‘The Sandman: Overture': J.H. Williams III Explains Three Key Scenes

By Alex Zalben

Yesterday on the main page, we posted an in depth, but not very spoilery look at the making of the character Death in “The Sandman: Overture #1“. Today, we’re pleased to bring you a VERY spoilery look at three key moments in the issue, from artist J.H. Williams III. Reminder: spoilers. Also, go buy the book because it’s superb:

MTV Splashpage: I loved the flowing nature of the book… I think other than the scene in Morpheus’ office, every page almost flowed into the next one. Was there any thought to making the whole issue one giant gatefold?

J.H. Williams III: [Laughs] I would love to do one gigantic gatefold, that would be tremendous. It’s funny you mention that because we had an issue of Promethea where we wanted to do that, and it may get published as a gatefold in a special issue of Prometha next year. But for Sandman, it would love to do that. When coming up with the way an issue moves, I’m always looking for ways for stuff to flow, and I really wanted to capture that fluidity on this story in particular.

Sandman is about dreams, and dreams have a fluidity to them – no matter how jarring the subject of the dream may be… At least my own experience with my own dreams. So I wanted to make it feel like you could move right through it, that it moves with ease. That was a very purposeful decision. Working in double page spreads, which I’m sure I annoy a lot of readers when I do that, but I can’t help but think in those terms…

In this story in particular, focusing on spreads, even though there’s several instances where you can focus on one half of the spread as a single page, and same with the other half; the way it moves still feels fluid. It was important to me to get that going in there.

MTV: Let’s talk about the spread set on the Corinthian’s teeth… I gotta be honest, I read that looking at the panels, and didn’t even realize it was his mouth until I unfocused my eyes and saw the negative space.

Williams: Everyone’s gonna read this stuff the way they want to read it, and I love the fact that you read it one way, and then you realized there’s something else going on here. I love that aspect of it. I always like doing things where people can not necessarily see everything right away. It always gives some sense of new discovery when you see things that way.

That scene was actually written as two separate pages, but I knew it was the only scene that dealt with the Corinthian on his own, and it was isolated from the scene before it, and the scene after it in a lot of ways. I kept thinking about teeth, and rows of teeth. And that scene, for longtime Sandman fans, they were going to be like, “Oh, that’s the Corinthian,” really excited to see that. I wanted to do something with the design that could speak to those long time readers, so when they see the piece, they’re gonna get it.

It’s a nod to what they know about the Corinthian. But for new readers who are going to be jumping in on this, who have not read Sandman before, I wanted to do something that – at first they’re not going to understand why, just that it makes it kind of sinister. And then when they discover more about the Corinthian, they’re just kind of going to go, “Oh!” I wasn’t sure if I should try it or not. I wasn’t even sure if I could pull off the piece as a spread like that. I wasn’t sure it was even possible, so I called Shelly Bond, my Editor, and I said, “I’ve got this idea, what do you think? Should I try it?” And she’s like, “Yes. Do that.” [Laughs] That’s how that developed.

MTV: How about the end of issue… What’s going on with Morpheus, and the Morphei?

Williams: At the end, Sandman is getting called by a force more powerful than him. It’s something that’s pulling him away from what he wants to focus on. He can’t resist it, he can only delay it. There’s the one page before we get to the very ending, where the panels make up his name… It’s the silent call, they’re tired of waiting on him. It demands his attention, so he gets pulled, sucked across the universe almost against his will.

When he arrives on the other side of the universe, he’s introduced to various Morpheuses from different realities, and different alien worlds. What challenged me about that was how can I represent them in a way that makes each one distinctly unique as characters? You’re not going to get to spend a lot of time with these versions of Morpheus, so what can I do with each one, with the art, so you look at them and imagine what they may be like in their own world?

So that’s why I treated each one with their own art style, to sell the distinctness of their characters without any of them actually having much to say. That was pretty challenging, and the result is pretty effective. That’s one of the scenes I felt like I could have given it more, but so far everyone who’s looked at seems pretty satisfied with what I did, so I can’t complain.

“The Sandman: Overture #1″ is now in stores everywhere from Vertigo.

What was your fave part of “The Sandman: Overture”? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter!