Over 30 years since the DC/Vertigo series first wowed comic book readers, Neil Gaiman’s seminal The Sandman is finally making its way to screens. Netflix has yet to confirm a release date for the hotly anticipated show, but it’s thought that the mythological fantasy series will hit streaming sometime later this year.
Those who are already devotees of the source material can’t wait to see how Gaiman, who is serving as an EP alongside Allan Heinberg (Wonder Woman) and David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight), has adapted his own work for a different medium and whether it can keep the poetic, epic quality that makes the comics so beloved. It’s certainly got a terrific cast to bring it to life, including Tom Sturridge, Gwendoline Christie, Boyd Holbrook, and Kirby Howell-Baptiste.
But those who are unfamiliar with what’s on the page might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Is The Sandman a superhero show? Will it crossover with the wider DC universe? And just who or what is the Sandman, anyway?
What is The Sandman about?
First up, let’s start with a quick history lesson. In the later 1980s, rising talent Neil Gaiman was asked by DC to reboot the Golden Age superhero Sandman. Instead of utilizing any established versions of the character, Gaiman — nowadays famous for penning the likes of Coraline, Stardust, and American Gods — started from scratch and kept nothing but the name.
The result was a unique title in DC’s library that built out its own mythology, with the stories ranging from horror, fantasy, comedy, and more and taking place throughout time, space, and the metaphysical realms. The acclaimed series ran for 75 issues from 1989-1996.
Due to the obvious difficulty in tackling such an ambitious tale, it’s taken until now for The Sandman to come alive on screen. The first season of the Netflix show will be 11 episodes long and adapt the first two volumes of the 10-volume saga, “Preludes & Nocturnes” and “The Doll’s House.” Here’s the brief synopsis Netflix has released so far:
“Upon escaping after decades of imprisonment by a mortal wizard, Dream, the personification of dreams, sets about to reclaim his lost equipment.”
OK, but who is Dream?
Simply put, Dream ⏤ as his name suggests ⏤ is the personification of dreams. More specifically, he is one of the seven Endless, abstract beings older than gods who embody fundamental concepts of the universe. Morpheus’ six siblings are Death, Destiny, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium (previously Delight).
Morpheus typically appears as a tall, thin pale man with a mass of black hair (an appearance modeled after Gaiman himself). However, he can appear in any form he wants and generally adapts himself depending on the ethnicity, era, or even species of the person perceiving him. In all of his forms, though, he is identifiable by his black eyes, each containing a star. Well, at least in the comics. This does not appear to have been carried over to the TV show, for obvious reasons.
Dream’s kingdom is known as the Dreaming, a constantly-changing landscape which is essentially the metaphysical realm that people unknowingly visit when they dream. Having observed the fantasies of humanity for centuries, Morpheus is one of the more human members of the Endless, although he is also emotionally detached and distant due to his ancient and god-like nature.
So does Dream team up with other DC heroes?
As such, Sandman isn’t really the kind of character to team up with DC’s roster of superheroes, although — this being comics — various elements of the Sandman mythos have crossed over into the mainstream DC universe over the decades. But we would expect the DC-ness of the Netflix show to be kept to a minimum.
For instance, Dream does partner up with John Constantine on the page. For the TV show, however, John will be replaced by his ancestor, Johanna Constantine, as played by Jenna Coleman. Likewise, Tom Ellis was considered to reprise his role as Lucifer, but producers ultimately elected to flip the character’s gender and cast Gwendoline Christie.
Less recognizable DC universe characters will still turn up, however. David Thewlis features as crazed supervillain Doctor Destiny, while Lloyd Everett has a recurring role as Hector Hall, the Silver Age Sandman, with Razane Jammal as his wife, Lyta.
Expect further updates on Netflix’s The Sandman to awaken soon.