Before he began to write novels that would earn him public recognition, Gaiman wrote comic books and graphic novels. The Sandman graphic novels (1989-1996), initially published by D C Comics and later by Vertigo, were particularly popular with a total of 75 issues. The Sandman is about an all-powerful being called Dream, also named Morpheus. He is one of seven god-like siblings who have always existed, and who exert their influence on our world. The series follows Morpheus, who has been the prisoner of a group of wizards for 70 years. Once he escapes, he must find several powerful objects that will allow him to exact revenge upon his enemies. Along the way he must also face up to his mistakes, and find a way to reclaim his kingdom of dreams.
Norman Mailer once described The Sandman as "a comic strip for intellectuals." Among its many awards it was included in Entertainment Weekly's list of 100 best reads from 1983 to 2008, and issue 19 won a World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction in 1999 (the only graphic novel to have ever won the award). It is also one of a very few graphic novels to have been on The New York Times bestseller list.