Superhero Spotlight: Sandman

Chris Diver

Before Neil Gaiman created a character of the same name or Marvel created a villain of the same name, DC created the hero Wesley Dodds, aka Sandman. With a pulp comics feel to him, wearing an iconic fedora, gas mask, and suit, and carrying a gun filled with sleeping gas, Sandman has been a hero of the DC Universe for eighty years this coming January, having first appeared in New York World’s Fair Comics #1 in 1939. Sandman was created by Gardner Fox and Bert Christman.

Wesley Dodds is one of the few comic characters who, for most of his run, has abided by the real-life time instead of the comic book time. Dodds was born in 1910 and lost his mother when he was seven. Dodds went on to spend a large amount of his childhood globetrotting with his father and visiting Asia where he learned a variety of skills. With plans to become a writer, Dodds lost his father and he became the owner of his father’s estate instead of becoming a businessman. Dodds also is a veteran, having served in the Navy as a pilot in the 30s and later returned to military life alongside the Justice Society during World War 2.

Dodds became a superhero through interesting means. Dodds kept receiving dreams of different crimes being committed and decided to do something about it, using his background in herbalism to create a knockout gas and built a gas mask allowing him to hunt down criminals that he saw in his dream.

Eventually, Dodds showed up at the event that brought him into this world: The 1938 World’s Fair. Dodds saved a Secret Service agent and also stopped the Phantom of the Fair with the help of the Crimson Avenger. Dodds harnessed his desire to fight crime, thus, becoming The Sandman and going after the serial killer Tarantula. Dodds would also team up with long time girlfriend Dian Belmont, who unlike many superhero girlfriends was more of a partner and less of a damsel in distress, often aiding Dodds on his missions.

In 1941, America entered World War 2, and like many heroes of the time, Dodds worked with the Allies to defeat the Axis powers, both in universe and outside the universe by raising support for soldiers amongst young fans. Dodds embarked into the war alongside the group the Justice Society in which he was a founding member. Dodds also would be a founding member of the All-Star Squadron, another group that helped the war effort. After stopping the villain Ian Karkull from murdering White House associates, Dodds gained the ability to age slower than normal.

Eventually, Dodds retired after his new associate Sandy Hawkins turned into a monster following the pair trying to disable a weapon. Dodds gave up his identity of Sandman on the grounds he believed he would be blamed for Sandy’s accident. Dodds spent most of his time with Dian trying to cure Sandy. Dodds would occasionally come out of retirement wearing his original costume helping the Justice League and the Justice Society. Dodds would eventually receive dreams of the next Doctor Fate which got the attention of the villain Mordru. Dodds was tortured by Mordru into giving up information but chose to take his own life instead of giving Mordru power.

Dodds has also had appearances in alternate continuities with Dodds and his dreams kickstarting the 1996 story Kingdom Come after he passes the visions of the apocalypse to his friend Norman McCray. Currently Dodds exists in the Earth-2 continuity as a member of the World Army leading his own paramilitary force known as “The Sandmen”

Wesley Dodds has appeared in Young Justice, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and DC Superhero Girls but has not had a speaking role in any show. Dodds did appear in live action in the Smallville episode “Absolute Justice” played by Ken Lawson.