There are few comic books more revered than Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, for many it rivals even the legendary Watchmen series. Warner Bros Studios has been working on a film adaptation of this epic and unusual fantasy story for almost a decade. The project had slipped unceremoniously into development hell but has reared it’s head again in a most unexpected way. Now Heat Vision is reporting that Warner Bros is abandoning the film version in favor of a television show based on the highly acclaimed comic with Supernatural creator Eric Kripke running the show.
There’s a reason that Sandman has eluded adaptation up to this point. The story is extremely dense and is more of a mythology than a straight forward narrative. It deals primarily with the titular lord of dreams, though he’s rarely called “Sandman” in the comics and is usually referred to as Morpheus or Dream. Dream is one of seven siblings known as the endless, the others being Destruction, Destiny, Despair, Delirium, Desire and Death. Dream is not a standard comic book hero in that he’s not on any sort of quest to combat evil. Rather he has an extremely rigid sense of duty and he keeps careful watch over his domain of “the Dreaming.” There are some longer story arcs involving Dream but there were just as many stories in which he would barely appear or only be referred to by other characters. Trying to take a series like this and fit it into a standard film structure is obviously a very difficult thing, so it’s no surprise that a movie adaptation seemed to be treading water.
In some ways shifting the property to television makes sense. A weekly show could allow for some of the more anthology style stories to be used as well as the ones in which Dream is actually the central figure. Any given episode of a show is in many ways like an issue of a comic book, it can continue an ongoing plot just be a one-off story. However while that part would be to the benefit there are many other things that could problems, primarily concerning budget. Trying to realize something as ethereal as the Dreaming on a TV budget is a daunting proposition to say the least and it begs the question of how true to the original comics a TV show could be. There’s also issues of violence. While the comic was not regularly violent there were moments of fairly severe violence and when they happened it was for a reason, meaning they were important and not gratuitous. These moments (many of which would concern the fan favorite character of the Corinthian) would likely be heavily toned down if not cut out altogether.
It should be noted that as of now Sandman‘s shift from film to TV is being done completely by Warner Bros and does not include input from series creator Neil Gaiman. That is not to say that Gaiman won’t be brought on board or consulted at some point in the process but the notion of a TV show did not originate with him. His involvement (or at least his blessing) will be vital to acquiring fan support for any possible TV show. If a TV show were to happen the property is unusual enough that it would desperately need the support of fans to keep it going until it could connect with the more mainstream audiences. However if Gaiman is not included or speaks out against it then Warner Bros can kiss any possible fan support goodbye.
The final question is what network would a show actually air on? It would seem natural for any show produced by Warner Bros to air on the CW network (which is where Kripke’s own Supernatural has aired.) Warner Bros is a part owner of the network however that doesn’t make anything definite. While not standard it’s not unheard of for a studio with it’s own network to produce shows on other networks, for instance Buffy the Vampire Slayer was produced by Fox but aired on the now defunct WB and UPN networks. Given the teen centric programming line up of the CW it may not be the best home for the show. However at this point nothing is truly certain other than the project’s existence. It may stall in development just as the film adaptation did. Or TV audiences may be staring at Dream’s white visage by next fall. At this point it’s any body’s guess.