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Worst Case Scenario: Dreamy, The Teen Sandman

I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m very, very worried about the prospect of The Sandman being turned into a television series. No, that’s not exactly right: What I’m worried about are the latest rumors about The Sandman being turned into a television series.

Here’re the connections that I’m making that lead me to the worry: Sandman is, apparently, being developed as a television series, with Supernatural‘s Eric Kripke as showrunner. Eric Kripke has a relationship with the CW. DC Comics has a relationship with the CW. The CW is looking for a new series from their relationship with DC to replace Smallville. Do you see where I’m going with this…?

Yes, it requires certain leaps of logic. But none of them are impossible leaps to make; for those who think that it’d be impossible to get from the hallowed pages of The Sandman to a CW series designed to fit into the network’s Friday night schedule, I’d like to remind you:

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that Supernatural is a bad show, or that Kripke couldn’t come up with a good version that’s relatively true to Neil Gaiman’s original (I think there are elements of Supernatural, from what little I’ve seen, that owe some things to Sandman, but I could be wrong). This is purely about the massive potential for disaster that awaits Sandman as it heads into television, and my own cynicism. Is there a network – other than, say, HBO, Showtime or AMC – who’d be okay with the title character being an aloof bystander in as many stories as he is in the comic? Or with the constant shifts in cast and tone throughout the entire series? I worry that a television version of the comic would try to please both the more generic demands of a television network as well as the comic’s fanbase, and end up with something that fulfills neither, a weird mix of The Vampire Diaries and The Sandman Presents spin-offs that tried and failed to repeat the magic of Gaiman’s voice, with Chase Crawford as Morpheus and Jessica Lowndes as Death, and the Dreaming refit as a psychic hangout where bands play their latest singles every week, in between monologues about human frailties.

The Sandman would – will? – make a much better television series than it would a movie, I agree, and if we have to see an adaptation, then a television show might be the best way to go. It’s just… Do we really have to have an adaptation? Can’t we just have accept that it’s a great comic and move on, already?


  • Mr. Saxon

    Supernatural is easily one of the best horror dramas I've seen in a long, long time. Neil Gaiman has a creator-copyright on Sandman, so the only way this series can happen is if he's directly involved.

    It has potential for disaster, but I think getting Kripke and Gaiman will lower the chances of that.

  • MartialBob

    I think that we have inevitably brace ourselves for something that will in one way or another disappoint us. Whether they follow the original comic closely or loosely they'll miss something and someone will lose their minds over it. When the Lord of the Rings movies came out my girlfriend at the time was a huge fan of the books and hated those movies. Having never read the books I couldn't comment on how closely they followed the books but she picked out even small things that were different that drove her nuts. So even if they do a good job with The Sandman people will find something wrong.

  • Stefan W

    This kind of cynicism annoys me. There are a hundred things that could go wrong with a Sandman adaptation, but there are a thousand things that could go right with it. You don't actually know anything about the direction these people want to take this series in, and you're already making up problems in your head, and spreading your worries around with this column. It's a knee-jerk reaction to what is ultimately, at this stage, pure potential, and honestly that's kind of sad. Bitching and moaning really doesn't serve anyone, but especially when its target is 100% imaginary.

  • stealthwise

    Gaiman actually has no such thing, he signed no “creator-owned” deal when he took over, instead repurposing the original Sandman name into a new character entirely owned by DC Comics. They simply ended the series because he wished to leave it and they knew that fans would revolt if they tried to replace him, given that the series was reliant almost solely on his authorial direction.

  • stealthwise

    What was she mad about at Lord of the Rings? No Tom Bombadil?

  • Ortiz

    Maybe it was about no Radagast :D


  • Mwedmer

    The CW is owned by Warner Bros. just like DC comics is.

    Warner.DC has been making efforts lately to follow in the footsteps of MARVEL to keep a stronger control over their properties.

    If you think about it, back when Smallville began, MARVEL had not at that time released their own take on their characters.

    so, S,allville reflects that because it was at a time when comic companies were still trying to change the core concepts to fit what they felt a TV audience would accept.

    Since IRON MAN and Incredible Hulk released however we have seen Smallville amp things up and move into a more -comic book- direction.

    So looking at Sandman, (which Gaiman does have a bit of a stake in, as he does with all of the Comic work he does due to his position in the writing world and look no further than his work with McFarlane and the long court battles he is winning there)

    If Sandman comes to TV, I see it being done similar to Tales from the Crypt, Where Dream is the Narrator of stories told in the show. Sometimes those tales will include him, or members of his family and how they affect the lives of those in the given story.

    The show can easily survive as a surreal take on mystery/sci-fi premise.

    I doubt completely that they would destroy any chance the concept has at success by filling the characters with vapid pretty people jusdt because they have other shows with that kind of cast.

    Supernatural does not fall into that type of format and it is not at all like the Sandman concept, unless you are using the supernatural elements as your basis.

    Supernatural is focused soley on the Catholic version of Armegeddon.

  • heck

    considering supernatural had no real source material like Sandman will have and its still a fairly dark show im not eager to throw Kripke under the teen beat bus as of yet..ill wait to see how it guess the cast will be a little too good looking and some of the stories will be dumbed down (which would piss me off a little) but it wont be a travesty.

  • Claudia

    I'm not really jumping from excitement but so far nothing is written and Kripke is still just a potential candidate. Kripke is involved with WB and they produce shows for all kinds of networks, so just because Kripke would get the job, doesn't mean the CW will air it.

  • Tomfitz1

    Soooo, let's wait and see how the series comes out first, before we start to complain or worry.

    If it does well, then good, if not, then it won't survive the first season.

    Either way, it's all out of our hands. All we can hope for is that the tv people take the series seriously and the fans concerns into consideration while making the production.

  • Brother Justin Crowe

    Supernatural is a fantastic show, and Kripke has shown no shortage of genre awareness and is very in touch with what fans of any franchise are like (see episodes like “Hollywood Babylon” and “The Real Ghostbusters”). He's also apparently quite the comic fan; rumor has it that in season 4 he wanted John Constantine (SPOILER ALERT!) to be the one who raised Dean from Hell (END SPOILERS). This obviously didn't go well with DC's legal department, so he created Castiel instead. Cas's wardrobe is an homage to Constantine's. Also, folks like Ben Edlund (creator of The Tick and former Whedon collaborator) are on his writing staff.

    While, yes, the show is on the CW and features two attractive young men as the leads, Kripke uses that to his advantage instead of viewing it as an impediment. I have no doubt if he runs The Sandman, he'll use The CW to his advantage instead of looking upon it as detrimental to his work.

  • brother justin crowe

    And, uh, Supernatural is not solely focused on the Catholic version of anything. Yes, the Biblical apocalypse was the main arc of seasons 4 and 5, but you're discounting the first three years, the upcoming sixth, and the stand-alone episodes in the last two seasons…not to mention the appearances, throughout the course of the show, of Odin, cannibals, Mercury, Kali, the myth of the “anti-Claus”, etc.

  • Jose Ulloa

    I have the same fears that you wrote about in your column.Even worse, I fear they'll go the “Twilight” route and make him an emo with identity issues. I would have loved HBO doing this show cause they know how to develop tv series with film budget and production, and I could have seen the people behind Carnivale doing this (and Preacher too).
    Now, as a fan of the comic and Neil Gaiman in general, I don´t thin kwe need the tv or movie adaptations per se, but I`d love it so much if the world were to know on a much higher scale that Neil Gaiman exists and that his work on the Sandman deserves to be recognized as much as Tolkien`s and, definitely, much more that RK Rowling or Dan Brown or any other of those that write stories in order to make movies.

  • Christopherlirving

    I think these are all very well-founded fears, but on the basis of Smallville alone. Really check out Supernatural, and you'll be a bit more at ease: if anyone's fit to handle Gaiman's material, it's Kripke, who has listed American Gods and Neil's other work as an inspiration for Supernatural. They actually let him get away with some pretty shocking things on that show, so let's hope it all rings true for this potential adaptation.

    Having said that, though, I am partially with you: I don't want to see something as near and dear as that groundbreaking series done poorly, but my faith in Kripke eases those fears just a bit.

  • brother justin crowe

    I have always said that three people could do Sandman for television: Eric Kripke, Ron Moore (who's super-busy) and Daniel Knauf (who Jose suggested, but has seemed to drop off the map). I'm glad, at least, they seem to be circling someone who understands both the material and the genre.

    Maybe for the few Constantine appearances, Kripke can have his nerd dream come true, and Misha Collins can play him.

  • Drew G.

    I can't see a television adaptation staying true to the comic books. First off, certain characters would need to be eliminated and/or replaced such (such as the Justice League members in the first arc). Also, there would be episodes where virtually nothing happens. Season of Mists is a great story but its a lot more intellectual than action-packed. Also, given the amount of material avaiable the show would, at best, last around 30 episodes before the entire story was told. They might be better served to do a series based on The Dreaming featuring stories from The Sandman and its various spin-offs.
    Or even better, Sandman Mystery Theater would be abetter choice for Vertigo television series….

  • Ivan Williams

    Eh, if it sucks, it sucks. Either way, we'll always have the comics.

  • stealthwise

    Oh, Tom, don't you know how the internet works? :)

  • The lord Grishnack

    I think it still could work if it was on AMC or HBO,with those networks they put more work on the dramatic then the action packed.This was my dream to have it done tv.

  • Sijo

    Do we *need* adaptations of Sandman (or anything else, for that matter?) Strictly speaking,, No. But, you forget that the whole point of these franchises is to make *money* for their owners, and that includes the original versions. That they turn out so well they become classics is always a secondary goal. The best we can do (all the time) is hope they will work out. And there's nothing wrong with that. I'll bet if you had a hit in your hands you would like to benefit from it as much as you can too. Art is OK, but the real world comes first. Oh, and don't forget, Dream himself only came about because DC wanted to relaunch its original Sandman character in some way.

    As for: would TV Sandman come out as a teen-drama kind of show? Very likely. But let's not forget, SANDMAN WAS AN EMO SERIES FROM THE START. Heck, Death is the Ultimate Goth Chick. Sure, the series was more than just that, but that was due to good production values re: writing and art. And with series like Smallville, Supernatural and Twilight being such hits these days, I too would have recommended Sandman to be picked up for a TV Show. With the appropriate writing (and yes, I think Supernatural was *very* well written most of the time) it could be a great hit, though most likely not exactly what the comic's original fans remember. You just gotta allow for that, just like you can't expect a movie adaptation to be 100% faithful to a comic book. Different media, different target audiences…

  • JRC

    Man, what I wouldn't give to see the Golden Age Sandman is a series, based on the Vertigo version.

  • Xenos

    Complaining about no Tom Bombadil is like complaining there was no Bat-mite in the Batman films.

  • Xenos

    Nice. I was gonna mention the Constantine connection.

  • Rene

    Well, I would say that I don't see the point of so much cynicism and negativism for something we still didn't know anything about, and that I'm so tired of curmudgeon comic book fans but there IS a upside to your article.

    Knowing the worst-case scenario, I'm now prepared to be pleasantly surprised by whatever the series turns out to be. Because it just can't be as bad as THIS.

  • shawn

    Supernatural is great..

  • Xenos

    Please. Sandman predates the whole emo bs. It was firmly set in goth culture from the late 80s and 90s. Emo came out in the 00s as a kinda moody geek culture then went on to knock off from goth culture, punk culture, nerd culture, and some hipster and prep even. It's an amorphous blob of trends stolen from previous cultural groups. Really, I couldn't tell you what emo culture is because it's such a five car pileup quagmire of trends stolen from everywhere. The only reason you think Sandman is emo is because all these thoughtless emo kids stole from Sandman's goth culture.

    Meanwhile, I read Sandman in high school. It was a mature readers book, but it's also perfect for a high school audience. Also I don't get why studios think you need lame high school kids as stars for teens to watch. (Especially since they're usually played by a cast in their 30s.) Supernatural was a pleasant surprise in that it wasn't a typical teen drama and had a surprisingly well done mythology. This may be blasphemy, but I think it may be a bit better than Whedon's Buffy show. That or maybe I've just matured since watching it. Better than Angel or X-Files (before it fell apart)? I dunno. Certainly it's one of the best supernatural tv shows of late. That the creator of it is even attached to Sandman somehow gives me great hope.

    Meanwhile that's counterbalanced with the fact that this is DC / Warners. These idiots haven't been able to get Superman right on the big screen or the Small(ville) screen. How do you screw up Superman that badly?! It's really hit or miss with these idiots and it's been mostly misses. Hell, I think Sandman adorns my walls and shelves as much as Batman and more than Superman, so this one does scare me too. Kripke being on it is a glimmer of hope.

  • demoncat_4

    i too am worried about Sandman being the replacement for small vile on the cw when it should be on hbo or amc that would get sandman and proalby let with some exceptions let sandman remain true to the source material where. with the cw. sandman may get so watered down that it will lose what makes it so interesting to fans. plus get cast by the latest cw flavor of the month star or worse the jersey shore cast. that is why Neil needs to be involved in some way. to make sure sandman is done right. even on the cw

  • shags

    While he owns no copyright to the character, he has stated that he and DC have an agreement that they will not write any of those characters in other books without his permission. He said he wouldn't write anything for them ever again if they didn't uphold their end of the arrangement.

  • paul

    Neil Gaiman negotiated himself a creator-participant deal on Sandman.

  • Jose Ulloa

    I think Cillian Murphy could be the perfect Sandman… I wonder if he'd do tv work, though

  • ShinHakkai

    You just turned my dream into a nightmare…

    See what I did there? XD

  • Sobrien302

    My hope is that DC will not turn their backs on this agreement (or find the loophole) and chase the money at creative expense. DC certainly seemed willing to burn that bridge with Moore. Watchmen 2 anybody?

  • Jimmy

    I guess I'm not as cynical as most poeple but I can't see Sandman being turned into a teen drama. If a teen drama is what they needed, they would use a different DC property or just make one of their own. The Sandman title isn't known enough outside of comics for them to bother with changing when there are others to choose from (I still can't understand why no one has made a live action Teen Titans yet).

  • hgd

    Considering what the new “leadership” is currently doing to VERTIGO, I can easily see this apocalyptic vision happening. They want to capitalize on ALL DC properties NO MATTER WHAT, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. They don't give a crap about the original creative vision of the creator of said property. If Neil Gaiman is not involved and the executives at the top don't even want to approach him I think it's safe to say that their intention is to totally bastardize Sandman to fit into the BRAIN-DAMAGED Demographic of the CW.

  • Bladai

    I respectfully disagree, Tom Bombadil can not, in any way, be compared to Bat-Mite in this context. I would have loved to see him in the movies.

  • Crimsonrain

    lmao at the Swamp Thing Intro. Those were different times…and at least it was better than the Manthing (still sounds like a gay porn) movie that Sci-fi had. I honestly think that if they were to redo the S.T. movie today with CG being what it is…and all the other advancements in movie special effects it would kick ass.

  • billy ray cyrus

    if its going to be on the cw, then it is going to be bad. no doubt about it.