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James Tynion IV teases return of The Corinthian in 'Sandman' spinoff comic 'Nightmare Country'

The writer of the latest Sandman Universe series teases what's to come for the ultimate nightmare.

By Matthew Jackson
The Cover of Sandman Universe: Nightmare County #1

In 75 issues of its original run, Neil Gaiman and an all-star roster of artists built The Sandman into a fantasy showcase for all manner of memorable characters, from angels and demons to the primal forces known as The Endless to humans just trying to live their lives in a world of gods and monsters. Along the way, a great many memorable supporting characters emerged from Sandman's epic story, but few have proven quite as unforgettable as The Corinthian

This week, the legendary nightmare with teeth for eyes returns for The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country, a new DC series written by James Tynion IV (The Nice House on the Lake, The Department of Truth) with art by Lisandro Estherren (Redneck) and a rotating roster of guest artists, beginning with Yanick Paquette, who will help fill in pieces of the character's backstory. The goal for the series is to take a character who's best known for an appearance in a decades-old Sandman story, and give him a new life and a new purpose in the form of a cat-and-mouse chase across the dark heart of modern America, a land full of serial killer memorabilia, conspiracy theories, and evils that exist outside the realm of the Dreaming. 

"Sandman is my all time favorite comic book series. It is the comic that made me want to write comics, bar none," Tynion told a group of journalists, including SYFY WIRE, in a roundtable discussion Monday. "Nothing was more formative to exactly what I want to do with long form series. The fact that I keep writing all of these long form series is because I'm chasing the high that I got from reading Sandman when I was a teenager for the first time."

So, despite stepping away from other DC work like Batman last year, Tynion was drawn back into the realm of licensed comics to participate in the world of his favorite series, telling the story of the ultimate nightmare as we've never seen him before. In Nightmare Country issue #1, we see The Corinthian in his current form as he encounters a human, an artist named Flynn, whose paintings awaken something in him. Through the dream realm, The Corinthian sees in Flynn's painting something terrifying, a creature who's not a Nightmare created by Dream, but something darker, something that exists out in the world that may need to be stopped. Over the course of the series, we'll learn more about that creature, about The Corinthian himself, and about the humans who brush up against this world of Nightmares and the purely nightmarish. 

Of course, Sandman readers will need no introduction to The Corinthian, who first appeared with his distinctive tooth-filled eye sockets in the second arc of the series, The Doll's House. Still, Tynion wanted to create a book that will serve as both a re-introduction to old readers, and a pure introduction to first-timers who've decided to follow him into the world first created by Gaiman more than three decades ago. 

"I think it's definitely difficult, and it's a big, complicated idea, the idea of The Dreaming and all of these Nightmares and all of these characters that have a 30-year publishing history at this point," Tynion said. "This was part of the reason that I wanted the central characters in this book to be human characters who have not really bumped into the figures in the Sandman mythology before, so it would be their first encounters with this mythology and we would experience it with them."

He continued, "Consequently, I think in the first few issues, we're going see a lot of strangeness, a lot of mystery as the characters are in over their heads, and they don't understand the world that they've just fallen into. But I wanted to take the time to slowly unpack that rather than really throw us in the deep end and explain too much up front. I wanted the readers to learn this world alongside the characters. And over the course of the series, I think the goal is that fans of my other books will go and pick up the full run of Sandman trades if they haven't already, and get to experience that for the first time."

In the pages below, you can get a taste of what those human characters will go through, as Flynn talks through her own internal horrors before brushing up against The Corinthian.

(Warning: Some NSFW language in the dialogue.)

An interior page from Sandman Universe: Nightmare County #1.
An interior page from Sandman Universe: Nightmare County #1.
An interior page from Sandman Universe: Nightmare County #1.
An interior page from Sandman Universe: Nightmare County #1.
An interior page from Sandman Universe: Nightmare County #1.
An interior page from Sandman Universe: Nightmare County #1.

But of course, Nightmare Country isn't just about The Corinthian and the humans who brush up against his dark presence. There are also several new villainous characters entering The Sandman Universe for the first time. Some are still shrouding in mystery, but the first issue will also introduce readers to the terrifying Mr. Agony and Mr. Ecstasy, two fascinating figures who don't come from The Dreaming yet still possess a nightmarish quality. According to Tynion, where those characters do come from, and how that figures into the dark Americana of Nightmare Country is a key mystery of the narrative going forward.

"That is the real central question of the series. And Nightmares serve a real purpose, like the idea of dreams. The Dreaming is where stories come from. It is where ideas are born. And Nightmares are the embodiments of all of our fears and all of that. But...there are other thoughts of existence. That's one of the real central questions. In a world that is rotting at the edges and has all of this darkness in it, is that darkness born in The Dreaming, or is it born elsewhere? And what is the dark heart that's rotting the world away, and can it be subverted and can it be understood? So yeah, that question is going to drive so much of the series."

When The Sandman debuted in 1989, it was marketed as a horror series in the vein of Swamp Thing, and while the book eventually moved more into the realm of dark fantasy, it never lost that horror edge, as evidenced by the presence of characters like The Corinthian. For Tynion, a lifelong Sandman fan, preserving that edge for Nightmare Country was essential to the core of the new series.

"That is the thing that frankly I love most about the original Sandman comics is that you get your cake and you eat it, too," Tynion said. "This is something where all brands of horror can really come together and... This is a book that's going to be bloody and horrible in places, because I like bloody and horrible comics. And it's going to lean into the fantasy in places, it's going to lean into classic horror tropes, because that's the essence of Sandman, is that it plays with the idea of story and the idea of different types of horror stories and how they blend together.

"So, I think we're going to see lots of different aspects of horror here. But to really create that emotional connection, yeah, I do think it [also] has to be existential. I think that we're living in an existential horror kind of moment, and that's what I've been trying to tap into in across all of my books, and it's no different here."

The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country #1 is available now.