Whenever a book or comic is altered to a show or movie, there is naturally a lot of discussion about what the changes mean. Did the snipping that comes with it make it better, worse, different in a way that is unrecognizable? What does it mean if the changes come from the creator themselves?
The Sandman, based on Neil Gaiman's beloved comic book of the same name, is likely to be on fans' minds as they watch it (with David S. Goyer and showrunner Allan Heinberg), who also serves as executive producer. It might be a bit of a comfort, in a sense, to know that a creator has a significant role in a show that went through significant development hell to get to this point.
There were moments where we would argue, OK, what is important in a scene? I would talk with Allan about why a scene had been created, what I meant, and what I meant, Gaiman tells Polygon. You pick a character like Death, and you'll fall in love with her for a moment.
Kirby Howell-Baptiste, a Black woman, perfectly captured Gaiman's thought perfectly; she was the kind of person who, as Death, could generously say, You know you should look both ways before you cross the street, and youd kind of like her for having said it. Though Gaiman said that wasnt always the case, Howell-Baptiste, a Black woman, was the same person.
Gwendoline Christie appears and acts in every way like the Lucifer that Mike Dringenberg and Sam Kieth drew in Sandman #4. That's all there is to it, according to Gaiman, and that's all we need.
As the story moved to television, Gaiman felt certain adjustments were required. The Sandman's episode centered on Death draws from the original comic The Sound of Her Wings and merges it with a short story called Winters Tale that Gaiman wrote, while Sandman makes a few changes here and there to the story, preserving the true brutality of the 24 Hours chapter or retaining a singular look for the castle of the Dreaming instead of an ever-changing castle.
In a Vanity Fair video discussing some changes to the appearance of the Endless domains, Gaiman said, "It didnt quite work." Then we had to consider: How would it all work?"
The comic books were always the bible; sometimes they were more the Old Testament. We let things go, but the things that changed were usually related to the times or to the necessity to make something available for television.
Beyond that, many actors say they were given the freedom to make their roles work for them, working with Gaiman and Heinberg to produce performances that felt authentic to the work's essence, the only thing Gaiman considered important to maintain.
So much of the fun in the game came from discovering the relationships with other characters, although we've seen it on the page, but how does it work in real life? Howell-Baptiste says. For me, I used the source material in the comics because it's gold, basically, for my character.
So, before they explained who the character was, my reading was really instinctive. And from that, they obviously seemed to be interested in me running with what I was bringing. So I just felt a lot of freedom and freedom from Neil and Allan to play and explore.
Jenna Coleman, who plays Johanna Constantine, agrees, although her character has been greatly changed over the course of the book iteration. It was a deliberate choice for her Constantine, who is now recognized as at the top of her game and in service to the royal family.
Coleman says she thinks it was a very deliberate decision and departure away from Neil and Allans' vision in terms of costume. Gaiman's callback audition was like hers in my whole life.
Im sure that so many adaptations are so separated from their creators. Whereas [...] The Sandman is Neils' dream, both the 1989 comic for the beginning of it, and now, to this show that's on Netflix, Coleman adds. He has directly taken his work and reimagined it. And so for me, just having him around and knowing that we've got his seal of approval allowed us to be much more free in our work.
Tasha Robinson has provided additional reporting.