‘The Sandman’ creator reveals how he knew Netflix would be the one to defeat development hell

Poster for The Sandman with Tom Sturridge
Image via Netflix

Development hells are always an unfortunate thing to befall a franchise and its fandom, but in the case of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, the creator has repeatedly assured us that spending more than three decades in the wings actually worked in the favor of his story. And now, instead of middling adaptations and downright controversial takes on the brilliantly spun tale of Morpheus, we have a series that finally does the fantastical story justice.

Then again, so many creatives have attempted to adapt The Sandman for the big screens or television that fans half-expected this one to fail as well, or get stuck somewhere between shooting the pilot and contemplating the cost for special effects. According to Gaiman, who revealed this in a new chat with Collider, he knew things would be different this time when he realized just how much creative leeway Netflix was going to give him.

“Yes, because every other time, I was that guy who wrote the comics, but I was to be kept at arms’ length, shown terrible scripts on severance, and ignored. That was my function. This was the first time that they’d ever come to me. David S. Goyer talked to Warner Bros., and then David and Warner came to me and said, ‘We now know that you’re a showrunner. You’ve done Good Omens. You’ve won awards as a scriptwriter. We know that you know how to do this. Please, can we do this together?’

“It was the first time anybody had actually invited me to become part of the team making Sandman. And then, David suggested Allan [Heinberg]. Allan came to dinner on a Friday night, proud of owning a page from Sandman, which I had signed for him in 1996, and by Monday morning, the three of us were pitching to Netflix and every other major streamer, and they were pitching to us why Sandman belonged on their network. A week later, Sandman was at Netflix.”

Well, well, who would’ve thunk that in order to get a good adaptation, all you needed was to heed its creator’s words and actually bring onboard people who give a damn about the story?

It almost feels like Hollywood would do well to take a page out of The Sandman‘s history, though they’re probably more likely to ignore it. This isn’t, after all, the first instance of an adaptation working really well for those very reasons, and nor will it be the last.