The Sandman, a Netflix fantasy series, opens with a small fragment of text explaining its protagonist, which is considerably more extensive than comics readers got when the Neil Gaiman Sandman series was launched in 1988. Both the comics version and the Netflix version of the story leave a lot for the listener to learn over time.
Viewers who like the sort of narrative that baits a hook in episode 1 and keeps reeling it in until episode 10 should just dive into the program without explanation. While the first season of The Sandman covers the first two graphic novels out of ten, it may take years for Netflix to complete all of the mysteries laid out in the opening season.
If you are unfamiliar with the comics and don't want to spend the first season pondering about who are these people, why are they like this, and what are they referencing, this handy guide to the Sandman cosmos and its most essential concepts and characters might be helpful.
Who is Dream?
Dream, as a concept and a fundamental force of the universe, is Sandman's title character and its protagonist. In the Netflix adaptation, Tom Sturridge plays Dream, an immortal entity who broadly embodies and manages the world of dreams. In addition to Morpheus, the Sandman, Oneiros, and other names used by many other races, species, and cultures throughout the Sandman series, Dream has the ability to create and modify dreams and nightmares, also known as the Dreaming.
Mortals aren't just humans, but as the comics series shows, they may be sentient animals, aliens, or anything else that they can imagine. It's the Dreams' responsibility to keep the world of dreams in check and in balance, according to the series. Early in the series, when he's unable to do so for a while, things fall apart.
What are Dreams powers?
So long as the content of the narrative is relevant, he can create independent, sapient beings from scratch, modify them as he desires, and destroy them at will. He can interpret anyone's ideas, and add things to them. In a story that is fundamentally about storytelling, that's pretty powerful.
Who are Dreams siblings?
Lucienne (Vivienne Acheampong) asks if he may seek out his siblings for help in a current crisis, and she dismisses her, claiming that they have their own realms to watch to. (Which is true, but also, Dream is extraordinarily proud and stubborn, and he doesnt want to admit he needs help.)
Destiny, Death, Desire, Delirium, and a sixth of Dreams siblings are all fictional, often implying that they are immortal. Desire, however, is a shady, solitary person who does not appear in season 1, and she is often found as disgruntled and depressed. (Comics readers eventually learn she used to be Delight, when the universe was much younger, but they never discover much about what it means for an Endless to change identities.) He is also
Each of the Endless has their own realms that they can reflect on, and each of them has broad powers over their name concept, whether that be gaining power from peoples desire or despair, being able to wander through the minds of the insane, or carrying the responsibility of carrying the dead on to whatever comes next for them. Different Endless feel different about their relationship with the beings that fall under their portfolio, with Dream acting more like an impartial god over dreamers, while Death treats the dead like old friends seeking guidance.
Who is the Prodigal, the seventh Endless?
The Sandman's version remained a mystery for a long time, so consider this a spoiler for season 3 or 4 or 5, depending on whether the series continues, or whether it skips Sandmans many minor side stories to focus on Dream's journey. Destruction is revealed eventually to be Destruction, an Endless who wanders the universe before he gets his way, raising the question whether the Endless are really necessary as conscious, active entities.
The Destructions arc raises doubts about how significant the Endless are, and whether they really do have a purpose, but the comics series never fully investigates these concerns, since it is so focused on Dream, and Dream himself has much more immediate difficulties than existentialist self-exploration.
Who gave Dream his powers?Whos his boss?
The Endless simply came into being the first time a sentient creature had a destiny, or dreamed, or desired, or died, and so forth. Again, Dream and his family are fundamental forces as much as they are people, so they dont appear to have been created by anyone, and they do not answer to anyone. In their anthropomorphized form, they arent part of anyone elses hierarchy, which is vital in a cosmos this crowded with other immortals.
Why does Dream have magical powers?Where did he obtain them?
Dream invested a lot of his own time and energy into constructing tools that would more efficiently channel and shape the Dreaming. When he gets weak after being shut off from his realm and his duties for the majority of a century, he wants them back in order to regain their power. However, you can also see the whole thing as a symbolic attempt to reassert his authority and declare his presence to a wide spectrum of interested parties.
Is there a God in the Sandman mythos?
The Sandman world is understood to include several pantheons, including the Greco-Roman and Egyptian gods, who have died on difficult occasions as mortals have largely stopped worshipping them. They have passed into myth and legend, and their actions are part of his kingdom. Lucifer Morningstar, aka the Devil, is real (and played by Gwendoline Christie), with a significant part to play in season 1.
Is the heaven in which Lucifer was dragged out of the Judeo-Christian heaven, with the Judeo-Christian God? Thats up to interpretation. In the Sandman comics series, there are certainly traditional angels as characters, but they do not have anything to do with the Dreams story at all. Theyre far more an over-there-somewhere prophecy than a significant piece of this particular narrative.
Who else is a significant power in Sandman?
The Sandman universe's main goal is that all stories remain true and true, to some extent or another in the Dreaming, if not in reality, and in the mind, if not in mortal history. This is why the Sandman comic also (very marginally) includes DC characters like Matthew the Raven (originally a human villain in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, though the Netflix series removes that backstory), and the hero Wesley Dodds, the Golden Age Sandman.
Sandman is a multi-layered pan-mythic crossover narrative that includes mythic figures like the Fates (who Dream seeks for information on his lost equipment), the muse Calliope, and the legendary hero Orpheus. They share the page with real people like William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Robespierre, and America's last Emperor, Joshua Norton.
However, there are quite a few more significant powers, including the gods, the Faerie Court (as seen in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Nights Dream, with Titania, Oberon, and Puck), and anthropomorphic representations of Order and Chaos. Again, expect anyone who plays prominently in myth to be welcome in a Sandman story.
Who is the Corinthian?
The Corinthian is a rogue nightmare who saw the Sandman story as an opportunity to enjoy himself in the mortal world. He is a good example of the way Morpheus perceives dreams and nightmares as being individuals, but not as objects outside of their intended purpose.
Doesn't that make Dream a jerk?
Dream is a fascinating character. He can be maudlin and mopey, vain and stuffy, distant and superior, or simply indifferent to other peoples suffering. His motives are sometimes difficult to discern due to his inhuman nature; after all, he is a human being. Its OK to dislike him if he's huffy or bossy.
Just remember that in Sandman season 1, he's not exactly at his best, having just passed a long, agonizing trauma. He can't confide in them, as they're his only creatures and creations, and he can't really confide in them. His family is a tense bunch at best, so he doesn't have anyone to talk to about his absence.
What else do I need to know?
When you read or watch Sandman, you'll find yourself in the realm of the mythic. Most myths are more about capturing a feeling or illustrating a principle than about ensuring every last detail is accurate.