If you don't want to watch the above video, which you should, but if you don't have four and a half minutes and haven't already heard I'll cut to the chase: Neil Gaiman has written an as yet untitled, J.H. Williams III drawn, Sandman mini-series, out in November.
Williams drew a preview image:
There's a lot of reasons to be excited about this. For one, Gaiman has spent his time since Sandman ended doing all sorts of things, and that added variety to his experience that has almost certainly turned an already wide, almost limitless, imagination into a kind of force. American Gods, although already ten years old, took some ideas Gaiman had been working on since the very beginning of Sandman and transformed them, and I have nothing but the utmost confidence that the writer, returning to the particular character that embodied all of that, will produce something of good quality, that he will tell a story worth telling. For another, J.H. Williams III is doing the art. If there's a more perfect artist for the things that Gaiman can dream up, I have no idea who it is. Williams's work on Batwoman sort of subtly revolutionized what was possible in terms of layout and design in comic books, and we now have consistently more interesting, that is, better, panel layouts and general design.
Of course, there are a lot of reasons to be wary of this, too. I have some of the same concerns that I have with Before Watchmen. Obviously, there's no moral issue here, since Dream is Gaiman's character, and he's doing the writing. Instead, I'm worried about the impulse to tell a new story in an old universe. I get that Gaiman is filling a hole, giving us something he had only hinted at before, even if maybe it was fully or partially conceived back in the Eighties. That's good-- it means he had to keep the old stuff in mind as he was putting together this new bit. But if it he feels he had to tell, why didn't he tell it in the eighties? If it was important to Sandman, important to what Gaiman was building twenty-five years ago, why didn't he tell the story then? Why does he feel the need to go put that piece, never really missing, back into the puzzle?
I'm sure there's a good reason. Maybe he wasn't ready to tell that bit then and he is now. Maybe he was constrained by editorial. Maybe this, maybe that. Unless Gaiman comes out and says why he's writing Dream again, after so long, we'll never know. And, doubtlessly, this new mini will be good, even great. I certainly hope that its as good as Sandman ever be. But it does concern me when someone, anyone, a writer, an editor, feels the need to explain everything, or when a fan wants everything explained. I'm sure I'm going to read it when it comes out, and I'm sure I'm not going to be the only one. But, as a reader, I'm going to lose a little bit of the wonder of those first issues of Sandman. I'm going to stop imagining the why, because I know it.
And I just wonder if I want that or not.
Update: It comes out November 2013, which Gaiman pretty clearly says. My bad.