Gaiman’s “The Sandman” Brings the Dream

Gaiman’s “The Sandman” Brings the Dream

On August 5th, Netflix released an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s world-changing comic, The Sandman, to life.

A

A solid adaptation that brings all the amazing notes of the comic to the screen, without sacrificing the heart of the reason of it all.

Preludes & Nocturnes

I was around 14 when Dad brought home the first trade paperback of The Sandman. We were still going to Thrill Books (a comics and games store) and “Preludes & Noctures” was in the bag of comics (along with Batman, Area 88, and some other stuff I was into at the time). But Sandman was an oddity. It was a DC comic, it took place in the same universe as Batman, but it was nothing at all like the superhero comics I’d read before.

In a number of ways, I think that comic changed my entire understanding of how you could tell a story. In most mainstream American comics, things don’t change. Batman is always the scion of the Waynes who saw his family die before him and rose up. Superman is always from another planet (we are ignoring the whole birth matrix thing). Wonder Woman is always made of clay. Sometimes they tweak the aspects, but at it’s heart, the characters remain the same.

Neil Gaiman threw that out. Between him and Peter Milligan (who brought Shade, the Changing Man to DC’s Vertigo imprint), comic stories had deeper meaning. People changed, they made mistakes, they died. I had been a voracious reader before then, but Gaiman and Milligan (and later Terry Pratchett) changed how I told stories. It changed how I felt stories. And it changed how I dreamed.

The Doll’s House

The story of Sandman begins with hubris. A man wishes to capture Death, to get his beloved son back, but instead captures Dream.

Death and Dream are no mere personifications. They are creatures called the Endless, who are above and beyond gods, and yet a part of them. They are the embodiment of broad concepts: Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, twins Desire and Despair, and Delirium (who was once Delight).

The Endless are merely patterns. The Endless are ideas. The Endless are wave functions. The Endless are repeating motifs. The Endless are echoes of darkness, and nothing more… And even our existences are brief and bounded. None of us will last longer than this version of the Universe.

The Sandman (vol. 2) #48, Destruction

The Endless change over time. Delirium as mentioned was one Delight, but as the human concept of Delight changed, so did she. They have existed since the dawn of time, or perhaps before, and they are eternal. This doesn’t mean they’re always around though. Destiny, Death, and Dream take their jobs very seriously, while the others are more capricious.

But. In the comic, and in the show, a man has the hubris to believe he can control death and, in doing so, captures Dream instead, who had been in the waking world to try and capture a rogue nightmare (who is implied to be Jack the Ripper).

The Dreaming

While a lot of us are used to the fantastical and CGI riddled comic adaptations, Sandman holds true to the gritty, abject realism that made the comics so astounding. Of course there are special effects as one needs when you have dissolving bodies and birds and pumpkin headed characters, but because they are so restrained, it keeps you more solidly in the story.

The story it tells is the same as the comics, but at the same turn, it alters the when and where of things enough that you can find new gems every scene change. There are characters you will hate and ones you will love. And yes, there are gays all over this story. Everyone is a complex portrait of humanity and our endless foibles, be they our dreams, our desires, our despair, our destruction, or our delirium.

In the end, our destiny will lead us to our inevitable end, death herself.

Is the series as good as the comics?

Yes. Yes it is. And I think for a lot of people who aren’t comic people, this may be the best way to wrap them up into our endless cycle.

About Mika A. Epstein

Mika has been deep in fandom since she could say 'Trekkie.' With decades experience in running fansites, developing software, and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife and their cats in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.
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