Neil Gaiman has had a big couple of years when it comes to TV adaptations of some of his most beloved works. American Gods debuted on Starz back in 2017, and Good Omens took the world by storm as an apocalyptic comedy on Amazon Prime earlier this year. Now, his long-running comic series The Sandman will become a TV show thanks to Netflix. Some official details were announced when the big news first hit, and Neil Gaiman came out to answer some specific fan questions.
Let's start with the big news. Netflix ordered The Sandman as a show based on Neil Gaiman's comic series of the same name. It will follow the people and places impacted by the Dream King, known as Morpheus, who mends the cosmic and human mistakes that he has made over the many years of his existence. Gaiman himself is on board as an executive producer, and he'll co-write the first of the 11 episodes in the initial series order.
Allan Heinberg of Wonder Woman and Grey's Anatomy is showrunner, and David S. Goyer of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and Krypton joins Neil Gaiman and Heinberg in an executive producing capacity. The three will collaborate for writing the first episode. The Sandman movie may not have happened, but it already sounds like there's a lot to look forward to with the TV show.
Although the info released by Netflix is certainly interesting, it's somewhat short on details. Neil Gaiman took to social media to answer some fan questions about what's to come. Considering Gaiman was on board Good Omens as showrunner, executive producer, writer of all six episodes, and co-author of the source material, one natural question was whether he would take on a similarly huge role for The Sandman. Here was his response:
Neil Gaiman will not run or co-run the show for The Sandman. In fact, it sounds like fans can count out Gaiman running the show for any and all future adaptations of Gaiman's works, at least at this point. Good Omens was a big job that Gaiman tackled to honor his late friend and co-author Terry Pratchett; he won't need to tackle the same job for the Netflix adaptation of The Sandman.
The author went on to clarify his Sandman involvement compared to his other two big TV shows:
Neil Gaiman is credited as an executive producer on American Gods and co-wrote the Season 2 premiere, but his involvement has been relatively minimal beyond penning the novel that started it all. It's interesting that Gaiman noted "much" more involvement than American Gods but not "much" less than Good Omens.
Considering how significantly involved he was with Good Omens (and the angel/demon dynamic that grabbed the attention of viewers everywhere), perhaps we can expect him to be fairly involved with the new project.
When news first broke of the Sandman series this week, some reports were "filled with errors," according to Neil Gaiman himself. So, he took to Twitter to clarify what has and has not been written at this point:
He also confirmed that he will be co-writing the pilot, so Sandman comic fans can count on the mind that created that universe having a heavy hand in crafting the very first episode. (Casting has not begun either.) Of course, those fans will know well that the comic series that launched in 1989 doesn't exactly match the current day in age, leading to the question of how The Sandman would handle the comic setting.
According to Neil Gaiman, the solution is simple:
The Sandman TV show simply won't be set back in 1989! That should simplify things for the production team and won't necessarily require younger viewers to sign on for a show taking place three decades ago. An update to 2019+ also allows for a fresh take that could delight longtime readers, even if it would be a notable departure.
When one Twitter user stated that she "would have been very interested" in seeing The Sandman as a period drama, Neil Gaiman elaborated on why an update should work:
The Good Omens novel, published in 1990 and partially set more than a decade previous, was very much the product of a Cold War era. That did not stop Neil Gaiman and Co. from updating it for 2019 while keeping the key elements and characters of the story intact. If Good Omens can get away with an update, so can The Sandman, right?
The Sandman has been running off and on as a comic series since 1989, so the idea of Netflix telling a complete Sandman story in the span off 11 episodes feels all but impossible. Fortunately, Neil Gaiman agrees. On Twitter, Gaiman referred to the 11-episode first season as "the start of it all," covering the initial Preludes and Nocturnes collection and "a little bit more."
Neil Gaiman went even further on Tumblr. When a fan on that social media platform said that while Good Omens worked as a six-episode limited series, Sandman would take "something like fifty hours at least," Gaiman shared this promising response:
More than that. The first season would only be Preludes and Nocturnes. And a bit more.
Wow! Neil Gaiman's suggestion of a Sandman series that runs for more than 50 hours is wild even by Netflix standards. The streaming giant may have looser rules than allow for more nudity and F-bombs than you'll find on broadcast network television, but most Netflix seasons run for 13 episodes at most in recent years, and few series seem to last long enough to hit 50 episodes. If The Sandman sticks with 10- or 11-episode seasons, it would need at least five.
A lot could change in the next five years. Netflix gave the axe to several of its hit comic book-based properties not too long ago, which at first seemed like a bad sign for future comic series on the streaming giant. but the orders for shows like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Umbrella Academy, and Lucifer Seasons 4 and 5 showed that Netflix was willing to invest in the right comic projects.
Interestingly, Neil Gaiman created the Lucifer character for the Sandman comics before the Tom Ellis-starring adaptation, and he even voiced God for the series back when it was still on Fox.
You can catch the first four seasons of Lucifer streaming on Netflix now, and it's likely that the fifth and final season of that series will premiere before The Sandman does. After all, none of the Sandman scripts have been written yet and casting hasn't begun. There are plenty of Netflix options now and in the coming weeks as well.
If you want to experience Neil Gaiman's magic touch streaming on TV, you can find all six episodes of Good Omens (with an awesome abundance of Queen songs) on Amazon now. In a twist that Gaiman was very much enjoying, a Christian group tried to get Good Omens cancelled... by petitioning Netflix. At least now we know that Gaiman really does have a Netflix project in the works!