The Sandman was one of those groundbreaking comic book properties that has long eluded Hollywood. But nevertheless, Neil Gaiman‘s surreal, fantastical graphic novel series would leave its mark on pop culture since its publication in 1989, and continues to do so today with the writer continually returning to his beloved series, first to write new adventures for Morpheus, the anthropomorphic personification of Dream, then to help develop the audio and live-action adaptations of The Sandman.
As The Sandman readies itself for its first-ever live-action adaptation with Netflix, Gaiman got together with The Sandman audio drama director Dirk Maggs, The Dreaming: Waking Hours writer G. Willow Wilson, and longtime Sandman fan and audio drama star Michael Sheen (who, in his own words, voices “Lucifer as played by David Bowie”) discuss the legacy of The Sandman comic book series at a DC FanDome panel moderated by Yvette Nicole Brown.
It’s never been a better time to be a Sandman fan. After decades of attempted adaptations never getting off the ground, Gaiman’s beloved graphic novel series is getting not one, but two adaptations — one for audio, and one for the small screen. The Audible audio drama, which loyally adapts the first 20 chapters of The Sandman graphic novels, recently debuted to positive reception. But Netflix’s adaptation will be “slightly looser,” Gaiman teased at The Sandman Universe: Enter the Dreaming panel at DC FanDome.
“Part of the joy of doing the audio adaptation was going, ‘This is the nearest thing we can do to an audio book of those first three graphic novels, and hopefully all the graphic novels,’” Gaiman said. “And we’re going to start it in 1988 and it’s going to end in 1992. Sandman is a very compressed story even if it takes place in all of time and space.” So how will Netflix’s adaptation differ?
“What we’re doing with Neflix is it’s still going to start in 1916 but the thing that happened in Sandman, the point that the story starts is not 1988, it’s now. And how does that change the story? What does that give us? What does that make us have to look at that we wouldn’t have had to look at if we were setting it as a period piece? What does that do to the gender of characters, the nature of characters? What does it actually do to the story And that has been an absolute delight because it means we are always beint rue to the story and being true to the characters, but it gives us tremendous freedom to go, ‘If we’re doing it now, what would Sandman be?’ And that has been very liberating.
Multiple attempts have been made over the years to adapt The Sandman, with Warner Bros. periodically planning adaptations throughout the ’90s, and writers like Roger Avary, David S. Goyer, Jack Thorne, and Eric Heisserer coming and going, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt at one point set to take on the role of Morpheus. But the difference with the new adaptations may be Gaiman’s more heavy involvement. The newly released Audible audio drama directed by Maggs, starring James McAvoy, Kat Dennings, and more, is narrated by Gaiman. And the highly anticipated Netflix series is deep in the production design phase, with Gaiman heavily involved. But even Gaiman doesn’t have the same power to alter reality as his characters do, relaying that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has put the “pause button” on the series. But, it has given a chance for the writers to “perfect” the scripts, Gaiman teased.
“Due to COVID, as with every other piece of television being made around the world right now, somebody pushed a giant pause button. And we’ve taken advantage of the pause button to get the scripts as close to perfect as we possibly could. Right now, as the universal pause button is starting to come off, we’re starting the cast again. I’m getting these inspiring and wonderful emails with production designs with places that I’ve only ever seen in the comics before, now being rendered in 3D and then being asked to comment on it. That’s amazing.”
No release date has yet been set for The Sandman Netflix series. The Sandman audio drama is now available to purchase on Audible.
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August 22, 2020