By Ani Bundel
In the friendly race between DC Comics and Marvel, DC has a few real oddball properties in its corner that have the bones to become prestige TV series beyond anything found on Disney+. The first, Watchmen, became an HBO critical darling in 2019. The other, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, wound up on Netflix after HBO declared the series concept “too expensive.”
A show being too pricey for even the current leader in high-budget prestige TV says a lot in this environment, but The Sandman’s trailers have suggested this is going to be money well spent. With the series debuting all episodes at the beginning of August, it was the only property on the Saturday Hall H lineup at San Diego Comic-Con that wasn’t part of an already proven franchise. (The rest of the adaptations of Gaiman’s books have wound up on Starz or Amazon, and all other DC Comic series are under the Warner Media umbrella, meaning this series will stay disconnected from any larger mythos.)
The panel opened with footage that looks like it is from the show’s opening episode before launching into the introductions of author Neil Gaiman and showrunner Allan Heinberg. Several stars were also part of the panel’s lineup, including Tom Sturridge, Gwendoline Christie, Vivienne Acheampong, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Mason Alexander Park, Jenna Coleman, Boyd Holbrook, Kyo Ra, and Patton Oswalt.
Heinberg said his condition in taking on the project is that he didn’t want to make something inspired by the series; he wanted to make a super faithful televisual adaptation. According to Gaiman, Sturridge was one of the first two who auditioned, and even though they saw 1000+more, it “was still just Tom.” (In contrast, they asked Christie who she wanted to be, and she said Lucifer, and that was that.)
Sturridge referred to The Sandman as a piece of literature in familiarizing himself with it. The graphic novels inspire that sort of praise that makes it a candidate for a very different type of TV series. The structure also will set the show apart. Whatever fans have seen in the trailers and teasers is only the smallest slice of what the series will be, as–like the comics–each installment is an entirely different story. Each episode moves from genre to genre, visual styling to visual styling, and tone to tone.
As for some of the updates and changes to the comics, Gaiman argued they aren’t that far from his original concept. Taking Lucifer from a man to Gwendoline Christie, for example, works fine because his inspiration was David Bowie during his early androgyny phase. As for the Endless Siblings, both Park and Howell-Baptiste talked about how hard it is to be the anthropomorphic personification of various metaphysical entities, but both seemed to embody their concepts more than one might think. (Gaiman also said he hoped there would be Funko for all the characters because everyone needs a Mervyn Pumpkinhead Pop.)
The panel also showed exclusive clips that Netflix won’t release, including stuff from later episodes. Fans got a look at Coleman as Johanna Constantine and Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death. The latter, for the record, was also a controversial choice, but the footage shown of her in character will 100% put any doubts to bed.
The Sandman arrives with all episodes on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, on Netflix.
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