Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Genre Character of the Week: Matthew the Raven

It had to happen at some point, I've been doing genre characters of the week since I focused on Miles Vorkosigan last October, and even with my very large list of favourite characters I knew someday I would have to tackle some of the major genre works out there.

Today I'm taking a look at Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. Not the title character himself (wow, would that be tricky), and not the Golden Age Sandman (he'll get a post eventually). Nope, I've always had a pretty special spot in my heart for one of the minor characters of the Sandman series: Matthew the Raven (pictured left).

Matthew first caught my attention in The Doll's House storyline. Morpheus was using Matthew to keep an eye on Rose Walker, a human of some interest (I'm going to try to stay away from major spoilers about the Sandman storyline for those of you who haven't read it yet). One of the first things Matthew describes is feeling Morpheus in the back of his head while he is watching the girl, and confesses he still hasn't got used to that feeling.

This, for me, was the first time I realized Matthew was new to The Dreaming (The realm ruled over by Morpheus, a.k.a. The Sandman, a personification of Dreams), and as he seemed, strangely, to be the most human denizen of the Dreaming, he quickly became a favourite character of mine.

Matthew has got a lot of heart, and a lot of baggage, for a raven. He does what Morpheus asks of him, but is often confused at Morpheus' actions and decisions, as they don't line up with what Matthew sees as right and wrong - in a lot of ways Matthew speaks for the audience, not unlike the character of Hugo "Hurley" Reyes in Lost.

I first read Sandman as it came out - which back in the '90s meant there was no Wikipedia, only BBSs which offerred conjecture but no definite answers as to the backgrounds of characters. I had a lot of theories about Matthew as he developed over the 75 issue run of The Sandman, but I had to wait until issue 72 before my theories were confirmed (pictured right). Although I won't tell you exactly who Matthew is, I will say his character arc in The Sandman is an arc of redemption and you can begin reading his back story here.

In the end Matthew is a very human character, and sits very high on my list of personal favourites. Although there are tonnes of reasons to read The Sandman, watching the character of Matthew grow and develop is definitely one of mine.

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