first i read Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman series when he was in high school, about five years after the initial run of the comics ended. This meant omnibus editions, which were the only thing I could find in my library anyway. The series immediately drew me in with its mix of iconic serialized short racing stories from a single creator and larger narrative arcs that you can really dig into with collected editions. spread all over The Sandman‘s episodic stories it’s the theme that the world is random shit sometimes, and we all have to work extremely hard under absurd circumstances to keep our dreams, hopes, and love alive.
The Sandman (the Netflix version) doesn’t hit as hard. The horrible realities of life, which are sometimes random and unreasonable, were softened for the show. I enjoyed the show, I thought it was well done, well acted, well written. It’s a good show (great at times) and well worth watching. But I find it hard to believe that anyone watches the show and understands why the comics became such a phenomenon, why those designs and characters have lasted 40 years, why Gaiman became such a sensation in sci-fi and fantasy circles, and why for this day people credit Gaiman with literally inventing the tropes that have plagued short fiction magazines in the decades since.
The Sandman it’s a great show, but it doesn’t have the same edge that etched comics in my memory as both disturbing and delightful. The comics walked this fine line with a lack of grace and nuance that could have come from Gaiman’s age or could have simply happened because it was the early ’90s and this was a DC/Vertigo comic. An example of this is when Constantine has to go looking for his ex-girlfriend, who has kept Morpheus’ sandbag. The sand is compared to a drug (something like heroin), and her ex counts her back from 100 each time before rubbing some more into her skin. She is shown to him emaciated and injured, but in ecstasy. It’s a horrible analogy for addiction, but it shows the perverse duality of this writing, where the fantasy of drug use comes true, but it’s also worse than anyone can imagine. On the show, this incident is much less of a concern; Constantine’s ex still has the sand, but instead of using it to fuel an addiction, she just holds it and dreams, losing herself in memory. It is the kinder and softer version of this story.
I don’t need my programs to be nice. I don’t need the Sandman to be nice. There are only a few times where I really felt like the show could balance bleak reality with a desperate sense of unfair circumstantial horror. When Death picks up the baby in her crib, when Jessamy is shot, when her foster parents abuse Jed Walker; these are the few moments of random brutality that reminded me of the comics, but in all of these moments, there was still a reserve on screen. They have averted the horror. Even the dinner interlude was less cruel than the version in the End of the world comics collection. She still felt there, a scenic reserve. from netflix Sandman wants to tell us the world is brutal, but the show doesn’t revel in it like the comics did.
This side step is well demonstrated when Morpheus goes to Cain and Abel’s house to retrieve Gregorio and make himself a little more whole. When Cain says “It’s not fair”, Morpheus just replies, “No, it’s not.” And then he essentially kills his pet. (Interestingly, in the comics, this is much less disturbing; Morpheus only destroys the brothers’ contracts and not his gargoyle-guard.) But even as he plays on injustice, the show still seeps into sentiment. This moment dragged on and was framed as a selfless act. Even when a beloved pet dissolves into nothing, there is something so pleasant about this moment. It’s easy to see. It makes sense, in a maudlin, maudlin kind of way. The show wants you to feel that pathos, but it doesn’t want to upset you.
The comics proved time and time again that life sucks because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and sometimes that’s just how life works. Sorry, says Neil Gaiman, 26, life sucks. However, hope is out there, if you can find it. He wanted the show to be like Legion, but it is much more Lucifer. It’s based in a way the comics never were. Part of this is probably because it had to be this way, because it’s Netflix; you can’t afford to turn something that expensive into something that explores the normal, typical, mundane horrors of assault, addiction, suicide, and serial killers and just tap dance, yelling “that’s life! ” while a strange and fickle god dispenses his version of hyper-specific justice. Netflix needs to do The Sandman make sense. And so it is.
At the beginning of the series there is a bit of voiceover from the Lord of Dreams as we see his raven, Jessamy, flying over the realm of dreams. Dreaming is meant to give you a world where you can “face your fears and fantasies.” Then Morpheus says that he must control both dreams and nightmares “so that they do not consume and destroy” those who dream.
This feels like a fantastically apt description of what Gaiman has done in the series. He has removed the truly nightmarish parts of his creation and left something much more dreamy, much more in tune with contemporary audiences and much more digestible. from netflix Sandman has had its edges blunt. The punches still hit hard, but they don’t bite you with the same sharp fervor of the original. I will fully admit that to many, this may seem silly; it can be struck with either end of a hammer and still feel the impact. But for me it was that claw that bit me, the crunch of horror I remember, the anger and frustration, the way that disgust stuck to my palate as I read. I was outraged I never really let The Sandman Let’s go. As I watched, I found myself wishing the program Hurts more. She never did.
I fully recognize that the absence of what makes me nostalgic the Sandman from the 90s is exactly what people love about this version. There’s something satisfying about seeing a nightmare make sense. What we have in the Netflix series is a wonderful, albeit sanitized, version of Gaiman’s comic book masterpiece. And if we’re going to see a dream, I don’t care about this one. This show is the product of an abiding hope that this and all versions of the Dream of the Endless will live on for a long, long time. It makes sense. Dreams, as Matthew says, don’t die.
Want more io9 news? Find out when to expect the latest Wonderful Y Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe in film and televisionand everything you need to know about house of the dragon Y The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.