Sandman (Wesley Dodds)
Art by Gavin Wilson and Richard Bruning.
|Adventure Comics No. 40 (July 1939)
|Wesley Bernard "Wes" Dodds
Justice Society of America
Black Lantern Corps
Sandman (Wesley Dodds) is a fictional character, a superhero who appears in comic books published by DC Comics. The first of several DC characters to bear the name Sandman, he was created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Bert Christman.
Attired in a green business suit, fedora, and gas mask, the Sandman used a gun emitting a sleeping gas to sedate criminals. He was originally one of the mystery men to appear in comic books and other types of adventure fiction in the 1930s but later was outfitted with a unitard/cowl costume and developed into a proper superhero, acquiring sidekick Sandy, and founding the Justice Society of America.
Like most DC Golden Age superheroes, the Sandman fell into obscurity in the 1940s and eventually other DC characters took his name. During the 1990s, when writer Neil Gaiman's Sandman (featuring Morpheus, the anthropomorphic embodiment of dreams) was popular, DC revived Dodds in Sandman Mystery Theatre, a pulp/noir series set in the 1930s. Wizard Magazine ranked Wesley Dodds among the Top 200 Comic Book Characters of All Time, and he is the oldest superhero in terms of continuity to appear on the list.
Golden Age of comic books
Artist Bert Christman and writer Gardner Fox are generally credited as co-creating the original, Wesley Dodd version of the DC Comics character the Sandman. While the character's first appearance is usually given as Adventure Comics No. 40 (cover-dated July 1939), he also appeared in DC Comics' 1939 New York World's Fair Comics omnibus, which historians believe appeared on newsstands one to two weeks earlier, while also believing the Adventure Comics story was written and drawn first. Each of the two stories' scripts were credited to the pseudonym "Larry Dean"; Fox wrote the untitled, 10-page story in New York World's Fair #1, while he simply plotted, and Christman scripted, the untitled, six-page story, generally known as "The Tarantula Strikes", in Adventure #40. Creig Flessel, who drew many early Sandman adventures, has sometimes been credited as co-creator on the basis of drawing the Sandman cover of Adventure #40, but no other evidence has surfaced.
Following these two first appearances, the feature "The Sandman" continued to appear in the omnibus Adventure Comics through No. 102 (March 1945). One of the medium's seminal "mystery men", as referred to at the time, the Sandman straddled the pulp magazine detective tradition and the emerging superhero tradition by dint of his dual identity and his fanciful, masked attire and weapon: an exotic "gas gun" that could compel villains to tell the truth, as well as put them to sleep. Unlike many superheroes, he frequently found himself the victim of gunshot wounds, both in the Golden Age and in stories in DC's modern-day Vertigo imprint, and he would continue fighting in spite of his injuries.
In his early career, Dodds (the character's surname was given as "Dodd" in his first four appearances; he became "Dodds" in Adventure Comics #44) was frequently aided by his girlfriend, Dian Belmont, who is aware of his dual identity. Unlike many superhero love interests, Belmont was often, though not always, portrayed as an equal partner of the Sandman, rather than a damsel in distress. Later stories would reveal that the two remained together for the duration of their lives, though they never married.
The Sandman was one of the original members of the Justice Society of America when that superhero team was introduced in All Star Comics No. 3, published by All-American Comics, one of the companies that would merge to form DC.
In Adventure Comics No. 69 (December 1941), Dodds was given a yellow-and-purple costume by writer Mort Weisinger and artist Paul Norris, as well as a yellow-clad kid sidekick, Sandy the Golden Boy, nephew of Dian Belmont. Later that year, the celebrated team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby took over this version of the character. In 1942, Dodds enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as an anti-aircraft gunner during World War II.
Silver Age to Modern Age
In 1981 DC began publishing All-Star Squadron, a retelling of the Earth-Two mystery-men during WWII. Although not a main character, Sandman does appear in its pages. Of note is issue No. 18 which gives an explanation of why Dodds changed costumes from the cloak and gas mask to the yellow-and-purple outfit; Dian wore his costume while he was fighting elsewhere and she was killed in a fray. Dodds decided to wear the new costume, of Dian's design, until he could bring himself to wear the original in which she had died.
Later, this explanation would be changed again when Dian Belmont was retconned to have never died, and a new explanation was given: Sandy convinced Dodds to switch to the more colorful costume to gain the support of regular people, who preferred the more traditional superhero look to his older, pulp-themed costume.
An acclaimed film noir-inspired retelling of the original Sandman's adventures, Sandman Mystery Theatre, ran from 1993–1998 under DC Comics' Vertigo mature-reader imprint. Although as a whole its continuity within the DC Universe is debatable, several elements of the series – the more nuanced relationship between Dodds and Dian Belmont; the Sandman's appearance, (wearing a trench coat and World War I gas mask instead of the cape and the custom-made gas mask); and Dodds' pudgier appearance and wearing of glasses – have been adopted into regular continuity. The series ran for 70 issues and 1 annual.
In Sandman Midnight Theatre (1995) a one-shot special by Neil Gaiman (author of the Modern Age supernatural series The Sandman), Matt Wagner (co-author of Sandman Mystery Theatre), and Teddy Kristiansen, depicts an interaction between the two characters, with the original visiting Great Britain and encountering the imprisoned Dream, the protagonist of Gaiman's series. A minor retcon by Gaiman suggested that Dodds' chosen identity was a result of Dream's absence from the realm the Dreaming, and that Dodds carries an aspect of that mystical realm. This explains Dodds' prophetic dreams.
Dodds is one of a number of Justice Society members who finds themselves in the "Ragnarok Dimension" during the early Modern Age of comic books. The Last Days of the Justice Society of America Special (1986) wrote the post-Crisis tale of a time-warped wave of destruction ready to engulf the world. Dodds and his JSA teammates enter into a limbo to engage in an eternal battle that would allow the universe to continue its existence. This was later revealed to be a simulation created by Odin, which he intended to give to Dream as a bribe. Dodds, Dream's protege, and Hawkman, the grandfather of Dream's appointed successor are the only JSA members we see at this time. This lasted only until 1992 when DC published Armageddon: Inferno. This mini-series ended with the JSA members leaving limbo and entering the 'real' world. Justice Society of America (1992–1993) showed how the JSA members handled returning to normal life. For the Sandman, the series depicted him as an old, thin man with a balding scalp and a sharp wit. Starting with issue #1 his physical condition became important as writer Len Strazewski had him suffer a stroke at the first sign of a villainous attack. Both his age and his physical limitations became a theme writers would use in this character's post-Crisis stories.
During Zero Hour, Dodds is returned to his proper age by the Extant. Later, Wesley Dodds is shown as retired and living with Dian Belmont though occasionally coming out of it, most notably in a team-up with Jack Knight, the son of Dodds' JSA teammate Starman. When Dian is diagnosed with a terminal disease, the two travel the world together until her death.
Towards the end of his life, Dodds' prophetic dreams alert him to the identity and location of the new Doctor Fate, prompting him to contact the Gray Man, a being created from the residue of others' dreams, as well as his old friend Speed Saunders to instruct them to warn his former teammates about what he has discovered. Waiting on a clifftop, he is subsequently confronted by the powerful villain Mordru, who intends to force Dodds to tell him the identity of the new Doctor Fate, only for Dodds to distract Mordru with his gas-gun long enough to commit suicide by jumping off the cliff rather than allow Mordru to torture him into submission. His last thoughts were that his final slumber would be free of nightmares as he is reunited with Dian. His youthful but now grown-up sidekick, Sandy the Golden Boy, becomes known simply as Sand and takes his mentor's place as a member of the Justice Society of America as well as his prophetic dreams. Eventually, he takes the name of Sandman.
Sleep of Reason
Wesley Dodds makes a comeback via flashback images in the 2006 limited series Sandman Mystery Theatre: Sleep of Reason.
Dodds appeared in the Exodus Noir arc of Madame Xanadu in 2010, in a story set in 1940.
The New 52
A new Earth-2 version Sandman appears in The New 52. When Washington DC is attacked by Solomon Grundy, Commander Wesley Dodds, along with his Sandmen paramilitary force, is sent to retrieve and save President Lightfoot. They are later assigned by Commander Khan in a special and unofficial mission to infiltrate Terry Sloane's secret facility, where they confront and subdue a mind-controlled Michael Holt.
Dodds appears as an infirm old man at the beginning of the graphic novel, plagued with visions of the impending apocalyptic battle between various factions of metahumans. Before his death, he relates his visions, interpreted through passages from the Book of Revelation, to Norman McCay, who later witnesses the events in the company of the Spectre.
Powers and abilities
Dodds has prophetic dreams which come to him as cryptic, ambiguous visions of crimes. Originally of unexplained origin, these dreams were later ascribed to encounter between Dodds and the entity known as Dream via retcon. The visions haunt Wes, who uses his keen intellect and amateur detective skills to properly interpret them. He is also a talented chemist and inventor, creating the sand-like substance and the Silicoid Gun ultimately responsible for transforming Sandy the Golden Boy into a Silicon-based life-form. In the early years of his career, Wesley Dodds possesses the strength level of a man who engages in regular exercise, and was a fine hand-to-hand combatant. As he grows older, his strength level diminishes in relative proportion to his age. As hobbies, Wes enjoys reading, writing, poetry, origami and philosophy. Through an unknown process, Wes passes his power of prophetic visions on to his former ward, Sanderson Hawkins upon the moment of his own death.
Wesley Dodds' costume consists of a basic green business suit, fedora, a World War I era gas mask, a gas gun, and a wire gun. The gas mask protects Dodds from the effects of the gas emitted from his gas gun. The gas gun, a handheld device fitted with cartridges containing concentrated sleeping gas, is Wesley Dodds' only known weapon. Pressing the trigger on the gun releases a cloud of green dust rendering all within the Sandman's immediate vicinity unconscious. An upgraded canister dispenser for the gun is provided for him by his close friend and confidante, Lee Travis. Wes is also known to conceal smaller knockout gas capsules in a hollow heel on his shoe. These prove ideal when placed in situations where his gas gun is not readily available. He also makes use of a specially designed "wirepoon" gun, which fires a length of thin, steel cable.
In the early days of his career, the Sandman drives a black 1938 Plymouth Coupe. The car is enhanced with various features to aid Wes in his crusade against crime.
In other media
- Wesley Dodds (in his Sandman costume) has a non-speaking appearance in Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Crisis: 22,300 Miles Above Earth." He is seen with the other members of the Justice Society of America.
- Sandman makes a non-speaking cameo appearance in the Young Justice episode "Humanity." He is shown with the other members of the JSA during a flashback sequence.
- Wesley Dodds appeared in the two-hour special episode of Smallville entitled "Absolute Justice" portrayed by Ken Lawson. He was shown as being a member of the now-disbanded Justice Society of America. He is first seen dreaming about the death of the Star-Spangled Kid, and after waking up he puts on his costume and stands in front of a mirror. Without warning, Icicle appears and kills him. His body was found by Clark Kent with multiple stab wounds in his chest.
- A version of the Sandman (going under the pseudonym of "The Nightshade") makes reoccurring appearances in The 1990 version of The Flash, portrayed by Jason Bernard. He retained the Sandman's costume and knockout dart gun.
- Sandman appears in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. He appears as one of the few active superheroes in the dystopian alternate time line. Sandman is first seen as a hologram in a meeting of heroes gathered by Cyborg. Sandman is later seen fighting in the climactic battle between the Amazons and Atlantians.
- In the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us, Wesley Dodd's costume is seen in the background of the Hall of Justice, along with Dr. Fate, Dr. Midnight, and Wildcat.
- Wesley Dodds' Sandman makes a cameo in DC Super Hero Girls, graduating from Super Hero High.
- The Golden Age Sandman Archive Vol. 1 (Sandman stories New York World's Fair Comics #1–2; Adventure Comics #40–59) by Bert Christman and others.
- Sandman by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (World's Finest #6–7; Adventure Comics #72–102; Sandman #1)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 1: The Tarantula (Sandman Mystery Theatre #1–4)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 2: The Face and The Brute (Sandman Mystery Theatre #5–12)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 3: The Vamp (Sandman Mystery Theatre #13–16)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 4: The Scorpion (Sandman Mystery Theatre #17–20)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 5: Dr. Death and the Night of the Butcher (Sandman Mystery Theatre #21–28)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 6: The Hourman and the Python (Sandman Mystery Theatre #29–36)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 7: The Mist and the Phantom of the Fair (Sandman Mystery Theatre #37–44)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 8: The Blackhawk and the Return of the Scarlet Ghost (Sandman Mystery Theatre #45–52)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre: Sleep of Reason (Sandman Mystery Theatre: Sleep of Reason #1–5)
- Top 200 Comic Book Characters of All Time, Wizard Magazine
- The Sandman at Don Markstein's Toonopedia: "Adventure Comics No. 40 wasn't quite the character's first appearance, though. The 1939 issue of New York World's Fair Comics, an extra-big anthology DC put out to capitalize on the eponymous event, contained a Sandman story, and probably hit the stands a week or two before his first Adventure story (though the one in Adventure is believed to have been written and drawn earlier)." Archived from the original December 5, 2011.
- New York World's Fair #1 (1939), DC, Detective Comics, Inc. imprint at the Grand Comics Database: "First Sandman story to appear in print (before Adventure #40)."
- Adventure Comics #40 at the Grand Comics Database
- Gardner F. Fox (w), Chad Grothkopf (a). "The Sandman Goes to the World's Fair" New York World's Fair Comics 1940: 64-73 (1940), DC Comics
- Wallace, Daniel; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1940s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9.
Hot properties Joe Simon and Jack Kirby joined DC...taking over the Sandman and Sandy, the Golden Boy feature in Adventure Comics #72.
- All-Star Comics No. 11 (June–July 1942)
- The Sandman (vol. 2) #26
- Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time #2
- JSA Secret Files & Origins #1
- Blackest Night #4
- Earth 2 #5
- Earth 2 #7
- JSA Fact File: The Sandman
- Earth-2 Sandman Index
- Sandman at Don Markstein's Toonopedia
- Sequart.com: "The Sandman — Interlude: Sandman Mystery Theatre (1993–1998)", by Julian Darius