While the recent release of Audible’s version of The Sandman is rigidly faithful to the audiobook, Netflix’s Sandman adaptation of the series is going to be a completely new take on the classic graphic novel. We spoke with Neil Gaiman about these projects and he gave us some details about what we can expect from the upcoming show.
Gaiman, who is involved in the development of both projects, talked about what it would be like telling The Sandman as a contemporary story. “Doing the Netflix TV series, we’re very much looking at [Sandman] and going, ‘Okay, it is 2020. Let’s say that I was doing Sandman starting in 2020. What would we do? How would we change things? What gender would this character be? Who would this person be? What would be happening?'”
He continued, “So there’s a level on which we’re letting the contemporary stuff expand and change. It’s always consistent, and it’s always Sandman. But it’s not. And a lot of the original dialogue has gloriously made it in and I’m always very happy when it does. But it’s not that thing that you’ve got with the Audible adaptation where you should be able to sit and read it.”
Gaiman compared returning to The Sandman universe like going home, “It always feels tremendously welcoming.” In the adapting process, he had extensive talks with Dirk Maggs for Audible and Allan Heinberg, the showrunner at Netflix. “It’s one of the very few things that I feel like I can answer any questions with no feeling no trace of imposter syndrome,” he confessed. “If you want to know ask me a Sandman question. I will give you a Sandman answer.
Indeed, even long time fans might find new things to analyze after watching the Netflix show. Gaiman gave us some insight on this: “Alan is loving it in particular right now because [we] did a call the other day when we were both on auditioning one of the Sandman actors, and I gave the actor a briefing on their character and wound up telling them stuff that nobody had known except me for 34 years, and Alan was just sitting there with his jaw drop, going, ‘I didn’t know any of that,’ like, ‘I actually ever told anybody any of that. I just, it’s just stuff I know.'”
He added, “Sandman was always an iceberg, I guess. There was always a lot of story, a lot of information that was underwater, some of it came out.”
With the production value and detail that recent Netflix projects have delivered, Gaiman voiced his approval of the design and the freedom in being able to tell Sandman in a way that is satisfying. “I get these emails of production design stuff on Netflix’s Sandman that just I just want to show them to everybody and I know that I can’t. They’re incredibly confidential. But I look at them and I glow!” he exclaims. “You know the other day they sent me Lucifer’s castle and the gates to Hell and all of these Hell designs, and I’m just like, ‘This is amazing!'”
He continued, “We couldn’t have done that I think even five years ago. Definitely not 10 years ago. The technology wasn’t there. The budget wasn’t there. The audience wasn’t there. The delivery systems weren’t there. The idea of going off and doing ‘Preludes and Nocturnes’ and ‘The Doll’s House’ as our first 10 episodes. Nobody would have let us do that, the world wasn’t ready. So it’s ready now, they caught up with us.”
As for the Audible series? The two projects may have come from the same source, but the ultimate project is very different. Dirk Maggs, director of the Audible series, explained his reaction to the announcement of the Netflix show, “I’m pleased that Neil is involved in both, which is the best possible news for anyone who loves The Sandman. But the first thing I’m thinking is, okay, that’s gonna change what we’re doing here because it’s a little bit like that moment where the Titanic leaves Southhampton docks and there’s a little sailing boat in the way. The backwash from that thing just capsized, and you can get drowned in the wash.”
So, Maggs took to rewriting the first episode. “I rewrote it because I realized, actually, the way to go with this is actually to write what Neil wrote originally,” he explained. “Stick to what he what everybody loves, and then they can do what they like in the other version because we are absolutely motherlode Sandman. It’s been the best experience ever because it stopped me from trying to be clever, instead, I’ve trusted the author and that’s been the best part of it.”