By Ruchika Das
How does one adapt an award-winning series of comics that is thought to be unfilmable? If you’re the creative team behind Netflix’s The Sandman, you change things up here and there, but you mostly stick to the beloved source material.
Despite the significant challenges posed by the story’s nature, the Netflix adaptation of The Sandman is amazingly faithful to Neil Gaiman’s comics. Showrunner Allan Heinberg and executive producers David S. Goyer and Neil Gaiman have turned the first 16 issues of the comics into a ten-episode season that, while far from perfect, clearly strives to do justice to and maintain the spirit of the originals.
But that isn’t the only way The Sandman deviates from its source material. Here are five more reasons The Sandman on Netflix differs from the dark horror comics.
There are no major DC connections :
The Sandman may not be brimming with Justice League references, but it is still a DC comic. For example, John Dee is housed in Arkham Asylum with Batman villains such as Scarecrow. He is also the supervillain Doctor Destiny, who gets up to a lot of evil shenanigans in other DC comics and has a monstrous, scabby, and frightening appearance. The Sandman series, on the other hand, cements John as a human and changes his backstory.
One of the most exciting aspects of the adaptation process, according to Heinberg and Gaiman, was the ability to depict events from The Sandman that do not occur on the page but are still significant. For example, we never see Hal perform in drag in the comics because, as Gaiman explains, comics aren’t the best medium for musical performances. The show seizes the opportunity for new material, incorporating several of Hal’s songs and casting Hedwig and the Angry Inch writer/director/star John Cameron Mitchell as Rose Walker’s drag-performing landlord.
Changing comic plotlines
The first season of The Sandman follows the first 16 issues of the comic book, which include arcs from both Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll’s House. It mostly follows the “one issue per episode” rule, but with only 10 episodes, some plotlines had to be rearranged.
This works better in some cases than others. The fourth episode, “A Hope in Hell,” follows Dream’s journey to Hell in search of his helm; to heighten the dramatic tension, this episode incorporates the storyline from Passengers, the comic book issue that follows A Hope in Hell, in which John Dee (David Thewlis) escapes from a mental institution in search of Dream’s ruby. The stories running concurrently provide us with a solid A plot and B plot as our protagonist and antagonist hunt down Dream’s magical tools, teasing the inevitable showdown.
More Corinthian style
The introduction of the nightmare known as the Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook) earlier in the story is one of the most significant and enjoyable ways in which The Sandman departs from its source material. The show makes the wise decision to cast him as a villain from the beginning. He’s clearly the season’s main antagonist, from his clash with Dream in the first episode to his deception of Rose and Jed at the serial killer convention. His role in the comics is limited to The Doll’s House arc, which works well as we progress from issue to issue. However, in the case of a TV series that is released all at once, it’s nice to have a second thread to follow as we binge.
Lyta and Hector, as well as Rose and Jed
Lyta (Razane Jammal) and Hector Hall are two other DC comics characters who appear in The Sandman (Lloyd Everitt). They have their own superhero identities in the larger DC universe, but they serve a specific purpose in The Doll’s House arc of The Sandman. Hector is no longer alive, but his consciousness has been captured by rogue nightmares Brute and Glob. In an attempt to create a new Dreaming head, they prop him up as their own version of the Sandman. Hector visits his pregnant wife Lyta in the dream realm so the two can spend more time together, and Lyta is occasionally visited by Jed Walker (Eddie Karanja), Rose Walker’s younger brother (Kyo Ra). When Dream discovers what Brute and Glob have done, he exiles Hector to the land of the dead and declares that he will return for Lyta’s child, who has become his due to its time spent gestating in the Dreaming.
This Sandman continues to tell the story of Dream, played by Tom Sturridge, the lord of the dreaming realm who, at the start of the series, is imprisoned by magic-hungry humans. After escaping decades later, he must restore order to the Dreaming while dealing with the chaos that erupted in both his world and the waking world while he was gone. One of the series’ most noticeable early changes is moving Dream’s escape from the late 1980s to the present day, setting the plot of the book in 2021 — with some flashbacks, of course.