What did Neil Gaiman have to change for The Sandman comic to make Netflix? Everything

It’s taken 35 years, a journey through development hell, a bidding war and more than a few nightmares, but writer Neil Gaiman thinks he’s finally done the impossible. He has been brought the sandman to the screen without ruining the story.

The comic, which he first sketched in 1987, had an original DC Comics version from 1989 to 1996. Among those who read it, the sandman has since gained cult status as one of the most influential – and creative – literary works to emerge from the comic book world.

But despite a Hugo Award-winning prequel coming out, an entire universe of spin-offs is so popular that some are already change into their own seriesand millions of fans begging for an adaptation on TV or film, it never happened.

In an interview with CBC, creator Neil Gaiman previously said it just wasn’t possible to bring that story to screens. the sandman follows the somewhat titular character (usually called Dream, but also variously called Morpheus, Lord Shaper, Ka-ckul, and yes, Sandman) as he rules his domain – the land of dreams where all living things go when they sleep, and where everything what was once invented becomes reality.

That puts pretty much all fictional creatures — and some real ones important enough to assume mythical status — firmly within Gaiman’s reach. Reading the sandman is like taking part in humanity’s greatest crossover episode: everyone from fellow DC superheroes to ancient Egyptian gods, to Shakespeare, Lucifer, God and Cain and Abel help and support the Lord of Dreams. Even Loki – the Norse god who recently became famous for his prominent role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – plays a part in the long story of the the sandman books lie.

VIEW | Neil Gaiman describes what had to change for sandman to reach TV:

Neil Gaiman describes what had to change for Sandman TV to reach

Sandman creator Neil Gaiman says that before he would consider bringing his groundbreaking comic book series to the screen, the whole way we create and consume media had to change.

Gaiman himself has spent decades trying to bring his creation to the screen; there was just too much for a traditional movie or TV show. Genre-hopping between horror and fantasy (while also hitting everything in between), fantastic visuals created by some of the medium’s most influential artists (original sandman artist Dave McKean even came back from retirement to design the show’s closing credits) and a brooding, philosophical theme, for thirty years it proved too difficult for a writer to tackle.

And when they did try?

“All that happens is you break your heart trying to figure out how to create a plot that will be real” sandman,” he said.

It wasn’t until the way we make and watch TV shows was reinvented that Gaiman really considered The sandman could work outside of a comic book.

“I think it’s that thing where something that was a huge bug suddenly became a feature,” he said. Even ten years ago, a two-hour movie was seen as the go-to place for big-budget storytelling — and TV shows were locked into a rigid 21- or 42-minute frame. Streaming opened that up.

“Times have changed and suddenly the idea that you have a 3,000-page story that can be turned into 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 hours of quality television — it turns into something that’s actually a huge feature and a wonderful thing.”

The finished product, which launched today on Netflix, only scratches the surface of the source material (for fans of the comic, the first season extends as far as the “Doll’s House” arc in issues #9-16), but still manages to do the trick. getting in to a fair amount of the world and its characters.

VIEW | sandmanTom Sturridge and Vivienne Acheampong explain what drives Dream and Lucienne:

Tom Sturridge and Vivienne Acheampong of Sandman explain what drives Dream and Lucienne

Sandman’s Tom Sturridge, who stars as Dream, and Vivienne Acheampong, who plays Lucienne, describe how they see their characters — and how they’ve changed from the comics.

Of course, this also includes Dream itself, played by English actor Tom Sturridge, who was presented with another problem that was central to the story. How do you play a character who isn’t even human, who walks through the comics with complete detachment from living beings, as someone the audience really cares about?

“I think he’s emotional, but I think he has to necessarily hold that emotion,” Sturridge said.

The show is as much about the supporting characters as it is about Dream – and sometimes more about them.

Wide cast of characters

Vanesu Samunyai plays Rose Walker, a key player in the “Doll’s House” arc – her first-ever credited role. She said she deserved the part after years of auditions, and just before she gave up acting altogether.

Her casting was part of some changes from the comic that brought some fans into the fray — and saw Gaiman fight back.

When Samunyai, who is Black, plays Walker, the character, who was white in the comics, changes. It also has a ripple effect on several members of her family – also important figures in the story, who are similarly played by black actors.

VIEW | ‘I’ve never seen anything like it’: Stephen Fry and Vanesu Samunyai on sandman:

‘I’ve never seen anything like it’: Stephen Fry and Vanesu Samunyai on Sandman

Stephen Fry and Vanesu Samunyai say working on Netflix’s Sandman was unlike anything they’ve done before because of the way the show tells stories.

That’s not the end of the changes the sandman team made. Lucifer, a major antagonist in the beginning, was mainly drawn to appear more typically male in the comics – although previously that was not the case in Gaiman’s books.

In the Netflix series, Game of Throneactress Gwendoline Christie takes on the role of Lucifer – something she didn’t see as a problem in Gaiman’s nuanced world sandman.

“There is no gender at all because Lucifer is not human,” Christie said. “Lucifer was an angel, so it didn’t bother me at all.”

Updates, anger and a Twitter war

Elsewhere, the canonical non-binary character Desire — one of Dream’s siblings — is played by non-binary actor Mason Alexander Park. Dream’s sister Death – arguably as, or more, loved by fans than her brother – is played by black actress Kirby Howell-Baptiste. Since she was originally drawn as a white woman, Gaiman was forced to defend the choice after some fans posted angry comments about her casting.

For her part, Baptiste said she is excited to show a different portrayal of Death, which is so often portrayed as the Grim Reaper in modern media.

“I think people will find a great surprise and a lot of comfort in seeing this character who is caring, nurturing and motherly,” she said.

“I give zero f–ks to people who don’t understand/didn’t read it sandman whining about a non-binary desire or that death isn’t white enough,” Gaiman tweeted last year, after the cast list was made public. “Watch the show, make a decision.”

A clip from a comic book is shown on the left side of the frame.  The first panel features a pale man in a cloak in front of a silhouetted figure, with a speech bubble that says: "Lucien?" In the next panel, a thin white man with round glasses leans against a shovel and says: "One and the same, my Lord." On the right side of the frame is a photo of a black woman wearing similar round glasses.  The woman is holding a magnifying glass and sitting at a desk.
The Sandman’s Lucien, left, appears next to the Netflix version of the character – Lucienne, played by Vivienne Acheampong. (DC Comics, Netflix)

And finally, the only character Gaiman said the team “intentionally switched genderis Lucienne – known as Lucien in the books.

Like her castmates, actress Vivienne Acheampong didn’t see much of a problem with the change — it’s just another aspect of Gaiman’s take on the superhero genre, which feels significantly more complex than other offerings in the mainstream.

“Everything of [Gaiman’s] characters are just so rich, and the essence of that character is there,” Acheampong said. “It’s embodied in a different way [than] is on the page or maybe some people have imagined it. But the essence of this being… has not changed, it is still there and very much present and what I want to portray.”

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