Netflix’s new series The Sandman is based on the beloved 1989–1996 comic book written by Neil Gaiman and published by DC Comics. Long considered “impossible” to adapt, The Sandman floundered in development hell for 35 years, first of all because Gaiman himself shut down any attempts to bring his creation to the screen. Over 75 issues – or 3,000 pages – he believed there was just too much going for a traditional movie or a TV show time slot.
Over the years The Sandman has gained a cult following as one of the most influential and creative works of literature; it is one of the rare graphic novels to hit The New York Times bestseller list, and one of five graphic novels to make Entertainment Weekly’s “100 best reads from 1983 to 2008”. Comics historian Les Daniels called Neil Gaiman’s work “astonishing” describing The Sandman as “a mixture of fantasy, horror, and ironic humor such as comic books had never seen before (x).
Falling within the dark fantasy genre, albeit in a more contemporary and modern setting, The Sandman tells the story of the titular Lord of Dreams, who’s accidentally captured during an occult ritual and held prisoner while on a mission to remove a nightmare, Corinthian, who is feeding on the horrors of the Great War. When Dream finally escapes, he must retrieve his tools and rebuild his kingdom. Once he does this, he can restore the balance of dreams for humanity and rebuild both his world, known as “The Dreaming,” and ours.
The first season adapts Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll’s House, seeing endless being Dream escape captivity and begin searching for the objects of his power. The final scene of the last episode ends with a tease of what’s to come next: while Lucifer Morningstar is reeling from her defeat and vows revenge, Lord Azazel, voiced by Roger Allam, suddenly interrupts. A demon, he is depicted as a disembodied jumble of menacing eyes and sharp-toothed mouths, and communicates through a dark, jagged rift in space. Part of a triumvirate with Lucifer and Beelzebub, he rules Hell after a civil war destabilised the realm. Azazel claims to be representing the “assembled lords of Hell” who have united in their hatred of Dream, pledging their armies to Lucifer and urging her to take over his realm.
Despite the considerable challenges, Netflix’s The Sandman adaptation is remarkably faithful to Neil Gaiman’s comics. If the series is renewed for a second season, it will likely begin with Season of Mists, where Azazel and Dream face each other. It might also delve further into the relationship between Dream and his siblings Death, Destiny, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium, along with the dynamics that have been in place between them since their inception.
And for those who wonder how Roger Allam might have got the part… Neil Gaiman is currently working on the second season of Good Omens, based on the novel he wrote together with the late Terry Prachett. Serving as co-writer is none less than John Finnemore, and Gaiman has revealed himself to be a Cabin Pressure fan!
The Sandman premieres August 5, 2022 on Netflix.