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Netflix Made a Huge Announcement About Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Sandman’ Today

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The success of Game of Thrones and the Marvel Cinematic Universe have thrown open the floodgates for adaptations of beloved geek properties. Netflix has bet big on a few, including the insanely popular Japanese comic One Piece, which they hope could be the next big thing considering the high profile of the property basically everywhere but North America.

Netflix also laid out a huge sum of money to adapt the thing that 90s teens who shopped at Hot Topic didn’t shut up about until Invader Zim came along, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. This project is so massive that Warmer Brothers, who own the rights to it because it’s a DC comic book passed on it and let Netflix have it because they didn’t want to spend the absolute fortune the show will cost to produce.

Netflix announced the cast of the show on Wednesday and it looks like they’re already not sparing any expense there, either.

The most notable cast member is Stephen Fry as Gilbert, a character from the comic’s second story arc, and Charles Dance as Roderick Burgess, an occultist who imprisons the series’ protagonist Morpheus in the early 20th century. That’s not a spoiler, it will likely be the first scene in the show.

A second Game of Thrones alum, Gwendolyn Christie, will play Lucifer, the same character portrayed by Tom Ellis in Lucifer.

Jenna Coleman from Dr. Who will make an appearance as Johanna Constantine, an ancestor of Legends of Tomorrow’s John Constantine. This is the best chance we have of hearing Constantine pronounced correctly because Neil Gaiman himself wrote the correct pronunciation into an issue of The Sandman.

Patton Oswalt will also appear as Matthew the Raven, Morpheus’s assistant and friend. I know what you’re thinking “how did they get Patton Oswalt in a comic book adaptation?”

If you’ve come this far and you’re not a comic book nerd, I salute you. But you probably want to know what The Sandman is, why your formerly-goth coworkers won’t shut up about it, and if you should watch it.

In the mid-to-late 1980s, DC comics just let avant-garde writers from the UK go nuts on comics featuring lesser-known DC characters. This included Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Watchmen, Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol and Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. While Morrison and Moore gave their takes on DC’s lesser-known heroes, Gaiman mostly built his cast out of characters from DC’s horror anthology comics.

You’ve probably heard of Tales from the Crypt, the horror series hosted by the Cryptkeeper; that started out as a comic by Mad Magazine’s publisher EC Comics. DC had a number of comics in the same vein, such as Weird Mystery Tales, House of Secrets, House of Mysteries and Tales of Ghost Castle. All of these books had hosts like Destiny, Cain, Abel and Eve or Lucien the Librarian. Neil Gaiman took those characters and made them central to his story as denizens of The Dreaming, the realm of Dream, the titular Sandman.

Dream, or Morpheus, or The Sandman, is a new character that is essentially an update to an old DC superhero called The Sandman, aka Hector Hall, who was the son of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. He has no real relation to that character, though the Hall family features prominently in various storylines.

The Sandman itself is a lot like one of those horror anthology comics; there are a lot of stories where Morpheus is simply a secondary character while the main focus is on a story about human characters. The TV show sounds like it will be adapting the first of these, A Doll’s House, as part of its ten-episode first season. Morpheus is involved in the events, but the main character is Rose Walker, a girl whose grandmother was affected by the sleeping sickness caused by Morpheus’s imprisonment at the start of the series.

Unlike Tales from the Crypt and modern horror anthologies like American Horror Story, The Sandman manages to connect its characters to each other and to the larger DC Universe in interesting and rewarding ways.

Honestly, though, if you’re interested in The Sandman, which is great, just go out and buy the comics. Neil Gaiman gets all the credit for the book, and he deserves most of it, but he worked with a lot of really talented artists who all brought a good deal of nuance to the story through their art that will be impossible to replicate. And you saw what happened to Game of Thrones.

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