It’s taken 35 years, a journey through development hell, a bidding war, and more than a few nightmares, but writer Neil Gaiman reckons he’s finally done the impossible. he he has brought The Sandman to the screen, without ruining the story.
The comic, which was first described in 1987, had an original print run at DC Comics from 1989 to 1996. Among those who read it, The Sandman Since then, it has gained a cult following as one of the most influential and creative literary works in the world of comics.
But despite spawning a Hugo Award-winning prequel, an entire universe of spin-offs so popular some are already turning into his own seriesand millions of fans clamoring for a television or film adaptation, it never happened.
In an interview with CBC, creator Neil Gaiman previously said that it just wasn’t possible to bring that story to screen. The Sandman follows the somewhat titular character (most often called Dream, but also known as Morpheus, Lord Shaper, Kai-ckul, and yes, Sandman) as he rules his domain: the land of dreams that all living things go to when they sleep, and where everything dreamed becomes real.
That puts virtually all fictional beings, and some real ones important enough to acquire mythical status, firmly within Gaiman’s grasp. Reading The Sandman it’s like taking part in humanity’s greatest crossover episode: everyone from fellow DC superheroes to ancient Egyptian gods, Shakespeare, Lucifer, God, and Cain and Abel aid and abet the Lord of Dreams. Even Loki, the Norse god made famous recently by his prominent role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, plays a role in the long-running plot. The Sandman arrangement of books.
Gaiman himself spent decades shutting down attempts to bring his creation to the screen; he had too much in there for a traditional movie or TV show. Featuring the genre jump between horror and fantasy (while also touching on everything in between), fantastical visuals made by some of the most influential artists in the medium (original Sandman artist Dave McKean even came out of retirement to design the show’s credits) and a troubling philosophical subject, for thirty years it proved too difficult for any writer to tackle.
And when did they try anyway?
“All that happens is you break your heart trying to figure out how to create a plot that is really Sandman,” he said.
It wasn’t until the way we make and watch television series was reinvented, that Gaiman really considered the Sandman could work outside of a comic.
“I think it’s that thing where something that was a huge bug suddenly became a feature,” he said. Even a decade ago, a two-hour movie was considered the sweet spot for big-budget storytelling, and TV shows were locked into a rigid 21- or 42-minute framework. Streaming has opened that up.
“Times have changed, and all of a sudden the idea that you have a 3,000-page story that could turn into 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 hours of quality television becomes something that’s actually a huge feature. and wonderful. thing.”
The final product, which dropped today on Netflix, only scratches the surface of the source material (for comic book fans, the first season goes as far as the “A Doll’s House” arc in issues 9-16), but it still manages to present a good amount of the world and its characters.
That, of course, includes Dream himself, played by English actor Tom Sturridge, who was presented with another central problem in the story. How do you play a character who isn’t even human, who walks through the comics with total detachment from living beings, as someone who really matters to the public?
“I think he’s emotional, but I think out of necessity he has to hide that emotion,” Sturridge said.
The show is as much about the supporting characters as it is about Dream, and sometimes more about them.
Wide cast of characters
Vanesu Samunyai plays Rose Walker, a major leading lady in the “Doll’s House” arc, her first credited role. She said that she earned the role after years of auditions and right before she quit acting altogether.
His choice was part of a series of comic book changes that angered some fans and saw Gaiman fight back.
Having Samunyai, who is black, play Walker changes the character, who was white in the comics. He also has a ripple effect on various members of his family, also important figures in the story, who are similarly portrayed by black actors.
That’s not the end of the changes Sandman team made Lucifer, a major antagonist early on, was primarily drawn to appearing more typically male in the comics, though that’s not the case previously in Gaiman’s books.
In the Netflix series, Game of ThroneThe Gwendoline Christie actress takes on the role of Lucifer, something she didn’t see as a problem in Gaiman’s nuanced world. Sandman.
“There is no gender involved at all, because Lucifer is not human,” Christie said. “Lucifer was an angel, so that didn’t bother me at all.”
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Elsewhere, the canonically non-binary character Desire, another of Dream’s siblings, is played by non-binary actor Mason Alexander Park. Dream’s sister Death, arguably just as or more beloved by fans than her brother, is played by black actress Kirby Howell-Baptiste. As she was originally drawn as a white female, Gaiman was forced to defend the choice after some fans posted angry comments about her casting.
For her part, Baptiste said she’s excited to show a different portrayal of Death, who is often depicted as the Grim Reaper in modern media.
“I think people will find a great surprise and a great comfort in seeing this character who is caring, caring and motherly,” she said.
“I care zero for people who don’t understand/haven’t read Sandman complaining about a non-binary Wish or that Death is not white enough”, Gaiman tweeted last year, after the cast list was made public. “Watch the show, make a decision.”
And finally, the only character Gaiman said that the team “intentionally changed genderit’s Lucienne, known as Lucien in the books.
Like her co-stars, actress Vivienne Acheampong didn’t see much of a problem with the change: It’s just another aspect of Gaiman’s take on the superhero genre, one that feels considerably more complex than other offerings in the mainstream.
“All [Gaiman’s] the characters are so rich, and the essence of that character is there,” Acheampong said. “He’s embodied in a different way [than] it’s on the page or maybe some people have imagined it. But the essence of this being… has not changed, that is still there and very present and what I want to portray”.