Neil Gaiman’s work writing Sandman (co-created by Mike Dringenberg and Sam Keith) is a towering achievement in comics, defining the 90’s Vertigo aesthetic and welcoming in a new generation of readers. The first issue was published in early 1989, and the series ran for 75 issues (plus a handful of specials and short stories) until 1996.
While the initial recommendations are easy – Sandman is my *second* favorite comic book series of all time, and the first 10 volumes of collected editions are absolutely the best starting place – once you get past the core series, there’s a whole Sandman Universe that is significantly more challenging to follow.
The extended Sandman Universe has seen a variety of incarnations, most recently accompanying DC’s 2018 Vertigo relaunch with a rebranded “Sandman Universe” line of titles. In order to enjoy these spinoff titles, as well as the Gaiman written Sandman comics and stories that have been released following the series conclusion, I’ve laid out a reading order for *everything* below.
My personal favorite entires are noted with the Comic Book Herald logo next to the series title (with the perhaps obvious caveat that the entirity of the original Sandman is a hearty recommendation).
Related Reading Orders:
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Sandman Comics Reading Order
The Original Series
The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes
Collects: Sandman #1 To #8
Sandman’s ’89 debut is surprisingly connected to the broader DC Universe, and the DC heroes who have shared the “Sandman” moniker over the years. I would argue a general understanding of these reference points can aid your reading, particularly in regards to the Jack Kirby Sandman of the 70’s, Hector Hall, and the JSA Sandman of the Golden Age, Wesley Dodds.
While Kirby’s Sandman is more thoroughly integrated into the plot of Gaiman’s Sandman (supporting characters have notable roles), it’s actually the Golden Age version that would carry the Sandman Mystery Theatre Vertigo title that launched in 1993. It would be easy to think this is an essential tie-in to the Sandman Universe, but it is, in fact, not that at all. Although they are quite good, the noir features of Matt Wagner and Guy Davis are barely connected to the dreaming by a handful of panels, and are more for fans of DC’s JSA or even the 90’s Starman series written by James Robinson with art for a huge chunk by Tony Harris (the two – Starman and Sandman Mystery Theatre – even feature a crossover)
All of which is to say, keep calm and read on, and it kinda helps to know Morpheus isn’t DC’s first Sandman.
The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House
Collects: Sandman #9 To #16
The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country
Collects: Sandman #17 To #20
The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists
Collects: Sandman #21 To #28
Season of Mists is quite excellent, and provides the background for the Lucifer series to follow. For a more detailed analysis, I highly recommend checking out our own John Galati’s review of the 30th anniversary collection!
The Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You
Collects: Sandman #32 To #37
The Sandman, Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections
Collects: Sandman #29-31, 38-40, 50 And Sandman Special #1
The Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives
Collects: The Sandman # 41-49
The Sandman Vol. 8: World’s End
Collects: The Sandman #51-56
he Sandman Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones
Collects: Sandman #57 To #69
Collects: Sandman #70-75
Extended Sandman Universe Written by Neil Gaiman
Collects: The Sandman: Endless Nights
Seven stories, seven artists, covering the entire Endless family. Appropriately includes the incredible Bill Sienkiewicz on Delirium!
Collects: Sandman Overture #1 To #6
Technically, Overture occurs before page 1 of Sandman #1. Nonetheless, this prequel contains a story told by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III that clearly should be read by readers already intimately familiar with the world of Sandman comics.
The Sandman: The Dream Hunters (2008-2009)
Collects: The Dream Hunters #1 To #4
Adapted novella with illustrations by P. Craig Russell.
Collects: Anthology of short stories edited by Gaiman.
Collects: Death: The High Cost Of Living And Death: The Time Of Your Life Miniseries
Collects: Vertigo: Winter’s Edge #1 To #3
Collects: Sandman Midnight Theatre #1
Sandman Mystery Theatre (written by Matt Wagner with art initially by Guy Davis) is one of the stranger Vertigo spinoffs. Despite the shared naming, Mystery Theatre is a reference to the original Wesley Dodds Sandman character. Midnight Theatre asserts the unique property of a Neil Gaiman written script, and very light tie-ins to the actual Dream of the Endless character we know from Sandman.
Late 90’s Sandman Spinoffs
Dreaming: Beyond the Shore of Night
Cain and Able fans (or Mad Hettie fans) get some Sandman spinoff stories.
Dreaming: Through the Gates of Horn & Ivory
More short stories from the realm of Dreams, including tales of the Corinthian and Lucien the librarian!
Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold
Lucifer Spinoff Reading Order!
Collects: Sandman Presents: Lucifer #1 to #3, Lucifer #1 to #13
Lucifer, written by Mike Carey for 75 issues, is unambiguously the crown jewel of the Sandman spinoff universe.
Collects: Lucifer #14-28 And Lucifer: Nirvana
Collects: Lucifer #29 to #45
Collects: Lucifer #46 to #61
Collects: Lucifer #62-75
Collects: Lucifer #1-6
Lucifer Vol. 2: Father Lucifer
Collects: Lucifer #7 To #12
Lucifer Vol. 3: Blood in the Streets
Collects: Lucifer #13 To #19
Sandman Presents Spinoffs
Mike Carey and John Bolton team-up that focuses on the realm of faerie and Queen Titania.
Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives
Collects: Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives #1 to #4
After debuting in “Season of Mists,” the Dead Boy Detectives get their own spinoff, written by noir mastermind Ed Brubaker!
The Sandman Presents: Thessaly – Witch for Hire
Collects: Sandman Presents: Thessaly Witch For Hire #1 to #4
The Sandman Presents: Taller Tales
Collects: Merv Pumpkinhead, Agent of D.R.E.A.M. #1; Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Dreams… But Were Afraid to Ask #1; The Dreaming #55; The Sandman Presents: The Thessaliad #1 to #4
Focuses on Lyta Hall, mother of Daniel, and the impact of his destiny as the “new” Sandman.
Collects: #1 to #4
Sandman Presents The Corinthian
Collects: #1 to #3
Collects: #1 to #3
Collects: #1 to #3
Sandman in the 2000’s
Collects: Manga Digest
Occurs during the events of “Season of Mists,” with a focus on Death, Delirium and Despair.
Collects: Manga Digest
By Jill Thompson
Delirium’s Party: A Little Endless Storybook
All ages Sandman might seem like an oxymoron, but Jill Thompson gives it a go with these adorable Little Endless collections.
The Little Endless Storybook (The Sandman)
Dead Boy Detectives Vol. 1: Schoolboy Terrors
Collects: Dead Boy Detectives #1-6
Dead Boy Detectives Vol. 2: Ghost Snow
Collects: Dead Boy Detectives #7-12
Collects: The Girl Who Would Be Death #1 To #4
Vertigo’s Black Label Sandman Universe + DC Metal!
Collects: Dark Nights: Metal #1-6
Daniel Hall, aka “new” Sandman, is curiously featured in a cameo role during one of my favorite DC Comics events of all time. Metal is way more relevant for the DC superhero universe than for Sandman, but completists will absolutely note his role.
The Dreaming Vol. 1: Pathways and Emanations
Collects: The Dreaming #1-6 And Sandman Universe Special #1
Books of Magic Vol. 1: Moveable Type
Collects: Books Of Magic #1-6 And Sandman Universe Special #1
Lucifer Vol. 1: The Infernal Comedy
Collects: Lucifer #1-6 And Sandman Universe Special #1
House of Whispers Vol. 1: The Powers Divided
Collects: House Of Whispers #1-6 And Sandman Universe Special #1
The Dreaming Vol. 2: Empty Shells
Collects: The Dreaming #7-12
The Books of Magic Vol. 2: Second Quarto
Collects: Books Of Magic #7-13
House of Whispers Vol. 2: Ananse
Collects: House Of Whispers #7-12
Lucifer Vol. 2: The Divine Tragedy
Collects: Lucifer #7-12
The Dreaming Vol. 3: One Magical Movement
Collects: The Dreaming #13-18
Collects: Lucifer #14-19
John Constantine, Hellblazer Vol. 1: Marks of Woe
Collects: The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1 And John Constantine: Hellblazer #1-5
Collects: Books Of Magic #14-18
Collects: The Dreaming: Waking Hours #1 To #12
Emma S says
Thanks for this guide!
Any specific order for House of Whisper v03, Lucifer v04 and John Constantine – Hellblazer v02 ? (I assume they got released after you published your guide).
This new “Sandman Universe” is just a spin-off reset or something right? I want to read only the main series, am I missing something reading this:
Volumes 1-11, Overture, Endless nights, dream hunters, Death, Midnight Theater, Book of dreams?
Shite list, you can ignore a good 70% of it
Chris Glynn says
Maybe worth adding that The Dreaming TPBs are just a small part of a much longer run of The Dreaming, which ran for around 60 issues. There was also a long House of Mystery series later, which has been collected in TPBs (8 I think) and a long run of The Books of Magic series, which ties in a little with the original sandman and with the new books.
Eric Henwood-Greer says
And of course now thanks to The Sandman Universe I think they’re claiming all of that is non-Canon…
Nate M Ize says
Hey so do I have to read the original Sandman series to read the new Sandman Universe(2018) storyline or can I just start reading it without reading the original?
Eric Henwood-Greer says
I would definitely read at least some of Sandman–though some of the Universe storylines aren’t all that connected really (Books of Magic, Hellblazer…)
Gavin Netherton says
Thank you for this. I have just been given a collection of these books and this is a good guide to know where to start reading.
So, you’re saying, if I have all the original individual issues I shouldn’t read them in order?
you see number of chapter is by when it realized . but the story line wasn’t in order. you can read it by order. it’s what the writer want’s you to . but if you get confused with the original order. you also can read by the order of this site.
sorry if I had grammar problems
English is not my native language.
Josh Angel says
Wow, I’m a huge Sandman fan and had no clue there was so much material outside the Neil Gaiman penned stories. Thanks for this!