English and Modern Languages


Master of Arts (MA)


Marybeth Davis

Primary Subject Area

Literature, General


Comics, Dream, Gaiman, Grotesque, Johnson, Sandman


One of the methods that should be implemented in the diverse, and often erratic, systems already practiced with comics is looking at the elements of the grotesque to understand and interrupt a story by the way these elements control, move, and illuminate the story. This method is important because comics are largely visual, which means the grotesque is able to dominate the story in a way that is not present within a prose piece. One comic in particular that lends itself to this kind of practice is the ten-part saga Sandman by Neil Gaiman. This paper will investigate and reveal the diverse ways the grotesque works to control this epic tale and how the grotesque influences how someone reads it. Since Sandman is such a long comic, and since it covers almost a decade in the artists' life, the grotesque in this comic changes, develops and matures along with the story. Thus, the reader is able to see the grotesque act aggressively, sometimes almost overtaking the story, and appropriately, where it influences, complicates, and deepens the meaning of the work. The grotesque is an element that is important to humanity because of what it reveals about us, which is why its study, especially in the medium of comics, is vital. Sandman works as a perfect place to start understanding the development and changes of this powerful tool.