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Comic Book / The Sandman (1989)
aka: The Sandman

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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 by Neil Gaiman, 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.


The series attracted a huge number of fans from groups who aren't traditionally seen as readers of comics, most notably young women. By the end of its run, it was selling better than Superman, had attained heaps of critical praise and industry awards, and became the first and only comic book to win the prestigious World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction. The oft-told story that the rules were changed to make comics totally ineligible after The Sandman's win is false; they were merely barred from competing in the Short Fiction category. Comics have since been nominated under the Special Award Professional category.

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. The series has spawned a number of Spin-Off series by both Gaiman and other writers as notable characters from the books tell their tales.

The collected trade paperbacks:

  • Preludes and Nocturnes: In the early 20th century, an English occult sect attempts to imprison Death with a summoning ritual, but mistakenly snares Dream instead. Following seven decades of imprisonment in the waking world, Dream must avenge his kingdom and retrieve his scattered relics of power.
  • The Doll's House: Dream is forced to enter the waking world to track down a trio of rogue nightmares, and must get to the bottom of a mysterious "Dream Vortex" that threatens to tear apart the Dreaming. Along the way, he crosses paths with a young woman named Rose Walker, who gets caught up in a labyrinthine world of secrets after discovering the family that she never knew.
  • Dream Country: A collection of four unrelated one-shot stories. A frustrated writer looks for inspiration in the supernatural; a cat recalls a fateful encounter with Dream; a young William Shakespeare pays back a debt to Dream with a trippy performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream; a burned-out superhero looks to Death for respite from her tortuous existence.
  • Season of Mists: Dream is drawn into a perilous game of supernatural intrigue when he decides to confront his old enemy Lucifer Morningstar, the Lord of Hell, in a bid to rescue a past lover condemned to his kingdom. Things then proceed to go in directions that none of the participants quite expected.
  • A Game of You: Trying to put her life back together after a failed relationship, a young woman named Barbie (first introduced in The Doll's House) rediscovers the world of her old childhood fantasies in a most unexpected way, and is unwittingly caught in the middle of a struggle against a deadly being known as "The Cuckoo."
  • Fables and Reflections: A series of stories about mortal encounters with the Endless, spanning from medieval Arabia, to Renaissance-era Italy, to post-Revolution France, to mythic Greece, to Ancient Rome. It includes the tragic tale of Dream's last meeting with his estranged son: the legendary Greek bard Orpheus.
  • Brief Lives: Dream pairs up with his unpredictable younger sister, Delirium, for a road trip into the waking world to seek out their long-lost brother: the rogue seventh member of the Endless, Destruction.
  • Worlds' End: After being caught in a "reality storm," two mortal humans are forced to seek refuge at an inn at the End of the Universe, where they're treated to a night of storytelling by a procession of supernatural creatures. Heady meditations on death, deception, hope, and urban alienation follow.
  • The Kindly Ones: Lyta Hall, a woman whose life was changed forever by a fateful encounter with Dream, turns to some unlikely supernatural allies when her infant son mysteriously vanishes. As Dream confronts enemies on all sides, every character introduced in the series thus far (major and minor) confronts their destinies.
  • The Wake: In the wake of a momentous battle, the denizens of the Dreaming come together for some sober reflection as they confront the uncertain future of their world.

The series also had more spinoffs than we can sensibly list here. The following series have articles on this wiki:

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.

Adaptations of the comic and other media based on it include:

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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  • Adoption Angst: In the Doll's House story arc, Miranda Walker is at first in denial after being told that she was adopted and her benefactor Unity Kinkaid is her biological mother.
  • 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: And they're not shy about it, either.
  • 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.
    • The guy in charge of the Cereal Convention spends some time fretting over the fact that the Family Man has not showed. John Constantine killed him.
    • The biggest dose of this, though, is probably the whole deal with Hector and Hippolyta Hall. Their backstory is tied in with Infinity, Inc. — a decent seller in its day, but an obscurity to most modern audiences, and plagued by all manner of confusing Retcons after Crisis on Infinite Earths wiped all of DC's Golden Age heroes from existence.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The "sleepy sickness" that mysteriously inflicts people around the world once Dream is imprisoned, making it so people fall into a coma-like state they never or barely wake up from? A real disease, that in fact had a pandemic starting around the time Dream was captured in the comic and ending in 1927. The actual scientific name of the disease is name dropped in one panel, though if you didn't know about its existence it'd be easy to think that both the disease and the name were invented from whole cloth for the story.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: In "Season of Mists," Dream notes that as powerful as he is as one of the Endless, he's still not in Lucifer's class, and thus under normal circumstances Dream wouldn't dare meet Lucifer in single combat.
  • Always Save the Girl: In Sandman: Overture, Morpheus reveals that he did this with the first Vortex, unwilling to take an innocent life to save thousands. This almost led to The End of the World as We Know It and having to kill the Vortex when its powers drove it half-mad. In the present, Morpheus subverts this, having learned from his mistakes, and he plans to kill Rose to prevent History Repeating.
  • Ambiguously Absent Parent: No explanation is given as to why Alexander Burgess's mother is not around.
  • 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.
  • And I Must Scream: In issue #1, Dream curses the son of his kidnapper to live in an endless cycle of dreams where he believes he's just awoken, only to discover himself in a nightmare, only to seemingly awake again, and so on.
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: "The Hunt" ends with the In-Universe narrator suggesting to his granddaughter that the story was about how he met her grandmother.
  • Angelic Beauty: The pair of angels from Season of Mists take the form of immaculate pale-skinned blondes who are as pleasing to the eye as the demons are torture to look at.
  • 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.
  • Anti-Villain: Lyta thinks that she's avenging the murder of her husband and son by joining with the Furies, which is not, in itself, a bad thing. The problem is that she's hurting scores of innocent people in the process. Also, the Kindly Ones don't care about her son, they only care about revenge, and while they're only fullfilling their role in the universe, they go about it in a pitiless and ruthless fashion.
  • 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.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Dream to Rose Walker as he prepares to kill her and stop the Vortex from emerging.
  • "Arabian Nights" Days: One story features this version of Baghdad, which Caliph Harun al-Raschid finds so wonderful that he is haunted by the knowledge that it will someday end. He calls on Morpheus to preserve it forever, and he obliges by changing it into a more mundane version of the city, but causing the "Arabian Nights" Days version to live on in stories and dreams.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: John Constantine initially dismisses Dream as a myth, despite all the supernatural shit he deals with on a daily basis.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: A trope repeated so often that it is something of a series motif. See the quotes under Crazy Sane and Cruel Mercy for just two examples.
  • 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!). When Dream mutters sullenly that he would have made her a goddess, Death shoots back, "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." Her words wake Dream up to his being in the wrong about her, so he decides to go to Hell to free Nada, which in turn sets so much in motion throughout the rest of the story...
  • Artifact of Death: Lucifer hints to Morpheus that the key to hell could be this. This turns out to be far more important in the series than probably anyone guessed at the time.
    Lucifer: Perhaps it will destroy you, perhaps it won't. But I can't imagine it will make your life any easier. (disappears with an Evil Laugh)
  • 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.
  • Asian Fox-Spirit: The Dream Hunters is a fairly traditional kitsune romance, with Morpheus and other Sandman characters making cameos.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Invoked when a Chinese friend of Joshua Norton feigns a stereotypical accent around tourists to disguise his wisdom and loyalty to the American Emperor, and to keep junkies from asking him for opium.
  • As the Good Book Says...: In the "Season of the Mists" series, Lucifer Morningstar quotes the book of Genesis when he spares Dream's envoy from torture. The God of The Bible promised sevenfold vengeance on whoever would slay Cain (Dream's envoy).
  • 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.
  • Attempted Rape: Although the series is generally pretty light on falling back on rape as the default threat for female protagonists, Rose has to go through two of these in The Doll's House. Eurydice is also a victim of Attempted Rape, but that's just the source material.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Baku: Baku make an appearance in The Dream Hunters, grazing on bad dreams as background fauna.
  • 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".
    • Nathan Diskin's serial killer code name is Fun Land. Do not shorten it to "Fun".
  • 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. Overture reveals that his relationships with his parents are just as messed up.
    • 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:
    • Rose towards Jed Walker during Doll's House. She's horrified on learning how he was abused by relatives, and is relieved when Gilbert finds her brother alive but unconscious in the Corinthian's truck.
    • 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 Del, 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:
    • "A Doll's House" features Unity Kinkaid giving up her life to save her granddaughter, Rose, by taking her place as the vortex. She dies shortly after reuniting with her daughter and granddaughter, but never meets her grandson Jed. Gilbert also returns to the Dreaming and resumes his place when Dream forgives him, promising Rose that he loves her and that whenever she likes, she can visit him in life or in death. Rose wakes up with a niggling sense that she broke up Barbie and Ken's marriage by interfering with their dreams, and mourns losing her friend Gilbert, who has since given up his human form to become Fiddler's Green again. She knows now that there's magic in this world, or "weird shit" as she puts it, and that makes human lives meaningless. To cope, Rose insists to herself that her dream was just a dream because Gilbert wasn't meaningless and her little brother is safe now. On the other hand, Gilbert rescued Jed and restored him to his sister and mother, ensuring the kid has an undoubted happy ending. Dream also saves the world by undoing a generation of serial killers that the Corinthian inspired, allowing their would-be victims to sleep more easily at night.
    • "A Game Of You" is one of the saddest arcs in the series. Barbie finds out that she had to return to her dreamworld the Land not to save it from the Cuckoo, but to let the Cuckoo destroy it. When Dream kindly releases her from the Cuckoo's thrall, and reveals that her friends broke the rules in their attempt to rescue her, she's Forced to Watch him turn it into a barren wasteland and summon her former dream friends into the palm of his hand. Only a barren island remains. When Barbie gets a boon from him, and she learns that she can ask Dream anything within his power, she chooses not to ask him to kill the Cuckoo or restore the land, but get her human friends back to Earth, because otherwise they'll be stuck on the barren island forever. Dream smiles and tells her it was the right decision. The Cuckoo is allowed to go, but she's left to fend for herself in the Dreaming, and that path won't be easy. Barbie then wakes up in the middle of a hurricane, learning that a homeless woman died protecting her body, and Wanda was killed when their building collapsed. She attends the funeral, admitting that she didn't learn much from her dream, except to try and go out into the real world to make something of what she had to leave behind.
    • 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 that 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. Thor is also one, in line with his traditional depiction in Norse mythology, and is portrayed as a loud, drunken, womanizing lout.
  • 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.
    • Jed Walker through A Doll's House. He was separated from his mum and sister at a very young age, lost his grandfather to illness and then was stuck with abusive relatives who locked him in the basement and regularly beat him, with Brute and Glob occupying his head and offering comfort only through dreams. Then, when he finally escapes, he encounters the Corinthian, who locks him in a car trunk, saving him for later. Thanks to Gilbert and Rose, however, Earn Your Happy Ending finally comes into effect.
    • Rose Walker, in the meantime, 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.
  • Broken Aesop: Invoked. The Kipling-quoting "Indian Gentleman" tells his companions a tale he hopes will "prove" that women are inherently evil in "Hob's Leviathan." But, as Hob and Jim point out, the sum Aesop of the story seems to be more along the lines of "men and women are both capable of deeply hurting each other."
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Destiny, in an opening narration, 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. Sandman Overture covers that particular story.
  • Brown Note: Ishtar's "True Dance" taps into her Living Aphrodisiac powers and is so unbelievably hot that it causes all men who see it to experience Forced Orgasms until they die of arousal.
    "And Shep Cayce, who hasn't had an erection in a dozen years, is ejaculating violently - again, and again, and again: and now he's coming blood and he doesn't care."
  • Bury Your Gays:
    • For all that her portrayal was sympathetic and ahead of its time, Wanda is killed off at the end of A Game of You. Even more sadly, it happens because she was denied the ability to walk the female-only Moon's Path, making it look like the moon itself was calling her a man. However despite the fact that she's buried under her dead name, she's shown after death as a beautiful woman, getting a happy ending of sorts.
    • Averted with both Hazel and Foxglove in Death: The Time of Your Life. Hazel and Foxglove at different points offer their lives for the baby's, but Foxglove's bodyguard Endymion/Boris insists on staying.
  • 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.

  • Cain: The Sandman features both Biblical brothers as characters in the Dreaming and associates of Morpheus. Cain is a violent man who is prone to murdering Abel, which is a cycle they repeat ad nauseum; the series states that the brothers were "the first story", with Cain the jealous brother and Abel the eternal victim. When Dream came back to Earth, the brothers were the ones to find him and nurse him back to health. Cain also serves as Dream's messenger to Lucifer, specifically because of the mark on his forehead that prevents anyone from killing him, as told in actual Biblical story.
  • 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.
  • Cardboard Prison: Arkham Asylum, in the first Story Arc.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Thor just can't understand why the other gods have so much less trouble with the ladies. After all, none of them employ his killer technique of leering in a woman's face and bellowing about his hammer getting bigger when you rub it...
  • 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.
  • Cats Are Magic:
    • The goddess Bast exists, and governs the well-being of cats.
    • A cat prophet claims giant cats once ruled the world in an alternate timeline.
    • Cat!Dream is quite mystical and magical, obeying no one's orders but his own.
  • Censorship by Spelling: In Brief Lives, Delirium wants to tell her sister that she's worried about Dream without him knowing, so she spells out his name. Or tries to. It ends up with too many Ms in it, and he's not fooled anyway.
  • Cerebus Retcon: The series is a part of The DCU, and especially in its first few arcs wasn't shy about brutally deconstructing lighthearted Silver Age concepts in ways you'd normally expect from the likes of Alan Moore or Garth Ennis. Special mention goes to The Doll's House, which twists Hector Hall (DC's last, more conventionally superhero-y Sandman) into the Dead All Along fantasy of the horrifically-abused Jed Walker (himself a remnant of an even earlier, even more lighthearted Sandman series).
  • 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, because...
  • Coins for the Dead: In the spinoff comic Death: Time of Your Life, we see her spending her day as a mortal in the 1990s. At the end of the day, the mortal version of Death dies, and a sorcerer who had been trying to capture her, (and, it's implied, end his own immortal life) places a pair of coins over her eyes in respect.
  • 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:
    • In The High Cost of Living, someone says they would like to die between two virgins at the moment of orgasm, via elephant crushing. In Endless Nights, someone does exactly that. This comes up occasionally in other places too; it's more of a Running Gag.
    • Also in Endless Nights, Despair talks with Rao (Krypton's sun) about her plan to create the ultimate being of despair. Namely, for an unstable planet to host life and leave a single survivor when it dies. Apparently she thinks that the life on that world would be more beautiful, because at any time it could be destroyed. Superman is NOT in the throes of Despair though, so it looks like her plan backfired. In the same issue, the green sun and Dream's alien girlfriend represent the sun and a resident of Oa, which form the background of the Green Lantern stories. If her developing energy powers and her role as a protector of the planet are any indication, she may be one of the founders of the Corps.
    • The serial killer the Bogeyman, who appears in The Doll's House, and is revealed to be an impersonator who's a writer for a magazine, originally appeared in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run. If you read that, it won't come as a surprise that the man appearing in The Sandman is an impostor.
    • 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.
    • In Season of Mists, the Lords of Order try to bribe Dream with the dreams collected by the Grey Man.
    • In Issue #40 'The Parliament of Rooks', Cain remarks upon himself, Abel and Eve all being together, "Just like the old days. And we've even got an audience. Let's tell stories." All three characters were originally Horror Hosts of their own respective anthology series, before Gaiman incorporated them into the world of Sandman.
  • 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.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: "A Tale of Two Cities", the first story in Worlds' End, is consciously told in the style of a Lovecraftian ghost story (it even uses the word "cyclopean"). The Eldritch Abomination that it reveals is of a particularly surprising, and unsettling, nature: the city itself, whose dreams he winds up trapped in, and by extension ALL cities. "I fear what will happen when the cities wake up" indeed.
  • 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
    • The woman who doesn't like dogs in A Game of You.
    • A group of them set out to rescue Delirium from her own head in Endless Nights.
    • 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.
  • Crazy Sane: Emperor Norton, as depicted in "Three Septembers and a January", is a man overwhelmed by hopelessness, lust, and insanity that only manages to live with himself once he comes to believe he is the Emperor of the United States. From there, he begins to develop a code of honor, a group of loyal friends, and a livable income that supports him until Death takes him to move on.
    Delirium: His madness... His madness keeps him sane.
    Dream: And do you think he is the only one, my sister?
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Neil Gaiman and issue artist Michael Zulli appear in the crowd in The Wake.
    • In Brief Lives, Jill Thompson began by drawing her own apartment for Etain of the Second Look, and wound up just being told to draw herself as the side character.
    • Thessaly more-or-less resembles Game of You artist Colleen Doran, with Stoic Spectacles and brown hair.
  • Criminal Convention: In issue #14, a convention of serial killers and mass murders congregate to share stories and conversation. Here, rogue nightmare and serial killer the Corinthian is found attending the convention, having been an inspiration to many of the serial killers attending. The various attendants go by code-names, and the convention is called a "Cereal Convention" so as to not draw attention to themselves. The convention comes to an end when the eponymous Sandman Dream is called there to help one of their would-be victims, and then proceeds to destroy the Corinthian and show the conventioners how petty and meaningless they truly are.
  • 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 shortly before the New 52 reboot). 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.
  • Cruel Mercy: Dream escapes Hell in the early issues by telling The Legions of Hell that despite evidence to the contrary, dreams do in fact have power in hell: "What terrors would Hell hold if those entombed within could not dream of Heaven?" Whether he means he will take away their dreams of Heaven, or GIVE them dreams of Heaven that they have to wake up from in Hell, is left unclear.

  • Damsel out of Distress: Subverted. Rose tries, but to be fair she's usually out of her weight class. She takes on muggers that try to rob her at knifepoint, only for Gilbert to mount a rescue and introduce himself to her. Later on, Fun Land catches her in an ambush, and the only thing she can do is weakly recite Morpheus's name.
  • 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.
    • In Endless Nights, the embodiment of the star Mizar puts forward a rather more positive interpretation of Destruction:
      Mizar: His is the process that fuels all the stars. Without him, all would be lifeless and dark.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Discussed by one of the serial killers in "The Collectors". It caused something of a stir when Gaiman first wrote it in, with his editor protesting that "characters in The DC Universe don't masturbate!" Gaiman replied that this explained a lot about the DC Universe. This is also mentioned by Tiffany in Brief Lives, when she bemoans how she keeps getting into relationships with scumbags.
  • 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 Montage: "The Sound of Her Wings" shows Death going on her rounds and helping out everyone who dies that day: an old man reciting his prayers, a baby in a crib, a comedian onstage, and a boy playing soccer. As she puts it, they all get a life, but length doesn't matter.
  • Death of a Child: In "The Sound of Her Wings", with an actual infant, no less. One of the people Death claims that day is an infant who randomly dies from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
  • 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: Element Girl, Orpheus, and eventually Dream.
  • Death Takes a Holiday: Subverted and played straight. In the first issue, Dream is captured by mistake by mystics trying to imprison Death. It messes up the Dreaming on Earth, and he points out the terrible consequences had they succeeded in their original plan. 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. In Unity Kinkaid's case, she was raped while sleeping, and her baby was adopted out. The spinoff short story anthology reveals that the Nazis euthanized one woman who was trapped in the sleeping sickness.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Haroun al-Raschid in issue #50, Ramadan, is a wise and capable ruler. He also has a harem filled with enslaved concubines and prepubescent boys, a dungeon where prisoners are tortured as part of the 'king's mercy,' and oubliettes holding captives who have long been forgotten.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Roderick Burgess. The first issue appears to set him up as the Big Bad, or at least as a major antagonist. Then it turns out that the first issue spans 70 freakin' years. As Dream points out, patiently waiting a human lifetime is easy for the Endless, and even if he hadn't figured out how to escape, he could've simply waited for the building in which he was imprisoned to crumble to dust. By the time Dream gets free, Roderick has died of old age, and his son Alex is a harmless, senile old man. Dream leaves Alex in a permanent nightmare and never sees him again. He wakes up at the end of The Kindly Ones when Dream dies, as with his death there was nothing keeping him in the nightmare anymore. He even attends Dream's funeral and meets the new one, who doesn't seem to hold a grudge.
  • 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.
    • Doctor Destiny had his appearance dramatically altered by Mike Dringenberg after Sam Kieth left the series. This is especially noticeable, because it happens in the very next issue.
    • 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.
  • Destructive Romance: Sigyn and Loki. At first she seems like a standard Love Martyr, eternally toiling to shield her ungrateful cheating husband from the snake's venom dripping on him. But when they're alone again, she tells Loki how happy she is that he's home, and smiles—implying that, in a twisted sort of way, she enjoys having him trapped here, with only her for any kind of relief.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • Although it wasn't Alex Burgess' decision to summon or capture Dream, it was his choice to keep him imprisoned after Roderick's death in fear of this. Ironically he just made things much worse for himself, as thanks to him Dream's captivity lasted more than twice as long as it otherwise might have.
    • 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: There are many examples, as Gaiman is fond of this sort of word-play.
    • The Doll's House. It can be seen as an allusion to Jed Walker's mind, which is used as a metaphorical "playground" for Hector and Lyta Hall, who are being manipulated like "dolls" by Brute and Glob. The plot also features Rose staying at a boarding house owned by a cross-dresser (who goes by "Dolly" in a drag show) and where two of her housemates are named Ken and Barbie. An actual physical doll's house appears as a minor prop in some scenes.
    • 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.
  • Dream Within a Dream: The main character being the Lord of Dreams, this comes up a lot. Most notably, this is the Fate Worse than Death he inflicts upon Alex Burgess.
  • Dreams of Flying: Rose Walker meets Dream while dreaming of the two of them flying. She says she read that dreams about flying are really about sex. Dream then wonders what dreams about sex are really about.
  • Dreams vs. Nightmares: Played with in the "Doll's House" arc, in which Dream chases down a bunch of sentient dreams and nightmares that got loose during his confinement. On the one hand, his capture of Brute, Glob, and the Corinthian are unambiguously good things, as they are nightmares who have created terrible problems in the waking world. On the other hand, Fiddler's Green is a perfectly harmless dream who just wanted to experience the physical world, and didn't see the harm in doing so while his master was away. Dream decides not to punish him, but does demand his return.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Element Girl, of all people. She's happy she gets to die, although it's implied that she could have turned her life around if she wanted to.
    • Possibly Morpheus as well. 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.
  • Due to the Dead: When Barbie attends Wanda's funeral, she leaves a comic book (one that Wanda used to describe the experience of gender dysphoria to Barbie) on her grave, and crosses out Wanda's deadname with her favorite "tacky pink" lipstick, writing WANDA over it in big letters instead.

  • Early Installment Weirdness: Early issues were more overt horror stories set in the proper DC universe, with appearances by many staple DC heroes and villains. As the series went on, it grew into a more complex kind of fantasy, and Gaiman more or less excised the DC references, though he would toss one in every so often.
  • 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.
  • Earth Is Young: This Verse goes for the postmodern Type D version. Time, history, and reality are all very relative concepts, and what says that an act of creation can't be retroactive anyway?
    • In A Dream of a Thousand Cats (a short story in the third book), the universe-as-we-know-it has always existed — but there used to be another universe where Earth was ruled by giant cats that used humans as slaves and toys to hunt. At some point (when doesn't matter), humans managed to share a dream that wrote the old reality out of existence as if it had never been and created the world as we know it.
    • Putting together evidence from Season of Mists, "The Parliament of Rooks", Brief Lives, and Lucifer, it appears that in this Verse the fossil record is true, if incomplete, but the Garden of Eden plot and the war in Heaven happened — 10 billion years ago, before Earth was even formed.
    • Abel says as much in Fables and Reflections, indicating that their Biblical backstory did not happen on Earth. Cain likewise states that none of them, including the Endless, looked remotely human at the time.
    • Averted in a more straightforward manner in Endless Nights, where Sol, the personification of our Sun, plays a minor role. Oa, the home of the Guardians of the Universe, already has sentient beings, but Sol says explicitly that none of his planets have life yet. The conclusion reveals that this has been a bedtime story from Sol to young, lifeless Earth.
  • 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: Morpheus once borrowed the vehicle that someone was dreaming about having sex in the back of. Rose also 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. This is also discussed by Rose with Dream.
    Rose: You know, I read somewhere that if you dream about flying it's really about having sex.
    Dream: Really? Then what does it mean when you dream about having sex?
  • 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.
  • Even More Omnipotent:
    • In Season of Mists, the demon Azazel taunts Morpheus with having his former lover inside of his body (basically Alien Geometries), and threatens that he can kill her before Morpheus can attack him unless he hands over the key. Morpheus then calmly puts him in a jar and stuffs him in a box for a few centuries to stew in his juices. He reveals that since Azazel was inside of Morpheus' domain, and his former lover also benefited from the Sacred Hospitality he offered to all guests, his own Reality Warping spectacularly trumped Azazel's.
    • While Lucifer never does show his full powers, he is treated as being as far above Morpheus as Morpheus was above Azazel in the previous example. It's explicitly stated that he could take on the entire rest of Hell and win.
    • Dr. Destiny, the Justice League villain, has nigh-omnipotent power over peoples' dreams. In "24 Hours", he also has the Dreamstone, which gave him enough mind control powers to make an entire diner full of people mutilate, rape, and eat each other over the course of a single night. When Morpheus, the creator of the stone and Anthropomorphic Personification of dreams shows up to reclaim it, the stone has been so completely corrupted that he can no longer use it, and Doctor Destiny manages to drain part of Dream's life force with it.
  • 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.
    • "Men Of Good Fortune" is a particular case in point: Dream grants immortality to a mortal, Hob Gadling. They agree to meet each other in the same place every one hundred years. The setting and costume changes provide a neat marker of the passage of time.
    • Orpheus remembering his wedding, his dismemberment by the Maenads, and the arc involving Johanna Constantine retrieving his severed head from Revolutionary France.
  • Expy: In A Game of You, there are frequent references to a fictional comic book character called "Weirdzo", a dimwitted, imperfect clone of a superhero named "Hyperman", who lives on a cube-shaped version of Earth and speaks in opposites.
  • 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: As noted above, The Corinthian likes to eat eyes, especially those of young boys. Eventually, he does this to Loki. Doctor Destiny causes a particularly graphic moment during Preludes and Nocturnes. 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.

  • 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.
  • Faerie Court: King Auberon and Queen Titania rule over the fairies. They are the in-universe inspirations for the Oberon and Titania from A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • The Fair Folk: Fairies are important to the cosmology, and several fairies are recurring characters.
  • Fan Disservice: Naked breasts appear somewhat regularly... but are usually attached to Humanoid Abominations. Or, in one particularly unfortunate incident, to a woman with a serious drug issue who's been mainlining Dream's bag of magic sand for months.
  • 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 tells 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.
  • Fat Bastard: One of the serial killers in The Doll's House is a massively overweight pedophile who abducts children from amusement parks and is shown to be an extreme Psychopathic Manchild. He later attempts to rape Rose, seeing her as a little girl.
  • 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 one. 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.

  • 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.
  • Gentleman Wizard: Roderick Burgess is a villainous version, a venerable old British mage who also imprisons Dream for about seventy years, and who was originally planning to catch Death instead.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Karen Berger wouldn't let Neil Gaiman him have John Constantine say "shit", so instead he says "felching heck!", which was apparently acceptable.
  • 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.
  • Girls Are Really Scared of Horror Movies: Averted in "Imperfect Hosts" as one dream that Morpheus enters is that of a Japanese woman who is a fan of hammer horror films.
  • Give Me Back My Wallet: ...or you'll suffer nightmares worse than death.
  • 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.
  • Godhood Seeker: Subverted in an issue focusing on Augustus Caesar. One day, while disguised as a beggar and accompanied by a dwarf actor assisting him, Caesar discusses his legacy of making Rome the most powerful empire on Earth, and says his destiny is to become a god after his death. When the dwarf remarks that it's good to be a god, Augustus simply asks him "Is it?" After his death, the dwarf recounts how Augustus forbade expanding Rome further, eventually dooming it, and his ulterior motive for doing it may have been to undo his godhood.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Bast is getting older and weaker due to so few people believing in her anymore. This seems to be less of a problem for the Norse gods, who 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. Ishtar, a Love Goddess, works as a stripper, gaining power from the sexual worship of her clients. 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.
  • Godzilla Threshold: When a fugitive Dreaming denizen orders a human to summon Morpheus by calling his name, then you know the stakes are really high, because Morpheus is really powerful and doesn't tolerate rule-breakers. Gilbert does this in A Doll's House when he spots the Corinthian in the hotel where he and Rose are staying, ordering her to call the Lord of Dreams if she's in danger while he goes to rescue her brother. He's resigned but accepting when he finds out that she followed his instructions after Fun Land nearly strangled and raped her.
  • Goth: Zelda and Chantal, who wear only antique wedding dresses with veils that hide their faces, collect stuffed spiders and skulls, and generally lurk around being as weird as possible.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Morpheus quests to recover his artifacts of power for most of Preludes and Nocturnes.
  • 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.
    • Barbie is forced to grow up in A Game of You so that the Land can end and the Cuckoo can leave. In a nutshell, she only came back to invoke The Bad Guy Wins. What's worse is that this process started in Doll's House and left her in a stagnant state during the events between the books. Dream said it ought to have happened sooner, if not for Rose's interference.

  • Happily Ever Before: Discussed in "24 Hours."
    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.
  • 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 Domain Character: Many, including William Shakespeare, Augustus Caesar, Emperor Joshua Norton, Maximilien Robespierre, and Haroun al-Rashid, to name only some of the ones who had entire issues that revolved around them.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: "Thermidor" gives one to Robespierre and Saint-Just. Gaiman lampshaded this in The Sandman Companion.note 
    "I also remember the joy of leafing through my old Encyclopedia Britannica, the eleventh edition, and reading an article on the French Revolution by someone who hated Robespierre; and then reading the biographical entry, which was written by someone who idealized Robespierre. I loved the cognitive dissonance. After the story was published, one reader sent me his high school thesis pointing out how Robespierre was a great man and so on...I could have written something about how Robespierre was a great man too, but that wasn't the tale that I was telling; I needed a story in which he wasn't."
  • Historical Fiction: This is frequent, but the sixth collection Fables & Reflections is particularly laden with it, including encounters between the Sandman and "Emperor" Joshua Norton, Robespierre, and Augustus Caesar. The final story, "Ramadan", plays with the contrast between the historical figure Haroun al-Rashid and his better-known Arabian Nights alter ego. Apparently the literature version was real until he sold Morpheus the golden age of Baghdad in "Ramadan".
  • 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 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.
    • Dream threatens to kill Desire if the latter interferes with his affairs again.
    • 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.
  • I Want My Mommy!: A Played for Drama example when it is mentioned that Ellie, one of the victims of the sleeping sickness, calls for her mother one of the times she briefly wakes during the time that Dream is imprisoned.
  • 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:
    • Hob Gadling, who's been immortal ever since Death, in 1389, promised Dream not to take him until Hob was ready, spends the seventeenth century impoverished, sick, and starving.
      Do you know [...] how hungry a man can get if he doesn't die? But doesn't eat?
    • Retired superhero Element Girl longs for death because her freakish appearance leaves her socially isolated and agoraphobic. However, because her body can automatically transmute itself into most any element, she's effectively immortal, and unable to commit suicide without the intervention of the god who bestowed her powers in the first place.
    • 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.
  • Imperfect Ritual: Dream is trapped in an inescapable magic circle for seventy years before his captor's son (now in a wheelchair) accidentally runs over part of the circle, ending the spell.
  • 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.
  • Inconspicuous Immortal: In Brief Lives, the more "human" immortals among the cast prefer to live simple lives, even if they were born before the Earth first congealed from gas and dust. One of them, Bernie Capax, spends his current lifestyle as a rather bland-looking lawyer, carefully hiding the fact that he's old enough to remember a time when mammoths walked the Earth and that he possesses a safety deposit box full of fake passports just in case he has to move on in a hurry.
  • 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: Worlds' End. The World's End inn is one of four where people lost in spatial-temporal abnormalities and supernatural creatures with more control over their destinations eat, drink, and share stories. It passes the time.
  • 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.
    • Boss Smiley informs Prez that "[he's] not God, [he's] not the devil, [he's] just Boss Smiley."
  • Internalized Categorism: A particularly disturbing case of Normopathy. Rainie (Element Girl) of the metamorphae is a woman who has several superpowers including immortality, invulnerability and shapeshifting. She spends her days locked in her home, feeling sorry for herself for not being normal. As she claims that life is hell, Death tells her that she's actually making her own hell. Of course, in this universe that's all anyone does.
  • 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.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: Every single chapter title in Season of Mists.
    "In which a Family reunion occasions certain personal recriminations; assorted events are set in motion; and a relationship thought long done with proves to have much relevance today."
  • Ironic Name: St. Hilarion's Boarding School is not a place conducive to humor, except possibly the Slasher Smile and Laughing Mad variety.
  • Irony: The two nicest members of the Endless are Death and Destruction.
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • In "August", the Emperor Augustus says "That will not last" about the names of the months July and August, named after himself and Julius Caesar. Considering what happened to other (admittedly later) emperors' attempts to change the names (Nero and Domitian come to mind), this would not have been an unusual sentiment.
    • In "Men of Good Fortune", Hob Gadling comments that there'll "never be a real demand" for printing. The same issue also has an elderly 15th-century man complaining that chimneys are a bad idea, and it was much healthier when houses were full of smoke.
    • 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...

  • 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.
  • Jack up with Phlebotinum: A former girlfriend of John Constantine swipes an artifact that he has, thinking that it's drugs. It turns out to be Morpheus's Bag of Sand. This is a very bad thing, as it basically turns her life into a literal living nightmare
  • 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.
  • Jerk Jock: Thor, more or less. He's a muscle-bound, womanizing asshole who only gets worse when he's drunk, which is most of the time if he has anything to say about it.

  • Kaleidoscope Hair: Delirium has this; her hair color changes depending on her mood.
  • Karma Houdini: Dr. Destiny escapes from Arkham, retrieves a jewel that once belonged to Morpheus, commits a series of graphic, senseless murders, and then nearly destroys the world. His punishment? Simply being returned to Arkham. He did Dream a favor, after all, even if he didn't mean to. Although, Dream does lock him out of the Dreaming forever, having no desire to let him back in. Also, Desire, the Cuckoo, Aristaeus, the Kindly Ones (though they're perhaps too cosmic a force to be considered evil), and 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.
  • Kill the Messenger: This is simultaneously invoked and averted in Season of Mists in regards to Cain delivering Morpheus' message to Lucifer. Lucifer tries, but Cain has his biblical Mark, and thus cannot be touched without inviting the wrath of God.
  • King Incognito: The story "Avgvst" is about the Roman emperor Augustus and his confidant, the dwarf Lycius, disguising themselves as beggars and anonymously panhandling in the market square. It's initially assumed to be a case of him eavesdropping on his people to learn the state of the Empire. It turns out that Dream told him to do it because it's a place where "the gods cannot see him think", and it's here where he ultimately decides against Caesar's dream of a Rome that would last for 10,000 years, choosing to instead limit the Empire's expansion so that it would eventually collapse. It's implied he does this as revenge for Caesar sexually abusing him and deciding his fate for him as a young man.
  • 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.

  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Erasmus Fry, after enslaving the muse Calliope, raping her for inspiration for nearly sixty years, and then selling her into further slavery when he believed he didn't need her any longer, ends up committing suicide after begging his publishers to bring a book of his back into print.
    • The man who acquires Calliope from Fry, Richard Madoc, is cursed by Morpheus to receive an endless bombardment of story ideas.
  • 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.
  • Life Will Kill You: An overarching theme and motif of "The Sound of Her Wings." As something of a Day in the Life episode for Death, the issue features many, many minor characters who all meet mundane ends, such as electrocution, car accidents, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It's demonstrated again in Brief Lives, where a man who's been alive for 15,000 years dies because of a random construction accident.
    Death: You got a lifetime. No more. No less.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • Longest Pregnancy Ever: Hippolyta Hall, who was pregnant with Daniel in the Dreaming for at least two years. It's lampshaded when people who know her imply that her husband wasn't the father (as he died before being taken into the Dreaming with the pregnant Lyta).
  • 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.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: Calliope left Dream because, while they had a happy marriage, she's upset with how he treated their son Orpheus. This is detailed in "The Song of Orpheus": the myth of Orpheus played out, Orphean Rescue and all, which left his son's head intact and immortal. Dream then decided to set his son's head on an island, with human guardians.
  • Love Makes You Evil / Love Makes You Crazy: Desire likes to lay this on people.

  • 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.
  • Magic Librarian: Lucien, librarian at the Library of Dream.
  • Mama Bear: Lyta Hall, taken to its ultimate, and unfortunate, extreme.
  • Man of the City: In the story "Ramadan", the Caliph of Iraq is highly proud of Baghdad, the splendid capital city of his empire. He knows that its splendor won't last forever, so he makes a bargain with Dream, sacrificing the material wealth of Baghdad if Dream will ensure that the idealized memory of the city will live on in people's dreams forever.
  • 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.
  • Mark of Shame: Cain's mark is a minor plot point in Season of Mists. Lucifer notes that it was very clever of Morpheus to send Cain to announce that he would be coming to Hell to meet with Lucifer, since the mark means that he can't be harmed (any other messenger would've been killed messily).
  • 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.
  • Meat Moss: Dream and John Constantine find a room where the walls are covered with the gooey remains of a body, probably the father of Constantine's ex-girlfriend Rachel.
  • 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.
  • Mesopotamian Monstrosity: In one episode, Morpheus has brief dealings with the Babylonian Love Goddess Ishtar, who has been reduced to dancing in a modern strip club. Where else could a rather dark Sex Goddess find mass worship? She doesn't appear to be a monstrosity — she appears to be an exceptionally talented exotic dancer — until she gets suicidally depressed, and chooses her own way to go.
  • 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.
  • Mind Screw: Delirium's story in Endless Nights, although of course this goes without saying. The art by Bill Sienkiewicz certainly doesn't help.
  • Minor Insult Meltdown: One arc has Dream and Delirium try to find Destruction. Never easy company in the best times, Delirium wears thin on Dream's patience, along with the general destruction (lowercase "d") their quest is causing. Though he doesn't insult her, he basically tells her the whole quest was his idea of a lark, he didn't really want to find Destruction, and he's not going to help her look anymore... all in a polite yet cold manner. Delirium knows her extreme struggles with clearheadedness, to say the least, make her odds of finding Destruction (her favorite sibling) alone next to nil, this being why she got Dream to come with her in the first place, so she hides inside her realm crying and closes the portraits leading into it. Death gives Dream one of her most severe dressing-downs in the series and gets him to go and apologize, which he does despite the risk Delirium could drive him permanently insane. It all turns out for the best, and they reconcile.
  • Miss Conception: Hazel's a lesbian, yeah, but she really should have known better.note .
  • Missing Child: Rose's quest to find her kid brother Jed. She lost track of him and their grandfather, his legal guardian, years ago, and tries to find them. Then, she learns that Jed was abused by their aunt and uncle for the money after their grandfather died, and he disappears after they die thanks to Dream. All Rose can do is wait in a motel per the police's orders and hope that someone can find her brother. Thankfully, Gilbert manages to rescue Jed from the Corinthian's truck and reunite them.
  • 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 Disease: While Dream is imprisoned in the opening issue, the disruption to the Dreaming results in random people around the world either suffering permanent insomnia or (more commonly) gradually lapsing into coma-like states. Not knowing what to make of it, doctors believe this pandemic to be the result of a disease, eventually labelling the condition Encephalitis lethargica or "Sleepy Sickness."
  • 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).
  • Monster and the Maiden: Rose Walker goes traveling to find her long-lost little brother, and is accompanied by Gilbert, a heavyset, eccentric older man who promises to protect her. This trope comes into play when Gilbert is revealed to be Fiddler's Green, an escaped dream Morpheus has been seeking since the beginning of the story arc.
  • 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.
  • Mundane Solution: When some people try to hide from Death by blocking her out with a magic gate in Endless Nights, she asks a passing, off-duty soldier for help. The soldier, not knowing who she is or what is going on, but smitten with her after seeing her for the first time as a young boy, tears the gate down with brute force.
  • Murderer P.O.V.:
    • This is how we first meet the Corinthian, which is particularly disturbing once you learn a little more about his... anatomy.
    • 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: Both literally and figuratively:
    • The muse Calliope is kidnapped and sexually abused by two successive human authors for decades.
    • 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.

  • 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
  • Never Split the Party: In Preludes and Nocturnes, Morpheus and John Constantine go into a dark house. Constantine is thinking "Movies. Old dark house. Horrible menace on the loose. 'Let's split up.' Muffled screams in darkness..."
    Constantine: Uh... We'll stick together, won't we?
    Morpheus: Of course.
  • New Weird: One of the defining examples in comic books. The existence of the Endless is just the tip of the iceberg...
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Doctor Destiny has Morpheus at his mercy, having corrupted the Ruby Dreamstone and used it to drain his life force. He then crushes it, thinking he's killing Morpheus. Instead, he simply releases all of its stored power and returns it to Morpheus.
  • Noble Bigot: Wanda's aunt Dora from A Game of You, who stayed in contact with her and talks with her, even though she prays for "him" to repent "his" wicked ways and considers "him" a sinner. She's the one who invites Barbie to Wanda's funeral and talks with her about what happened when Barbie woke up after the hurricane. When Barbie is recalling what happened when she first saw Wanda in a body bag, screaming for the paramedics to get her out, Dora doesn't correct her calling Wanda "her" and holds her hand.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Roderick Burgess, leader of the Order of Ancient Mysteries, is a rival of Aleister Crowley. You know, like Charles Foster Kane was a rival of Randolph Hearst. In one of the spinoff novels, Burgess is a rival of both Crowley and Mocata, the Crowley Expy from The Devil Rides Out.
  • Non-Indicative First Episode: Preludes And Nocturnes is dubbed the prototype for the series in the introduction, and its Darker and Edgier style is worth mentioning. The series as a whole is a dark epic fantasy, with occasional horror elements. The first volume, however, is horrific enough to be a Hellraiser movie.
  • 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 Helping Your Case: In "Calliope", Dream, once he's free, confronts Richard Madoc about keeping the muse prisoner and raping her. Madoc, who at this point has gotten years of success due to literal Muse Abuse, at first tries to deny that he's imprisoned Calliope. When Dream gives him a Death Glare, he claims that he needs her for the ideas. Unsurprisingly, Dream gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and an abundance of ideas until Madoc's compelled to free her.
  • 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.

  • The Oathbreaker: Roderick Burgess, upon realizing that his second-in-command has stolen his mistress and a good chunk of his cult's treasury: "As this blood is shed, so spills your blood, Ruthven Sykes, adept of the 33rd, whose secret name is Ararita... Traitor and Oath-Breaker." Cue skull implosion.
  • 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.
  • Offscreen Breakup: Thessaly and Dream apparently had a bad one sometime between the events of A Game of You and Brief Lives. Morpheus is moping about it at the start of Brief Lives, leading to Mervyn's snarky comment under Environmental Symbolism above.
    Morpheus: She... has decided she no longer loves me.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Gilbert when he and Rose briefly share an elevator with the Corinthian. He leaves Rose with Morpheus's name to utter in an emergency and goes to rescue Jed.
    • Philip Gist, a magazine editor, gets this when the Corinthian and Doctor corner him at the convention. They know he's impersonating the Boogeyman and plan to kill him slowly.
    • Gilbert also has this when Matthew tells him Rose is the Vortex, since it means "Dream will have to kill her". He immediately goes to the Dreaming, turns himself in to Morpheus, and tries to bargain for Rose's life.
    • Richard Madoc when he arrives home and finds a strange man sitting on his couch. The man, who happens to be Dream, also knows that Madoc has Calliope held captive.
      "I feel cold."
  • The Older Immortal: This shows up in multiple fashions in the franchise, but the most prominent example is the Endless themselves, who in order of age are Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, the twins Desire and Despair, and Delight/Delirium.
  • The Omniscient: Destiny, supposedly. 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 turning out 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 with Rose. Rose herself ends up living in an apartment below Lyta Hall and babysitting Daniel, running into Paul Mc Guire (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. It's not a hard and fast rule, however — in the same issue where we learn that Dream is really Morpheus, Death and the god Hades both appear as separate characters, and it's made clear that they're nothing alike. Though technically Hades isn't the god of death, he's the god of the underworld. The Greek god of death is Thanatos, so this could just be an example of Shown Their Work.
  • Orphaned Punchline:
    • "... looking for rabbits, vicar?"
    • "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.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: You don't become a werewolf, you're born one, and they're apparently a very insular, reclusive race of people who rarely associate or marry outside of their line.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Master Li in the issue "Exiles" has outlived his son as the latter was executed.

  • Painted Tunnel, Real Train: In a scene in Brief Lives, a worker in Dream's palace is seen pasting up wallpaper with a picture on it depicting a corridor lined with books. When he's done, Dream comes down the corridor that was just put up.
  • Pals with Jesus: Good old Hob Gadling, a Londonite bandit from the 14th century who maintains his friendship with the King of Dreams for centuries.
  • Papa Wolf: Gilbert gives Morpheus's name to Rose when he recognizes the Corinthian, and then runs off to rescue Jed from the latter's care. It's revealed that he saved Jed just barely in time, since the latter was unconscious and dehydrated.
  • 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:
    • Nuala warns Barbie about what's going to happen in A Game of You before she returns to the Land with the Porpentine's help.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Platonic Declaration of Love: When he realizes that he can't save Rose from dying, Gilbert apologizes to her and says he wasn't that good of a person. Rose hugs him and tells him not to say such a thing. He then says he loves her and that she can stay in his realm after she dies.
  • 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.
  • Power Born of Madness: In Delirium's chapter of Endless Nights, Daniel, Matthew, and Barnabas need to assemble a team of Crazy Homeless People to rescue her from whatever inner world she's created for herself, suspecting that anyone sane wouldn't be able to handle it. Each of them sees their particular hallucinations and paranoias coming harmlessly true and enabling them to easily navigate Delirium's world, and it's implied that doing so helps them come to terms with their mental illness and function better in society afterwards.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Radish Cure: This is Dream's punishment for an author who kept a Muse (who also happened to be his former lover and the mother of his son) captive.
    You say you need the ideas? Then you shall have them. Ideas in abundance.
  • 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.
    • The sketch notes at the back of Dream Country specifically state that the rape of Calliope was supposed to be creepy and horrible, which definitely comes across in that story. All things considered, Morpheus and Calliope let the man off extremely easy on this one.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Weird in-story example; when the other characters object to a seemingly miraculous magical event in Cluracan's story and ask how it's possible, he responds: "How should I know? I didn't make it up, I lived it."
  • 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.
    • In The Doll's House, we learn about the nature of the "Dream Vortex", a person who, for reasons unknown, disrupts the nature of the Dreaming, and can easily destroy it and the waking world. This happened once before, and destroyed an entire world when Dream didn't stop it in time; he's thus committed himself to never letting it happen again. (The full story of the previous Vortex is told in Overture.)
  • 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.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Morpheus gives a damning one to the first Corinthian:
    Morpheus: You disappoint me, Corinthian. You and these humans you inspired and created disappoint me. YOU were my masterpiece, or so I thought. A nightmare created to be the darkness, and the fear of darkness in every human heart. A black mirror made to reflect everything about itself that humanity will not confront. But look at you. Forty years walking the earth, honing yourself, infecting others with your joy of death, and what have you given them? What have you wrought, Corinthian? NOTHING. Just something else for people to be scared of, that's all. You've told them that there are bad people out there. And they've known that all along.
  • 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 manifestation of ideas. When one of them does die, their position, powers, and memories are transferred to a new incarnation.
  • 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.
  • Retconjuration:
    • The world as we know it was created from another one that was ruled by cats: when enough humans dreamed of a new world at the same time, the old one was gone as though it had never existed. Or else It Was All A Dream. Or both.
    • Dream suggests to a cat that it could get enough beings to share its dream of a world ruled by giant cats that hunt humans for fun, which would in turn make it reality. The implication is that the above example only existed because of Dream's suggestion. Yes, this is as paradoxical as it sounds.
    • We actually see this power in action at the end of Overture, where a thousand beings dream the same dream at once, enabling Dream to correct a mistake he had made millions of years ago.
  • 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.
  • Right Behind Me: This happens to Mervyn every time he's talking smack about Dream. It's probably by design.
  • Roaring Rampage of Romance: Morpheus and Nada make love once. Her home city is reduced to glass shards. It's suggested that had they remained together, the entire world would have been destroyed.

  • Sacred Hospitality: Dream cannot harm his guests in any way. The demon Azazel chooses to renounce his hospitality...
  • Samus Is a Girl: In-universe, the Bogeyman (actually Philip Gist) goes Oh, Crap! when he learns the serial killer Dog Soup is a woman at the "cereal" convention.
  • 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.
  • Satanic Archetype: Along with the actual Satan, there's Boss Smiley, who repeatedly appears to Messianic Archetype Prez Rickard and tries to tempt him into serving him. He even offers Prez dominion over the Earth while standing on a hill, a direct parallel to the third temptation in the Gospel of Matthew.
  • Say Your Prayers: In "The Sound of Her Wings", Death comes for an old Jewish man, Harry. They have a friendly talk until he realizes who she is and that she's come for him. He then recites the Sh'ma, a prayer that Jews are traditionally supposed to say as their last words before dying.
    Harry's Ghost: It's good that I said the sh'ma. My old man always said it guaranteed a place in Heaven. If you believe in Heaven...
  • 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:
    • Azazel, among many, as Morpheus stuffs him in a bottle near the end of Season of Mists and leaves him in a trunk. 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.
  • Serial Killer: A whole convention full of them, most memorably the Corinthian.
  • "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.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Barbie's dream quest in A Game Of You. Everyone in the Land dies, The Bad Guy Wins, and Dream is perfectly willing to let her friends stay on a barren piece of land for eternity, even though they came to save her.
    • Thessaly's quest in the same book is somehow even worse. 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.
  • Shakespeare in Fiction: Dream inspires him, and asks for two plays (A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest) to be written in return.
  • Shaped Like Itself: In "The Hunt", a character tells a fairy story in which one of the strange objects the hero accumulates is a small bone carved into the shape of a small bone. The character hearing the story lampshades this, to which the teller replies that it was carved into the shape of a different small bone.
  • Shape Shifter Guilt Trip: Loki tries this to stop the Corinthian from strangling him; it doesn't work.
  • Shapeshifter Showdown: To get back his mask, Morpheus has to fight Choronzon in a ritualized shapeshifting duel.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To other DCU, Vertigo, and Gaiman characters:
      • First of all, the original Sandman, who's mentioned by Dream. Also, his helm in Preludes & Nocturnes seems like a gas mask as the Golden Age superhero.
      • One panel in Worlds' End shows a character wearing a bloodstained smiley-face pin.
      • In A Game of You, Barbie notes a race of creatures carrying a walled room across the Land. They are once referred to as the Room Patrol.
      • 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").
    • Three prominent ones from The Doll's House:
    • Lucien, the Magic Librarian who used to be a raven, is partly a reference to Mr Raven in Lilith by George MacDonald.
    • Jed's dreams are done in the style of Little Nemo, complete with things going crazy at the end and Jed waking up... to his rat-infested basement and abusive foster parents.
    • Gaiman's friend and fellow author Kim Newman appears as himself in "Calliope" (he's the interviewer).
    • 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.
    • At one point in The Doll's House, a poster for The Cure can be seen on the wall.
    • During the chapter in Season of Mists set in the Boarding School of Horrors, one character mentions "the happiest days of our lives".
    • 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".
    • The story in which Hob Gadling is introduced is called "Men of Good Fortune", which is also the name of a song by Lou Reed from the album Berlin.
  • Shrug Take: In Preludes and Nocturnes, one guy has this reaction when a nude Morpheus bursts in, steals his popcorn, and runs out.
  • A Simple Plan: Cited almost verbatim when Morpheus assures Lucien that his roadtrip with Delirium is "completely straightforward" and that nothing could go wrong. Just the phrase "roadtrip with Delirium" should be enough to indicate how naive that is.
  • 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.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Ruby, the chauffeur who drives Dream and Delirium in Brief Lives. She dies in a fire due to a lit cigarette, but it's heavily implied her death (and others) are the results of Dream and Delirium's search for Destruction. Dream feels guilty enough about her death that he resumes the search after initially abandoning it, which leads him to seek his son the oracle's assistance finding Destruction, who asks for death in return. This not only breaks Dream emotionally, but sends the Kindly Ones after him, leading to his death.
  • Sole Survivor: Tiffany is the only one to make it out of the club in Brief Lives. Desire gives her a coat and the "And I alone am escaped to tell thee ..." line.
  • 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 see this. The tormented, incidentally, are astonished that Remiel accomplished this feat.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Possibly with Maisie Hill's transgender grandchild in the Audible adaptation of A Game of You, as all references to them running away and being found murdered are cut. Maisie still tells Wanda about the grandchild, but never mentions their final fate, so it's possible they never died in this version.
  • 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. 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.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: Prez is short for president, and sure enough...
  • 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.
  • Stylistic Suck: Destruction's awful poetry... and art... and sculpture. He himself just couldn't care less: he's just happy to create, never mind the quality of the result. He finally does find a creative endeavor he's pretty good at: cooking... which is loaded with irony because cooking is inherently destructive to the ingredients.
  • 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.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Before speaking before his fellow serial killers at the convention, there's Nimrod’s mental insistence that he’s a hunter who isn't afraid of anyone and certainly not of women.
  • Sympathy for the Hero: Lucifer, of all people, expresses this for Dream during The Kindly Ones.

  • Take Me Instead: In Doll's House, Gilbert offers to die in Rose's place. Dream tells him that it's not happening since Gilbert, aka Fiddler's Green, isn't the Vortex and thus can't fulfill the requirements. Rose's grandmother, Unity Kinkaid, ends up taking Rose's place, since she was meant to be the original Vortex before falling victim to the sleeping sickness.
  • Take That!: This being a Neil Gaiman series, a jab at Freud is pretty much inevitable. In Volume 2, when Rose and Morpheus are flying together through the Dreaming:
    Rose: Do you know what Freud said about dreams of flying? It means you're really dreaming about having sex.
    Morpheus: Indeed? Tell me, then, what does it mean when you dream about having sex?
  • 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.
  • They Fight Crime!: 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.'
  • Thin Dimensional Barrier: "Soft places" are spots where reality is weak, leading to easier inter-dimensional travel and time working oddly. There is one in the Desert of Lop in China (a real place).
  • 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.
  • Time Abyss:
    • The Endless, of course.
    • Brief Lives mentions that there are "only" around ten thousand humanoids on Earth who remember the sabre-toothed tiger, a thousand who remember the first Atlantis, five hundred who remember the lost civilisations that pre-dated the dinosaurs, and maybe seventy who are older than the planet itself.
  • 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.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Alas, if you are going to infiltrate a convention made up of serial killers, it may be best to study up on the serial killer you're impersonating and not ask to meet any of the con organizers in the privacy of your hotel room. Philip Gist stands out like a sore thumb while impersonating the Bogeyman, and tries plugging his magazine Chaste to the Doctor. The Doctor goes to quietly talk to Nimrod and the Corinthian, because it turns out he knew the real Bogeyman died in Louisana. As Philip tries to beg for his life when he's busted, they knock him out, drive him to a remote area, and "take turns" with their collecting.
  • Too Happy to Live: Orpheus and Eurydice, though this was of course a Foregone Conclusion.
  • 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.
  • Top-Heavy Guy: Thor has so many overlapping muscles on his upper torso he looks deformed.
  • 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.
  • Transflormation: In the fourth issue, Morpheus muses on how Hell has changed just before coming upon the wood of suicides (as seen in the Inferno. He hears one of the trees say he thought taking pills would stop his pain and notes there were once so few suicides that they only took up a grove. Since his last visit, there are so many of them that they make up a forest.
  • 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.

  • 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...:
    • Cluracan insists at length that his story is dry and dull and that he almost shouldn't bother telling it in the first place, then goes on to tell a swashbuckling adventure story about how he deposed a tyrant.
    • 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.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Each of the stories in Worlds' End is offered by its teller as ostensibly true, but it's anyone's guess how trustworthy the teller is. Cluracan in particular seems unreliable, and he's deliberately coy about his adding and removing bits of his story to make it flow better; the only thing he outright admits to making up is a random sword-fight with the palace guard in order to spice up the narrative. At the same time, in the story Cluracan is still an amoral ditz and a drunk who gets himself in trouble, requires Dream to save him, and dethrones the ruler out of revenge rather than duty, none of which is out of character.
  • 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.)
    • Similarly, the details of the plan with Orpheus in Thermidor are unspoken, and they are executed perfectly.
  • 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.

  • Vengeance Feels Empty: After escaping from imprisonment, avenging himself on his captors, and regaining his kingdom and his tools, Morpheus goes to Washington Square Park and mopes because he does not feel as satisfied as he thought he would. His older sister snaps him out of it.
  • Verbal Tic: Gilbert's "HOOM!"
  • [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 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).
  • Villain Protagonist:
    • Richard Madoc in "Calliope", who rapes Calliope repeatedly to tap her for inspiration for his stories.
    • Dream himself sometimes comes very close to this, with his frequently cruel actions and Blue-and-Orange Morality.
  • 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.

  • 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."
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • Gilbert has been living a quiet life for years, posing as an eccentric but ultimately Cool Old Guy who is loyal to his friends. Dream would most likely punish him severely for escaping from the Dreaming and selfishly pursuing his life. Gilbert orders Rose to summon Morpheus in the case of emergency when he recognizes the Corinthian at their motel, runs off to rescue Jed from being trapped inside the Corinthian's car, and turns himself in to his Lord to save Rose's life from Dream.
    • In contrast, the Corinthian fails this. Given he is the personification of all of humanity's darkness brought to life, he instead inspires a generation of human monsters and serial killers, because he cannot deny his sadistic side. Dream, when confronting the Corinthian, makes no bare bones of his disappointment, even refusing to fight the Corinthian on his terms.
  • When Is Purple: The Trope Namer. In Death: The Time of Your Life, Death uses this as part of a rhetorical argument about why the universe isn't fair.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: The club where Delirium accidentally approaches a Perky Goth who she thinks is Death.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Barbie's dream world initially seems like a vague, wide-reaching reference to The Chronicles of Narnia, with the talking animals, tons of pretentiously-named objects, Purple Prose, and whatnot. "A Game Of You" then becomes a far more direct plot reference to The Last Battle, with Dream filling the role of Aslan (famously straight down to the same imagery), Barbie in the role of Jill, and "The Cuckoo", who is actually a facet of Barbie's psyche, as a combination of Shift the Ape and the White Witch. In perfect Gaiman tradition, it also shifts the narrative around a bit, in that Cuckoo has a good reason for what she does and ultimately "wins", to some degree, and Barbie survives her ordeal rather than going to Heaven and isn't quite sure what lesson to take from it all.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?:
    • Element Girl, who wants to kill herself but literally cannot conceive of a method that would work.
    • Both Orpheus and, ultimately, Morpheus.
    • Mostly subverted with the other immortal characters, who are either completely fine with it or think it's great. Particularly Hob, who at one point experiences a run of bad luck which leaves him completely destitute, and he learns the agony that starvation holds for a man who cannot starve to death. Nevertheless, when offered a chance to finally die, he rejects it outright.
  • 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.

  • You Are Not Alone:
    • Rose is fretting as her little brother lies unconscious in a hospital room, with Gilbert watching over him. The residents of the apartment house gather to cheer her up; Hal makes tea, while Barbie and Ken offer platitudes, and Chantal and Zelda offer to tell her a comforting story.
    • 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.
  • You Remind Me of X: Wanda helps rescue Maisie from the hurricane in A Game of You, getting her to the apartment complex where Barbie is sleeping. They start to talk about their lives while waiting out the storm, and Wanda reveals she is trans. Maisie instantly becomes motherly, talking about her grandchild who is also trans. She says that she wishes she knew where her grandchild was since they ran away a few years ago, despite their family being completely supportive of them.

  • Zen Slap: In Dream Hunters, a young monk decides to take a fox to a nearby village, hoping that he'll find a doctor to see why she can't wake up. He is stopped by an old man who hits his head with a stick for deserting his temple and "meddling in the spirit's affairs"; but, when the monk insists on helping the fox, the old man grudgingly gives him a paper strip, telling him to sleep with that under the pillow. The strip will take him to the realm of dreams, where the spirit of the fox is. After this, he disappears, making the monk suspect that the mysterious old man was Binzaru Harada, a former disciple of Buddha that is forced to wander the living world as an old man doing good as a punishment for having misused his powers when he was alive.

Alternative Title(s): The Sandman