Atomic Two-on-One: Enter Sandman

More elbow-to-elbow customizing of the uncharted plastic DC Universe

by Deane Aikins and Rod Keith

     “There is no land beyond the law
     Where tyrants rule with unshakable power!
     ‘Tis but a dream from which the evil wake
     To face their fate, their terrifying hour!”


Once again, Deane and I team up to customize unexplored corners of the DC Universe in DCUC style. This time, we’re looking at another JSA legacy—SANDMAN.


In the mid Seventies, I came across the Treasury Reprint Edition of All-Star Comics #3, the first meeting of the Justice Society of America.  The comic depicted a dinner of superheroes, sitting around telling stories of their adventures, with a rascally Johnny Thunder crashing the party.

I was sold.

Of all of them, one that stayed with me the most was the Sandman.  He was uniquely dressed apart from the rest of the members, in a green suit, purple cape, and blue/yellow gas mask.  He had a gal pal Dian that was right in the adventure with him.  And it was bloody.  Men had been tortured and experimented upon, leaving deformed corpses for The Sandman and Dian to find and bring their killer to justice.

Of the comics that I could find in Detroit, Justice League of America back issues were cheap.  I quickly was able to buy most of the annual summer JLA/JSA team-ups.  To my delight, The Sandman was an occasional member.  Same green suit, same gasmask.

The first JLA issue that I remember seeing on the stands was Justice League #113, the standalone JLA/JSA x-over where a still-devilishly handsome Wes Dodds, as depicted by Dick Dillin, grieves over his sidekick, now transformed into a grotesque sand-monster.

Then came All Star Squadron #1, featuring a yellow and purple guy with some sort of rope gun.  This was Sandman?  I figured it must be a new Earth (early Earth-X), whose World War II heroes had never formed a JSA or other teams, but created this giant Squadron.  Their Sandman was different.

Coincidentally, and confusingly, this was a Sept-October 1974 issue, about the same time that DC house ads were advertising a different Sandman book altogether, drawn by that chunky Kamandi artist guy…

Simon & Kirby’s new Sandman, which lasted six published issues through 1975, with art also by Ernie Chua and inks by Mike Royer and Wally Wood, was always a mystery to me because I never actually saw an issue with the character during its run, not until years afterward. It existed as sort of a nebulous dream-like concept itself, on the edges of my collecting consciousness.


Adventure Comics then became a digest reprint book, showcasing old Legion of Superheroes stories and other characters that had once been featured in Adventure.  Sure enough, I learned of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’s Sandman and Sandy, the Golden Boy stories.  Gone was the green suit, gone was the gasmask.  Hello gold and purple super-suit, hello boy sidekick, hello “wirepoon” gun.  Hello, dynamic artwork and wild storytelling.

The new, ‘other’ Simon & Kirby Sandman (proclaiming on his first cover, “He’s Back!”) was a straight-arrow who operated in the Dream Stream with the help of his two malcontented ‘ nightmare’ henchmen Brute and Glob. This Sandman spent most of his time helping his young pal Jed who often found himself or his grandfather in troubling situations with weirdy villains or monsters. The tone of the book was odd, shifting between standard superheroics to quasi-horror to childish fantasy—much like a dream might.

The strangest moment comes in issue 5, where Jed’s Grandpa actually drowns when the Sandman comes too late, and he’s forced to live with his less-than-kind aunt and uncle. Unusual for a kid’s comic, but not if you place it into the context of fairy tales or childhood fears.

Oddly enough, this Sandman didn’t get ANY sort of backstory until Roy Thomas inserted him in Wonder Woman #300, his first contact with the rest of the DCU, when it’s revealed that he’s Dr. Garrett Sanford, who was a sleep researcher monitoring dreams at UCLA, when he gets embroiled helping the military and ends up trapped in the dream world, battling ‘monsters of the Id’. He takes on the Sandman name ‘from an old comic-book hero’ (typical Roy Thomas, First of the Fanboys). Oh yeah, and in the issue he’s got a HUGE crush on Diana, but that’s between them.

The next time we see this version is in Neil Gaiman’s seminal series, where it’s revealed that the strain of being the Sandman caused Sanford to commit suicide, and Brute and Glob has replaced him with the dead Hector Hall (formerly Silver Scarab of Infinity Inc. and E-2 Hawkman’s son) during Morpheus’ long absence from the Dreaming. How this is all dealt with sets up how Gaiman’s series eventually concludes.

And finally, the character is brought back years later in JSA #63-64, where Sand (formerly Wes Dodds’ chum) has now adopted the red-and-gold. Whew! How’s that for circular?

How can we not have a Simon & Kirby Sandman action figure, when “action” was a part of every page of their stories?

I took a “Camo-Aquaman” figure and went to town, sculpting boots and boxer briefs for the figure.  A quick sanding of the hair and re-working of a mask was also in order.  I sculpted holsters and then used vinyl for the flaps and belt.

My base is the Flash.

After cutting away his boot and ear wings, his mask had to be rebuilt with Milliput from the jagged edge of Barry’s to smooth round flaps and smaller eyeholes. He needed round glove cuffs, belt, and Captain America style pirate boot cuffs.

Also, to keep the chest joint, which I like, I had to accommodate the zipper (?) down the center.At first I sculpted it but it broke off. The end solution was to actually dremel a trench near the solar plexus and add a styrene strip that ends up being recessed near the joint, so he still can bend forward and back and the red stripe doesn’t change..

As a side note, I usually cut down as much as possible from the joints—shoulder balls, the back and fronts of knees and elbows—to keep articulation.

The text of those early stories referred to The Sandman as being “golden”, so I used a Tamiya gold lacquer, followed by Tamiya lavender.

After several rummages through the source material, it seemed everything about Kirby’s 70’s costume had a reflective surface, so I went with a gloss all over—using Tamiya Red and Gloss Lemon Yellow. I’m not usually a fan of too much gloss (my Gavyn Starman hurt my eyes when I did that and had to be muted) but it sees to be accurate here. Gloss paint was also a better choice for another reason—red and yellow suck to try to get an even coat, as anyone who’s done a custom with them knows. The gloss smoothes out the brushstrokes and seems to dry as a unified surface, which flat wouldn’t have. I’d probably still be putting coats on.

The black detailing was done with extra fine Sharpie marker!

There were several versions of the gold/purple costume, originally including even a cape, but I choose the one most frequently seen.

I like to think that Kirby and those who came after with the character were working with ‘dream-logic’ when it came to costume details for 70’s Sandman. Often the specific changed, even from panel to panel: cape and collar attached or not, the black detailing fills in or doesn’t, the piping down the center is there or not (and later, in Wonder Woman or Gaiman’s Sandman, is replaced with an hourglass), but I went with first appearance.


The cape took some figuring. The collar is actually separate form where the cape joins onto the costume—not at the neck, like other heroes, but at the pecs.

Eventually, I ended up using the overly flowing cape from the DCSH Superman, and the collar from a DCUC Mr. Miracle. I dremelled troughs for their insertion and were glued in place. They were then joined at the back using Milliput.

I love this character and now have a figure that matches his real adventuring days.

Mattel played it safe and went with the traditional Wes Dodds costume. The 4H sure loved their Kirby and I wish they had gone for the risky move.

Now, about that Sandy The Golden Boy figure…

Deane, we’ll never be satisfied. I’m already thinking about making a Brute and Glob to go with mine!


NEXT ON Atomic 2ON1:   A guarded secret…!

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Filed under Deane Aikins, Rod Keith

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