Expert Editor Leslie Klinger Talks About ‘The Annotated Sandman’

Expert researcher and editor Leslie S. Klinger is best known for his Edgar-winning book “The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes” and the critically acclaimed “New Annotated Dracula.” His latest project was putting together “The Annotated Sandman” for Vertigo Comics. I had the opportunity to talk to Klinger about his extensive work on the legendary comic book series.

Can you explain the process of annotating and talk about doing it for ‘The Sandman?”

First, you have to read the whole thing and hold it all in your head. Annotations are spoilers. It’s part of it. Good annotations are going to cross reference. They’re going to say, “Here [the author] is foreshadowing something that’s going to happen 50 issues later.” You have to have the whole arc in your head. You can’t just start on page one in annotating. You have to know where you’re going.

The second part is to go through panel by panel and look at them with a magnifying glass. I don’t mean literally, although in some cases I did. [You have to] say to yourself, “What is in this panel that is puzzling, interesting, surprising, or maybe just cool. [What is] something people didn’t notice. That’s really intense because it has to be slow and almost word by word. It’s a different thing.

When I first started doing the annotations of the Sherlock Holmes books it was really a revelation. [I started] to read the stories at that basic level word by word and think about them instead of just going with the narrative flow.

The third part of it is to go back to the original material. In the case of Holmes and Dracula those are the manuscripts of the writers. In this case it was the scripts written by Neil Gaiman. I went to those looking for material that didn’t show up on the printed page and there was a great deal of it. I was able to pull that together and embed those nuggets in appropriate places in the books. The big difference between this project and the others was having a living author who was willing to talk to me.

You’ve annotated a lot of classic literature and Victorian era writings. Why “The Sandman?”

When I read it I saw how rich it was. It was a treasure trove. I should back up and explain why I annotate at all. What’s the point? The point to me is like the bonus tracks of a DVD. You can listen to commentary of somebody who made, worked, or wrote the script for the movie talking in your left ear while your right ear is watching the film. It’s not just about answering questions. It’s not just about translating stuff.

Some of that is boring. It’s about adding things that the readers will [think is] really cool and upping their level of enjoyment of the original material. I’ve said you could do an annotated [version of] just about anything. I think someday people will be doing “The Annotated Jacqueline Susann” or “The Annotated Valley of the Dolls.” There certainly will come a time when the cultural references in a book like that will no longer be intelligible. “The Sandman” was so rich with so many periods, different eras, different mythologies, pop culture references, and all the DC Comic universe references. I just thought, “Wow. This is like a giant toy box. I’m going to get to write cool annotations of that.” [There’s] a lot of really fun and geeky fanboy stuff. That’s why I wanted to do it.

For more articles by Eric Shirey, check out:

‘The Annotated Sandman’ Will Thrill Fans of Neil Gaiman
‘Fables’ Holiday Issue Gives Us ‘A Christmas Carol’
‘The Ray’ Writers Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti Discuss the New Version

Eric Shirey is the founder and editor of Rondo Award nominated movie and comic book news websites and His work has been featured on Yahoo!, DC Comics,, and other national entertainment websites. Besides his three decades long obsession with everything sci-fi, horror, and fantasy related in TV and movies, Eric has what some would call an unhealthy love for comic books. This has led him to interviewing and covering legendary writers and artists in the medium like Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, Steve Niles, Bernie Wrightson, and Howard Chaykin.

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