Are we living in the Sandman’s nightmare?

For thousands of years, dreams have been one of mankind’s greatest enigmas. Humans have never found the answer to whether or not dreams have meaning, or how dreams take us to unknown places we’ve never been to, or the secret of why some people’s dreams seem to come true. Dreams pique our curiosity, and the dream world we fall into almost every time we sleep has a very important place in comic books.

For most comic book fans, when someone says “dreams,” the first name to come to mind is the Sandman. Re-created by Neil Gaiman and now a classic, the Sandman is considered one of the best graphic novels of all time.


The Sandman isn’t well known in Turkey, but he’s pretty famous in the US. He’s the lord of the dream world, and he is the one who gives us nightmares and night terrors. He knows what people see in their dreams, and when he wants to, he can even show dreams inside of dreams and cause people great sorrow.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman story starts with Morpheus (the god of dreams), who’s been accidentally imprisoned by a group that wants to capture death and take its powers. Morpheus was sent to prison on 10 June 1916, and in 1988, he manages to get set free. A lot has changed while he was put away, and although Sandman’s fascination with the stories of millions of people begins when he’s set free in 1988, he is sometimes also returned to the past.

Because Morpheus is the god of dreams, he can make people have nightmares that cause them to go insane, but he can also give people a peaceful sleep with happy dreams. Even when his powers were at their weakest, he was able to stand up to Lucifer and take a walk alone among the demons in Hell.


After he is set free, Morpheus doesn’t just bring to the world his experience gained from playing with the fabric of dreams and nightmares; he also has a supernatural power that helps him when things get out of control on Earth, and he has been alive for a very long time.

Today, it’s as though the world is in the same chaotic state it was in when Morpheus was first locked up. Along with the increasing polarisation among nations, many countries are also seeing violent rifts within their own borders. In countries where increasingly authoritarian regimes use democratic means to take power, this division is especially deep between those who voted for the leader and the rest of the country. There are many examples of this—Turkey, Russia, and Hungary, to name a few. The same could even be said about the US although authoritarianism there is impeded by the healthy separation of powers.

It’s as though people have left their common sense behind, and they can no longer even listen to what the other side is saying. More and more, it seems like the world takes pleasure from making into reality our nightmares, night terrors, and the chaos that is whispered in our ears.

What no one seems to notice is that it’s pretty much impossible for a Sandman to come along and change this state of affairs, but if we continue the way we’re going, it will lead to a world war or a natural disaster on a scale mankind has never encountered before. We’re like people who once tasted a dream life but are now watching, powerless, as that dream turns into a nightmare. When we finally realize that if people see each other as enemies that need to be destroyed, we’ll find can’t do anything because at some point, we’re actually all someone else’s enemies that need to be destroyed.

As long as I’m discussing dreams, I’d like to talk about Abdülcanbaz, one of Turkey’s most well-known comic book heroes. Abdülcanbaz, illustrated by Turhan Selçuk, first appeared in 1957. One thing not many people know about him is that he was a con man, and even fewer people know that all of his heroics actually happened in a dream.


For years, Abdülcanbaz was known as a goodhearted Istanbul gentleman with no tolerance for injustice. He was undefeated, his backhanded slap was famous, and he fought all manner of evil, but all of these things were just Abdülcanbaz’s dream.


In Turhan Selçuk’s own story of how Abdülcanbaz came to be, Selçuk didn’t know anything about comics, so he went to one of Turkey’s most famous humourists, Aziz Nesin, for help, and Nesin wrote the first Abdülcanbaz stories. When Nesin said he wouldn’t write it anymore, Selçuk struck a deal with another well-known humourist, Rıfat Ilgaz. Since Ilgaz joined later on, Selçuk did the illustrations and Ilgaz wrote the stories.


Until this point, Abdülcanbaz had lived in contemporary Istanbul; he was a charlatan, a swindler, and a tourist guide. Later, he’s looking for a house for him and Tarzan to live in, but he can’t find one. He rents a dog kennel for the night, and there he falls asleep and has a dream. The Abdülcanbaz everyone knows, the goodhearted, justice-loving, Istanbul gentleman, is a product of this dream. Because Abdülcanbaz never wakes up, the rest of his adventures are a continuation of this dream.


Looking at everything that’s happening in Turkey, a lot of people are wondering whether or not they’re living in adream-likee Abdülcanbaz’s. There will always be people who do their jobs badly or try to cheat, telling themselves that everyone does it. Of cours,e they know deep down what they are because it’s very hard for people to lie to themselves, but at the same time, for their friends and the people around them, they are like Abdülcanbaz’s dream and showing themselves as good people. They are always honest, they do their jobs well, and their love for their country is endless. However, shortcuts make them rich, the law can’t touch them, and they are kings of their own trash heaps.

Like everyone living in an imaginary world, these people do not like facing facts or questions. To protect their own interests, they suppress any mention of double standards in the country. The most interesting thing is that for them, the whole world is wrong as though they were Galileo, and they claim that only they know the facts. They don’t see that the country is being dragged into a nightmare and that dreams like Abdülcanbaz’s can turn bad.

My hope is that one day the world will awaken from this terrible nightmare and that we will use what we have seen to build a better future.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.
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