The Sandman (DC Comics Golden Age): Wikis


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Art by Gavin Wilson and Richard Bruning.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics/Vertigo
First appearance Adventure Comics #40 (July, 1939)
Created by Gardner Fox
Bert Christman
In-story information
Alter ego Wesley Bernard "Wes" Dodds
Team affiliations All-Star Squadron
Justice Society of America
Black Lantern Corps
Notable aliases Grainy Gladiator
Abilities A gas gun, prophetic dreams, as well as highly honed detective skills and a fair knowledge of the martial arts.

Sandman (Wesley Dodds), is a fictional superhero appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. The first of several DC characters to bear the name, 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 developed into a more proper superhero, acquiring sidekick Sandy, and joining the Justice Society of America.

While the character's first appearance is usually given as Adventure Comics #40 (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.[1] 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 Comics #40, but no other evidence has surfaced.

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; he is the oldest superhero in terms of continuity to appear on the list.[2]


Publication history


Golden Age of comic books

Following his first appearance in Adventure Comics #40, the Sandman continued to star in one of that omnibus title's features through #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 Vertigo series, and he would continue fighting in spite of serious limitations the injuries caused.

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,[3] 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 #3, published by All-American Comics, one of the companies that would merge to form DC.

In Adventure Comics #69 (Dec. 1941), Dodds was given a more superheroic 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.

Silver Age to Modern Age

Reintroduced in the Silver Age in Justice League of America #46 (July 1966), the Sandman made occasional appearances in the annual teamups between that superhero group and the JSA.

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 #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 in the war 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' mature-reader imprint, Vertigo. Although as a whole its continuity within the main DC Universe is debatable, several aspects of the series have been adopted into regular continuity, including the more nuanced relationship between Dodds and Dian Belmont. 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.

Twilight years

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 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.[4] 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 passing.

Later, Dodds commits suicide rather than allow the location of Doctor Fate to be taken from his mind by the villainous Mordru. 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.[5]

Sleep of Reason

Wesley Dodds makes a comeback via flashback images in the 2006 limited series Sandman Mystery Theatre: Sleep of Reason.

Blackest Night

Dodds is reanimated as a Black Lantern in the Blackest Night crossover. He and several other fallen JSAers attack the Brownstone, seeking the hearts of the living within.[6]

Exodus Noir

Dodds appears in the "current" timeline of the Exodus Noir arc of Madame Xanadu. The time of the story takes place in 1940.

Kingdom Come

In Mark Waid and Alex Ross' Elseworlds miniseries Kingdom Come, Wesley Dodds is tormented by prophetic visions of Armageddon. After his death these visions are passed to the protagonist, Norman McCay, who was one of Dodds' only remaining friends. The story later reveals that the visions were sent to Dodds because his tenure as Sandman somehow gave him an affinity for dreams and their interpretation. Wesley Dodds actually prophesies the future events in Kingdom Come before dying in the hospital, playing a brief yet important part in the story.

Powers and abilities

Prophetic Dreams: Due to an encounter with the entity known as Dream, Wesley Dodds possessed the power of prophetic dreaming. His dreams often came to him as cryptic, ambiguous visions, but Wes' keen intellect enabled him to properly interpret them. Through an unknown process, Wes passed on this power to his former ward, Sanderson Hawkins upon the moment of his own death.

Criminology: Wesley Dodds possessed a sharp intellect and was a skilled if albeit amateur detective.

Chemistry: He was also a talented chemist, creating the sand-like substance used to transform Sandy the Golden Boy.

Inventor: Wes was also a talented inventor. One of the devices that Wes created was a Silicoid Gun - a weapon ultimately responsible for transforming Sandy the Golden Boy into a Silicon-based life-form.

As a hobby, Wes enjoyed reading, writing, poetry, origami and philosophy.

In the early years of his career, Wesley Dodds possessed the strength level of a man who engaged in regular exercise, and was a fine hand-to-hand combatant. As he grew older, his strength level diminished in relative proportion to his age.


WWI Gas Mask: The Sandman used a World War I era gas mask to protect himself from the effects of his own sleeping gas.

Wirepoon: He also made use of a specially designed wirepoon gun, which fired a length of thin, steel cable.

In the early days of his career, the Sandman drove a black 1938 Plymouth Coupe. The car was enhanced with various features to aid Wes in his crusade against crime. Should an adversary attempt to pursue the Sandman, Wes could pull a switch on the dashboard of his car, which released the detachable rear bumper. The interior of the bumper was lined with barbed spikes - ideal for tearing the tires of any vehicle attempting to follow him.

Gas Gun: The Sandman's only known weapon was his gas gun, a handheld device fitted with cartridges containing concentrated sleeping gas. Pressing the trigger on the gun released a cloud of green dust rendering all within the Sandman's immediate vicinity unconscious. An upgraded canister dispenser for the gun was provided for him by his close friend and confidante, Lee Travis. Wes was also known to conceal smaller knockout gas capsules in a hollow heel on his shoe. These proved ideal when placed in situations where his gas gun was not readily available.

Other media

Although Sandman has never actually appeared outside of comicdom, a very similar character named Nightshade (no relation to the DC Comics superhero of the same name) appears multiple times in the 1990s television series The Flash. This incarnation, Dr. Desmond Powell (played by late actor Jason Bernard), shares several similarities with the original Sandman, including a sleep-inducing pistol (although it used tranquilizer darts rather than sleep gas). Nightshade is also depicted as wearing a gas mask-like device over his face (although it never is never shown to be functional), and dressing in a dark fedora and trench coat. Like the Sandman Mystery Theater version, Nightshade also drives a high-powered black automobile and develops his crime-fighting technology in a secret labratory/hideout. Desmond Powell is portrayed as a pacifist of sorts, having served in the Korean War and being unwilling to ever again take a life (hence his use of tranquilizers darts as a weapon). He returns from his military service to find his hometown overrun by crime and corruption, and chooses to take the law into his own hands. Unlike Sandman, however, Powell is African-American and his fear of reprisals in the segregated America of the 1950s is his reason for adopted a false identity.



  1. ^ Don Markstein's Toonopedia: "Adventure Comics #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)". Sites including JSA Member Profiles: The Sandman and Members of the Justice Society: The Sandman concur.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Gardner F. Fox (w), Chad Grothkopf (p,i). "The Sandman Goes to the World's Fair" New York World's Fair Comics 1940: 64-73 (1940), DC Comics
  4. ^ Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time #2
  5. ^ JSA Secret Files & Origins #1
  6. ^ Blackest Night #4

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