unwilling to take responsibility for the level of destruction humanity is now capable of.
  • Crazy Homeless People: One appears in The Kindly Ones as a Recurring Extra. It turns out that Delirium's lost dog was with him this whole time. He declines a reward from Delirium for returning him, but asks if the dog can visit from time to time.
  • Creator Cameo:
  • Crossover: With other Vertigo titles, and to a lesser extent the DCU.
    • Death took part in a AIDS awareness campaign, and to help out she called in Hellblazer's John Constantine for a demonstration of putting a condom on a banana. Constantine looked very uncomfortable.
    • Batman, Superman, Mr. Miracle, various Sandman heroes, Martian Manhunter, Fury, Scarecrow and Doctor Destiny all make appearances. In the beginning, The Sandman was supposed to be part of the DCU proper, but Gaiman decided later that this was a mistake and downplayed it as the series went on. A few of these characters appear as Callbacks at the end though. Darkseid appears in The Wake sitting next to Jed Walker.
    • Most of Gaiman's characters have had very limited interaction with the main DCU since the comic ended, because DC has to pay him a royalty to use them (though there have been some, such as the JLA knowing Daniel, time traveler Walker Gabriel being buddies with Hob Gadling, and Death appearing to Luthor in The Black Ring). However, Gaiman also used many obscure pre-existing DC characters, such as Cain, Abel, and Destiny, and these can be used with impunity.
    • Possibly with Gaiman's American Gods. At one point, Wednesday and Shadow walk by a weird homeless girl with a dog, implied to be Delirium and Barnabas.
  • Crossover Cosmology: The sheer number of gods and pantheons. And this is just on Earth and (apparently) Mars.

    D 
  • The Dark Age of Comic Books: This series is seen as one of the seminal (and high-quality) outputs of this age.
  • Dark Is Not Evil:
    • Death, thanks to her status as a Perky Goth.
    • Dream was never evil really, but that's more of a matter of definition due to Blue-and-Orange Morality. He's certainly done terrible things, like sentencing his ex-girlfriend to Hell because she hurt his pride, and trapping the son of the man who imprisoned him in eternal nightmares. He lightens up and becomes more human during the events of the series due to his imprisonment... which actually turns out to be a problem because he is still too stubborn to change.
    • Despair is also not nearly as evil as she might have been, and actually sometimes acts as a peacemaker for her family. This might be because she's the second incarnation of Despair after the previous one was killed, meaning that part of the present Despair was once mortal.
  • Dead Guy Puppet: The chapter set in the French Revolution shows decapitated bodies used as giant marionettes after a public execution. The same chapter has Orpheus's head make a pile of other severed heads into a choir to gain power.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Destruction pals around with a talking dog whose only utility seems to be making dry, witty comments at his expense.
    Barnabas: Devotion you got. Perjury ain't in the job description.
  • Deal with the Devil: Both used and subverted. While we see both a minor demon and Dream pulling this (though Dream's price isn't so crude as a soul, and neither was the demon's) Lucifer himself specifically denies ever making such deals.
    Lucifer: I need no souls. And how can anyone "own" a soul?
    Skinner's ghost: We sacrificed a boy. All three of us. To the devil. We did stuff from old books. We did stuff you wouldn't believe. But when we went to Hell ... they didn't care. They hadn't even known. They—they laughed at us.
  • Death is Cheap: Abel comes back to life as a matter of kind, provided that Cain is the one who kills him. Almost all of the dream characters killed in The Kindly Ones are recreated later, though it is pointed out that they are not the same as the originals: just identical copies. Fiddler's Green, however, takes offense at the concept, and refuses to be recreated. The Endless can die, and when they do a new version of them is made, although this is actually a subversion since the process of creating the new version is quite costly. When questioned on the subject, Death's response is that these things just happen. She's kind of busy, after all. She doesn't sweat it because in the end everyone dies, even if they come back to life a few times during the in-between bits.
  • Death of Personality: Dream dies, but is reborn in a new form, who then continues to do his predecessor's work. So the idea called Dream keeps on living, but the character everyone knew as him is dead.
  • Death Seeker: Orpheus, and eventually Dream.
  • Death Takes a Holiday: In a later tie-in book, Death: The High Cost of Living, Death takes on human form and wanders the earth for a day, a tradition she performs once every century; this tradition is mentioned in the original series and is a more literal vacation.
  • Deep Sleep: A mysterious disease starts making people sleep uncontrollably, putting them in vulnerable positions at the mercy of their caretakers. The spinoff short story anthology reveals that the Nazis euthanized one woman who was trapped in the sleeping sickness.
  • Deity of Mortal Creation: Gods are born of the Dreaming, and return to it when they are no longer worshiped. The exception appears to be the Judeo-Christian God. The Endless are repeatedly stated to not be gods, as they existed before humanity dreamed of gods and will exist long after the last god is dead.
  • Depending on the Artist: This tended to be a bit of a problem, because the series went through a legion of artists during its run, particularly once Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg moved on. Most characters eventually solidified into consistent designs, though.
    • Lucifer is a pretty dramatic case of this; his first depiction is as a fairly waifish young man, while beginning in Season of Mists he is depicted as being taller and much more chiseled, with shorter hair. This depiction was kept a bit more consistent afterwards.
    • The entire "Kindly Ones" arc is particularly noted as having dissimilar art to the entire rest of the series, as Marc Hempel's style is radically different from earlier series artists like Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcolm Jones, who originally defined the "look" of the series. Funnily enough, Hempel actually does manage to avoid deviating from previously-locked-down character appearances, but his style is just so different that a number of characters end up looking rather different anyway.
    • Delirium's appearance constantly changes from story to story; there are times when she's even drawn differently between scenes, but in her case this actually makes a kind of sense.
    • In a way, it's justified for all the Endless, since how they appear is mostly a matter of perception, anyway (and there are even a few gags based around this, including Orpheus' memorable trip to Death's... "house"). In one scene, the Martian Manhunter and Mr. Miracle are both speaking to Dream. Mr. Miracle sees him in his familiar white-skinned form, while the Martian Manhunter sees him in the form of Mars' ancient god of sleep — a giant blazing Martian head.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life:
    • Destruction, at some point in his life, realized that people will always destroy and change things without his interference or guidance. Thus, he decided to abandon his post, and figure out what else to do with his infinite time.
    • With her normal life being empty and shallow, Barbie seeks out comfort from her dreams, where she is a princess on a quest to save her land. She's a bit traumatized when Rose as the Vortex causes her to stop dreaming, and then to have to return to the Land to ensure it ends.
  • Destroyer Deity: Destruction is the incarnation of... well... take a guess. He quit the position when nuclear weapons were invented, because he didn't want responsibility for that level of destruction. He spends his retirement attempting creative endeavors such as art and cooking, but his own nature causes them to come out terrible no matter how hard he tries.
  • The Determinator: The Kindly Ones, aka the Furies, are the living embodiment of revenge, and they never let go of a grudge. NEVER. Lyta Hall becomes one as well in her quest to gain their aid.
  • Deus ex Machina: Reconstructed. In many stories, Dream is just a supporting character, usually one who shows up seemingly out of nowhere to solve the conflict at the end in a way that would normally feel like a cheat. But since this series is called The Sandman, and since the reader firmly expects this to happen and knows that, in the context of the series, it makes perfect sense, and is a good example of Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Titania is plainly in love with Morpheus, and he seems fond of her (in his way); fairy gossip holds that they were lovers, but the reader never knows for surenote .
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: In the first issue, Dream is captured by humans. This has apparently happened to him at least twice in the backstory. The most recent case was rewriting reality in Sandman: Overture, which weakened him enough that even humans could capture him. It is also mentioned that the Gate of Horn, the Gate of Ivory, and his mask of office are made of the horns, tusks, and skull of a trio of elder gods that tried to conquer the Dreaming in the ancient past.
  • Dismembering the Body: Orpheus was a son of the titular character, and his head remained alive as an Oracular Head after being torn apart. He begs for his father to give him a Mercy Kill, and Dream eventually doing so is the impetus for his eventual suicide.
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: At one point, Morpheus sends Lucifer a message, wrapped up in highfalutin' diplomatic language. Lucifer cuts the messenger off midway through his recital of Lucifer's full list of titles and asks for "just the content".
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Nada's fate, when she's condemned to Hell for all eternity for rejecting Dream's romantic advances. Especially given that due to the "echo" effect the Endless produce, nearly every black female character in the series suffers a burning death because of what happens to Nada. The exception is Gwen, Hob Gadling's girlfriend in The Wake, because of course Morpheus is dead by then, and the echo-cycle has been broken. Desire tells Dream he screwed up, and the other siblings agree (although considering the Nada episode was almost certainly Desire's fault to begin with, there's more than a bit of hypocrisy there).
    • That poor highway patrol officer. Sure he was a Jerkass, but Delirium went way too far by giving him the perpetual hallucination of being covered in bugs.
    • Lucifer's consort Mazikeen, although that could have just been Delirium screwing with us.
      Delirium: If you don't let me in, I will turn you into a demon half-face waitress night-club lady with a crush on her boss, and I'll make it so you've been that from the beginning of time to now and you'll never ever know if you were anything else and it will itch inside your head worse than little bugses.
  • Distracted from Death: Zelda is dying slowly of AIDS, and Rose is taking care of her. Then, after being given a message from beyond the grave, Rose leaves for a few days, and finds that Zelda died during her absence.
  • Divinely Appearing Demons: Lucifer, Be'elzebub, and Azazel are the Demon Lords and Archdevils of Hell. Each of them are depicted with a different appearance, simultaneously playing the trope straight and averting it. Lucifer (straight) looks like his angelic biblical appearance, while Azazel (averted) appears made of shadows, eyes, and teeth, and Be'elzebub (averted) is a giant fly.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Meeting Death is actually a pleasant experience, if she has anything to say about it; also, since she was there when everyone was born, meeting her again upon death is mentioned to be sort of like meeting an old friend.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The Wake: Each chapter in this last part plays with a different definition of the word: a wake (eulogy) for the dead, the wake (aftermath) of a disaster, to wake from sleep, and so forth.
  • Driven to Suicide: Possibly Morpheus. It's implied he sought death because he wanted to make up for all the wrongs he'd caused in his life, but was unable to change enough to actually execute on it. Thus, Dream saw his only option as being to kill himself and let someone different take the reins.
  • Dying Dream: In more ways than one.
  • Dying to Wake Up: Zig-zagged, normally getting killed in dreams wakes you up, but there are entities in the Dreaming that can kill a dreamer in the waking world too (or, if you really pissed off Morpheus, wake up into another dream, and another dream, and another dream...). In an inversion, when someone's physical body dies while dreaming their soul remains in the Dreaming, which is where Morpheus gets most of his ravens.

    E 
  • Earn Your Happy Ending:
    • After being lost for years without her heart, and knowing she's at the center of the "weird shit" that traumatized her several years ago, Rose finally is smiling at the end of the series knowing that she's going to have a baby, Desire gave her heart back, and Jed is safe, and that is enough to give her a purpose. That is no small thing for any human in this world.
    • Hazel and Foxglove, after a few years, quietly retreat to a rural town where they raise Alvie, presumably living off the royalties of Foxglove's songs but no longer making a giant press event out of it. Foxglove is reassured that she loves Hazel and vice-versa, and Alvie has a second chance at life.
  • Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Despite there being umpteen worlds and planes full of intelligent creatures, we almost never see the Endless interact with non-humans or non-terrestrial settings. Even the gods are the product of human dreams. Given the nature of the characters and stories, it's likely that we just don't see the non-human parts of their jobs, and probably wouldn't understand how they work anyway. Corroborating this is a conversation wherein Death implies that she is effectively everywhere in the universe simultaneously. If this applies to her siblings (and there's no evidence otherwise, magical imprisonments notwithstanding), then the comic arc is just one plotline in a universe full of them.
    • Moreover, it's our Earth we're talking about, even though it's made explicit that there are alternate universes / timelines in existence.
    • The prequel series Sandman: Overture does much to explain this, showing Dream interact with countless different versions of himself, who each represent Dream as he appears to a different species, and even though they are all parts of Dream they each seem to have to some degree an independent existence.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Death, Dream, Desire, and Despair in their default forms (see A Form You Are Comfortable With on this page), although "otherworldly" would be more accurate than "eerie". Lampshaded by Morpheus's sarcastic servant Mervyn, who once refers to his boss as "Tall Pale and Interestin'" behind his back.
  • Eldritch Location: Most of the settings in the series are this, especially the Dreaming and its various outlying lands. There are also "soft places" in our world that intersect with the Dreaming and thus exist outside of linear time, which includes the desert of Lob, "a few thousand square miles of central Australia, a couple of Pacific islands, a field in Ireland, and an occasional mountain in Arizonanote ", according to Fiddler's Green, who is himself one.
  • Emotionless Girl: Despair: "I am not happy or sad. I just am." This turns out not to be quite true, though. It was not true of her predecessor, who seemed to consider the fragility of life and mournful melancholy beautiful, and even talked with Rao about arranging Superman's fate as what amounts to an art project. Must be where Dream picked it up from.
  • Ending Memorial Service: The Wake, in which just about everyone in existence gathers in the Dreaming to mourn the passing of Morpheus.
  • Enemy Civil War: The various wars in hell; this is more apparent in Lucifer.
  • Environmental Symbolism: In the realms belonging to the Endless, their environments change with their moods. Mervyn pointedly lampshades this at one point:
    Mervyn: He's gotta be the tragic figure standing out in the rain, mourning the loss of his beloved. So down comes the rain, right on cue. In the meantime everybody gets dreams fulla existential angst and wakes up feeling like hell. And we all get wet.
  • Erotic Dream: Rose gets one in The Kindly Ones, which Abel drops in on her having sex in a dream to get some cheap entertainment before she catches him.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Desire, for all their quibbles with Dream, makes sure to treat Delirium nicely. Del is just a kid by Endless standards, after all, and a Cloud Cuckoo Lander too.
    • Lucifer always keeps his word, and is actually not that bad compared to most of the other denizens of Hell. Not that that's much of a standard, mind you.
  • Everybody Wants the Hermaphrodite: Desire seldom sleeps alone.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Dream is notoriously self-centered and insensitive towards others — so much so that he condemns a former lover to Hell and leaves Orpheus to his fate because both hurt his pride, and tactlessly warns Lyta Hall he will come for her son, to mention just a few examples. However, in "Men of Good Fortune", he clearly opposes slavery. He also goes out of his way to set right what he had done to Nada when he realizes he was in the wrong. He also ends poor Orpheus's suffering. In fact, most of The Sandman is Dream trying to atone for all his wrongs.
    • Even the personification of Destruction itself skips town once he pieces together that humans are but a few centuries away from inventing nuclear weapons.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Inverted: the angel Remiel doesn't properly understand evil. He thinks that he's being kind by trying to reform the souls of the damned; he doesn't realize that trying to be nice to them only makes them more miserable, or that "this is for your own good" is one of the sentences most guaranteed to not give people warm and fuzzy feelings about whatever it is you do next.
  • Exact Words: Lucifer swears that he won't harm Morpheus as long as they're within the bounds of Hell, and he keeps his word. Then they step outside...
    • Possibly Puck's riddling response to the Corinthian when he asks who Puck is working for: "I could answer you endlessly, and perhaps you expect me to." Although the narrative never outright confirms it, Puck's choice of words strongly hints that he and Loki were working for Desire (of the Endless), who has been scheming in various ways to bring the Furies down on Morpheus's head for a long, long time.
  • Exposition of Immortality: This gets used a few times, unsurprisingly, considering the principal characters are all immortal anthropomorphic personifications.
    • Orpheus remembering his wedding, his dismemberment by the Maenads, and the arc involving Johanna Constantine retrieving his severed head from Revolutionary France.
  • Eyeball-Plucking Birds: Following a violent battle between supernatural entities, Matthew discusses with other ravens just why they always eat the eyeballs first.
  • Eye Remember: The Corinthian can read memories by putting eyes into his toothed eyesockets.
  • Eye Scream:
    • The Corinthian likes to eat eyes, especially those of young boys. Eventually, he does this to Loki.
    • Eyes are pecked out of sockets when the ravens feast on the bodies during The Kindly Ones.
    • Despair uses her ring to gouge out one of her eyes, apparently a method of relaxation for her. This is after Delirium has spent pages and pages trying to find out the name of the "gunky jelly stuff in people's eyes," for reasons that probably don't even make sense to her.

    F 
  • Face Death with Dignity: A recurring theme. Emperor Norton and Fiddler's Green are examples — Fiddler's Green in particular flat-out refuses to be resurrected after his death, considering it undignified.
  • Facepalm: Morpheus breaks this out a few times, particularly when he's around Delirium in Brief Lives.
  • The Fair Folk: Fairies are important to the cosmology, and several fairies are recurring characters.
  • Familial Chiding: A large number of Death's interactions with her siblings fall into this category. Especially Dream, whom she is fondest of, but frequently finds exasperating.
  • Fan Disservice: Naked breasts appear somewhat regularly... but are usually attached to Humanoid Abominations.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: The Endless are a group of seven Anthropomorphic Personifications of aspects of human nature that all begin with the letter "D" in English. They're even the current page image for the trope!
  • Fatal Flaw: Dream's flaw is his inability to be flexible, and maybe to realize when he is in the wrong. He's honor-bound to follow the rules, but as Death and Delirium have pointed out, there is a difference between following the rules and enforcing them with an ego, and sometimes he will flaunt the boundary if circumstances would bruise his pride. Dream's tragic affair with Nada ended in heartbreak because of his ego clashing with his rigidity; Nada rejected him several times because mortals and divine beings are not supposed to mix for a reason, and her consenting to his advances led to her city being destroyed. There's also how he fails to counsel Orpheus with a bit of comfort after Eurydice dies on their wedding night, instead telling him bluntly that life is a gift and not to squander it. Dream's Character Development starts when, after he's imprisoned, he apologizes to Death when his sister calls him out for not sending distress calls and instead waiting to escape for decades on end. The experience motivates him to rescue Calliope from a similar situation, and he strives to make some amends with Orpheus, at least, as many amends as one can make when your son is an immortal severed head. Dream, however, realizes that the only way to make things right was to remove Orpheus's immortality and let him pass onto the next realm; what that would be is unknown since Death has told Orpheus that if he accepts immortality to enter the Underworld, she will never be able to take him. He puts off doing it until Delirium asks for help in finding their brother Destruction. When the deed is done, Dream breaks down. He believes that the Fate Worse than Death which he inflicted on Orpheus, along with killing him, means that he is no longer fit to be the king of Dreams. When the Furies come, Dream mainly tries to lure them away so they don't hurt his creations, but succumbs as soon as they corner him.
  • Feminist Fantasy: The series was notable for its large cast of complex, well-developed female characters, including one of the first serious portrayals of a transgender character in mainstream comics.
  • Fiery Redhead: True to the myths, Thor is depicted as having red hair and being rather boisterous. Destruction is also one to a less fiery extent.
  • Final Speech: Fiddler's Green in The Wake, just after Dream resurrects him.
  • Fisher King: The Endless are their domains, with the exception of the one who quit his job. Desire takes this to the extreme: their realm is a titanic replica of their body, called the Threshold. This is apparently a Stealth Pun, since 'Desire has always lived on the edge.'
  • Fluffy the Terrible: The Cuckoo. It seems like an odd name for a dreaded Evil Overlord...unless you know about the cuckoo bird's peculiar habit of laying eggs in other birds' nests and letting its hatchlings kill their hosts' natural offspring so that they can take their place. The Cuckoo's name is an allusion to its nature as a "dream parasite", and its goal of ruling Barbie's dreams as its personal kingdom.
  • Forgiveness: Even though what she did was terrible, and he forces her to confront it, Daniel offers eternal protection to his mother Lyta when he encounters her in the Dream Realm. This means that the immortal beings won't hunt her down for her part in killing the previous Dream.
  • Foreshadowing: FREQUENT. The finale is foreshadowed so heavily for so long that it's entirely possible that even people who have never heard of the series can guess what happens. One example from Chapter 6 of the first volume:
    All Bette's stories have happy endings. That's because she knows where to stop. She's realized the real problem with stories—if you keep them going long enough, they always end in death.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: This happens a lot. Morpheus changes his appearance the most frequently to fit in with those around him. Desire looks like a Patrick Nagel print come to lifenote  and is supposed to be everyone's idea of a beautiful person. Death and Destruction only seem to change their clothes, and Destiny and Despair never change at all. Delirium's appearance is the most mutable, but she doesn't give a damn if it makes anyone feel comfortable (she shows up to a wedding in ancient Greece wearing the same mesh shirt she does in the 90s). It does seem to be a courtesy that the Endless extend to those they're interacting with, not an automatic reflex — Death, in particular, tends to show up in informal wear and get chided for it by the more appearance-conscious characters. Also zigzagged by Delirium; regardless of her audience or the time period the story is set in, she tends to look like a teenage punk domestic-abuse victim. There are two likely explanations: either she (who once claimed to know things Destiny does not) has Medium Awareness ("A Form The Readers Are Comfortable With"), or it's part of her function to generate a certain amount of Squick in those who behold her (A Form You Are Creeped Out By).
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: A trademark of the series is its habit of interrupting large storylines with brief, single-issue short stories with a radically different tone, like "Men of Good Fortune" in The Doll's House and "Charles Rowland Concludes His Education" in Season of Mists. Additionally, Worlds' End features "The Golden Boy", a story that is weird even by the standards of this series. A political allegory about the nature of democracy and its relationship with religion, it tells the story of Prez Rickard, The Chosen One who becomes President of the United States while still a teenager, opposed by a shadowy political machine chief called Boss Smiley, who has a yellow happy face for a head. Yeah. Bonus points for actually being based on a short-lived DC Comics series from the 1970s.

    G 
  • Gallows Humor: About actual gallows: "They say Jack Ketch is an excellent physician."
  • Gambit Roulette: The entire series is actually one big, long, ludicrously complex, inhumanly convoluted plan on the part of Morpheus to resolve his guilt, mend his flaws, and make his world a better place. Bizarrely, his plans are so complex that it seems that even he doesn't consciously realize he's doing most of it, as Death lampshades in one of the very last issues.
  • Genius Loci: Issue #51 has a story about a man accidentally swept into the dream of a city. When he finds his way out, he goes to live like a hermit in an isolated place, because he fears that if the cities are dreaming, then they can wake and rise.
  • Genre Shift: The Sandman started out as a horror comic firmly entrenched in the DC Universe, and gradually became a character-driven fantasy epic with only occasional Continuity Nods to other DC characters.
  • Ghost Invasion: After Lucifer evicts the residents of Hell and surrenders the key to Morpheus, the ghosts of the damned haunt the Earth en masse. However, all we see on the mortal side of things is a British boarding school filled with former staff and students, but the living staff pretend that things are perfectly fine.
  • God-Eating: In The Sandman Presents: The Furies, Kronos traps Hermes in his wineglass and drinks him. Luckily for Hermes, it's nonfatal, and Lyta is later able to rescue him.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly:
    • Several gods from olden times are straightforward examples, as they are losing their powers as their worshippers die out. Bast is getting older and weaker due to so few people believing in her anymore. Ishtar, a Love Goddess, has been reduced to stripping in a grotty club, running on fumes from the sexual worship of her clients.
    • Gods are, however, able to change and diversify their power sources to avoid fading away. The Norse gods, have found other power sources and even have modern followers. The Japanese gods are doing great these days and are apparently somehow receiving 'prayer' from veneration of Godzilla and Lady Liberty, amongst other icons, in addition to their direct worship. Pharamond, a Babylonian god, was long ago convinced by Morpheus to "diversify" and survive his dwindling worship by putting his talents to work in a more mundane capacity.
    • From what's said of the Judeo-Christian God, it's implied that He doesn't require this. Considering that He exists far apart from the Universe, it's no stretch that He'd outlast the Endless themselves, though in Lucifer it's implied that He's neither the FIRST nor the LAST Creator.
  • Grand Finale: The story reaches its climax in The Kindly Ones, and The Wake provides the aftermath.
  • Great Big Library of Everything: Dream's library is almost infinitely large and filled with books that the author conceived but never actually finished. Some notable titles include G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was October, Wodehouse's Psmith and Jeeves, and That Romantic Comedy Sci-Fi Thriller I Used to Think About on The Bus to Work by you, the person reading this trope page right now. Word of God has it that Dream's library has an annex that contains everything that actually was written, too. We just never see it because it's so tiny compared to the rest of the place.
  • The Grim Reaper: Death, obviously, although she subverts the image by being anything but grim, refusing to carry a scythe, and generally dressing as a Perky Goth. Destiny is actually closer in appearance to the archetype, being grim, almost eyeless, and robed.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Delirium was once Delight, an innocent child. She's the Endless equivalent of a moody teenager in the present, and putting herself together is hard.

    H 
  • HAHAHA No: Lucifer gives up ruling Hell in an early volume, and two angels loyal to God were given the task of managing Hell afterwards. In a later story one of those angels, (who completely hates the job) asks Lucifer if he would ever go back to ruling Hell. Lucifer stares wordlessly for a moment before laughing almost hysterically, then he abruptly stops laughing and gives a very deadpan "no".
  • Heaven Above: Volume Four includes a description of God's realm as a Silver City "above" the rest of reality which angels can only leave by falling down to the rest of the world. The odd thing about this is that the Silver City isn't just "above" the Earth, but it is also above the psychic realities that makes up the Kingdom of Dreams, Asgard, Hell, and other places that can't properly be said to be "above" or "below" anything else.
  • Heaven's Devils: Inverted. At one point, Lucifer tires of running Hell and, to fill the void, God sends two righteous Holy Angels down to take over and ensure things are running properly. The two Angels, out of a combination of self-righteousness and Jerkassery, end up making Hell a never-before-seen place of pitiless and unmitigated horror and suffering, convinced this is necessary to fulfil God's will...
  • The Hecate Sisters: They appear variously as the Fates, the goddess Hecate, and the Furies (or "the Kindly Ones", as they like to be called). When they see the embodiment of Eve herself in the Dreaming, they refuse to hurt her, since in a fashion, they are her. They're referenced several times, more or less openly. Nuala, Hippolyta, and Thessaly unwittingly form a triad without ever even meeting during the events of The Wake. Foxglove, Hazel, and Thessaly from A Game of You are another example.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The remade Corinthian, in that at least he obeys Dream unflinchingly and does not kill innocent people in The Kindly Ones. He's more an Anti-Hero than a real Face at this point though.
  • Heel Realization: Lyta Hall at the conclusion of The Kindly Ones and The Wake when she realizes that her actions in avenging her son led to her losing Daniel forever and setting a lot of angry beings against her.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: The relationship between Despair and the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe in Jill Thompson's At Death's Door.
    Delirium: Despair has got a boyfriend! Despair has got a boyfriend!
    Despair: No. I. Do. Not. Delirium.
  • Here We Go Again!: Destruction's reaction to Newton discovering the principles of the refraction of light. First the scientific revolution, then the atom, and then, boom. He goes prodigal because he's sick of it, and doesn't want to watch the whole sequence play out again.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Barbie at the start of A Game Of You. She's only slightly better at the end, following the Land's destruction and Wanda's death.
    • Morpheus has one in Brief Lives, after Destiny tells him what he has to do. Then Delirium has an inversion of one, casting off her standard Blue Screen mode to briefly become more rational (it doesn't last, of course).
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: God plays a significant role in the ending of Season of Mists, and a few times afterward as well, but he never makes an appearance.
  • The Hero Dies: At least if we're talking about this particular personification of him.
  • Hidden Depths: Most of the Endless have personalities that are quite different from the stereotypical connotations of the phenomena they represent. Death and Destruction, the two with the most negative reputations, are actually the nicest of the Endless. Despair is portrayed sympathetically too, at least most of the time. Desire, despite (or because of) being the Endless dealing with matters of love, is easily the cruelest and most manipulative of the lot. And while dreams are generally associated with the subconscious, the surreal, and the chaotic, Dream himself is shown to be meticulous, highly organized, and overtly concerned with rules and laws. Only Destiny and Delirium have the sort of personalities you'd expect.
  • Historical In-Joke: Many.
    • For a prominent example, William Shakespeare's talent comes as a result of a proto-Deal with the Devil with Morpheus (he gets his talent, but Morpheus essentially becomes his patron in return).
    • There's also a very meta-example. Wesley Dodds (the original Sandman in comics) was inspired by Morpheus through his dreams.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In The Sandman Presents: The Furies, Kronos attempts to trick Lyta into spilling blood of her kin in an attempt to take over the Furies' position. This attempt results in Lyta unlocking her powers both as a vessel for the Furies and as Medusa, petrifying the monsters, defeating Kronos, and starting to move on with her life.
  • Hold the Line: In The Sandman Presents: The Furies, Hermes knows he can't physically defeat Kronos, so he escapes with Lyta and stalls for time until Daniel is able to step in and help save them.
  • Honor Before Reason: One of Dream's biggest flaws is that he considers the responsibilities of his position to be absolute, and more important than love, family, or his own desires, something Death calls him out on a few times over the series. The entire series can loosely be seen as his coming to grips with the ramifications of this.
  • Hope Spot: For a few scenes in The Kindly Ones, it seems that Lucifer is being set up to do a Big Damn Heroes, being explicitly the most powerful being in creation. However, when Delirium asks him to help her brother (it's a long story), he simply says "It's too late to help your brother".
  • Human Traffickers: Hob Gadling was involved in the slave trade for several years. On boasting about his success to Dream, he was told to knock it off (and he still feels guilty for it a few centuries later).
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: Lucifer hits Remiel with a doozy of one when Remiel tries to talk him into becoming the ruler of Hell again.
    Been there, Remiel. Done that. Wore the tee-shirt, ate the burger, bought the original cast album, choreographed the legions of the damned and orchestrated the screaming.
  • Hyperlink Story: There are a great many individual storylines within The Sandman that might not seem to be connected, but Gaiman pulls them all together by the end.

    I 
  • I Have Many Names: Naturally, most of the immortal beings pick up multiple names. Morpheus is described in Season of Mists as collecting names the way others collect friends. He is called Lord Shaper (by the fairies), King of Stories, Oneiros (by Calliope, though this is just "Dream" in Greek), and Kai'ckul (by Nada) among others. The Hecate Sisters get in on this when they are first summoned by Morpheus, calling themselves about three names each in a single page — the Furies, the Gray Ladies, and the Kindly Ones are just a few.
  • I'll Kill You!:
    • At the end of Morpheus' visit to Hell in Preludes and Nocturnes, Lucifer vows to destroy him, and in Season of Mists he makes something of an attempt at it by gifting Morpheus with the key to hell and the ensuing troubles that come with the it. By the end of the series, Lucifer's lost interest in seeing the threat through, especially with the Kindly Ones attacking Morpheus.
      Lucifer: You know, I once swore to destroy your brother.
      Delirium: Really? Why?
      Lucifer: Oh, he insulted me...said something he thought was clever. It hardly matters now.
    • Thessaly calmly warns Lyta Hall after the events of The Kindly Ones that a lot of beings, including Thessaly herself, will want Lyta dead for her part in killing Dream.
  • Immortality Seeker:
    • Hob Gadling, who becomes immortal by just refusing to die. It helps that Morpheus talks Death into humoring him.
    • Played with in "Ramadan", as Haroun el-Rashid wants his city, or at least its memory, to live forever. So far, it's worked.
  • Immunity Disability: The comic covers the trope as it applies to immortality:
    • Dream's son, Orpheus, begs Death to make him immortal so he can enter the netherworld and rescue his wife Eurydice without dying. After failing in his quest, he tries to commit suicide but can't, and when a band of frenzied Dionysius worshippers tears him limb from limb, he lives on as a disembodied head, with only his estranged father able to grant him his wish to die.
  • Important Haircut: Played with in a couple of interesting ways.
    • Lucifer actually gets his wings cut off, but the symbolism is still there.
    • You can guess Delirium's moods based on what her hair does. On one occasion, when she's angry and depressed, she becomes bald. Later, when she's bummed out that Lucifer couldn't help her find her dog (It Makes Sense in Context), half of her head goes bald.
  • I'm Your Worst Nightmare: Literally. Subverted when Mervyn confronts the Kindly Ones.
  • Incest Subtext: In The Sandman Presents: The Thessaliad, the new character Fetch says to Thessaly of Morpheus' death wish: "You never stood a chance with him, because of his unhealthy attraction to his own sister." This could also be read as a rather dark pun about Dream being in love with Death in the sense that he wishes to die.
  • Informed Kindness: The Furies are not to be referred as such, they prefer to be called the Kindly Ones. The "Kindly" Ones are actually a Hecate Trio of witches who swore to get revenge on Orpheus for making them cry, which they achieved by having him killed by his father.
  • Inn Between the Worlds: Book 8 (Worlds' End) is set in the titular extra-dimensional inn and provides the picture of this trope's page. Book 9 mentions that there are a total of four, although only one of the others ("The Toadstone") is named.
  • Insane Troll Logic / Appeal to Inherent Nature: Morpheus' credo when going to confront the Kindly Ones: "We do what we do because of who we are. If we did otherwise, we would not be ourselves." It sounds nice on the surface, but thinking about it for even a second reveals that it's a tortured rationalization for any action, anywhere, ever, regardless of how stupid it may be. Then again, it's reasonable to interpret his statement as poetic/emotional rather than philosophical/intellectual. Justified for nearly any anthropomorphic entity. They only exist by their definitions, and are defined by their nature. Of them, it truly CAN be said that they do what they do because of who (what) they are.
  • Insistent Terminology: The Endless expressly point out that they are not gods.
  • Interspecies Romance: Bizarrely, Eve and Matthew appear to be a romantic couple, though it's anyone's guess how that even works (please do not guess). To review: he is the ghost of a dead man reincarnated in the dream body of a raven, and she is the human-like dreamform of an ancient story about a woman who, if she ever existed at all, was apparently some sort of Starfish Alien, and on top of that she's also yet another form of The Hecate Sisters, this time all in one shapeshifting body. And they are dating.
  • Irony: The two nicest members of the Endless are Death and Destruction.
  • It Will Never Catch On: In "The Tempest," Shakespeare and Ben Jonson improvise a rhyme about Guy Fawkes' then-recent attack on Parliament, teaching it to nearby children but assuming it won't last. Remember, remember...

    J 
  • Japanese Politeness: The Japanese god in Seasons of Mist is extremely self-effacing and indirect in his speech. Morpheus reciprocates.
    Susano-o-No-Mikoto: To his shame, this one is Susano-o-No-Mikoto [...] This one comes alone. There is a discussion that might be had at some point, concerning territory.
  • Jerkass: Desire. Dream to a lesser extent, or at least with a very different style. Desire glows with knowing abrasiveness. In contrast, Dream can be obnoxiously chilly, brittle with stiff-necked arrogance, and rather petty — however, he does grow and change through the course of the story, where Desire does not.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Dream was (in the past) most of the time completely oblivious to anyone but himself, so much so that he frequently deals disproportional retributions to anyone who displeases him, and coldly tells Lyta Hall that he will take her child. Whereas he starts off still self-centered and stubborn after his imprisonment, he improves markedly over the course of the series, enough in fact to empathize with Calliope, Nada, and Orpheus.
    • For all his faults, Dream frowns upon slavery — even before his imprisonment — and talks Hob Gadling into pursuing another trade.
    • Desire, despite being even more immature than Dream, has their moment when they give Tiffany a coat after Ishtar explodes the strip club.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Desire is perfectly correct in that Dream has a pretty terrible track record with his lovers, and that he did a horrible thing by sentencing Nada to ten thousand years in Hell simply because she turned him down. Death, normally critical of Desire, agrees with her sibling in this case.

    K 
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: Delirium has this; her hair color changes depending on her mood.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Desire
    • The Cuckoo
    • Aristaeus
    • The Kindly Ones (though they're perhaps too cosmic a force to be considered evil)
    • Lucifer (becoming a Karma Houdini may even have been a motivation behind his abandonment of Hell).
  • Karmic Reform Hell: Subverted. When Remiel and Duma are given the key to Hell, they vow to refurbish Hell into a place of more gentle correction. Between Remiel's bitterness at what he views as an undeserved demotion and Duma's apathy towards his new job, Hell ultimately ends up being the same as it ever was, just with a more cynical mission statement.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: Leviathan most likely, as the creature in question is a sea serpent so large that it demands the second (and one of the only) two-page spreads in the history of the series in issue 53.
  • Kudzu Plot: Lampshaded by the Three Sisters in The Kindly Ones.

    L 
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Hazel, a lesbian, got drunk, had straight sex for the first time with a gay male coworker, and got pregnant from it.
  • The Legions of Hell: Before its abandonment, Hell is populated with these. Lucifer's decision to abdicate isn't entirely popular among them, to the point where he has to go through and literally order some of the stragglers to leave.
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • The story that Abel tells Daniel is a child-friendly version of how he and his brother came to live with Morpheus, complete with utterly adorable little chibis of Death, Dream, Cain, and Abel. Naturally, the notion of "Little-Death" and "Little-Dream" infuriates Cain.
    • The entire series after the first volume, although it's not so much a lack of darkness as it is a shift away from pure horror (see Non-Indicative First Episode below).
    • The aforementioned chibis must have been really popular, because the Little Endless Storybooks seem to have been made specifically to extend the cuteness to the other Endless.
  • Literary Allusion Title:
    • Many of the issue titles.
    • Most of the characters with titles. For instance, the Corinthian, the dark mirror of humanity, is likely a reference to the Book of Corinthian's famous pronouncement that "we see through a glass, darkly."
  • Literary Work of Magic:
    • Shakespeare puts on his debut performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream for Oberon, Titania, Robin Goodfellow, and Morpheus. Robin Goodfellow escapes into the world to pester others, and it's implied that Titania is responsible for the death of Shakespeare's son Hamnet. It's explicitly stated that Morpheus commissioned both A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest, in exchange for making Shakespeare a skilled writer.
    • Morpheus has had his hand in the Arabian Nights. Specifically, the city of Baghdad is originally full of magic and wonders, but Haroun al-Rashid grows afraid it wouldn't survive that way, so he makes a deal with Morpheus; Baghdad would become a mundane city, and Morpheus would preserve a dream version which became the stories in the Arabian Nights.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome:
    • There are a great many immortal (or near-immortal) people in the series, most of whom seem to have no desire to die, now or ever. Most important to the story is Dream's friend Hob Gadling, who simply refuses to die (and Dream persuades Death to roll with it).
    Hob: I've got so much to live for.
    • Gruesomely averted with Abel, who recovers from his brother's many and creative murders each and every time. Eventually averted with Daniel as well.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Both Dream and Death have jet black hair and white skin, and Dream's hollow void eyes and Death's tendency toward black eyeliner and the spiral mark at her right eye emphasize the look.
  • Loophole Abuse: The Kindly Ones can't harm anyone but their target. They go on a rampage through the Dreaming because 1) dreams aren't people, and 2) Dream's realm and creations are in many ways an extension of him.
    • When Lyta finally meets the Furies, they warn her that Dream would have to kill his son, not hers, for them to enact revenge. A tearful Lyta turns away, only for them to reveal that he DID kill his son. To Lyta's later horror, it also means they won't stop after she finds out Daniel's still alive.
  • Lost Roman Legion: The issue "Exiles" shows that an unfortunate Roman legion has gotten stuck in a "soft place".
  • Loveable Rogue: Cluracan, a quick-tongued trickster faerie who always manages to wiggle out of the many sticky situations he finds himself in, one way or another.
    Morpheus: You are a scoundrel, Cluracan, but you are an amusing scoundrel.

    M 
  • Magic A Is Magic A: The Endless, gods, and demons, mighty as they are, are all bound by certain cosmic rules, which are often used to create conflict in the series. Lyta Hall exploits one of them to kill Dream at the end.
  • Magical Homeless Person: The immortal, homeless Mad Hettie who is a Mad Oracle to boot.
  • Magic Librarian: Lucien, librarian at the Library of Dream.
  • Mama Bear: Lyta Hall, taken to its ultimate, and unfortunate, extreme.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl:
    • Delirium is a particularly savage Deconstruction of one.
    • In human form, Death as Didi appears as this to Sexton. He doesn't buy it, until he's threatened by Mad Hettie to find Hettie's heart.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Desire, of course, is the personification of this trope in a lot of ways.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Daniel was a Biblical character, famous in his time for interpreting dreams. His name also starts with a D, just like all the Endless.
    • At the end of his story, Master Li notes of his adventure: "Truth or no, still I behaved in the correct manner. And correctness in behaviour is one of the cardinal virtues." In Confucianism, Li is the virtue of propriety and decorum — in other words, of correctness in behaviour.
  • Memory Jar: Odin keeps his thoughts and his memories in his two crows, Hugin and Munin. When he sends them off to gather information, he becomes completely catatonic, being capable of neither thinking nor remembering until they return.
  • Mercy Lead: Thessaly calmly tells Lyta that she has a few hours to shower, get dressed, and Get Out! before a lot of creatures come after Lyta, including her, for killing Dream. Subverted in that Thessaly is only protecting her to honor a debt to the Kindly Ones, and as she tells Morpheus, she wouldn't have done it out of spite.
  • Messy Hair: Several of the Endless. Dream's hair tends to look like he got electrocuted, Death's hair sometimes makes her look like an '80s metal singer, Despair's hair is pulled back into a straggly bun, and Delirium's hair always looks ragged and unkempt no matter what style it's in.
  • Meta Guy: Matthew, Eve's raven and Dream's aide. He frequently makes comments about how bizarre his boss and his job are, and often hangs a lampshade on whatever trope he's enacting that day.
  • Miss Conception: Hazel's a lesbian, yeah, but she really should have known better.note 
  • The Missing Faction: There are seven Endless: Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Despair, and Delirium. The seventh Endless? It's Destruction, but he quit when he became depressed by humanity's increasing capacity for warfare, since he'd seen it before.
  • Mistaken for Special Guest: In a short promotional piece, "The Castle", the reader is introduced to some of the concepts and characters of the series by way of a story about an ordinary dreamer who is given a tour of Dream's castle after being mistaken for an expected guest.
    • The gatekeepers attempt to welcome the Furies, as per their duties. It is a mistake.
  • Modernized God:
    • Lucifer has made several attempts to modernize Hell over the centuries, most notably when he established a triumvirate with Azazel and Beelzebub in order to stave off a revolt. Before he finally retired from ruling Hell, he also created a modern office for himself, with a computer.
    • Later characters in a similar position are Ishtar (now a pole-dancer) and Susano-o (who now has a Japan Takes Over the World vibe, seeking to acquire Hell for his own pantheon, who sustain themselves with worship of Godzilla and Lady Liberty, somehow).
    • Pharamond, a god of travel, now runs a travel company.
  • Morality Kitchen Sink: The series is notable for dealing in multiple stories with highly gray, conflicted, and deeply disturbed characters who fall all across the morality spectrum. Gaiman was also quite wary about invoking Karmic Death and Laser-Guided Karma, and as such, a number of individuals who do bad, evil, and horrible things end up surviving and going unpunished. The protagonist, Dream of the Endless, is a primordial concept who has Blue-and-Orange Morality and a Code of Honour, but he's also prone to jealous acts of cruelty and Disproportionate Retribution, and much of his story-arc is about learning some humility. Most of his family are of a similar nature. The most likable, sane and "normal" of his family are Death and Destruction.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The Corinthian, since he has mouths in his eyesockets instead of actual eyes.
  • Muggle in Mage Custody: Inverted. Caliope, a supernatural being, is held captive for years by Richard Madoc, an ordinary human writer, who uses her as as source of inspiration and regularly rapes her. Before that, it was Erasmus Fry, who did the same thing.
  • Multi-Gendered Outfit: Desire is neither entirely male nor entirely female, and thus sometimes they'll wear a fancy men's suit, and sometimes they'll wear a dress, and sometimes they'll wear a mix of the two. And, being Desire, sometimes they don't bother with clothing at all.
  • Murderer P.O.V.: We never see Lyta when she's possessed by the Kindly Ones; all of her panels are drawn from the first-person perspective.
  • Muse Abuse: In the final issue, Shakespeare discusses the more traditional version of this. Even when he was in love or grieving a loss, part of him was always analysing his own feelings so he could describe them later.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Foxglove is disgusted with herself for cheating on Hazel with a random girl. Hazel forgives her on finding out, since Foxglove came to Death's realm to rescue her and Alvie.
    • Lyta becomes horrified on learning that, thanks to her actions, Daniel has become the new Dream and has lost her forever, the Dreaming has suffered a massacre, and dozens of magical beings are after her. She's pretty subdued on attending Dream's wake and reuniting with Daniel.
  • Myth Arc: Dream's failings and self-loathing coming back to bite him.

    N 
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • If you're a mortal (or even a god), anyone whose name starts with a "D".
    • There are plenty of other big names (with original owners) to run away from, Lucifer and Azazel being just two.
    • The Kindly Ones.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: "Where do you hide a book? In a library! Where do you hide a flower? In a garden? Where do you hide a severed head..." In a pile of guillotine victims' heads, of course!
  • Nested Story: The entirety of Worlds' End is narrated by a man who appears in the framing story. Exaggerated when the cycle features a story told by one character, an apprentice, about (among other things) hearing a man tell a story about Destruction telling a story. In the end, it's revealed the whole thing was a story he was telling his bartender. That's a five-deep nested story if you're counting.
    • Book -> Narrator to Bartender -> Apprentice to Narrator -> Man to Apprentice -> Destruction to Man
  • New Weird: One of the defining examples in comic books. The existence of the Endless is just the tip of the iceberg...
  • No Mercy for Murderers: Poor Orpheus, poet and seer, had been stuck as a disembodied head for centuries, unable to care for himself and forced to rely on a poor, isolated Greek family to bring him food and move him about his temple so that he can have the occasional change of scenery. When his father Oneiros came to visit him, seeking answers about where his long-lost brother had gone, Orpheus agreed to provide answers, but in exchange, his father had to agree to kill him. Oneiros is nothing if not a man of his word, and thus killed Orpheus, but in doing so, he committed filicide, a grave sin among the Ancient Greeks, and thus aroused the wrath of the Furies, setting in motion the events that would lead to his death.
  • Non-Linear Character: Destiny, who knows everything before it happens, and Death, who is there every time someone anywhere in the universe is born or dies, no matter whether it's past, present, or future from other characters' points of view. Delirium may be one too.
  • Non Sequitur: Delirium's dialogue, although it generally stays on point, is a rambling string of non-sequiturs that sort of meanders its way to what she's trying to get across.
  • Not Himself: Matthew has this reaction to the new Dream resurrecting the characters the Kindly Ones killed during their rampage. Several other characters have similar reactions to other things Daniel does which Morpheus either never did or would never have done.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • Abel's House of Secrets has "something unspeakably terrible" that lives in the basement. The fact that it's never seen by anyone only confirms its unspeakable terribleness.
    • The Murderer P.O.V. the Kindly Ones get, meaning we never see what they really look like as they ravage the Dreaming.
  • Now I Know What to Name Him: Lyta Hall is told by Morpheus that her son is named Daniel.
  • The Nth Doctor:
    • Morpheus implies to Matthew that he and his replacement, Daniel, are merely different facets of the concept of Dream.
    • Matthew is not Morpheus's first raven.
    • There have been two Despairs.

    O 
  • Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome:
    • Dream and Nada. It is not meant for a mortal and one of the Endless to fall in love; Nada's realization of this and Dream's resulting wounded pride result in horrible consequences.
    • Lyta and Hector, to an extent. Dream's dissolution of her dream life with Hector and plan to claim their baby plant the seeds of her actions in The Kindly Ones.
  • Offing the Offspring: Dream kills Orpheus. He would have killed his grand-niece Rose, not knowing they were related, had her grandmother Unity Kinkaid not interfered.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    "I feel cold."
  • The Omniscient: Destiny reads everything that occurs in the universe in his book. Like everything dealing with the Endless, this is not as simple and straightforward as it appears (although he plainly doesn't think so).
  • One Degree of Separation: A lot of the mortal characters end up being subtly connected to each other; such as Judy, murdered by Dr. Dee in "24 Hours", later turning out to have been Rose Walker's best friend, and still later revealed to be Foxglove's abusive ex-girlfriend — which we learn thanks to Foxglove being caught up in a drama surrounding Barbie, who used to live in the same boarding house as Rose. Rose herself ends up living in an apartment below Lyta Hall and babysitting Daniel, running into Paul McGuire (Alexander Burgess' lover) when she visits England, and sitting next to Celia Cripps (the niece of Ethel Cripps, Roderick Burgess' mistress) on the flight back home. This is likely due to Rose being an ex-Dream Vortex and granddaughter of Desire.
  • One Myth to Explain Them All: Subverted. While there are mythological figures from many diverse cultures coexisting together, it's revealed that a few well-known gods and goddesses were just the Endless in different guises. The Greek god Morpheus, for example, was really Dream, and the goddess Mania was actually Delirium. In an early issue, the Martian Manhunter sees Dream as a well-known god who is worshipped on Mars.
  • Orphaned Punchline: "You're Thor? I'm tho thore I can hardly pith!" Metahumor ensues.
  • Orphean Rescue: Twice, by both Morpheus and Orpheus.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Lord Ruthven is a minor dream figure named for a famous literary vampire, and his dress, voice, fangs, and demeanor all seem to imply that he is indeed a vampire here... and he has a rabbit's head. Yeah.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Master Li in the issue "Exiles" has outlived his son as the latter was executed.

    P 
  • Perky Goth: Death is arguably an Ur-Example. She's not just responsible for death, though; she also gives the breath of life when someone is born. She's pretty much the person you'd most want to see at a stressful moment like that. Her brother, Dream, fills the Mopey Goth niche. Although, in stories taking place in earlier eras (read: billions of years ago), Death was a bit of a wet blanket herself before she started spending a few days each century with mortals.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Dream, for all of his Jerkass tendencies, gets quite a few of these, usually either rescuing a tertiary character (Cluracan, Marco Polo, Calliope, Prez, etc.) from danger when he doesn't have to or else having a quiet Friendship Moment with someone. He saves Rose when she summons him, despite needing to kill her later on.
    • Daniel offers his mother, Lyta Hall, eternal protection, despite the fact that what she did in her quest for revenge against the first Dream was worse than what the murderer of the first Despair did. Later on, when Lyta and Hector are resurrected as heroes only to die later, Daniel offers them permanent refuge in the Dreaming.
    • Cain has occasional dog-petting moments with Abel, coming to a head during The Wake, when he tries legal threats on the new Dream to get his brother recreated.
    • Even Desire gets a couple of Pet the Dog moments: first when they come to the rescue of a lost, frightened Delirium (Brief Lives), second when they bring devastated Tiffany's life around (again, Brief Lives), and third when they give their grand-daughter Rose her heart back (The Kindly Ones).
  • The Philosopher: Many, many examples. Even the peripheral characters are apt to wax philosophical to some degree. For a specific case, try this remark by Destruction:
    They are using reason as a tool. Reason. It is no more reliable a tool than instinct, myth, or dream. But it has the potential to be far more dangerous, for them.
  • Pilfering Proprietor: "The Hunt", a general pastiche of East-European fairytales, naturally has the hero Vassily outwitting and eating one such fellow on his travels.
  • Planet of Hats: Worlds' End introduces us to the Necropolis Litharge, a great metropolis where the only job that anyone seems to have is the ritual disposal of dead bodies. Their entire society is funeral-based, and it's almost all they do.
  • Playing Up the Stereotype: In an issue that takes place in 19th century San Francisco and centers around Emperor Norton, Norton is speaking to his Chinese "chamberlain" Ah How when a sailor clearly suffering from withdrawal bumps into them and asks Ah How if he knows where to find an opium den. Ah How gets rid of the sailor by explaining that he doesn't speak English in broken English, and as soon as the sailor is out of earshot, he continues speaking to Norton in English with perfect fluency.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Morpheus could have taken the extra couple of seconds to explain to Nuala why it was a very bad idea for him to come to Faerie just then, and earlier, he could have prevented a lot of trouble by explaining his meaning to Lyta Hall more clearly. Justified in both cases in that the disastrous consequences are what he secretly wanted all along.
  • Precision F-Strike: From Rose after she finds out the guy she had a one-night-stand with is in a relationship; it's especially notable in that it was the first F-bomb dropped in a Vertigo title.
  • The Problem with Fighting Death: Dream uses this as a threat to Desire after finding out that Desire tried to get him to kill a blood relative and call the Furies on himself. Ultimately subverted in that Morpheus eventually does exactly that.
  • Pre-Insanity Reveal: The youngest of the Endless was once Delight, the personification of joy and happiness, but she changed to Delirium long before the onset of the story for reasons unclear. She's a bit of a Mad God. In a few flashbacks, we get to see her before her Madness Makeover.
  • Previously on…: Issue #8 included a text piece in which Destiny summarizes the events of the first story arc. The same piece has also been used as a foreword to the collected edition of the second story arc.
  • Public Domain Character: Baba Yaga in "The Hunt"; Haroun al-Rashid in "Ramadan"; Titania, Au/Oberon, and Robin Goodfellow in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"; various Biblical characters; figures from Greek, Norse, and Egyptian mythology; and... well, damn, there's a lot, let's just put it that way.
  • Pumpkin Person: Merv Pumpkinhead, the Dreaming's janitor, is an animated pumpkin-headed scarecrow. He's rather a Captain Ersatz for Oz's Jack Pumpkinhead.
  • Pun-Based Title:
    • Matthew's loneliness as the only raven in the Dreaming is part of his characterization, as is a brief discussion of the proper name of a group of ravens (an unkindness) versus that of rooks (a parliament) or crows (a murder). These two combine to create an unlikely Call-Back to both in the title of a Matthew storyline in The Dreaming, "The Unkindness of One."
    • The Wake is about the funeral of Morpheus — that is, the end of this Dream. It also deals with the aftermath of the Kindly Ones' rampage, as in the wake of a disaster. It also ends with the last dreamer at the ceremony (the reader) waking up.
    • "Hob's Leviathan" is both a reference to the Sea Monster seen in the story and a Shout-Out to Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan.

    R 
  • Rage Against the Reflection: In "The Kindly Ones", Hippolyta Hall does this in her hallucination journey.
  • Raise Him Right This Time:
    • The Corinthian gets a reboot, and while he's still a cold-blooded killer, he's not as malevolent as his former self.
    • Morpheus set Daniel up to become the new Dream because his more human perspective would make him a kinder, gentler aspect of Dream, and more able to adapt to change.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil:
    • Rape is treated as appropriately horrifying, and the act most likely to rouse Morpheus out of his usual indifference to human suffering.
    • One exception is Nathan Diskin, who rapes and murders children. Morpheus is curiously merciful to him, and the induced dream he's put into reveals his natural inclination is to be kindly to children if not for the Corinthian's influence screwing him up. With that said, Rose Walker had summoned Morpheus by his name to rescue her, and he was simply using a pleasant dream to incapacitate Nathan and get him out of the way. Nathan's punishment comes later, when Morpheus takes away the Collectors' dreams of being special and delusions that they were anything but monsters.
  • Reality Warper: In their realms, all the Endless have this power to a nearly unlimited degree. In the mortal world, they're more limited, but still wield enormous power relative to the element of reality they represent.
  • Reality-Writing Book: Destiny, the eldest of the Endless, only intervenes when the Book of Destiny says that he is doing so...or the other way around, not that it matters.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: For all of his flaws, Dream is this for a good portion of the series. As the Lord of Dreams, he strives to be fair, if necessarily cruel. He only curses humans when they break the rules, hurt him, or torment his loved ones — and more so when they are aware of it and refuse to apologize, as he doesn't hurt Hazel and Foxglove for entering the Dreaming to save Barbie and genuinely not knowing any better thanks to Thessaly. When Rose was destined to be the Vortex and collapse the Dreaming unless he killed her, Dream saved her from Fun Land when she inadvertently called for his help, and only moved to kill her when she awakened her powers, while doing his best to ameliorate the situation. He's relieved when Unity Kinkaid takes her place. What's more, he only punishes the dream denizens that were causing harm in the human world; when Gilbert turns himself in and offers to die to save Rose's life, Dream refuses and apologizes. He can't accept Gilbert's sacrifice because he appreciates that Fiddler's Green came back willingly to accept any punishment, that the dream helped humans rather than hurting them, and that his death wouldn't stop the Vortex. Even with this, Dream is still fairly petty and capricious, and he has to develop the "reasonable" part over time.
  • Recursive Reality: The Worlds' End arc is about a group of people trapped in a tavern by a storm, passing the time by telling stories. Some of the stories include stories-within-stories, and at least one includes a story-within-a-story-within-a-story, told by a man who mentions that he once heard of, but never himself heard, an oddly familiar-sounding story about a group of people trapped in a tavern by a storm, passing the time by telling stories...
  • Reincarnation: Sort of. The Endless can't truly die since they're the manifestations of ideas. When one of them does physically die, their position, powers, and memories are transferred to a new vessel.
  • The Reliable One: Lucien. He's always there to clean up after the other servants of Morpheus, and when his master needs him he'll be close to hand with a bit of advice or timely news.
  • Retroactive Legacy: There have been several earlier DCU heroes called "The Sandman"; over the course of the series, each is shown to have been inspired in some fashion by Dream.
  • The Reveal:
    • Worlds' End features a funeral procession with almost every major and minor character in the series present, but does not offer any direct hints to the identity of the deceased, though this is made plain in the next arc.
    • Over the course of the series, many characters call Morpheus out on how bad an idea his Honor Before Reason approach to his job is. Finally, in Brief Lives, Morpheus breaks his promise never to see his son again. Almost immediately after, he goes back to being rigidly responsible to his duties, even when enemies and allies point out that bending his rules would allow him to fend off the rampaging Kindly Ones. It's ultimately only Nuala who realizes what's going on and why:
      You... you want them to kill you, don't you? You want them to punish you for your son's death.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Who was the one who hired Loki and Puck to abduct Daniel Hall, thus setting off the plot of "The Kindly Ones"? The two most likely candidates would seem to either be Desire, who had been gunning for Dream for a while and wanted to get him to spill family blood, or Dream himself, who plotted an elaborate suicide after he couldn't bear to live with himself after killing Orpheus.
  • Right Behind Me: This happens to Mervyn every time he's talking smack about Dream. It's probably by design.

    S 
  • Sacred Hospitality: Dream cannot harm his guests in any way. The demon Azazel chooses to renounce his hospitality...
  • The Sandman: Probably the most known version, not just from DC Comics but comic books in general, being almost entirely based on the mythology of the Sandman, rather than the Golden Age superhero (even when he's also mentioned).
  • Satan: Lucifer Morningstar is a key character, and is especially prominent in Season of Mists.
  • Scenery Gorn: Hell, as is to be expected, is thoroughly revolting to behold. There are scenes of torture everywhere you look, and the architecture is no better.
  • Scenery Porn: The series has some seriously gorgeous background art. Special mention goes to the Dreaming.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • Many of the evil forces sealed in the Dreaming end up being released during The Kindly Ones, although the worst of the worst were apparently kept in a more secure can.
    • Haroun al-Rashid summons the Sandman by threatening to open his personal Sealed Evil on the world if he doesn't appear on command. Dream is less than amused.
      Dream: It is unwise to summon what you cannot dismiss.
  • Second-Person Narration: In one of the final chapters, everyone shares a visit to the dream world. The narration specifies that you, the reader, attended the gathering (although you probably don't remember it anymore, not since you woke up). At the end of the story, Destiny states that all but one of the dreamers have awakened. That last dreamer would be you, because you do not awake until the last panel.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: All of it, at least in theory.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Lyta Hall's quest to get Daniel back. Not a Shoot the Shaggy Dog story, though, in that Daniel kind of is still alive as the new Dream.
  • Shape Shifter Guilt Trip: Loki tries this to stop the Corinthian from strangling him; it doesn't work.
  • Shoot the Builder: In "Ramadan", as Haroun al-Rashid is walking through his castle, the various rooms that are mentioned include one that contains the skeletons of the castle's architects. The description notes "It is seldom healthy to know the secrets of a king."
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Thessaly's quest in A Game of You She goes to help Barbie and kill the Cuckoo. To do so, Thessaly incurred a high debt to the Furies that she had to pay by protecting Lyta, ensuring Morpheus's death. Oh, and this causes the hurricane that killed Wanda and countless other people. However, not only was her action completely ineffectual, but she was almost instantly under the Cuckoo's sway, and Barbie had to use her boon to get everyone out. Everything would have been much better for everyone involved if she had just stayed home and drunk a cup of tea.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One panel in Worlds' End shows a character wearing a bloodstained smiley-face pin.
    • If you look closely at a scene in The Kindly Ones, there's a copy of Good Omens by the bed.
    • Also in The Kindly Ones is the last of the seven swans from the fairy tale of the same name.
    • Several to Tori Amos (who returned the favor in her song "Horses").
    • Lucien, the Magic Librarian who used to be a raven, is partly a reference to Mr Raven in Lilith by George MacDonald.
    • Averted by Loki's claim to the name Loki Sky-Walker — that's actually one of his many sobriquets in the original sagas, although undoubtedly Gaiman threw it in for the double-meaning.
      • He does take the name Luke while disguised as a human. It's also interesting to note how similar his facial features are drawn in The Kindly Ones to the DCAU incarnation of The Joker, who is, of course, voiced by Mark Hamill.
    • The strip club where Tiffany and Ishtar work is called "Suffragette City", and the segment containing Ishtar's Last Dance is called "Wham bam thank you ma'am", yet another David Bowie shout out.
    • Grandma Ben of Jeff Smith's Bone turns up as Mistress Quiney, the tavern-keeper in the original run's final issue, "The Tempest". It's a fun shout from artist Charles Vess, who drew the prequel series to Bone, "Rose" note , just before he drew "The Tempest".
    • A few references to G. K. Chesterton...
      • The character "Fiddlers Green" looks like G. K. Chesterton and even has the same first name "Gilbert".
      • The Seasons in the Mist storyline ends with a quotation from an imagined but never written Chesterton book.
      • The Worlds' End storyline refers to a repeated theme in Chesterton's work, a tavern or inn at world's end. Examples can be found in Chesterton's book on Dickens, an essay named The End of the World, and a famous Christmas poem, A Child of the Snows. One of Chesterton's newspaper columns was named At the Sign of the World's End.
  • Single Tear: Duma doesn't speak in The Wake, as he has not spoken since the beginning of the universe, but he eloquently expresses his feelings via this trope.
  • Slasher Smile: Loki and Puck are doing this pretty much all the time. And then there's Boss Smiley, who has a yellow happy face for a head. Look, we never said the trope always makes sense, okay?
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: The immortal Hob Gadling experiences (justified) White Guilt for centuries for being an influential early slave trader who helped establish the system that made the slave trade an economic powerhouse in the 17th through 19th centuries. He did it at the time because it was just kind of what you did, and quit the trade relatively early after Dream advised him that "it is a poor thing for a man to own another", but he gets to witness first-hand the consequences of his actions throughout history.
  • Soulsaving Crusader: The angel Remiel takes on a rather Non Sequitur version of this trope as his new mission in life, as he wants to reform Hell and make the torment redeeming. It only makes Hell worse, since now they're torturing you because they love you, but he doesn't recognize this. The tormented, incidentally, are astonished that Remiel accomplished this feat.
  • Speech Impediment: In "The Kindly Ones", Rose Walker's former housemate Zelda reveals that she has a stutter, hence why she would always have Chantal speak for her.
  • Spin-Off: The 25th issue marks the debut of The Dead Boy Detectives, who subsequently played a major part in The Children's Crusade (Vertigo) and had a few of their own titles afterwards.
  • Spiritual Successor: Many fans consider it one to Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing, DC's previous champion in wringing dark, sophisticated storylines out of what was originally a third-string DCU character. Less figuratively, The Sandman picks up and expands on several plot threads and themes established in Swamp Thing, such as Cain and Abel's roles in the human consciousness, the "culture" of serial killers in America, and the nature of Hell.
  • Stab the Scorpion: The second Corinthian pulls this on Matthew — whom he had previously sworn to kill — in The Kindly Ones, throwing a knife that kills a monster that was just about to attack. The new Dream later tells Matthew that the Corinthian had genuinely intended to kill him, but Daniel exerted his influence to save Matthew's life by bringing the monster to the throne room at just the right moment, so the Corinthian would change his mind in the heat of the moment.
  • Starfish Aliens: It's implied that Cain and Abel were originally these. Rather than being the actual characters from the Bible story, they're actually the very first intelligent lifeforms in the entire universe to commit murder and its victim, preserved in the collective unconscious and, like the Endless themselves, perceived as a member of whatever species is viewing them.
    • Notably, Eve denies that Cain is her descendant. The concept of "murderer" is older than the concept of "woman".
  • Stay on the Path: This is used a few times throughout the series, especially when Morpheus tells his guests during Season of Mists that they should do so inside his castle. Clurucan, of course, strays and ends up creating his nemesis. Also, "You killed my friend. Stray from your path."
  • Stealth Insult: In their last meeting, Morpheus parts with Larissa/Thessaly by telling her "May your gods be with you". On the surface it's a polite farewell, but as she's been trying to evade death (and thus meeting those gods) for thousands of years...
  • Stealth Pun: The fairy is gay. In fact, not only is the fairy gay, but the fairy is gay.
  • The Stoic:
    • Destiny, of course (how could he not be?).
    • Duma, the Angel of Silence, who only ever reacts to anythingnote  once in the entire series (by shedding a Single Tear).
  • Stunned Silence: After Lucifer's announcement that he's quit, the next three panels show a variety of expressions flit across Dream's face as he tries to process it. He wasn't sure what to expect, but he certainly didn't see that coming.
  • Success Through Insanity: One story has Delirium in a foul mood, having hidden herself away in her realm and cut off all access. In order to get to her, Dream recruits several mentally ill people, as only their flexible interpretations of reality would allow them to navigate Delirium's home unscathed.
  • Sunglasses at Night: The Corinthian. This is because he has tiny mouths with razor-sharp teeth where his eyes should be.
  • Supernaturally-Validated Trans Person: A Double Subversion; a trans woman can't perform magic restricted to women... but this turns out to be because the specific goddess providing that specific magic is behind the times and refuses to allow it. Even after Wanda dies and her parents bury her under her dead name in men's clothes, her spirit appears as a woman, and Death (who's been around a smidge longer than life has existed in the universenote ) acknowledges her as such.
  • Surprisingly Moving Song: In "The Sandman Special", Orpheus journeys to the underworld to retrieve his bride Eurydice. His singing is so wonderful that the entire Underworld stops to listen. The Shades and Furies are brought to tears, and the hearts of Hades and Persephone are moved.
    Persephone: Thou hast made the furies weep, Orpheus. They will never forgive you for that.
  • Sympathy for the Hero: Lucifer, of all people, expresses this for Dream during The Kindly Ones.

    T 
  • Tempting Fate: When Morpheus and Delirium go looking for their brother, they are literally seeking Destruction. Things go downhill from there.
  • That Man Is Dead: Daniel refuses to take the name Morpheus, reserving it as having belonged wholly to his previous incarnation. He also refuses to go by his original name. He is simply Dream of the Endless, no more and no less.
  • Threshold Guardians: Dream's doormen — a griffon, a wyvern, and a hippogriff. They can keep out gods. An assembly of several pantheons, however, is beyond them, unless Dream gives them a power boost. The Kindly Ones kill the griffon when they try to bar them entrance to Dream's castle.
  • Title Drop: There's one for every arc, but Preludes & Nocturnes and Fables & Reflections are the most notable.
  • To Hell with This Infernal Job: Lucifer closes Hell, chases all the demons and damned souls out, locks the gates, and hands Dream the key before heading off to Earth.
  • Tome of Fate: Or rather, the Book of Destiny, containing the history of everything.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: When we meet Hal in A Doll's House, he's mostly pleasant and friendly. When he returns in The Kindly Ones, he's sarcastic, bitter and cruel, with no explanation given for his Face–Heel Turn.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: If one reads the story in chronological order, one will notice Dream is at first vindictive, selfish, and excessively proud. After his imprisonment, however, he develops some empathy, enough in fact to call Hob Gadling a friend, rescue Calliope and Nada, and kill Orpheus. He is nonetheless very callous when he merely informs Lyta Hall that he will take her son. His fate is ultimately sealed by his incapability of changing further or changing back.
  • Tragic Monster:
    • Despair is, by her nature, rather unpleasant to be around, and something of a sadist, but it's not really her fault. She is a rather tragic figure in her own right, especially since she is not the original Despair.
    • Cain is really a victim of his own tropes; he has some Pet the Dog moments with Abel, but he can't not abuse him, since it's not the nature of their story.
  • The Trickster: Among others, Loki and Robin Goodfellow/Puck, of course, seeing as the two are some of the most famous tricksters in fiction/myth.
  • True Companions: The inhabitants of Dream's castle become quite close over the course of the series. Similarly, the three guardians of the door (the griffin, hippogriff, and wyvern) are very close, which makes the killing of the griffin by the Kindly Ones all the more shocking.

    U 
  • Ugly All Along: Nuala is a fae given to Dream as a gift from the Faerie. She is presented as a stunningly beautiful fae with golden hair, but Dream refuses to allow her to remain in his realm under a glamour, and forces her to appear in her proper form. She's not ugly, per se, but rather very plain, small, and mousy, with unkempt brown hair and a careworn face. Eventually, her brother brings her back to Faerie, at which time she again takes on the idealized glamour, although after spending so much time in Dream's service she's gotten used to her normal self and is uncomfortable with the glamour.
  • Unaccustomed as I Am to Public Speaking...: Destiny drops this bit during The Wake (and then Desire lampshades it by quoting the line verbatim), but in his case it's a subversion, since as it turns out he really isn't much of a speaker at all.
  • The Unreveal:
    • It is never explained why Delight turned into Delirium note , or how the first Despair was killed, or how the present Despair came into being. It's also implied Delirium's not done changing yet.
    • Dream implies that two of Matthew's predecessor ravens have moved on to new roles in the Dreaming. Dream explicitly states one is Lucien the librarian, who does not remember, but does not reference the other.
    • We never do find out who put Loki and Puck up to the kidnapping of little Daniel; the story presents Remiel, Lucifer, Loki himself, and even Dream as potential suspects, but there is no concrete answer. Puck only drops us this little hint when asked who he's working for:
      Puck: I could answer you endlessly, and perhaps you expect me to ...
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Subverted; the plans for what would happen if Dream were captured or killed in Hell are never needed. (Though it's speculated that the plans he would have used if he fell in Hell are the same that came into place during his confrontation with the Kindly Ones.)
  • Unusual Euphemism: The story-within-a-story (within another story...) about the hangman features a staggering assortment of euphemisms about hanging people and being hung, such as "A jump from the leafless tree," and "A hearty choke with caper sauce!" note 
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Delirium getting Dream to accompany her in searching for their brother Destruction causes the death of Orpheus, and brings the Kindly Ones down on Dream.

    V 
  • [Verb] This!: Well, more of a "Plural Noun This", but still, Mervyn's "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner deserves a mention...
    Furies: You? What are you?
    Merv: Me? Lady, I'm your worst nightmare — a pumpkin with a gun.
    Furies: We have no nightmares. We are the hounds of Hades. Gods fear us. Demons fear us. We have hounded kings and angels. We have taken vengeance on worlds and on universes. We are the Kindly Ones. We are the Eumenides.

    Merv: Yeah? Well, Eumenides this! *BUDDABUDDABUDDABUDDA!*
  • Victimized Bystander: This happened to the patrol officer that pulls over Delirium for driving like... well, like Delirium.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Gaiman, on his sponge-like capacity for folklore, myths, and religions.
    As a kid I thought everyone knew Adam had three wives.
  • The Villain Must Be Punished: In the spin-offs The Thessaliad and Thessaly: Witch for Hire, Thessaly takes any threats to her person very seriously, and as such, doles out harsh punishments to those who threaten. In the first miniseries, four death gods attempt to kill her in the hopes of claiming her soul, and for their troubles, she kills one of them and gives the other three a Fate Worse than Death. In Witch for Hire, an ancient degenerate sics a powerful, seemingly-unkillable monster on her. After dispatching the monster, she tracks down her would-be enemy and puts a curse on him that causes him to immediately be consumed from the inside out by beetles.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Played with. Lyta is not a villain until after her breakdown, but the trope still works pretty much the same way (and her breakdown is epic in scale).
  • The Voiceless: Duma is the "Angel of Silence", so of course he never talks. Even after he stops being the Angel of Silence and is allowed to speak, he chooses not to.

    W 
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having:
    • One story is about a man who falls in love with a woman after seeing her picture in her locket and goes to great lengths to meet her. But when he finally does (and she is indeed every bit as beautiful as the picture made her out to be), he only gives the locket back to her and asks for nothing more, as he realised that she couldn't possibly live up to all his dreaming about her.
    • Lampshaded in the first William Shakespeare story:
      Dream: The price of getting what you want is having what once you wanted.
    • Upon finding out that Nuala's in love with him, Morpheus offers her a dream of his love, since he can't offer her his love like a gift. Nuala smiles, and reminds him she already has that.
    • Desire deals this in spades. They even lampshade this (in a rare moment of sincere honesty) by telling a young woman that there is a very big difference between getting what you want and being happy.
  • Warrior Poet: Destruction. He's horrible at it, though. The poetry part, that is.
  • We Used to Be Friends: As seen in Endless Nights (which is set a long time before the main events of The Sandman), Dream and Desire of all people used to be quite close, with Dream referring to Desire as his favorite sibling. Then Desire meddled with one of Dream's love affairs, and it has messed up their relationship to the present day.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Most of Abel's troubles stem from his desire to live happily with his murderous brother, Cain.
  • Wham Line:
    • From the Seasons of Mist arc: when Morpheus enters hell to free Nada from imprisonment, he sends warning to Lucifer — Lucifer being the one whom Morpheus utterly humiliated in a previous arc, and has sworn vengeance on him. Upon hearing this news, Lucifer gathers the hordes of Hell and the souls of the damned and makes what appears to be a This Means War!! declaration, promising that it will be a day that Morpheus and everybody else will never forget. When Dream eventually arrives, Hell is totally empty, besides Lucifer himself. Dream demands that Lucifer explain what's going on.
      Lucifer: Isn't it obvious, dream king? I've quit.
    • There's also the moment in The Kindly Ones; "He DID kill his own son". Even though the reader knows that The Omniscient Hecate Sisters probably knew about it already, it's still a gut punch when it's absolutely confirmed that the Kindly Ones are coming, and there's nothing Dream can do about it.
    • The climax of Brief Lives arguably has the Wham Line for the series: "I have to kill my son." Doubles as a Genius Bonus since, as far back as The Doll's House, it's been foreshadowed that killing a blood relative, even with the best of intentions, means crossing a line that not even one of the Endless can return from.
    • Inverted in The Kindly Ones, when Nuala realizes aloud Morpheus' motivation for everything that's happened this arc. He confirms her suspicion silently, with a look of hopelessness:
      Nuala: You... you want them to do it, don't you? You want them to punish you for your son's death.
      Morpheus: (Beat Panel)
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Death, among others, calls Dream out on his less-than-noble acts, such as imprisoning Nada in Hell for ten thousand years. Even Delirium does it — when Dream tells her that cursing a man to feel as if insects are crawling on his skin "forever and ever" is too harsh, Delirium retorts that "you've done lots worse. Lots and lots and lots."
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: The club where Delirium accidentally approaches a Perky Goth who she thinks is Death.
  • Where the Magic Went: In "A Midsummer Night's Dream", the Faerie Beings return to Earth one last time to view William Shakespeare's play of the same name, based on their own stories. Morpheus commands a design on a hill to open and serve as the portal between Earth and Faerie.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Dream and Bast have apparently been playing this game for a long time. Ultimately, they never do.
  • World Half Full: A rare inversion. The world is a bright world of wonder where ultimately no one is able to change much.
  • Wunza Plot: Matthew and the Corinthian have a very brief episode of this in The Kindly Ones. It even gets lampshaded:
    Matthew: It was like a bad TV show. 'He's a reincarnated serial killer — his partner's a bird. They're cops.'

     Y 
  • You Are Not Alone:
    • Barbie's roommate Wanda has been taking care of her ever since the divorce with Ken. Foxglove and Hazel also immediately go with Thessaly to rescue Barbie from the Cuckoo.
    • When Delirium has a Freak Out on Earth, of all her siblings, Desire comes to take her home.


 
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Alternative Title(s): The Sandman

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Death & Dream: Page to Screen

In the television show, Death and Dream's conversation while feeding the pigeons is lifted directly from the source material comics.

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