Netflix is about to finally make Neil Gaiman fans’ dreams come true. Or rather, their Dream come true. The streaming site is developing the author’s seminal DC comic book The Sandman as a series. After years of failed attempts at bringing the story of Morpheus to the big screen, what can we expect from a television adaptation? Here’s everything we know about The Sandman…so far.
For now, this comic-based series shares its name with its source material. This Netflix show is titled The Sandman.
The Sandman‘s Plot
Before we dive into the show, let’s review what we know about The Sandman comic book. Issue #1 of The Sandman debuted in 1989, and its primary story ran for 75 issues until 1996. (Other supplementary issues came later, including an important prequel, Overture.) The show’s official logline does as good a job as any describing Neil Gaiman’s legendary, surreal comic book series. From Netflix:
A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama and legend are seamlessly interwoven, The Sandman follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic—and human—mistakes he’s made during his vast existence.”
And our first trailer brings this description to life.
A further synopsis shares:
There is another world that waits for all of us when we close our eyes and sleep — a place called the Dreaming, where The Sandman, Master of Dreams (Tom Sturridge), gives shape to all of our deepest fears and fantasies. But when Dream is unexpectedly captured and held prisoner for a century, his absence sets off a series of events that will change both the dreaming and waking worlds forever. To restore order, Dream must journey across different worlds and timelines to mend the mistakes he’s made during his vast existence, revisiting old friends and foes, and meeting new entities — both cosmic and human — along the way.
The titular Sandman is one of the seven siblings known as the Endless. They are “the anthropomorphic embodiments of powerful natural forces” who predate gods. They each rule over a different realm of existence. And though they are powerful, they are not totally invulnerable, all-knowing, or free from the rules of the universe. We learn this important lesson the first time we meet Morpheus.
According to Gaiman, the show’s first season, which Netflix strangely says will be “ten episodes (plus one),” will cover the comics’ first volume, Preludes and Nocturnes; this spans issues one through eight. The season will also get into “a little bit more” from the comics, which will at least include Volume 2, The Doll’s House. That’s the second major storyline from Gaiman’s series, and it carries long-term ramifications for the rest of the story.
In a recent interview with Empire, Gaiman broke down some of the individual episodes more specifically. He shared:
You watch Episode 1 and think, ‘Oh, I get this thing: it’s like Downton Abbey, but with magic,’” he says. “Then you’ll be wondering, ‘What the hell is this?’ by Episode 2, when you’re meeting Gregory The Gargoyle in The Dreaming. Episode 5 is about as dark and traumatic as anything is ever gonna get, then you’ve got Episode 6, which is probably the most feel-good of all the episodes… If you didn’t like an episode of Game Of Thrones, you probably won’t like any other episode of Game Of Thrones. With Sandman, it’s all about surprising you. It’s all about reinventing itself. It’s all about taking you on a journey you’ve not been on before.”
Gaiman has promised fans that the show is a faithful adaptation of the comics in both spirit and storyline. However, it will feature some changes. For one, the show will be set in present-day, which is 30 years later than when the comics take place.
Behind the Scenes
Allan Heinberg (Wonder Woman, Grey’s Anatomy) serves as showrunner, writer, and executive producer. Gaiman and David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Krypton) also serve as writers and executive producers. The three co-wrote the first episode together. The series comes from Warner Bros. Television.
The Sandman‘s Cast
The sprawling story will have an equally sprawling cast. Tom Sturridge (Pirate Radio, Sweetbitter) will star as the titular Sandman. The Lord of the Dreaming realm, also known as Morpheus and Oneiros, among many other names, will have two Game of Thrones alums as enemies. Gwendoline Christie will play Lucifer, Ruler of Hell. And Charles Dance joins the show as the dastardly Roderick Burgess, “charlatan, blackmailer, and magician.”
We got our first look at Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer at DC FanDome:
And Lucifer’s wings.
Vivienne Acheampong (The Witches) will star as Lucienne, Dream’s chief librarian and trusted guardian. Boyd Holbrook (Logan) plays Sandman‘s infamous The Corinthian. He’s “an escaped nightmare who wishes to taste all that the world has in store.” Which he does literally. The Corinthian has teeth for eyes and a fondness for eating the eyes of others. And Asim Chaudhry (Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) and Sanjeev Bhaskar (Yesterday) will star as Abel and Cain. They are “the first victim and the first predator, residents and loyal subjects of the Dream Realm.”
We also know some of Morpheus’ Endless siblings. Kirby Howell-Baptiste (The Good Place) will play Dream’s iconic older sister, Death. Gaiman describes her as “wiser, nicer, and much more sensible.” Mason Alexander Park joins the cast as Morpheus’s troublesome younger sibling Desire. They got the part after publicly saying on Twitter they were interested in the role. And Donna Preston will play Desire’s sad, pained twin sister Despair.
Netflix and Gaiman have also announced a slew of other important roles. Which includes a mix of relative newcomers and famous faces.
- Jenna Coleman stars as 18th-century occult adventurer and John Constantine’s great-great-great grandmother Johanna Constantine. Unlike in the comics, we will also meet a present-day version of the character on the show.
- Joely Richardson plays an older Ethel Cripps, Roderick Burgess’ love and John Dee’s mother. She is “a woman of a hundred identities and a thousand lies.”
- Niamh Walsh will fill the role of a younger Ethel, circa when she was a “determined young woman seeking to survive” during the 1920s and ‘30s.
- David Thewlis will plays Ethel’s dangerous son John Dee. “Driven mad, long ago, [he’s] out and on a quest for Truth that may destroy the world.” He’s a lot of fun. If you find unimaginable horror “fun.”
- Kyo Ra is Rose Walker. She’s “a young woman on a desperate search for her missing brother, who finds a family she didn’t know that she had, and a connection to Dream that neither of them can escape.”
- Razane Jammal plays Rose’s friend Lyta Hall, a “young widow mourning her husband Hector.” However, Rose doesn’t know “Hector has started showing up in Lyta’s dreams,” or “that strange things are happening.”
- Sandra James-Young will play the heiress Unity Kinkaid. She is “Rose’s mysterious benefactor [who] spent a century asleep.” But now she’s awake after missing out on her whole life.
- Stephen Fry, the legend himself, will star as “Rose Walker’s debonair protector,” Gilbert. He is “a dab hand with a paradox and a sword cane.”
- Patton Oswalt will voice Dream’s trusted emissary, the dead human-turned raven, Matthew. He will be a real raven and not a CGI character. Oswalt was onboard before the show was even a show. Gaiman says the comedian “was the first person we asked, and the first person we cast, the day before we pitched The Sandman to Netflix.”
Finally, it has been announced that Mark Hamill will voice Merv Pumpkinhead.
That’s already a massive—and massively talented—cast. But Gaiman says “there are more delights and nightmares” left to cast. And the show has a “few more secrets” up its sleeves.
The Sandman‘s Release Date
The show began filming in October of 2020. COVID hit the “pause button” on the show. But Gaiman says some episodes are already complete. Netflix has now announced it will release on August 5. It will be a long-awaited Dream come true.
Originally published May 28, 2021.