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The Little Endless Storybook
Jill Thompson
Vertigo / DC hardcover $9.95

review by Amy Harlib

Jill Thompson, acclaimed illustrator and creator of the beloved Scary Godmother series of books and comics, also contributed her artistic talents, along with the best in the business, to the seminal and classic Sandman comics series conceived and written by Neil Gaiman over the course of 76 epochal issues (later collected into 10 trade paperbacks), published by DC's Vertigo imprint from 1988-96. The Sandman stories, intended for mature readers, concern Gaiman's dark visions of the 'Dreaming', its residents and its influence on the waking world, and encompasses a wide variety of elements from myth, folklore and legends mingled with modern milieus. The principal characters of the original series, The Endless, consist of seven immortal siblings "that aren't gods but who existed before humanity dreamed of gods and will exist after the last god is dead." They embody and personify the cosmic concepts of (in order of age): Destiny, Death, Dream (alias the Sandman), Destruction, Desire, Despair and Delirium.

In The Sandman: Brief Lives sequence gathered in the seventh volume of the series, Jill Thompson's visuals, combined with tales developing all The Endless characters to a degree not seen before, made these ageless entities equal in popularity to the titular Sandman, if not more so. Furthermore, in a volume six prelude to Brief Lives, Thompson whimsically conceived the Li'l Endless, depicting, in a vignette, these beings in the form of ultra-cute, manga-style (as in Japanese comics) toddlers. This 1991 singular appearance proved so popular that fans have been begging for their return ever since.

At long last, in 2001, Jill Thompson, in an unprecedented opportunity, brought The Endless back to prominence once again in a prestige format, glossy trade paperback The Little Endless Storybook where the seven subjects are presented in their diminutive, most charming form. This volume, 'recommended for mature readers of all ages', presenting its material very much in the mode of a children's picture book, cannot be considered a comicbook in the orthodox sense, but since its source and inspiration is so grounded in one of the most famous comics' series ever - it is a must have and a total delight. And a reasonably priced, hardcover edition is now available just about everywhere.

Printed with brief text on the left-hand page and a full-page painting facing it, the light and deceptively simple story concerns 'princess' Delirium's fluffy, perky-eared, wavy-tailed, medium-sized, motley-coloured dog Barnabus who loses her but she thinks just the opposite. Barnabus, his mystical doghood notwithstanding, though charged with constantly keeping a watchful vigil over Delirium, for a moment needs to use the facilities as it were. While Barnabus goes off to use a nearby tree, he requests that Delirium stay put until he returns shortly. Due to Delirium's nature - quixotic, flighty, easily distracted - no sooner has Barnabus left her sight than she determines he is lost and that she must go looking for him. Returning from his arboreal bathroom, Barnabus finds Delirium gone and then embarks on a search for her, a journey that takes him through the realms of all the other Endless until he becomes so delirious himself that he then possesses the capability to find his "fizzy princess."

Thompson's writing here - witty, clever, sprightly and briskly flowing, perfectly complements her exquisite artwork. In addition to the title page, the book contains 24 full-page paintings brilliantly rendered in her skilful, vibrantly coloured watercolours (with mixed media) style. Her remarkable control of the medium produces richly detailed images brimming with glowing light, exciting compositions and whimsical energy. Each illustration, crafted with such affection and care for the subject, rewards repeated viewing of her charming, diminutive, expressive versions of The Endless and of her blendings of intricate realistic objects with surreal and fantastical backgrounds or vice versa. With such ingenious creativity on every page, The Little Endless Storybook should delight fans of The Sandman who understand the complex contexts from which this project sprang. The uninitiated will enjoy it equally, simply for Jill Thompson's amazing talent alone. This book represents a dream come true for anyone who appreciates superb artwork and enchanting storytelling that can be savoured endlessly.
Little Endless Storybook





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