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 Sandman is a Comic Book series (later collected in a series of graphic novels) 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 such as the Arabian Nights and the plays of William Shakespeare. The series lasted for 75 issues, from January, 1989 to March, 1996.

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, since a story and a dream are in many ways the same thing (he is described as "The lord of all that is not, and shall never be"). 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 ...

It is also notable for its epic overarching plot. Over the course of a decade, every tiny detail in the comics must be watched. Minor characters from the first books are big players later on. Foreshadowing from as far back as the first issue comes into play in the last. Morpheus' complicated plan borders on Gambit Roulette, but the sheer power and meticulous nature of the character make it believable that he could manipulate primal forces to work around him.

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 series has been followed by a number of one-off sequels and side stories, also by Gaiman:

  • Endless Nights: Seven short stories by Gaiman, one for each of the Endless -- Death's trickiest prey, Desire's follower's path, Dream's cruelest love, Despair's never-ending anguish, Delirium's darkest moment, Destruction's wayward path, and Destiny's endless book.
  • The Dream Hunters: Set in Japan, the artwork is by Yoshitaka Amano, the lead character designer for many of the Final Fantasy games and illustrator for the Vampire Hunter D novels. Gaiman claimed he found this story while doing research for Princess Mononoke, but later admitted he made the whole thing up.
  • Death: The High Cost Of Living: Death has a deal with the universe, so that she remains in touch with those whose lives she takes. She gets one day every hundred years, where she takes mortal form: she lives, loves, learns, and dies. This is one of those days.
  • Death: The Time Of Your Life: Years after The High Cost Of Living, the young singer Death met in her human form is now a superstar. But the child of the one she loves is put in mortal danger, and Death agrees to strike a deal.

The series has spawned a number of Spin-Off series by other writers as notable characters from the books tell their tales. These include:

  • Destiny: A Chronicle Of Deaths Foretold: Destiny has a task to do. Written by Alisa Kwitney.
  • The Thessaliad and Thessaly, Witch for Hire - Stories that center around Dream's former lover and assassin. Written by Bill Willingham, writer of Fables.
  • Lucifer: After quitting his job as lord of hell, Lucifer sees what the world has in store for him. Written by Mike Carey.
  • The Dreaming: An anthology series, written by a number of authors, revolving around characters from Dream's realm, most frequently Cain and Abel, Lucien, Matthew, and the Corinthian. The Endless are largely absent except for the last major story arc, which Dream is heavily involved in.
  • Death: At Death's Door: A manga-style retelling of Seasons of Mists from Death's point of view, by Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother). If you take the character of Death and/or the rest of the Sandman series seriously, you probably won't like it. If not, it's funny and cute. Death, Delirium and Despair as magical girls has to be seen to be believed. It has its own spin-off, The Dead Boy Detectives, based on two characters seen in Death's Door.

Death: "And girls can be anything they want! Even personifications of aspects of the universe!"
Delirium & Despair: "Yeah!!"

  • The Little Endless Storybook: Jill Thompson again. A Spinoff Babies story in which Barnabas searches for Delirium through all the Endless' realms. The sequel, Delirium's Party, sees Delirium attempt to cheer up Despair.
  • The Dead Boy Detectives: Not the one mentioned above, but an earlier miniseries based on the Season of Mists versions of the characters. Written by Ed Brubaker.
  • House of Mystery: Resurrection of the old DC horror anthology, playing off Gaiman's use of the House and its owner (Cain). Written by Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham.

There is now rumoured to be a TV series in the works with Eric Kripke (former show runner of Supernatural) potentially being slated to take part.


Tropes used in The Sandman include:
  • 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.
  • 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 life[1] 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).
  • A Simple Plan: Cited almost verbatim when Morpheus assures Lucian 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.
  • All Myths Are True: And they're not shy about it, either.
  • All Powerful Bystander: Destiny
  • All There in the Manual: Matthew's oft-mentioned -- but never shown -- backstory appears in Swamp Thing.
  • Alliterative Family: The Endless.
  • Ambiguous Gender: While the gender of the Endless are almost always consistent, at least to the reader, Desire and Delirium have been drawn more androgynously than any of the other Endless on occasion. Desire, due to her nature, and Delirium, because she is, well, Delirium.
  • Anachronic Order: The series takes advantage of the Endless' immortal nature and spends a lot of time covering events prior to Dream's capture in the first issue, without any particular order. The focus could 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 / Cool and Unusual Punishment / Fate Worse Than Death: Too many cases to count here. In fact, death seems downright pleasurable for those who receive her visit -- unless they were going to Hell in the end.
    • Though in this universe, apparently the only people who go to hell are convinced on a fundamental level that they deserve it.
    • Implied by the new Dream as something well within his ability to do to Lyta Hall for her actions.

Dream:The man responsible for the death of the first Despair will take the rest of eternity to die. Only then will his pain cease, and he had better cause to do what he did than you.

  • An Aesop: The entire series could be taken as two: finding the balance between responsibilities and obligations to others; and accepting the the inevitability of change, even when it's painful.
  • 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 Anthromorphic Personifications of individual stars.
  • 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.
  • Anti-Villain: Lyta thinks that she's avenging the murder of her husband and son, which is not, in itself, a bad thing. The only problem is that The Kindly Ones don't care about her son, they only care about revenge. And she's hurting scores of innocent people in the process. And the Kindly Ones, while also only fullfilling their role in the universe, go about it in a pitiless and ruthless fashion.
  • 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*

  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Daniel, when becoming the new Dream.
  • Ascended Extra: Much of the human cast. It's traditional 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 Kincaid. 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.
    • 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 breaks up with her boyfriend Ken.
    • Martin Tenbones. 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. 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. 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. And in The Wake, he becomes the new Dream after the original's death.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Invoked by a minor character for Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • The Atoner:
    • Dream. In fact, the entire story of the series is of his 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.
    • Matthew the Raven, who is really Matthew Cable making up for his sins in Swamp Thing.
  • 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.
  • Badass Bookworm: Lucian, after "The Ladies" released Morpheus's prisoners:

A couple of them took refuge in the Library. I ... dealt with them ...

    • He's Dream's first Raven, and originated before Ravens even evolved. He's had a long time to watch the master at work.
  • 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. 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.
  • Berserk Button: You call them "The Kindly Ones" (even though they're nothing of the sort) because they do not like being called "Furies".
  • Bi the Way: When we first meet Hal we assume he's gay, but Word of God says that he has a fling with Rose later.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: The Endless. Oh lordy.
    • Arguably the primary personality dynamic of Morpheus. Desire, in particular, spends nearly the entire series trying to get him killed, and calling his relationship with his son an estranged one is putting it lightly -- after their first argument, they spend several thousand years avoiding each other.
    • Destruction abandoning his realm is another huge rift, with the other Endless trying (and mostly failing) to deal with his absence in different ways.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "The King Of Dreams is dead. Long live the King Of Dreams".
  • Bloody Bowels of Hell: Parts of it fit this.
  • Blue and Orange Morality:
    • Generally averted with the Endless ...which is a problem for them. Their jobs don't have anything to do with what's right and wrong, they're about what needs to be done in order for life to properly function. However, that doesn't make it any easier for some of them to do unpleasant things, and Destruction eventually can't take it anymore.
    • Played straight with the Corinthian and other nightmares; he points out to Matthew that violence is his basic nature, it's just how he was made.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: It was bad before the dead rose...
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Destruction. More traditionally, Thor.
  • Bottle Fairy: With actual fairy!
  • Break the Cutie: On a cosmic scale, as Delight becomes Delirium.
  • Broken Aesop: Invoked. Kipling tells his companions a folktale he hopes will "prove" that women are inherently evil in "Hob's Leviathan." But as Hob points 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.
  • Byronic Hero: Dream, rather pointedly and perhaps an intentional decision on his part.
  • Cain and Abel:
    • Dream and Desire
    • Cain and Abel themselves live in the Dreaming.
  • Came Back Wrong: Inverted; the Corinthian is better when he comes back.
  • Cardboard Prison: Arkham Asylum, in the first Story Arc.
  • 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.
  • Character Title
  • Chekhov's Army: Virtually every single character turns out to be vital to the resolution of the conflict, 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:
    • Lucifer, of course.
    • Dream is so good at this that even he doesn't consciously understand the extent of his plans.
  • Choosing Death: Several people in the series do this, or try to. Morpheus included.
  • The Chosen One: Prez Rickard, who is something of a deconstruction of the modern concept of the political messiah.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Delirium, although she will from time to time start making sense. When she does, either listen very carefully or panic. Or both.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The language can be fairly salty at times, and is notable for the first F-bomb printed in a Vertigo title (see Precision F-Strike below).
  • Crazy Sane: Emperor Norton, as depicted in "Three Septembers and a January".

Delirium: His madness... His madness keeps him sane.
Dream: And do you think he is the only one, my sister?

  • 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?"
  • Comic Book Fantasy Casting: Depending on the artist:
  • 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.
      • Comes up occasionally in other places too, its more of a Running Gag.
    • Also in Endless Nights, Despair talks with a red 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 thought 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.
  • 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.
    • Desire fills this role for Delirium in Brief Lives, showing us a rare sympathetic moment from him/her/it.
  • Cool Gate / Portal Network / Portal Picture: Each of the Endless has a gallery in his/her/its 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 World's 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.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Neil and issue artist Micheal 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 small character.
    • Thessaly more-or-less resembles Game of You artist Colleen Doran, with Stoic Spectacles and brown hair.
  • 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, Captain Marvel, 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 DC 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.
  • Crossover Cosmology: The sheer number of gods and pantheons. And this is just on Earth and (apparently) Mars.
  • The Dark Age of Comic Books: This series began on the tail of The Dark Age of Comic Books.
  • 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 and trapping those who offend 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 human.
  • 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 took offense at the concept and refused 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.
  • Death Seeker: Element Girl, Orpheus, and eventually Dream.
  • Death Takes a Holiday: Subverted and played straight.
    • In the first book 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.
  • Decoy Antagonist: 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. By the end of it, he's died of old age and his son Alex is a harmless, senile old man. After Dream escapes, he 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 there was nothing keeping him in the nightmare. He even attends Dream's funeral.
  • Depending on the Artist: Lucifer briefly was hit by this, and Doctor Destiny had his appearance dramatically altered by his second penciller. In fact, most recurring characters change wildly depending on the artist, and it can be hard to tell who's who sometimes. The radically different art style of The Kindly Ones comes to mind. 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.
    • Justified for all the Endless, since how they appear is mostly a matter of perception anyway. In one scene, the Martian Manhunter and Shazam are both speaking to Dream. Shazam sees him in his familiar human form, while the Martian Manhunter simultaneously sees him as a giant blazing martian head.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose In Life: Destruction, Barbie.
  • 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 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, it's really not DXM at all.
  • 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 sure.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
    • In the first issue, Dream is captured by humans.
    • Morpheus apparently has done this at least twice in the backstory. The most recent case was whatever he fought that weakened him enough that even humans could capture him. It is also mentioned that the Gate of Horm, 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:

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.

      • Arguably Delirium didn't do any of that, and her just saying that was her getting back at Mazikeen for not letting her in via existential Mind Screw. Then again, we wouldn't know either way would we?
  • 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.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Meeting Death is actually a pleasant experience if she has anything to say about it.
  • Double Meaning Title: 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. Then again, 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. And the last chapter reveals yet another possible interpretation of the title.
  • Dream Within a Dream: The main character being the Lord of Dreams, this comes up a lot.
  • 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.
  • Dying Dream: In more ways than one.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Death, Dream, Desire, and Despair in their default forms (see A Form You Are Comfortable With above), 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.
  • Emotionless Girl: Despair: "I am not happy or sad. I just am." This turns out not to be quite true though. This was not true of her predecessor, who seemed to consider the fragility of life and mournful melancholy beautiful and even talked with Krypton about arranging Superman's fate as what amounts to an art project. Must be where Dream picked it up from.
  • 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:
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Lucifer always keeps his word, and is actually not that bad compared to most of the other denizens of hell. Not that that's much of a standard, mind you.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: ... even chocolate people, as they are melting to death after Delirium eats most of them.
  • Everybody Wants the Hermaphrodite: Desire seldom sleeps alone.
  • 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 ...
  • Exposition of Immortality: 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 exposition 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.
  • Eye Remember: The Corinthian
  • Eye Scream:
    • The Corinthian likes to eat eyes, especially those of young boys. Apparently, it lets him see as they do and take some of their memories. 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 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 peoples' eyes," for reasons that probably don't even make sense to her.
    • On the topic of The Corinthian; his eyes are mouths.
  • Face Palm: Morpheus breaks this out a few times, particularly when he's around Delirium in Brief Lives.
  • The Fair Folk: Fairies are important to the cosmology, and several fairies are recurring characters.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: The Endless.
  • Fiery Redhead: True to the myths, Thor is depicted as one.
  • Final Speech: Fiddler's Green.
  • Fisher King: The Endless are their domains, with the exception of the one who quit his job. Desire takes this to the extreme: its realm is a titanic replica of its body, called the Threshold. This is apparently a Stealth Pun, since 'Desire has always lived on the edge.'
  • Five-Man Band
  • 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.

  • French Revolution: "Thermidor" offers a particularly unpleasant depiction of Robespierre and the Terror (not that there are really any pleasant ones).
  • 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.
  • Gallows Humor: About actual gallows: "They say Jack Ketch is an excellent physician."
  • Genre Savvy: In Season of Mists, rather than just barging into Hell to free Nada, Morpheus sends word that he's coming via Cain. Lucifer comments on how clever this was, since he'd have destroyed any other messenger but can't touch Cain because of his mark.
  • Genre Shift: It 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: The villainous version, Roderick Burgess.
  • Give Me Back My Wallet: or you'll suffer nightmares worse than death.
  • Gloomy 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.
  • 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. From what was 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hanging Judge: Judge Gallows.
  • The Hecate Sisters: As they have always been portrayed, variously as the Fates, the goddess Hecate and the Furies (or "the Kindly Ones", as they like to be called); they are also an aspect of The Three Faces of Eve, literally. When they see the embodiment of Eve herself in the Dreaming, they refuse to hurt her, since in a fashion, they are her.
  • 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, and still eats Loki's eyes for no good reason.
  • 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 a boyfriend! Despair has a boyfriend!
Despair: I do not!

  • Heroic BSOD: 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).
  • Heroic Sociopath:
    • The second Corinthian.
    • The witch Thessaly/Larissa on a good day.
  • 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.
  • 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 reputation, 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, Robespierre, and Haroun al-Rashid, to name some of the ones who had entire issues that revolved around them.
  • Historical Fiction: 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.
  • Honor Before Reason: One of Dream's recurring 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.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: "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
  • 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), and Kai'ckul (by Nada) among others.
    • The Hecatae Sisters get in on this when they are first summoned by Morpheus, calling themselves about three names each in a single page.
  • 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. 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.

  • Immortality Always Ends: The whole point of Brief Lives seems to be that even if you're thousands, millions, or even trillions of years old, life still seems pretty damn short.
  • 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.
  • 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. Once, 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.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: Every single chapter title in Season of Mists.
  • 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."
  • Inn Between the Worlds: Worlds' End. 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: 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." 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 poetical/emotional rather than philosophical/intellectual.
  • Internalized Categorism: The third album has a particularly disturbing case of Normopathy. Rayne of the metamorphae: A woman who have several superpowers including immortality, invulnerability and shapeshifting. She spend her days locked in her home, feeling sorry for herself for not being normal. As she claim 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.
  • 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. [2]
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Jerk Jock: Thor, more or less.
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: Delerium 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 afterall, even if he didn't mean to.
    • 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).
  • Kill the Messenger: Simultaneously invoked and averted in Season of Mists; see Genre Savvy above.
  • 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
  • The Legions of Hell: Lucifer's decision to abdicate isn't entirely popular among them.
  • Library of Babel: 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. Chesterson'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.
  • 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.
    • 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 the Little Endless Storybook seems 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 - 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: Hob.

"I've got so much to 'live' for."

    • 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.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Gods, lesser gods, demons, mortals, and everything in between.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Both Dream and Death.
  • Love Makes You Evil / Love Makes You Crazy: Desire likes to lay this on people.
  • 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 and his realm and creations are in many ways the same thing.
    • To avert this and similar situations in the future, Daniel's new Griffon will be real and not a dream.
  • Loveable Rogue: The Cluracan.

Morpheus: You are a scoundrel, Cluracan, but you are an amusing scoundrel.

  • Magic Librarian: Lucien, librarian at the Library of Dream.
  • Mama Bear: Lyta Hall.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Delirium is a particularly savage Deconstruction of one.
  • Manipulative Bastard/Bitch: 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.
  • 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.
  • Messy Hair: Dream, Death, Despair, and Delirium.
  • Meta Guy: Matthew, Eve's raven and Dream's second in command.
  • Mind Screw: Delirium's story in Endless Nights, although of course this went without saying.
  • Minor Insult Meltdown: Dream to Delirium.
  • Mismatched Eyes:
    • Delirium's eyes. They constantly switch sides. The sparkles in one eye also switch eye depending on the scene. It's mentioned near the start of The Kindly Ones that she forgets which eye they go in (and indeed, because she can't remember, she's drawn without them for the rest of the volume). When Dream and Delirium talk to Orpheus's head while searching for Destruction, she subverts this by making both eyes match and displaying that she is coherent and sane, but she hates doing it because it hurts.
    • In the "Song of Orpheus", in Fables & Reflections, Despair is likewise depicted as having one black eye and one diseased-looking green eye.
  • Miss Conception: Hazel really should have known better.
  • The Missing Faction: There are seven Endless: Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Despair and Delirium. The seventh Endless? Used to be Destruction, but he quit when he became depressed by human's increasing capacity for warfare.
  • More Teeth Than the Osmond Family: The Corinthian.
  • Multicolored Hair: Delirium (usually) and Rose Walker for most of The Doll's House.
  • Mundane Solution: When some people try to hide from Death by blocking her out with a magic gate, 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 and eager to impress such a hot girl, tears the gate down with brute force.
  • Murderer POV: We never see Lyta when she's possessed by the Kindly Ones; all of her panels are drawn from the first-person perspective.
  • Myth Arc
  • 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.
  • Narrator All Along: "The Hunt."
  • 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 ..."
  • Nested Story: The entirety of World's End is narrated by a man who appears in the framing story. The cycle features a story told by one character, a prentice, about (among other things) hearing a man tell a story about a woman telling stories, one of which seems to be the prentice's story.
  • New Weird
  • 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 Citizen 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 everytime someone anywhere in the universe dies, no matter whether it's past, present or future from other characters' points of view. Delirium could be one too.
  • Non Sequitur: Delirium's specialty.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • There have been two Despairs.
  • Oh Crap: "I feel cold."
  • Offing the Offspring: Dream kills Orpheus.
  • 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 for Sorrow, Two For Joy
  • One Myth to Rule 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. And 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.
  • Orphaned Punchline:
    • "... looking for rabbits, vicar?"
    • "You think you're Thor? I'm tho thore I won't be able to walk for a week!" 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.
  • 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.
  • Painting the Fourth Wall
  • Pals with Jesus: Good old Hob Gadling.
  • Perky Goth: Death is arguably an Ur Example.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Dream, for all of his Jerkass tendencies, gets quite a few of these, usually either rescuing a tertiary character (Cluracan, Marco Polo, Prez, etc) from danger when he doesn't have to or else having a quiet Friendship Moment with someone.
    • Cain has occasional dog-petting moments with Abel.
  • Planet of Hats: World's 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.
  • 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. Justified in that the disastrous consequences are what he secretly wanted all along.
  • Precision F-Strike: From Rose after she finds out the guy she has been sleeping 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.
  • Public Domain Character: Baba Yaga in "The Hunt"; Haroun al-Rashid in "Ramadan"; Titania, 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.
  • 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 vs. 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 dreams.
  • Rage Against the Reflection
  • Raise Him Right This Time:
    • The Corinthian gets a reboot.
    • 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.
  • Ravens and Crows
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 ...
  • The Reliable One: Lucien.
  • 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.
  • 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 later books.
    • 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:

Nuala: 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.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Dream cannot harm his guests in any way. The demon Azazel chooses to renounce his hospitality ...
  • Satan
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • Azazel, among many. Morpheus seals him there. The evil forces sealed in the Dreaming end up being released during The Kindly Ones.
    • 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.
  • Second Person Narration: In one of the final chapters, everyone shares a visit to the dream world. The narration specifies that you, the reader, have attended the gathering (although you might not remember it upon waking). 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.
  • Seen It a Million Times:
    • According to Desire, the plot of every one of Dream's stories. Somebody wanted something. Usually, they get it.
    • Destruction, seeing human science developing the first steps to nuclear war. Its the last straw for him, and he quits.
  • Serial Killer: A whole convention full of them, most memorably (and summoned by) 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 still lives through the new Dream.
  • Shakespeare in Fiction: Dream inspires him, and asks for two plays (A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest) in return.
  • Shapeshifter Guilt Trip: Loki tries this on the Corinthian; it doesn't work.
  • Shapeshifter Showdown: To get back his mask, Morpheus had to fight Choronzon in a ritualized shapeshifting duel.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To other DCU, Vertigo, and Gaiman characters:
      • 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 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.
    • The title The Doll's House is reminescent of the play A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsen. Both works are about people who are being manipulated by other people without realizing it, like dolls.
    • Lucien, the Magic Librarian who used to be a raven, is partly a reference to Mr Raven in Lilith by George MacDonald.
  • Shrug Take: In Preludes and Nocturnes, one guy's reaction when a nude Morpheus bursts in, steals his popcorn, and runs out.
  • 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 make sense, okay?
  • 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.
  • Something Completely Different: 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, World's 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. Yes. Bonus points for actually being based on a short-lived DC Comics series from the 1970s.
  • 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.
  • Stab the Scorpion: The second Corinthian pulls this on Matthew -- whom he had previously sworn to kill -- in The Kindly Ones. Dream later tells Matthew that the Corinthian had genuinely intended to kill him, but Daniel exerted his influence to alter the event and save Matthew's life.
  • Starfish Aliens: It's implied that Cain & Abel were originally these. Rather than being the actual characters from the Bible story, they're actually the very first intelligent lifeform 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.
  • Stay on the Path: Used a few times throughout the series. Also, "You killed my friend. Stray from your path."
  • The Stoic:
    • Destiny, of course (how could he not be?).
    • Duma, who only ever reacts to to anything once in the entire series (by shedding a Single Tear).
  • Stylistic Suck: Destruction's awful poetry.
  • Sunglasses at Night: The Corinthian. This is because he has tiny mouths with razor-sharp teeth where his eyes should be.
  • The Older Immortal
  • 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.
  • They Fight Crime: Matthew and the Corinthian have a very brief episode of this in The Kindly Ones. 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.'

  • Those Two Guys: Duma and Remiel.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Brute and Glob.
  • Threshold Guardians: Dream's doormen, a griffon, wyvern, and unicorn. They can keep out gods. Not an assembly of several pantheons however, unless Dream gives them a power boost.
  • Title Drop: There's one for every arc but Preludes & Nocturnes and Fables & Reflections.
  • Transsexualism: Wanda, in A Game of You.
  • Trickster: Loki and Robin Goodfellow/Puck, among others.
  • Tome of Fate: Or rather, the Book Of Destiny.
  • Too Happy to Live: Orpheus and Eurydice, though this was of course a Foregone Conclusion.
  • 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, meaning that some part of her was once mortal and had to become this.
    • 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, it's not the nature of their story.
  • 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, pegasus, and wyvern), which makes the killing of the griffin by the Kindly Ones all the more shocking.
  • 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 again 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 "World's 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.
  • The Un-Reveal:
    • It is never explained why Delight turned into Delirium [3], or how the first Despair was killed. 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.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Subverted; the plans for what would happen if Dream were captured or killed in Hell are never needed. (Though it's speculated that the plans he would have used if he fell in Hell are the same that came into place during his confrontation with The Kindly Ones.)
  • Unusual Euphemism: The story-within-a-story (within another story ...) about the hangman features a staggering assortment of euphemisms about hanging people and being hung, such as "A jump from the leafless tree," and "A hearty choke with caper sauce!" [4]
  • Verbal Tic: Gilbert's "HOOM!"
  • Verb This: Well, more of a "Plural Noun This", but still, Mervyn's Facing the Bullets One-Liner deserves 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!*

Dream: The price of getting what you want is having what once you wanted.

    • Upon finding out that Nuala's in love with him, he 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. It even lampshades 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.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Most of Abel's troubles stem from his desire to live happily with his murderous brother, Cain.
  • 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."
  • When Is Purple?: The Trope Namer.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: The bar where Delirium accidentally approaches a Perky Goth who she thinks is Death.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Dream and Bast have apparently been playing this game for a long time. Ultimately they never do.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never do find out who put Loki and Puck up to the kidnapping; the story presents Remiel, Lucifer, Loki himself, and even Dream as the Usual Suspects, but there is no concrete answer.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?:
    • Element Girl.
    • Both Orpheus and, ultimately, Morpheus.
  • You Imagined It

Notes

  1. See the character page for one of the best examples of this rendition
  2. 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.
  3. it's heavily implied that she wandered too far from the borders of Destiny's Garden, and saw ...something and was Driven Mad From the Revelation, but what that something was is never revealed
  4. "Caper" refers to the victim's legs kicking and twitching. Lovely, innit?