If you’ve been on the geek side of the internet for a while, you’ve probably heard of The Sandman. A 1988 comic book series written by British fantasy writer Neil Gaiman and drawn by a rotating team of artists. The Sandman (and its many spinoffs) is a classic of the medium: a perennial “first comic” recommended in libraries and comic shops, winner of numerous awards, and a showcase of Gaiman’s love of myths, stories about stories, and light-hearted goths. .
However, the series has also been the subject of a legendaryly troubled production history. The last two decades are littered with remnants of Sandman adaptations that never got off the ground.
But somehow they finally pulled it off: Netflix has premiered the first season of The SandmanThe long-awaited live-action adaptation of. Comic book fans are trembling in anticipation. But if you’ve never read a page of Gaiman’s work, he may be a little confused by the trailers and promos for him. What is this story really about? Why is Patton Oswalt a raven? And why was it so difficult to get this off the ground in the first place?
We’ve answered your biggest questions about the animated fantasy series below, so you’ll be ready to go in no time.
What is The Sandman on?
The first trailers for the Netflix adaptation of The Sandman they are, generously, more tone poems than direct explanations of the premise. So here’s the premise of the first season: Morpheus, aka Dream (a perfectly depressed-looking Tom Sturridge), is the king of dreams, the land at the source of all stories. A sorcerer trying to imprison his sister, Death incarnate (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), blunders and traps Morpheus.
This, as you can imagine, makes things a real cosmic mess. When Morpheus is freed, his kingdom has collapsed. His servants, such as Lucienne (Vivienne Acheampong) and Matthew the Raven (Patton Oswalt), are missing. Many of the nightmares he rules over, including a grinning psychopath with teeth for eyes named Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), have escaped into the waking world. And his powers have been scattered, and some of them have fallen into the hands of Hell, represented by Lucifer (Gwendolyn Christie).
This first season of The Sandman-that adapts at least the first two comic book collections, Preludes and Nocturnes Y the doll house—It’s about the king of dreams who loses everything and has to get it back. In doing so, he realizes that he must change or die. Ultimately, the comic series is about him making that choice.
The Sandman it’s a DC Comics adaptation, but not the kind you think
In the 1970s, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created the character of Garrett Sanford, a superhero who guarded the world of dreams. (It was DC’s second round at-bat under the name; an earlier Sandman, loitering behind criminals in a gas mask and gas pistol, first appeared in 1939.)
Gaiman liked the character enough to launch a revival, and legendary DC editor Karen Burger liked Gaiman’s pitch enough to go along with it. However, Burger’s deal came with one condition: Gaiman could keep the Sandman name, but he had to create an entirely new character. The result, as envisioned by Gaiman and artists Dave McKean and Leigh Baulch, was the gaunt, black-eyed Morpheus. Rather than a crime fighter or silver age superhero, Morpheus would be the embodiment of Dream, one of a set of seven siblings who represent concepts like Desire, Death, and Destiny.
The first number of The Sandman It was released in 1988 as part of a horror-focused mature reader line at DC Comics. Initially, the book was quite tied to the DC Universe; Dream appeared in series like swamp thing Y hellblazer, and characters like John Constantine and Justice League villain Doctor Destiny appear early on. Other DC mainstays, including characters from the Justice Society, the Justice League, and the Simon/Kirby Sandman run, also appear, often in single-issue stories.
Some of those DC characters, like Doctor Destiny, under the name John Dee (David Thewlis), will have a presence in the series. Others, like John Constantine (whom you might recognize from the Keanu Reeves movie constantine or Matthew Ryan’s one-season NBC show of the same name), have been changed to different versions. In the case of Constantine, the character on the show will be Joan Constantine (Jenna Louise Coleman) a Gaiman-created ancestor of the more familiar John Constantine. That’s probably all for cameos, though: Martian Manhunter and Superman likely won’t show up here.
It’s taken decades to bring The Sandman to the screens
The Sandman it’s a difficult story to adapt, given its ambition, the breadth of its scope, and its general disinterest in strict, focused serialization. Over 10 collected volumes, Dream’s ongoing story is woven into a loose anthology of short stories that draw on myths, folktales, history, and comics. To be honest, it’s not a terribly plot-driven story: the journey and the detours matter much more than the destination.
Hollywood, unfortunately, is in the destination business, and The Sandman it was too popular a series for people to resist trying it. Most of these attempts took the form of film adaptations, which, as Gaiman pointed out in a recent podcast interview, fatally undermined the nature of the comic. “You have 3,000 pages of history and trying to squeeze it into a two-hour movie meant you ended up throwing away everything you did. Sandman interesting,” he said, “and you ended up with something that meant nothing. So that was what happened over and over again while Sandman scripts would be written.”
For two decades, a Sandman The film adaptation was locked in development hell, with writers and directors coming and going, and no real prospect of escape. In 2013, Gaiman called a script that Warner Brothers. sent his way “not only the worst Sandman script I’ve ever seen, but easily the worst script I’ve ever read.”
That same year, David S. Goyer—writer of Batman Begins Y Iron Man, and producer of Matt Ryan constantinedecided to get The Sandman over the finish line like a movie. Initially, he seemed to have a good shot at it: Joseph Gordon Levitt signed on to play Morpheus, and WB seemed pleased with the initial script. One day after the 2016 announcement that screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival) had been included in the project, Joseph Gordon Levitt left, citing creative conflicts. Heisserer dropped out of the film after submitting his draft, arguing that the project would be better as a television show.
Things hadn’t gone any better on the television front, either. DC Entertainment spent time in 2010 trying to get a television production, including versions directed by James Mangold (Logan) Y Supernatural creator Eric Kripke: unstuck. The Goyer project derailed those plans. When that movie inevitably imploded, jaded comic book fans reasonably concluded that the adaptation just wasn’t going to happen.
When Netflix announced a Gaiman/Goyer co-production of The Sandman in 2019, the general attitude was “if you say so”. However, in 2021, the streamer revealed the full cast, along with an eventual first sneak peek. Finally, there was tangible proof that The Sandman it was going to reach people’s televisions.
How long it will stay there, on the other hand, is an open question. Netflix has seen better days, and the platform has become infamous for canceling beloved projects after a few seasons. (RIP RADIANCE. He is missed.) There is also the question of whether, to be frank,The Sandman it’s going to be good, either as an adaptation of a beloved comic or as a TV show in its own right.
There’s only one way to find out: All episodes of the first season premiere on August 5. Happy dreams.