The Warner Bros panel. Discovery at San Diego Comic-Con 2022 lacked a lot of DC Comics content outside of Shazam! Fury of the gods and black adamthe electrifying entrance. Yet just down Hall H, Netflix creators and cast The sand man series lined up on stage to talk about the show 30 years in the making. But what about DC Universe’s presence in The sand man comics, and will Netflix erase it from history?
Before Gaiman wrote The sand man comic book series, he wanted to do a series about the Wesley Dodd version of the character. Still, DC wanted to take it in a different direction, so fans got Dream and the Endless. Still, the story took place in the DC Universe, and a number of characters, including the Justice League, are in the comics. It wasn’t a frequent occurrence, but it happened enough that it begs the question of how Netflix will approach this, especially in the current era of the DC Multiverse. However, it looks like most connections to the DC Universe are going to be cut entirely.
For example, Jenna Coleman is a combination of two DC characters, one created by Gaiman and the other by Alan Moore. There have already been two live-action versions of John Constantine (whose name rhymes with “string”). Keanu Reeves has played the character in one movie and Matt Ryan has played him everywhere else. On The sand man, Coleman plays a version of this character and one of Constantine’s ancestors: Johanna Constantine. In the comics, she was an 18th century mage. On Netflix The sand man series, she seems to be a sort of amalgamation of the two characters.
The other DC Comics character that appears in the comics is Etrigan, the 50-year-old Rhyme Demon. He leads Dream through hell to Lucifer, and while he’s probably not in a weird supersuit and cape, he’s a character who just might show up. Not only does it make sense in a heroless DC narrative world, Etrigan has never been adapted into live-action before. His role is small and not very important, so it is also possible that they cut it entirely in order to pair Dream with Lucifer as quickly as possible to maintain the rhythm of the episodes.
We know that David Thewlis, (Lupin in Harry Potter), will play John Dee, the man in possession of one of Dream’s relics. In the DC Universe, Dee is also Doctor Destiny, a supervillain with the power to manipulate dreams. Gaiman took this element of his power and retroactively created it because he possessed one of Morpheus’ relics. So while Dee will likely have one of Sandman’s missing items, he’s unlikely to be a villain who fought Green Lantern and the rest of the Justice League. Also, a version of Doctor Destiny named John Deegan appeared in the “Elseworlds” crossover in the Arrowverse, played by LOSTis Jeremy Davies. The great William Atherton, Peck in ghost huntersvoiced the character in the DC Animated Universe.
Gaiman himself weighed in without saying too much. In July 2021, he answered a question on his Tumblr page about it. Gaiman said that contrary to popular perception, he wanted to include these little cameos and stories because he relished the chance to star with Superman, Batman, and others in the Justice League. “Making Sandman for Netflix is a chance to do it again,” Gaiman wrote, “and do it with the economy of not needing to exist in a shared universe in the same way. So when we do the Joe Simon and Jack Kirby Dream Dome Sandman stuff, we do it slightly differently, and we don’t need the scene with the Justice League to bring Dream to [John Dee].”
A crucial character in the history of The sand man is Daniel Hall, who is not the pseudonym of any superhero. However, he comes from a long line of them. Her grandparents are the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl and Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. Hector Hall was the Silver Scarab, an iteration of Doctor Fate, and the Sandman. Lyta Trevor-Hall was Fury, the daughter of the Amazon goddess Wonder Woman and old Steve Trevor. The lives of Hector and Lyta as the children of heroes, and then failed heroes themselves, were crucial to their characterization. Hector was tricked by Dream antagonists into playing on his desire to be a hero. Conversely, Lyta only wanted a normal life for her and her son, which isn’t really special unless she’s the daughter of a superhero. There’s no way to tell the central Sand seller story without these characters, but can they create an engaging version of these characters without the hero’s backstory?
The series will try. Razane Jammal will play a version of Lyta Hall, notably without the “Trevor” hyphen. Additionally, there has been no word on Hector Hall’s casting, so he may be absent altogether. Given that Gaiman explicitly stated that there would be no reference to a superhero world, chances are that Lyta (and Hector, if included) are just regular people who, in another corner of the multiverse, had powers. On the one hand, it might be fun to see a story where superheroes aren’t the weirdest, most supernatural thing to happen. However, on the other hand, The sand man is a serious fantasy show and adding the DC characters might confuse the narrative to the detriment of the series.
The sand man always felt a bit out of place as part of the larger DC continuity. That’s why, as Gaiman wrote, the story “naturally moved away from the DC Universe into one” that’s more like our own, except every mythological character is real. However, that might have been the perfect excuse to include them. Superheroes are part of modern mythology. However, with Warner Bros. Discovery trying to sort out the DCEU, the last thing it needs is The sand man blunder on its most precious characters. Even other characters like Mister Miracle and Element Girl could be fine but would need an introduction as they aren’t as instantly recognizable as other Justice Leaguers.
The sand man The series has been a work in progress for over 30 years, and trying to balance a version of DC continuity is something the storytellers didn’t need. As fun as superheroes are, The sand man is a high-concept story that deserves to stand alone without the goons of the Justice League messing things up.
See if any DC characters appeared on The Sandman when it debuts August 5, 2022 on Netflix.