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The Sandman series, on Netflix, has been getting a lot of buzz recently. I’m here to tell you, the buzz is deserved.

I remember my husband picking up the Sandman title back in the ’90s, when DC Comics revived one of its oldest characters, the Sandman. Originally a pulp action hero from 1939, the Sandman used a gun that fired sleep gas, and wore a gas mask to avoid breathing the gas himself. The character had surprising longevity, making the transition from pulp to superhero and even helping found the Justice League, but by the ’90s he had been dormant for a long time.

DC aimed to change that, and the editors enlisted a young and hungry British writer named Neil Gaiman to do it. Gaiman’s approach was to blend the trappings of superhero with the supernatural trappings of pulp fiction, and spice it with the scandal and suspense of the old EC horror titles. The result was a strange and striking invention.

Sandman has often been referred to as a horror title, and it’s true the subject matter sometimes gets very dark. I think, though, that the title fits better as urban fantasy, which was becoming increasingly important in the ’90s. The main character, Dream, has been held prisoner by a cult for 100 years, and has to reclaim his place while re-learning a world that has changed during his absence. Gaiman created a whole cosmology of the Endless, beings who represent core human needs and traits. The Endless intersect with lots of other supernatural realms like Hell and with the standard DC Comics universe. Even in the earliest issues, you can see the great fantasist Gaiman would become and how he would change the landscape for both comics and the YA genre.

Is this a good adaptation of the comic? I think so, and not just because Gaiman has been personally involved. The characters and plots seem much the same to me. What’s been updated most is the inclusion of more diverse characters in the casting. The original comics were basically all white. That no longer works for contemporary audiences, and I was glad to see that some important roles were filled with actors of color.

I’ll say no more for fear of spoilers, but if you’ve been wondering whether Sandman is really as good as all that… Yes. You should watch it.


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