Movies & TV Shows

8 Ways Neil Gaiman Might Tweak The Source Material For Netflix

The upcoming Netflix launch on August 5th of The Sandman has been long anticipated by Neil Gaiman fans. Nearly thirty years after the first issue was published, an adaptation of the landmark series is finally coming to screens as Sandman acolytes the world over rejoice. It’s already well known that this production is the most well-funded of anything DC Entertainment has done to date, and expectations are high.

However, the complicated mythology and intricate, interwoven storylines make adapting the work verbatim next to impossible, and as such, showrunners Gaiman, Allan Heinberg, and David Goyer undoubtedly were forced to take some creative liberties.


8 Taking Narrative Shortcuts

There’s no getting around the fact that a word-for-word translation from page to screen would be impossible for the epic Sandman saga. With so much story and so many characters, Gaiman’s magnum opus is already one of the densest narratives in comic history. A Sandman TV show, while suiting its source material far better than a movie or even a trilogy of movies, still wouldn’t quite be enough to capture all of the exquisitely detailed nuances rendered by Gaiman and his gallery of artists.

It’s been revealed the first season of Sandman will focus on the events of Preludes and Nocturnes, The Doll’s House, and the first half of Dream Country, but there will have to be concessions to move the story forward for television audiences.

7 Updated Gender and Racial Representation

Sandman casting

Neil Gaiman has never shied away from proper representation per se, but being the English bloke he is, cultured by the decades in which he came of age, there was naturally a tendency exhibited by nearly all-white writers in the eighties and nineties to populate their narratives with white male proxies. While Gaiman certainly explores mythologies and legends from various cultures of color from across the world (most notably in Egyptian, African, and Pan-Asian folklore), a number of his more prominent characters skew Anglo-male.

Related: 10 Comics Fans Need To Read Before Watching The Sandman Series

Casting Kirby Howell-Baptiste as the formerly Gothically pale personification of Death and Gwendolyn Christie as the usually male Lucifer is a good start for gender and racial modernization, as is replacing Lucien the librarian with Vivienne Acheampong’s Lucienne.

6 Toning Down The Horror Aspects

A comic panel of Dr. Destiny from The Sandman is shown.

The production team promises the horror fare aspects of The Sandman have not been forsaken, and Gaiman himself claims Episode 5 is a truly frightening hour of television. Nevertheless, there’s a fair amount of grisly and disturbing Vertigo-imprint adult content, not the least of which include graphic renditions of blood-soaked murders, beheadings, serial killers, sexual situations of rape, incest, and orgies, taboo explorations of religion, death, and the afterlife, and even tossing toddlers into the fireplace.

It may turn out that despite the series’ TV-MA rating, even Netflix studio heads, hands-off though they often are, might have suggested slightly fan-friendlier lines with certain images from the books.

5 Hell Might Not Be For Children

Gwendolyn Christie as Lucifer in The Sandman.

The existential plane of Hell plays a significant role in the narrative of The Sandman. It’s first visited when Dream breaches its gates to confront Lucifer and demands the return of his helm, obtained by a lower demon during Dream’s imprisonment. It’s a more central MacGuffin later on in the Season of Mists story arc where Lucifer abdicates his rule of Hell and gives its ownership to Morpheus, who must then sort out to which party or parties it ought to belong.

Related: Every Member Of The Sandman’s Endless Ranked By Power

In both segments, Hell is portrayed as a brutally dismal place, full of demons eating and torturing people, artist panels rendering graphic portraits of Christianity’s greatest fear. The imagery in the books, should it be shown as originally depicted, might be too much for Netflix’s more faithfully minded subscribers.

4 Translatable Art Aesthetics

The Sandman Vertigo series is told just as much from its magnificent artwork as its dense and sophisticated dialogue. Panels and splash pages rendered via the likes of Dave McKean, Kelley Jones, and J.H. Williams III are often a key component of Gaiman’s storytelling. Fans were initially concerned with the trailer’s reveal of Tom Sturridge’s Dream sans his signature starry eyes.

Gaiman explained away the cosmetic change by referring to the difficulties of filming Batman in his comic-accurate mask with whitened eyes and how audiences need to see characters’ true eyes to convey emotions properly onscreen. Sandman has a bounty of story told only via wordless panels, and showrunners will assuredly adapt more to film-friendly methods.

3 Welcoming Audiences Unfamiliar With The Source Material

Desire and Dream talk in one of their galleries.

Gaiman’s landmark series was known for its many groundbreaking components. Its long-form serialized story arc explored in depth an array of mature themes deep within human experience. Dream himself, along with his Endless family, is an anthropomorphized personification of an abstract idea of existence, and his adventures largely center around history and fable.

Related: The 10 Most Anticipated Fantasy Shows Of 2022

The Sandman is essentially a meta-story about stories, one of Gaiman’s undeniable master craft strokes, and it may be that some of the archetypes, themes, and motifs in the source material might be out of range of the average viewers’ understanding, which may force the adaptation to perhaps pare down some of the more elusive academia.

2 Let’s Get Biblical

Abel and Goldie from Netflix's Sandman.

There’s so much mythology and philosophical exploration throughout The Sandman that it’s hard to keep track of the varied tracks Gaiman manages to paint across his vast canvas. His visitations upon the Christian mythos are prevalent throughout the story. Two of the main supporting characters in the Dreaming are Cain and Abel of biblical lore, who often do exactly what they were heralded to do, over and over.

Dream’s visits to Hell, the possibly unpopular yet significant presence of fallen angel Lucifer, and the references to Heaven and the Silver City as well as the appearances of angels Remiel and Duma all may challenge conventional conceptions of Christian faith and might be addressed differently in the series.

1 Setting Up A Sequel

A picture of Daniel Sandman is shown.

Diehard fans may wonder how long The Sandman might continue on its Netflix platform and whether it will transcend the official ending in Gaiman’s books. Of course, that’s dependent on whether the show is received well by audiences and draws strong ratings.

If the first season is any indication, it appears the series may incorporate two or three books per season, though it’s likely Brief Lives and The Kindly Ones story arcs will garner their own seasons given their lengths. Should the series continue to be popular even beyond its somewhat final climax, it may be that show writers might tweak The Wake’s source material to suit future programming.

Next: Sandman and 9 Other Best Neil Gaiman Characters

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