Rape and Revenge in Graphic Detail: Neil Gaiman's "Calliope," in The Sandman Comic Series

  • Justine Gieni University of Saskatchewan


Neil Gaiman's ability to weave fantasy, fairytales, folktales, mythology, canonical literature, and Gothic horror into his creative medium has played a significant role in elevating graphic literature as a subject for scholarly discourses. The Sandman series is often recognized as Gaiman's most influential contribution to graphic literature. As an epic series, spanning seventy-five issues from 1989 to 1996, The Sandman tales center on the figure of Dream/Oneiros/Morpheus, the personification of the unconscious, ruler of dreams and nightmares, and all that is kept hidden from waking consciousness (Sanders 18). In this regard, Gaiman's protagonist embodies the psychological fascination within the Gothic tradition, with the monstrosities that dwell deep within the human psyche. As part of Gaiman's extended fantasy discourse of The Sandmanseries, the story "Calliope" stands out as one of Gaiman's most overtly feminist polemics. In this tale of rape and revenge, Gaiman provides a powerful critique of male-driven economies of power and privilege through his depiction of sexual violence. Specifically, Gaiman challenges the conventional view of male mastery by illustrating the dualities of masculine creativity and failure, strength and weakness, virility and impotence, phallus and lack, as the conflicts that characterize the men of his story. In this way, Gaiman illustrates the impotence of the male perpetrators, Richard Madoc and Erasmus Fry, who violently exploit the muse Calliope by raping her and stealing her creativity to fulfill their selfish ambitions of fame and fortune.
How to Cite
Gieni, Justine. 2011. “Rape and Revenge in Graphic Detail: Neil Gaiman’s "Calliope," In The Sandman Comic Series”. FORUM: University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture & The Arts, no. 13 (December). https://forumjournal.org/article/view/675.