Sandman Roundtable: Perchance To Stream?

With news that a Sandman show has been picked up for 11 episodes by Netflix under the team of Neil Gaiman, David Goyer, and Allan Heinberg, we held a roundtable chat about Sandman: what it means to us, what we want from a TV adaptation, and the continuing Sandman universe.

What is your history with The Sandman (just Sandman for ease of writing)?

Kade: This was another book I read from the library over the years. Finding random volumes out of order here and there, but finally reading it all at once in college. Sandman was my first introduction to Neil Gaiman who’s now one of my favorites in comics and novels. 

Thomas: Have you ever avoided something due to over-hype? I have. I didn’t play Undertale until a couple of years after its initial release. That was mainly because I live on the internet, and everyone was already shouting about its best parts. However, once I played it for myself, I was utterly charmed. Sandman is a bit like that. So many people talk about its status as their Favorite Comic Ever that, for my own petty, contrarian reasons, I left it alone. I did read the first volume on a friend’s recommendation and enjoyed it, and Sandman: Overture rocked my eyeballs. The whole series of trades has been sitting on my shelf for several years now. I expect it will be quite a ride when I get up the nerve to give the rest of the series a fair shake.

Danielle: Being new to the Sandman world, my “history” is limited to the current run of the Sandman Universe in Vertigo. However, I’ve been reading The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes. It’s an escape to a fantastically dark work filled with both modern and established mythologies, twisted with bright, fun, and magical, ideas that you never see coming. I started to read the Sandman Universe series because I connected to The Dreaming world of misfits and wanted more. As a fan of Neil Gaiman, I expected to love the characters, but now adding Sandman himself to the mix, I’m obsessed.

CJ: In high school, my library had quite a collection of graphic novels. One of them was the first volume of Sandman, and it hooked me right then. It read, looked, and felt like no comic I’d ever seen before; there were no villains to fight, no apocalypses to prevent—just a twisty, turning, spellbinding mythology.

What does Sandman mean to you?

Kade: The book spoke to an aesthetic part of me I’d never really noticed before. It was like having my brain injected with this beautiful conceptual dream mythology that stuck in infinitely imaginative ways to which I’d never think the same way again. 

Danielle: In today’s world, we need something to engage us and make us dream of both the good and bad. Something to remind us that life is not black and white but a mix of oddities with different quirks and perspectives. The Sandman Universe is that reminder for me; just when you think you’ve seen it all, there is more to discover, not to mention it’s just a fun read.

What is your dream adaptation of Sandman like? (pun intended)

Kade: It’s practically the Twilight Zone with an overarching story. It has possibly the best continuity of any story I’ve ever read, and it’s an awesome opportunity for awesome one-off episodes about Joshua Norton and the other Endless while furthering Dream’s story.

Thomas: For all the inventive layouts and imagery of the comics, I can only imagine Noah Hawley (Legion) as director for such a project. Revolutionize the screen yet again and keep audiences in wonder. At the same time, I can easily picture a trashier version of Sandman that crosses over with Lucifer and Legends of Tomorrow (for the Constantine connection). I’m not sure if that’s a hope or fear. The Dreaming is many things to many people, right? Into The Dreaming-Verse!

Danielle: I want it to be super weird and indescribable and unpredictable. As Thomas mentioned, having Legion’s director should accomplish that. I wouldn’t mind a darker version of that kind of high concept idea. Although, I do hope it’s accessible to newer fans who have not read the series. Also, yes, please. Have the Dreaming characters, voodoo goddess, and Timothy Hunter to bring the current books in with Gaiman’s main Sandman

CJ: Like the others have said, I’d love for a Legion-esque approach to this series. It should be weird, it should be visually insane, and most importantly – it should be an anthology. Introduce us to Dream and his siblings, cast them well, and let us get lost in their world.

What are your hopes/fears for the Netflix production?

Kade: My biggest concern is they think people won’t get Sandman and they’ll try to make it more relatable or linear or worse, such as change Morpheus into something he’s not. Like they did with the Sandman spinoff Lucifer. The success of that show aside, the comic it’s “based on” is not a police procedural.

Danielle: That it will turn out too fluffy or worse, like American Gods. That show focuses on the worst character of the book instead of the lead; it’s the reason I found it unwatchable. That being said, Good Omens is a fantastic adaption. So maybe Gaiman will have figured out the transition from a cult-favorite book to TV show now. 

Thomas: I’ve heard of the comic’s non-linear volume sequence – as in, they’re contained enough that a new reader could go through the volumes in any order. What if Netflix randomized the episode order for each individual subscriber? They already did something similar with Love, Death + Robots, and the exercise would instill discipline in the story crew.

CJ: Hopes: that they wholeheartedly embrace the source material. Fears: that they either shy away from the source material or get too “pretentious” with it.

How about Vertigo’s Sandman universe, eh?

Kade: I think the current resurgence in the Sandman universe has been good for the most part, I’ve only kept up with Spurrier’s The Dreaming series, but he seems to have the voice of the characters down.

Danielle: Since this was my introduction to the Sandman universe, I’d say it’s great. The Dreaming is particularly good, and now that I am seeing these characters in The Sandman Preludes & Nocturnes, much of their back story is clearer. I agree with Kade that the characters are very similar. House of Whispers has been an interesting journey, although hard to get through at times.

Voodoo has never been my thing, but I continue to read as it’s a cultural mythology I find intriguing. Books of Magic is a continuation of the limited series from 1990 and is the fun and grotesque stuff I enjoy from this world in the package of an “innocent” kid. It’s magic, danger, and teen anxiety, like a messed up Harry Potter in the best possible way, and I’m 100% on board. Lucifer was the one I didn’t continue with. I found the character’s spoiled brat demeanor a little too reminiscent of a certain modern-day politician, and it just wasn’t worth it to me to continue down that road.

CJ: The re-emergence of the Sandman universe is PERFECT timing! This way, comic readers can immerse themselves in the universe, and if people love the TV series, they’ll have a good entry point.

Has the original series aged well?

CJ: Absolutely!

Kade: I think so. It’s kind of out of time Story in a way where people can read it now and get it. It’s connected to other things but fully stands on its own to this day. It came out before I was even born, and I read it completely four years ago; it held up then.

Danielle: Now that I’m just starting the original series and really enjoying it, I have to say absolutely! 

Thomas: I would love to find out!

Does a collaboration with Netflix say anything about the utility or future of DC Universe?

Kade:  Sandman is so connected yet stands on its own that I think it can be done by itself or crossover, but either way still come out good. I’m not sure how the DC Universe streaming service or future DC shows will work, but I have high hopes.

Thomas: If budgetary troubles truly waylaid DC Universe’s Swamp Thing, then it makes sense to let Netflix handle the books on such a high-profile project. Titans is broadcast internationally via Netflix, which makes me wish that DC Universe would act more like a central hub for their content (in America?) with exclusive co-streaming pieced out to other platforms.

Danielle: I mean, it’s clear Netflix knows the value of superhero shows today and that DC is trying to find ways to match Marvel’s movie success. So, yes? DC is trying to be smart. They are starting to realize they need to diversify, both financially and through partnerships, to survive. Their platform did not work out as they’d hoped. They cannot compete with the MCU or Marvel Unlimited for comics, but they have had some success with their CW superhero shows. So, since Lucifer has been doing so well with Netflix, this seems like a smart move for both of them. Here is hoping it works out without any Swamp Thing sized mishaps. 

CJ: I think the DC Universe might be on its last legs; the fact that most of its series are available on Netflix (in other countries, but still) and the fact that it’s an extremely niche service haven’t worked out in its favor.

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Thomas is a teen services librarian who reads way too many comics. He can be found gobbling pancakes at the nearest diner with Jessica Cruz, Forsythe Jones III, Jane Foster, and Hellboy. He reviews media for the public here and graphic novels for librarians at No Flying, No Tights.

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