The future has never looked brighter for Neil Gaiman’s seminal Vertigo comic, The Sandman. The series has a big-budget Netflix adaptation in the works, and before that, we get to enjoy an almost 11-hour long audiobook edition with an all-star cast including James McAvoy, Andy Serkis and Michael Sheen.
The Sandman is one of the most beloved comics of all time. It is a complex blend of myth and legend, all told by Morpheus, the personification of Dreams. We follow him as he serves his role as the one of the Endless, a family of human concepts and ideas who take human forth: besides Dream, there’s Death, Delirium, Destiny, Desire, Despair and Destruction. The series chronicles key stories from throughout his long existence, from reclaiming his totems of power after being imprisoned for decades, to searching for his long-lost brother Destruction.
So Sandman is having a resurgence now, but we’re talking about a comic that debuted in 1989; why hasn’t there been a screen adaptation before? Well, it ends up there was interest, as Gaiman recently recalled in a press roundtable:
I remember having my first meeting about a Sandman movie in, I think, 1990, and going in for a meeting at Warner’s, and they said, ‘Well, what do you think about a The Sandman movie?’ And I said, ‘Please don’t do it.’ And I remember the Warner’s exec, Lisa Henson, looking at me very puzzled and saying, ‘Nobody’s ever come into my office and asked me not to make a movie before.’ And I said, ‘Well, I am. Please don’t. I’m working on the comic, and a movie would just be a distraction and a confusion. Just let me do my thing.’ And bless everybody, they kind of let me get on with it.
Even if Gaiman hadn’t been only in the early days of writing the comic (it wouldn’t be complete until 1993), I don’t see how all 75 issues could be boiled down to one movie, or even a few movies. The Sandman doesn’t just tell one story, it’s one big story about stories, with lots of threads going lots of different places. “I think a lot of the problems with adapting The Sandman were that it was somewhat ahead of its time in terms of what it would have demanded from the world,” Gaiman continued.
But despite concerns in the past, Gaiman is on board with Netflix making a Sandman TV show. Working alongside the creative team of Allan Heinberg (Wonder Woman) and David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight), he thinks it’s now if finally the right time:
People would write The Sandman movie scripts and they go, ‘But it’s an R-rated movie, and we can’t have $100 million R-rated movie.’ So, that wouldn’t happen. You needed to get to a world in which long form storytelling is an advantage rather than a disadvantage. And the fact that we have certainly five issues of Sandman plus, essentially, 13 full books worth of material, is a really good thing. It’s not a drawback. It’s on our side. And the fact that we’re in a world in which we can take things that only existed in comic book art, and that can now exist in reality.
But even with huge wealth of material, it has been 30 years since The Sandman first hit store shelves. The audiobook is a straight adaptation, but Gaiman is considering changing some things for the TV show to meet our current moment. “[D]oing the Netflix TV series, we’re very much looking at that as going, ‘Okay, it is 2020, let’s say that I was doing Sandman starting in 2020, what would we do?'” he mused. “How would we change things? What gender would this character be? Who would this person be? What would be happening?’”
Like I said, the future looks bright for The Sandman. You can listen to the audiobook when it drops on Audible on Wednesday, July 15!