When it comes to cult classic comic book series, very few stand above Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, which featured art by a laundry list of artists like Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Jill Thompson, and Michael Zulli to name a few. It wasn’t quite an anthology series, but it frequently spun out into unique one-off stories. It wasn’t exactly a superhero comic, either, but it did exist within the DC Universe and frequently intersected with it–often in the most unexpected ways. The end result was something weird and wonderful that quickly became a deeply beloved part of comic book history. Now, more than 20 years after its original publication, The Sandman has finally been adapted to live-action by Warner Bros. and Netflix. 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.
And, unfortunately, some of that anxiety is duly justified. The final result of Netflix’s The Sandman TV show is a mixed bag at best with just as many brilliant, pitch-perfect choices as there are baffling and clunky ones. This is thanks at least in part to a slavish reliance on the source material. Very, very little of The Sandman has been changed for the show–whole panels are recreated one-for-one and whole lines of dialogue are frequently lifted for scenes. Virtually every plot follows the same cadre of beats. This isn’t always to the show’s detriment–some of the directly adapted moments are going to be obvious fan favorites–but other times they can feel trite or even dated within this new context. The comic book series was, after all, a product of the late ’80s and early ’90s, so some of the gags (visual or otherwise) just don’t quite hit the same now in 2022 as they would have back then.