The Sandman has seen a few clever tweaks and changes to make Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece suitable for the small screen.
Netflix’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s classic comic series The Sandman is finally upon us. After years in development hell, the dream lord Morpheus (Tom Sturridge) takes to the screen in a 10-episode run that covers the first 16 issues of the comic.
But as is often the case when a comic is adapted from page to screen, a number of changes have to be made to ensure that the story flows and works for the medium. We watched season 1 of The Sandman and compared it to the comic book to find the biggest differences between the original and the adaptation.
In their review of The Sandman, Mason Downey said “The road to get here has been long, with the project entering and exiting various stages of production with different creatives at the helm for almost as long as the comic series itself has existed. So to say expectations–and anxiety–around the final result of such a protracted effort are high would be putting it lightly.”
All episodes of The Sandman are now streaming on Netflix.
1.) The Corinthian
Let’s start with one of the biggest changes to The Sandman: the expanded role of the Corinthian.
In the comic series, the Corinthian is Morpheus’ masterpiece, “a black mirror made to reflect everything about itself that humanity will not confront.” Despite this grand-sounding description, the Corinthian only appears as an antagonist in the Dollhouse arc and makes his first appearance in issue #10 of the comic. In the show, he’s presented as the big bad of the whole series, a malignant presence working behind the scenes to get one over on Morpheus from the beginning. He visits every major character who interacts with Morpheus over the course of the season, including Ethel Cripps, John Dee, and even Roderick Burgess, carefully nudging them into Morpheus’ path and out of his.
2.) Roderick Burgess
Roderick Burgess, Lord Magus of the Order of the Ancient Mysteries, inadvertently captures Morpheus during a summoning ritual while attempting to capture Death. Over the course of the first episode of Netflix’s Sandman adaptation, Burgess (Charles Dance) reveals that he had a son named Randall who died at Gallipoli and that he tries to capture Death in order for Randall to be returned from the dead. In the comic, Roderick only has one son, Alex, and wishes to imprison Death merely so that he can live forever.
In the comic, Roderick dies naturally as a twisted, bitter old man. Very different to what happens in the show.
The show expands the role of Jessamy, Morpheus’ previous companion before Matthew the Raven fell into his service. Jessamy makes a brief appearance in issue #29 of Sandman, “Thermidor,” an issue set in the 1700s where Morpheus must ask Lady Johanna Constantine for help retrieving something precious to him. In the show, Jessamy is aware of Morpheus’ imprisonment in the basement of Fawney Rig and attempts to free him by setting a fire as a distraction.
4.) Cain and Abel and Gregory and Goldie
There are a number of small changes made to the biblical brothers Cain and Abel. In the comic, the two are residents of the Dreaming, and Cain’s gargoyle, Gregory, finds a weakened Morpheus after he escapes Burgess’ clutches. Cain and Abel attempt to nurse Morpheus back to health, but he only regains a sliver of strength when he absorbs their letters of commission, which he initially made. Goldie is not a gift to the brothers from Morpheus but a gift from Cain to Abel.
In the show, Gregory the gargoyle is absorbed by the Dream Lord to help him rebuild the Dreaming.
5.) John Dee
There are also a few tweaks made to John Dee’s story and history. In the comic, he’s imprisoned at Arkham Asylum, after being arrested by the Justice League for using the Dreamstone. While his mother Ethel Cripps does visit him in jail, it’s brief and they don’t discuss his father or reconnect. He’s later informed of her death by a guard, Ethel’s haunting rapid aging doesn’t happen.
John Dee’s major motivation in the comic is to use the Dreamstone to make the world mad, so they’d have no choice but to accept him as king. In the show, after years of being lied to, he simply wants to use the stone to make people tell the truth. When he’s driven by Rosemary the taxi driver, he ends up killing her, but in the show, he sees the good in her, and gives her his amulet of protection.
6.) Johanna Constantine
In the comic, it’s John Constantine that helps Morpheus track down his missing sand pouch, but the show had to substitute him for Johanna. Author Neil Gaiman has previously stated that the rights situation with John Constantine is “certainly circumscribed right now,” and revealed back in 2021 that the plan was always to have Jenna Coleman play both Lady Johanna Constantine from the 1700s and modern day Johanna Constantine.
The Casanova Club sequence in the show is mentioned briefly in the comic (it’s from Hellblazer #11), and explains why Constantine suffers from nightmares. Johanna needing to exorcize a princess is not in The Sandman.
Choronzon, the demon who ends up with Morpheus’ helm and takes it to Hell, is originally the one who is challenged to play the oldest game by the Dream Lord. In the show, Choronzon chooses Lucifer Morningstar to be its champion.
8.) Miranda/Unity Kinkaid/Rose Walker
In the Netflix series, Miranda Walker has died, and Rose is called to the UK to be interviewed by a mysterious foundation, whereas in the comic, Miranda and Rose travel together to meet Unity Kinkaid, later revealed to be Miranda’s mother.
9.) The (Other) Sandman
Jed’s role plays out a little differently in the Netflix series. In his dreams, he is a superhero known as The Sandman, but in the comic, it is Lyta’s husband Hector who takes on the mantle after being tricked by two nightmares, Brute and Glob. Lyta and Hector live in the Dream Dimension, a pocket dimension of the Dreaming that Brute and Glob tried to turn into their own realm in Morpheus’ absence. In the show, Lyta’s pregnancy progresses at a rapid pace, but in the comic, she’s pregnant for years.
Gault is a shape-shifting nightmare that yearns to be a dream, offering Jed dreams of being The Sandman to escape the reality of living with his abusive foster parents. Gault is a new character for the Netflix series, but some aspects of the character are a mashup of the two other escaped nightmares, Brute and Glob.
11.) Cereal Killers
The cereal convention, AKA the meet up of serial killers, plays out a little differently. First of all, the organizers do not imitate the Corinthian’s crimes to get him to attend: he calls them up and asks to come.
Rose and Gilbert attend the convention alone, and Gilbert tells her to call out for Morpheus if she is ever in trouble. In the show, it is Jed who is attacked by Fun Land, but in the comic, it’s Rose, and she calls upon Morpheus to save her, meeting him for the first time.
Jed and Rose do not walk around the convention together, he’s been kidnapped by the Corinthian, and Gilbert finds him later on in the story, returning him to Rose.