The Sandman has long been regarded as one of comics’ most unique series of all time, covering topics not often seen in the medium all while exploring a myriad of genres. The iconic comic explores the meaning of change through the lens of an anthropomorphic personification of dreams. Held in the same regard as Watchmen and The Dark Knight, the series has influenced not only the comic book medium since its publication, but it has extended beyond to other works and is often considered one of the greatest graphic novels of all time.
Published by DC Comics, The Sandman was first released in 1989. Written by Neil Gaiman with covers by Dave McKean, the series featured a number of artists, including Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Jill Thompson, Shawn McManus, Marc Hempel, Bryan Talbot, and Michael Zulli. The 75-issue series follows Dream of the Endless, also known as Morpheus. He is the personification of dreams and ruler of The Dreaming, a realm all beings visit in their dreams, who was captured by an occult ritual and held prisoner for 70 years. The Sandman featured many iconic characters, including Dreams siblings Destiny, Death, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium.
There have been numerous attempts to adapt the series into live-action, such as the long-in-development film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. However, nothing official ever got off the ground until it was announced that Netflix was adapting the comic into a 10-episode series. Longtime fans of The Sandman were naturally hesitant about the news, but thankfully, the show has captured much of what made the series so special while adapting it for a new audience.
The series has been adapted for Netflix by Gaiman, David S. Goyer, and Allan Heinberg, who have maintained the essence of the story. However, it should be noted some elements have been changed. As a fan of the source material, the changes can be a bit jarring at first but they benefit the pacing and allow the episodes to flow better. The show adapts the comics’ first two volumes, Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House.
The Sandman stars Tom Sturridge as the titular Lord of Dreams. Sturridge does a great job of capturing Morpheus’s dark and melancholic nature while still maintaining an air of vulnerability. After Dream escapes his capture, it is clear that he has shut himself off and is unwilling to accept his realm has changed. Sturridge is able to demonstrate this feeling through his performance while keeping Dream from becoming a one-dimensional loner. Instead, he maintains the character’s identity as a tragic hero that many fans have come to know and appreciate.
One of the series’ highlights is its stunning supporting cast of characters, each with their own story worth exploring. Some honorable mentions include Gwendoline Christie’s Lucifer Morningstar, Jenna Coleman’s Johanna Constantine, and Ferdinand Kingsley’s Hob Gadling. But of all the supporting characters, it is fair to say that David Thelis’ John Dee, Boyd Holbrook’s Corinthian, and Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s Death steal every scene they are in.
Given the fantastical art of The Sandman comic, it was uncertain if the show would be able to fully capture the marvelous setting of the story. Luckily, the set pieces in the show are so grand that they look as if they were lifted right from the page. From Morpheus’ realm of The Dreaming to Hell itself, each location feels unique. The visuals in the series feel like their own character helping to move the story, drawing in the audience as they can only imagine where it will take them next.
In addition to the visuals of the series, The Sandman is enhanced by the score composed by David Buckley. It provides a new layer to the story that the comic lacks, elevating the show and working hand in hand with the reality-defying scenery. Moreover, Buckley’s musical composition is able to deftly capture the complex emotion of the story. One of the most notable moments comes in episode 6, The Sound of Her Wings. The score, along with Howell-Baptiste’s performance, will surely tug at many viewers’ hearts.
Much like the comic, The Sandman is designed for newcomers. While Gaiman and the rest of the creative team behind the show have made sure to include elements that longtime fans of the comic will enjoy, it is fully available to those with no prior knowledge of the series. From fantasy elements to horror stories, The Sandman has something for everyone, and those who pick up the show will surely find something they will like.
Ultimately, Netflix’s The Sandman is no easy task to execute, given it adapts one of the most beloved comics of all time. Thankfully, Gaiman’s original work is most certainly preserved in the series, albeit at times a bit too condensed, but it is safe to say the show successfully brings to life a fantastic story. With only two volumes of The Sandman adapted, there is still much to cover, and as such, there are high hopes that the show will return for another season in The Dreaming. – Jacob Campbell
The Sandman is now streaming on Netflix.