In 1990, nestled between the seminal multi-issue storylines of “The Doll’s House” and “Season of Mists,” Neil Gaiman wrote four single-issue, standalone tales which were eventually collected in The Sandman v. 3: Dream Country. All four are standout issues in the series, proving that Gaiman was equally adept as a short story author as he was with longer forms. However, of particular note is THE SANDMAN #19, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Inspired and informed by William Shakespeare’s play of the same name, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” tells the story of the play’s very first performance, arranged by Morpheus and performed for the very fairies, sprites and goblins that inspired the play. Auberon, Titania and the mischievous Puck all play prominent roles, Skarrow and Peasebottom offer up some comic relief, while Shakespeare and his son, Hamnet, bring some sadly relatable humanity to the story.
It’s a fun, vibrant and ultimately poignant story with beautiful art by Charles Vess. It also managed to achieve a very rare honor. In 1991, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was awarded the prestigious World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. It was the first comic book to do so, and is likely to be the last. Shortly after The Sandman #19’s win, the rules were changed to make comic books ineligible in the short fiction category.
Regardless, it’s hard to argue that “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” didn’t deserve its win. Enjoy some of Vess’ lively art above, which combined with the prose of Mr. Gaiman and Mr. Shakespeare and the always phenomenal lettering of Todd Klein make this not only a standout issue in The Sandman, but in the comic book medium as a whole.