Sandman Mystery Theatre, Vol.1: The Tarantula (1995) by Matt Wagner & Guy Davis

‘It has been little over a year since my return to New York. What had been the greatest city on Earth is now a facade of corruption and denial. Fashionable fund-raisers abound while poverty endures and the threat of war lingers stagnant in the air.’

Publisher’s Synopsis

‘In this noir detective tale of intrigue, bigotry and incest, millionaire Wesley Dodds takes on the costumed persona of the Sandman to catch a sadistic killer in 1930s New York. Donning a gas mask, fedora, business suit and cape, Dodds goes after the Tarantula, a brutal kidnapper who is mercilessly preying upon the women of high society. But as the Sandman walks through a world of corruption and deceit, he uncovers the true secret of the murders and their implausible connection to the city’s most prominent family.’

My Thoughts

I used to collect Neil Gaiman’s version of the Sandman comic book and I remember when the first issue of Sandman Mystery Theatre came out back in 1993. I bought it, but didn’t continue with it after that first issue. I’m not sure why. I think the art style put me off at the time. Also, I wasn’t a big fan of noir-style mysteries. (If I could go back in time, I would urge younger-me to keep buying the comic. Oh well.)

So, all these years later, I have finally read the first four-part story of Wagner and Davis’ mature take on the Golden Age Sandman, Wesley Dodds.

“The Tarantula” is no Dream of the Endless take on Sandman. This is a dark and gritty version of New York set in the late 1930s. As the opening quote says, it’s a New York tinged with “corruption and denial”. Guy Davis’s rough and sketchy art style is actually perfect for conveying the setting and feeling of the book. It also suits the atmosphere of the adult story which covers themes of sexual abuse, torture, incest and murder. You have been warned!

It’s not all dark, though. The writing is good and offers a fascinating glimpse into the past. The characters are established quickly and their snappy dialog is sprinkled with language from that time period: “We’ll just see how the floor show sounds after a nice little shake-down”; “You fellas are getting tight”; “Somebody squealed and now it’s a goddamn zoo out there!”

The characters are well-written by Wagner, especially the main two of Wesley Dodds and Dian Belmont. I appreciated the creators’ take on Dodds. He is not a typical superhero. He looks out of shape, wears glasses and doesn’t have super strength or a magic ring. Just a gas mask, a sleeping-gas gun, a fine fedora and a strong sense of justice. It has only been four issues so far but Dian is looking to be a strong female character who can capably hold her own. I enjoyed the depiction of her growing friendship with Wesley, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.

“As always, I awake and shake with fear lest I return to the dark, barren lands of my dreaming.”

Thanks for reading!

13 thoughts on “Sandman Mystery Theatre, Vol.1: The Tarantula (1995) by Matt Wagner & Guy Davis

  1. You know, I actually found these as single issues at my local comic book shop a couple of years ago and picked them because of how cheap they were sold for (a dollar per floppy?) but I didn’t read through them because I wanted to go through Gaiman’s Sandman first for whatever reason hahaha I’ll definitely have to go read them now though. I was super surprised to see someone even dig this up! Glad it wasn’t a bummer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s cool that you got hold of the original floppies! I’m a big fan of Gaiman’s Sandman, too. I still have all the original issues but they’re a bit faded now. I’m often tempted to buy an “Absolute” volume of the series but they are a bit pricey…πŸ™„ Ah well, one day perhaps.

      Liked by 1 person

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