In 1996, Neil Gaiman published the final issue of The Sandman, his comic book. He had managed to come up with an entirely new world that he populated with a wide array of characters, each with a trait significant to the story. Decades after the comic book series’ successful run ended, Netflix decided to adapt it as a live-action series on Gaiman’s terms.
Book or novel, or even comic book adaptations, are no easy feat. given you have to find the ideal balance between keeping the book readers happy and also welcoming new members into the fanbase. One of the most trivial matters that contribute directly and largely to the success of the adaptation is staying true to the source material.
That’s why wavering off from the character traits, or storyline changes can be a risky challenge. However, in Gaiman’s case, the risks paid off luckily. Even though Gaiman has also produced and written for shows like American Gods or Good Omens, it’s The Sandman that helped him really prove that he’s become quite adept at honing his craft, despite his uncertainties about the adaptation and its success.
Beware! Spoilers ahead.
The most obvious of changes included reframing John Constantine as a female named Johanna, played by none other than Jenna Coleman. Apart from the gender change, the character remains the usual crass, narcissist, bisexual, and fearless demon slayer as portrayed in the comics.
Constantine is hailed a hero because of how well they’re able to clear up messes on Earth, caused by demons and amateur magic users. The beginning of the third episode is a testament to this demon-slaying version of Constantine.
One of Constantine’s character traits includes the guilt they carry around for having the ones they love getting hurt or killed, simply because they got to know about Constantine. The guilt can be seen firsthand when Johanna finds out that her ex Rachel is dying. Although she demands Dream of The Endless to help her and gets Morpheus to give Rachel a peaceful death, it isn’t enough to rid Johanna of the guilt.
In the fifth episode, one of Constantine’s ancestors tries to kidnap Morpheus, and the ancestor, Hob Gadling, is none other than Johanna Constantine from the comic book. So Gaiman tweaked the characters he created a bit, and the descendant became Johanna instead of John.
A Female Devil
Another significant change from the comic book in the adaptation includes the casting of Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer, costumed to depict a very different devil from the usual red-skinned male, a pointed tail, a pitchfork and horns.
In the comic books, Lucifer’s look was much inspired by David Bowie, according to Gaiman. Just like Constantine, Lucifer’s character has also been updated or reinvented while keeping the identifying character traits and essence of the character intact.
The Sandman shows Lucifer as an angel who was cast out of heaven due to her pride in her beauty, and jealousy of mankind, showcasing Christie as a unique choice for the role. The audience can’t help but be dissuaded by Lucifer’s angelic beauty instead of instilling fear in them through Satan’s masculinity. The results have been quite impressive. Christie’s stature makes her stand out as an intimidating figure, but her bright and soft features complement that of Lucifer, serving as a constant reminder that he’s now a fallen angel.
Apart from Lucifer and Constantine, a few characters from The Dreaming also underwent a few changes in the Netflix adaptation. For instance, Jed’s nightmares were named Brute and Glob in the comic book. In the show, a shape-shifting nightmare, Gault replaces them.
On the other hand, Jed’s dreaming in the comic book is pretty mind-boggling. A few changes were also introduced to Rose Walker; the singular shape-shifting Gault makes more sense than the one-dimensional story of Brute and Glob.
Lucien is another character from The Dreaming that was reimagined a bit differently from his comic book counterpart. Instead of being the old Head Librarian in Dream’s castle, with his hair swooped upwards, actor Vivienne Acheampong plays the part and does undoubted justice with it. Throughout season 1, the actress has brought with her performances the same anxiety and concern for her master Morpheus, as what the comic book reflects.
Were you able to spot the revamping of characters from the comic books? Let us know!
Some of these changes went unnoticed, and some triggered the readers. However, the end result is all that counts, which is that the audience found the adaptation to be nothing less than inspiring. The inclusion and representation of marginalized communities played a huge part in it in terms of race, gender, and sexuality, making it seem more relatable.
It was obviously important for Gaiman as well, which is understandably why the creator has been defending his creative choices and changes on social media against the few nay-sayers complaining about the differences from the comic books.
Gaiman’s intentional character changes while keeping the essence of the story intact is a balancing act only a few can accomplish. He has managed to welcome more fans to the fold, all the while keeping the existing fans of the comic books happy and satisfied. As a result, the adaptation has been a phenomenal success so far.
Have you watched Netflix’s comic book adaptation of The Sandman yet?