OK, what took, well, me so long to get to this? Huge hit on Netflix, I am a longtime fan of the original graphic novels, and one of the few books in my collection that I will not loan out for any reason is my copy of American Gods signed by Neil Gaiman. The Sandman, the comic series from DC Comics that made him a household name and probably was one of the biggest foundations for the old Vertigo line, has been something in development for a good long time, and now it’s finally out.
Short answer on why I waited: I wanted to cover it episode by episode on Gabbing Geek and needed a time slot to open up. That’s also the long answer, but I really wanted to savor this one. I’ve been rather lucky with the TV shows I cover lately, and I suspected The Sandman would continue that trend.
As it is, what I saw here was both a largely faithful adaptation of the first issue of the comic but also something that told me exactly why this show was so expensive. Now, the story itself is, I suppose, a basic set-up for the rest of the series, and Gaiman needed a few issues to really hit his stride. So, this is a decent adaptation of a decent first issue where I hope the buzz I heard at the Gabbing Geek virtual watercooler is basically that the show really gets good at about the same point the comic series did.
Granted, I am curious how much of Gaiman’s story made the move. While much of it is more or less original, the series was still set in the DC Universe. I’m not sure how many DC characters will be appearing on this show. I’m largely fine with not seeing any, and heck, I don’t even mind the way the series swapped gender and race around for the different characters. There’s no reason not to do that as far as I am concerned, and I am more interested in seeing the Endless behave, well, more or less like the Endless and not just appear as panel for panel recreations. So, seeing Lucienne the Librarian as a Black woman was fine by me. What little I saw of her in this one episode tells me the character is right, and that’s what counts.
Then again, when I went back and read through Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run, something I read after I finished Sandman, I was a little surprised how much Gaiman borrowed from Moore’s work. In many ways, Gaiman took Moore’s ideas and fleshed them out in fantastic ways, so a throwaway bit about Cain and Abel, for example, became a pair of regular supporting characters. Those two don’t appear in this episode, but the point is, I am curious how much DC let this adaptation use. There should still be enough to do the Sandman saga without any problems, but I don’t think Lyta Hall is going to be appearing as a former superhero any more than I expect Despair to walk around naked all the time.
That said, I did like very much what I saw here. Heck, I’m always glad to see Charles Dance play another stern authority figure. Casting him as the Magus, Roderick Burgess, is a smart move as he is the sort of father who would bully his son into keeping Morpheus locked up in the basement after an attempt to capture Death goes wrong, instead nabbing Death’s kid brother Dream. And while Tom Sturridge arguably doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot here as Dream, he does have an otherworldly look about him as he goes about his business, here showing an attempt to bring the rogue nightmare the Corinthian back to the Dreaming.
That does lead me to note the bigger changes made to the narrative. How long was Morpheus in his prison? It does seem as if the old man he decided to punish was, oddly enough, not old enough if Dream was in there for a century. Then again, the timeline isn’t quite established yet, and for all I know, the series is set in the late 80s or early 90s or something. But the fact that the Corinthian stopped by Stately Burgess Manor to offer the Magus some tips for keeping Dream contained adds to the character’s general evil, and if anything, Dream’s punishment here to wimpy Alex Burgess is a lot gentler than endless nightmares. Here, Alex just goes to sleep and won’t be waking up anytime soon.
So yeah, Dream is back in the Dreaming, and he has a lot of rebuilding to do. His instruments of power are in the hands of the Magus’s estranged love interest Ethel Dee and her illegitimate son. And he’s probably fairly weak after his long imprisonment. He has a lot to do.
I am looking forward to watching him do it.
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