Will Gaiman’s “Sandman” Ever Come To TV?

With the pilot episode of Starz’s “American Gods” airing last night to great acclaim, there’s understandable discussion over whether other works by author Neil Gaiman could make the jump to the event series format.

Specifically Gaiman’s magnum opus, the multi-issue comic series “Sandman”. Considered one of the most influential comics ever made, the 75-issue story spans millennia and follows Dream (aka. Morpheus), the Lord of the dream world who is held captive for seven decades by an occult ritual. Having escaped, his kingdom has fallen into disrepair in his absence and he sets about changing his old ways – hard for a being who has been around for billions of years.

The series features various elements of mythology, horror, historical events, and absurdist humor. Characters include Dream’s siblings such as his gothic punk rocker looking sister Death, his talking animal assistants, and the immortal The Corinthian who has two mouths for eyes.

For nearly two decades, attempts were made to turn the property into a feature film, but the most recent attempt stumbled a year ago when attached star and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt bowed out.

“Arrival” scribe Eric Heisserer came onboard to give it a go, but he revealed in November that he told Gaiman that after much work on the feature, he couldn’t crack it and thinks: “the best version of this property exists as an HBO series or limited series, not as a feature film, not even as a trilogy. The structure of the feature film really doesn’t mesh with this.”

Gaiman has taken that advice to heart it seems. In an interview this week with The Live Feed, he spoke about the status of a screen adaptation of the property and what he would do if he had the option:

“If I had control over Sandman, which I do not, because I signed the deal when I was 26, and I knew what I was getting into. The trouble with Warners and I don’t blame them for it is that they know that Sandman is one of the jewels in their crown – and they know that with the jewels in your crown, you make movies out of them, and they know they have Batman. ‘We know what we have in Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Sandman… we just can’t crack Sandman.’ You can’t crack it because it’s too big.

I suspect in a weird way, the fact that they took a tiny fragment of Sandman and now it’s one of Fox’s biggest hits might actually convince people to do the classy TV series I’ve been suggesting they do for 15 years now.

For a long time, I’ve been saying with a movie, you’ll have to throw so many things out. Why not take all the things that make [it difficult to adapt], take all the bugs in Sandman, and make them features.

The fact that you have 75 issues, plus a whole bunch of stories? You have 80 episodes. That’s a good thing! The fact that you have adult themes and adult things? That’s now a good thing. It will be very strange to take Sandman to TV, but I really do think it’s the most important thing we could do.

And I hope if American Gods goes big, between that and Lucifer – that could help. Those comics are so filled with so much story, and so much humanity and such visual candy – try to stop us if we have half the opportunity.”

With cinema dividing more and more into massive blockbusters vs. low-budget arthouse film camps, the middle where prestigious dramas and more adult-centric fare used to reside has now migrated to TV which does seem a more obvious home for an adaptation of the comic.

However, if Warners sees it as a potential cash cow on a DC superhero level scale – then the idea of missing out on a much-needed revenue stream could nix any chance of a small screen adaptation making any serious progress.