A little more than a year ago, Sandman writer Neil Gaiman made the dreams of fans everywhere come true when he announced that his beloved comic book series would finally come to live-action in the form of a new Netflix series. Unfortunately, just as the show was beginning to take shape, the COVID-19 pandemic ground everything to a halt. At DC FanDome on Saturday, Gaiman confirmed that, at last, that's beginning to change.
Gaiman was on-hand for the FanDome "Enter The Dreaming" panel, hosted by Yvette Nicole Brown, which touched on every aspect of Sandman in its former and current incarnations, including the new comic book series The Dreaming: Waking Hours and the current Audible drama adaptation of Gaiman's original series, which he had a rather direct hand (and voice) in. While much of the panel was devoted to discussing things that fans have already had a chance to experience, Gaiman couldn't let the moment pass without providing an update on the progress of the Netflix series.
The good news? Well, for the first time since the pandemic shut everything down, there is actual progress to talk about.
"I can tell you that due to COVID, everything — as with every other piece of television being made around the world right now — somebody pushed a giant pause button. And we've taken advantage of our pause button just to get the scripts as close to perfect as we possibly could, which has been really fun," Gaiman said. "Right now, as the universal pause button is starting to come off, we're starting to cast again. I'm getting these inspiring and wonderful emails with production designs, with places that I've only ever seen in the comics before now being rendered in 3D."
Though Gaiman couldn't reveal any casting news, or give fans a peek at any of those production designs, he did re-emphasize something he's discussed before about the direction of the series. While the Audible drama was envisioned as a very direct adaptation of the original comic, with the all the 1980s and 1990s details that includes, the Netflix series will take a much more loose approach, and that means an updated timeline and a more modern feel.
"What we're doing with Netflix is saying "OK, it's still going to start in 1916, but the thing that happens in Sandman #1, the point that the story starts, is not 1988. It's now, and how does that change the story?" Gaiman said. "What does that give us? What does that make us have to look at that we wouldn't have to look at if we were setting it as a period piece? What is that going to do to the gender of characters? What's that gonna do to the nature of characters?"
The Netflix iteration of Sandman does not yet have a release date, but with any luck the resumption of production can continue and we'll learn more about the vision for the show in the months to come. Gaiman, Heinberg, and Goyer are already at work on what shape the second season will take, so there's some obvious optimism at work there, and some of it undoubtedly stems from the way the series has endured more than 30 years after its comic book debut.
Through the DC FanDome panel Gaiman was joined by current The Dreaming: Waking Hours writer G. Willow Wilson, Sandman Audible producer Dirk Maggs, and Sandman audible co-star Michael Sheen, who all praised the ongoing legacy and impact of the work. For Gaiman, reflecting on how Sandman has lasted and will seemingly continue to last, it's all a testament to the fact that he "didn't know what [he] was doing" when he started the series as a young man.
"I thought I was making something completely disposable," he said. "If I'd known I was making something that would last, I probably would have had a lot more attention, and it probably wouldn't have worked."
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