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The Sandman Presents: Taller Tales by Bill…
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The Sandman Presents: Taller Tales (2003)

by Bill Willingham

Other authors: Mark Buckingham (Illustrator), Zander Cannon (Illustrator), Duncan Fegredo (Illustrator), Peter Gross (Illustrator), Niko Henrichon (Illustrator)14 more, Adam Hughes (Illustrator), Phil Jimenez (Illustrator), Michael Kaluta (Illustrator), Marc Laming (Illustrator), Jason Little (Illustrator), Lee Loughridge (Colorist), Shawn McManus (Illustrator), Linda Medley (Illustrator), Albert Monteys (Illustrator), Kevin Nowlan (Illustrator), Andrew Pepoy (Illustrator), Paul Pope (Illustrator), John Stokes (Illustrator), Daniel Torres (Illustrator)

Series: The Sandman Presents (3, 7, 9), Sandman Presents: The Thessaliad (Collection of 1-4 and unrelated)

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Showing 4 of 4
This collection brings together a disparate set of stories by Bill Willingham, who I guess is kind of a big deal because he wrote Fables or something? I don't know, I never read it. (Should I?) As Willingham himself points out, all of the stories here are about the telling of stories, but that's appropriate; this is the Dreaming, after all.

First off is "Merv Pumpkinhead, Agent of D.R.E.A.M. I've said it before, but Merv, the Dreaming's janitor, is my second-favorite Sandman character, and this story is every bit as good as you'd expect a James Bond story featuring a man with a pumpkinhead to be, dirty sex jokes and all. The idea of a world-level threat doesn't feel very Sandmanesque, but on the other hand, I thought the car that could move out of people's dreams and even become a matchbox car when needed was awesome. (But why is Matthew the Raven, my favorite character, now white?)

"The Further Adventures of Danny Nod, Heroic Library Assistant" is all right. The premise is okay-- it doesn't really do anything new or interesting with the idea of wandering into different stories-- but the art sells it, as each couple pages is illustrated by someone else, Danny himself remaining the only visual constant in the story. There are fun bits. Nice to see Goldie again. (But didn't he leave the Dreaming?) "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Dreams... But Were Afraid to Ask" takes a similar point, with a bunch of two-page vignettes all illustrated by different teams. My favorite stories were the ones explaining why dreams can be sexual (it's because Merv is a bit of a sleaze) and whether dreams have dreams (they do and it's weird).

The bulk of the book is "The Thessaliad," about Thessaly, the last of the Thessalian witches, who featured in the Sandman story "A Game of You." There's some great ideas here, such as the fact that if Thessaly just reenacts the tropes of a quest story, she'll automatically end up wherever she wants to be, and I liked the interplay with her "fetch," but sometimes the characterization was a little too straightforward, and the difficulties a little too easily escaped. The end sets up some mysteries; I hope these are solved somewhere. (There's a lot of comments about Lucifer being up to something; I guess this is a reference to the concurrent Lucifer spin-off?)

Neil Gaiman's The Sandman Spin-Offs: « Previous in sequence | Next in sequence »
  Stevil2001 | Sep 5, 2011 |
Taller Tales is actually a collection of shorter pieces, some starring familiar faces from the Sandman comics, some introducing new faces, but set in the bizzare-yet-familiar landscape of the Dreaming.

Merv Pumpkinhead, Agent of D.R.E.A.M. is a James Bond-esque story starring everyone's favorite gourd-noggined janitor. When someone breaks in and steals some of Dream's magical sand, there's only one person who can get it back and save the world from certain destruction with his patented mix of roguish charm and cunning courage... at least, that's the way Merv tells it. I imagine this story would be better for someone who is more into spy movies than I am, but even I recognized enough of the archetypes to get in a few good chuckles.

The Further Adventures of Danny Nod, Heroic Library Assistant stars Danny Nod, a new addition to the library of the Dreaming, as he sets about retrieving books that have been borrowed but never returned. This one was very cute, and although there wasn't a whole lot of story to it, most of the fun was involved in seeing and identifying the situations through which Danny wanders, cheerfully oblivious. Also, Goldie's involved, which always makes me smile. Meep!

In The Thessaliad, the ghost Fetch has been sent to bring the powerful witch Thessaly before his masters. These masters are powerful forces from deep in time, and Thessaly knows whatever they want with her can't be good, but of course she's not going to go down without a fight. The Thessaliad is what I was hoping to get when I read Thessaly: Witch for Hire (out of order, as it turns out). It manages to capture the proper Sandman tone - a blend of fantasy, horror, and mythology, and add in a splash of humor, and have Thessaly get in a bit of romantic entanglement while maintaining her air of mystery and power.

Finally, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Dreams... But Were Afraid to Ask is a series of short (2-8 page) pieces answering common questions like "What causes recurring dreams?" and "Why aren't you supposed to wake a sleepwalker?". The answers, of course, are not quite what you'd expect, although they're pretty funny nonetheless.

Overall Review and Recommendation: This collection isn't meant to be as serious and deep as the original, but instead to show off both Gaiman's Sandman universe and Willingham's writing and dry sense of humor. When they get it right, it's good stuff, and I had certainly had a fun time reading it. I think it would probably be understandable even to non-Sandman readers, although of course it's better knowing something about the characters and the world beforehand. (Additionally, there are some spoilers for the end of the main series casually tossed in, so I wouldn't start here if you're planning to read the whole thing.) 4 out of 5 stars. ( )
1 vote fyrefly98 | Mar 6, 2010 |
Slightly gory and not as satisfying as the Sandman series. Thessaly story was intriguing, and well written. She is a character that begged for further notice. ( )
  wvlibrarydude | Dec 14, 2008 |
I learned how important Neil Gaiman's sensibility was to the sandman universe.

Bill Willingham's work is simplistic and rough where Gaiman's was nuanced. He even introduces a cute kid character(junior librarian Billy Nod) to have gee-whiz neato adventures.

Reading this felt like watching a hollywood adaptation of a favorite book. Strike that, a WB network tv adaptation of a favorite book. Willingham's "Fables" stuff is nice and fluffy, but I don't think that's what I was looking for in the sandman universe ( )
  snarkhunt | Aug 17, 2007 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bill Willinghamprimary authorall editionscalculated
Buckingham, MarkIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cannon, ZanderIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fegredo, DuncanIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gross, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Henrichon, NikoIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hughes, AdamIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jimenez, PhilIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kaluta, MichaelIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Laming, MarcIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Little, JasonIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Loughridge, LeeColoristsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McManus, ShawnIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Medley, LindaIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Monteys, AlbertIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nowlan, KevinIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pepoy, AndrewIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pope, PaulIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stokes, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Torres, DanielIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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