Two big events converged last month: the US Presidential Election, and the 20th anniversary of Neil Gaiman's epic "Sandman" series. So, to celebrate one without ignoring the political climate of the other, the folks behind a recent dramatic reading of stories from "Sandman" to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund chose two of the more politically-minded tales -- one about the Emperor of the United States, and one about the first teenage president.
"They definitely both seem more political now," Gaiman told MTV. "Probably the other one we could have done which would have been just as political in its own strange way would have been 'Ramadan,' [a story about how fairytale-like Baghdad lives on in war-torn Iraq]."
Even so, Sandman stories such as "Three Septembers and a January" and "The Golden Boy" seem especially apt now considering the spectacle around Barack Obama (which echo the sentiments in the country when Bill Clinton was elected).
"Prez Rickard wasn't about Clinton," Gaiman said, "but about my fascination as an English person [watching Clinton get elected and the aftermath]. I arrived in America in August of 1992, so I got to watch the rundown of the presidential election. Clinton gets elected, and friends of mine go, 'Oh my god, this is so amazing, this is the best thing, we've fixed everything, a Democratic president is in, hooray hooray.' And I'm standing there going, 'But he's a politican. What are you expecting he's going to do?' Because it's as if they wanted some kind of magic to happen, to have someone come down from the sky and sort out everything for them, which isn't what a President's meant to do."
So Gaiman went and wrote a President story "as if it were a synoptic gospel," using the pre-existing character of Prez Rickard, the first teen President of the United States. But if he had to choose, Gaiman would rather live in Emperor Norton's America than Prez Rickard's America.
"Yes, he is the Emperor, but you are expected to do your bit at making the world a better place," Gaiman said. "And Prez Rickard, he's moved in, he's made it all good, and once he's no longer President, it's going to go bad again. Because that's how it works. And given the choice between the two, I would rather be in a world where you're not waiting for some magic President to do it all for you."
Given how the readings of the two short stories went on Saturday, Gaiman would like to see it happen again, but on a "much bigger" scale. Even though the stories were originally written to be read, not spoken, and it wouldn't have been the same dialogue had it been written to be an audio play of sorts, "it mostly worked incredibly well."
"Let's take 'The Doll's House' or 'A Game of You' and do a two-and-a-half-hour production," he suggested, "and actually see what happens if you get a hall this size. I think it would be kind of wonderful, because there was definite power and there were definitely moments where you got people laughing at jokes and sharp intakes of breath and just little sound effect-y things that worked, and I think it would be fun to do it big and dramatic and long."
What "Sandman" stories do YOU feel are especially good for out-loud reading? Are there any "Sandman" stories you feel echo recent events particularly well? Let us know in the comments!