Author Neil Gaiman is a hot item these days, between the STARZ adaptation of american gods and the huge success of the TV adaptation of his Terry Pratchett novel, Good omens, on Amazon Prime. Now news comes via The Hollywood Reporter that Netflix is also jumping on the Gaiman train. The streaming giant is reportedly going to make a major financial commitment to the sandman graphic novel series for television.
For many of us, the sandman comics were our first introduction to the work of the prolific Gaiman. It’s his reinterpretation of an earlier DC comic character. The titular “sandman” is Dream, but he is also called Morpheus, among other things. He is one of the seven entities known as the Endless, and he has emerged from a long captivity to right his past mistakes. (The other Endless are Destiny, Destruction, Despair, Desire, Delirium and Death, portrayed as a perky punk/goth young woman – they became almost as popular as Dream itself and were featured in several spin-off comics.)
Gaiman’s 75-issue revival of the character is an odd mix of mythology, fantasy, horror, and history, replete with literary references and a fair bit of dark humor. There really is nothing quite like it, and the series proved to be extremely popular and enduring. A standalone story, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (the sandman No. 19) even won the 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction, the only time a comic has been so honored.
There has long been an interest in adapting the series for film, with multiple failed attempts at making a viable script by Warner Bros. One such Gaiman considered “not just the worst sandman script I’ve ever read, but quite easily the worst script I’ve ever read.” But everyone, including Gaiman, still held out hopes for a successful adaptation in the end, with Gaiman once filmmaker Terry Gilliam (of Brazil and Time Bandits) as someone he believes could do justice to the material.
Go to TV
In 2013, news came that Gaiman was teaming up with actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt to develop a feature film at New Line (owned by Warner Bros.), but Gordon-Levitt eventually left the project three years later due to “creative differences”. Sandman/Dream/Morpheus looked like he would dissolve into development hell again, but one of the last screenwriters working on the project, Arrival‘s Eric Heisserer, thought so sandman should actually be a TV series.
So Warner Bros. started shopping around a TV adaptation of the sandman† HBO passed – it’s very pricey Game of Thrones spin-off series that swallowed the budget, but Netflix collapsed, with an outright order. Gaiman will serve as executive producer along with David Goyer, whose filmography is nothing to sneeze at. Allan Heinberg, whose credits include: Wonder Woman and Grey’s Anatomyhas reportedly signed up as showrunner.
Of course, this can still go horribly wrong; there are people who think the sandman is essentially non-customizable. It is worth noting that the TV series, Match (previously with Fox, now with Netflix for the final season) is loosely based on a character from Gaiman’s sandman† Match is a fun series for what it is: a merry, supernatural police procedural that leans on its absurd premise and is largely supported by Tom Ellis’ star as the Devil and an engaging supporting cast. But that is not what fans want to see in a sandman amendment. And given Gaiman’s EP role, I don’t think it will.