Adapting To Death – Neil Gaiman Brings The Sandman To Netflix

In this age of “social” media, offering a review or opinion of just about anything creative can yield comments and responses supporting your take, but more often than not you’ll also generate opinions which are not only the polar opposite, but served up with a heaping side of snark and venom.

It is also a time that when creative works are adapted into different mediums, that fact alone can inspire an outpouring of fiery anger and hatred.

I find it ironic whenever a baby boomer guy like myself complains about something, we’re designated as “the old man on the porch,” supposedly resistant to change and complaining just for the sake of complaining. Yet, it seems to me people now learn at a very early age to come for and declare war on anyone who doesn’t completely agree with their views…or wants to mess with something they love.

When I was in college, I took a course on Film Criticism. One of the takeaways I still abide by is to not only be tolerant but inquisitive when someone views films/series/plays/books/art differently than I. My feeling is reviews and opinions of creative work are subjective in every way (unless or course the company that employs you also owns the creative property you’re reviewing but I digress). Further, you might actually learn something from differing viewpoints which could lead to your modifying or even changing your thoughts about the work. Finally, creative forms or mediums provide vastly different experiences, even if the subject matter is essentially the same.

I recently saw the movie “Where the Crawdads Sing,” based on a best-selling book by Delia Owens. I never read the novel, but was drawn to seeing the film because of the book’s overwhelming success. For a number of reasons, I did not enjoy the movie. However, in leaving the theatre with my wife I mentioned it probably made for a very good book. While I didn’t like the way it was portrayed on the big screen, I considered what I saw as it might have played out in written form – in other medium – and could see where it might well be a most compelling novel. In fact, my suspicion in the instance of “Where The Crawdads Sing” was and is the filmmakers stayed quite true to those written words…which may be why I felt it wasn’t a very good watch.

I later read reviews which highly praised the movie, but I didn’t feel there were any opinions or observations that altered my feelings about it. Yet, I did do that personal due diligence and seek out positive reviews to see what those folks had taken away from the film, what experiences they had. And in my comments back to those reviewers, I was respectful of their opinions while expressing mine.

The release of the Netflix series “The Sandman” has garnered much reaction on social media over the past couple of weeks. For decades, this distinguished work in the world of comics languished in development hell until its creator, Neil Gaiman, found just the right folks to help bring his adaptation to the screen. Yet, even though Gaiman was fully immersed in developing this project, there were those who began tirades the moment it came out saying the comic is still great, but the TV adaptation is rubbish, and don’t even give it a look. You would have thought they owned the property themselves and hadn’t gotten paid for it. Of course, there were others who absolutely loved the series and they raved about it, heaping over-the-top, God-like praise upon it. Indeed, yet another social media flexing of the extremes had broken out. People these days can’t just calmly state they like or dislike creative work, and sometimes can’t even remain civil when opposite opinions appear.

Fandom on social media seems to me to be fairly toxic most of the time. If you don’t like something someone else does, you’re right and they’re wrong. The actor and comedian Patton Oswalt, who lends his voice to the character Raven in “The Sandman,” had this to say to IndieWire regarding current fan culture:

“This happens with everything, including sports and music. There are fans out there who unfortunately look at everything they love as showing the person how much they love them by hating other things. If I express hatred toward the thing that’s not them, that shows them how much I love them. It’s a sad and ugly way to show how you love things, but unfortunately that’s how a lot of people are being taught and how people are being modeled by our leaders now, which sucks.”

Oswalt also had this to say regarding the priorities of people in our world today versus being opposed against any adaptation of “The Sandman”:

“If you can look out your window and this is what you’re mad about, then you have way bigger pathologies to deal with than I can handle. If you are looking at the headlines and going, “I am planting my flag on the hill of “don’t fuck with The Sandman” well then, you’ve got some really serious problems. You’ll love this show, especially Episode Six, “The Sound of Her Wings,” which is so goddamn beautiful.” (Do hold that thought about Episode Six…I’ll circle back to that in a moment…)

The following is an excerpt from The Nerdist where Michael Walsh wrote about why adaptations are done in the first place:

“Why does anyone bother making or watching adaptations of great stories? If we already love something, why do we need to experience it in a different medium? Especially, when adaptations so often disappoint the people who care about the source material the most. “The Sandman’s” sixth episode, “The Sound of Her Wings,” is why. The Netflix series did more than introduce new fans to the beauty of Neil Gaiman’s Death. “The Sandman” gave old fans new ways to appreciate a beloved character with an episode and performance that exemplifies the best of what adaptations can and should be.”

I thoroughly enjoyed Netflix’s “The Sandman.” I didn’t find it perfect in every way, but to me it’s a very high-quality production. I am only diving into the source material now, but I was already aware there were several significant changes from the comics which were made in bringing this to the screen. Why? Because it’s a completely different medium, designed for a global streaming audience.

And for fans of Gaiman’s original comics, considering they surely knew he was involved in every aspect of this television project, why would they not be thrilled which the fact millions of more folks now get exposure to his stories, his characters?

Since I recently asked readers to give “Evil” a watch, knowing everyone has thousands of entertainment options these days, it’s downright obscene of me so soon thereafter to now suggest you give this series a look if you weren’t otherwise inclined…but before I wrap this up I must give Episode Six of “The Sandman” its due.

It is one of the most moving episodes of television I have ever experienced. It’s about dying and Death, but equal measures of dignity, faith, and hope are baked in as well. Here’s another excerpt from Walsh regarding that particular episode, and how seeing scenes play out is such a different dynamic than reading them:

“Dying doesn’t seem as terrifying when you imagine this Death will be by your side. The act of dying on “The Sandman” – whether in old age doing what you love, or alone in an alleyway far too young – certainly wasn’t horrible, it wasn’t defined by sadness or anger, nor even by the finality of life. Instead, it was about the comfort of holding a hand and the soft sound of wings. And seeing and hearing all of that in “The Sandman” was powerful in a way than reading about them isn’t. Not better or worse, just different. Because while no TV show or movie can ever fully capture every aspect of what makes a book or comic great, live-action adaptations bring elements the written word or a static illustration inherently can’t.”

“The existence of Netflix’s “The Sandman” will never change the existence of Neil Gaiman’s comic book. Nor will Netflix’s Death change how you think about the version you first met on the page. All that’s changed is that we now have two versions of Death to appreciate, each in a different medium that offer elements the other one can’t. The two aren’t competing with each other or for our admiration, either. They complement one another, and in doing each elevates their counterpart. That’s the best you can hope from any adaptation of a great story. That’s the reason adaptations are worth attempting even if they so often disappoint us. When done right, they give us something new to love while reminding us why we loved the original in the first place. And you can’t do that better than “The Sound of Her Wings.”

We all die. We all have our own ideas about the moment life will end. One thought on that subject is offered in “The Sandman,” and it is one worth considering.

In any medium.


Picture Courtesy Netflix

49 thoughts on “Adapting To Death – Neil Gaiman Brings The Sandman To Netflix”

  1. I agree with your thoughts on the toxic nature of critique on sociaal media, I stay away from it. Re: Sandman, I’ve seen the trailer and thought it looked a bit glam/goth which isn’t my thing at all, but I may just give the first one a watch and see what it’s all about. I don’t know the comics.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fraggle, I feel it is easy to enter this world without knowing the comics (which I thought might be challenging). It is definitely a “slow burn” series. The lead character can come off as goth. I do get that. I mentioned Episode 6 here, but the episode before that is also fascinating as it takes place primarily in one location, a diner. This one starts out slow, but for me was worth the payoff at the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Patton Oswalt is a fellow alum from The College of William & Mary where he majored in English. At W&M, I learned to look at both sides of an issue and expect that Patton did too. That intellectual practice, which I honed further in law school, is far more valuable than “choosing a side” for perpetuity ~> There are far more shades of gray than those expressed as “black” or “white.” Same goes for “wrong” and “right.”

    Here’s to allowing for differing opinions!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Nancy, I am most familiar with W & M for their athletics, as they play in the same football conference with Villanova and basketball conference with Drexel – two institutions in my area. I completely agree that differing opinions – looking at both sides of an issue – has way more value.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do find social media tries to demand ‘passion’: as a blogger, it’s never good enough to just say “it was alright”, only the love and/or hate level is really picked up. But, I blog for me and never care if people disagree. Even that can have a decent conversation, as much as our agreeing!
    As Mr Oswalt so perfectly put it, there’s so much to genuinely get mad about in the world, enjoying a creative work or not is so… petty and silly? Enjoy what you like! Don’t bother with what doesn’t appeal! So easy 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Calypte, I do agree having a “hot take” on something is almost a requirement for most readers, and writers sometimes feel they have to cater to that approach. For me, this isn’t life and death. This is supposed to be entertainment we’re concerning ourselves with here. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Bruce,
    Well thought-out essay about the pros and cons of critique. I’ve wanted to see Where the Crawdads Sing, but now I think I’ll read the novel and go from there. A friend of mine (we’re both in two writers groups) said that she refuses to ask for critique in one of the groups because the feedback is too diverse, and it’s clear that many don’t know what they don’t know. She finds that when people are arguing on polar opposites about something she’s written, it just messes with her head instead of providing clarity. If you are creative and you’re working your tail off, it’s important to develop a thick skin, yes, but it’s just as important to discern who is and isn’t worth listening to. You have to protect yourself from people who just want to say something. I wonder if some feel if they say something negative, even if it’s not relevant, they think it makes them sound like they know what they’re talking about. Anyway, I enjoyed reading this! Mona

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mona, thanks so much for your contribution regarding that story about the writers groups. It’s precisely what I’m talking about. If that’s not a safe space to express and respect opinions, that’s very sad indeed. I recently read a quote from author/editor Roxane Gay, “We have all become hammers in search of nails.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s a shame we live in a world where we can’t agree to disagree anymore. I’m not familiar with the Sandman, but I loved Gaiman’s American Gods series. I’m still mad at Starz for cancelling it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No, not Netflix! We live in the country with really slow internet. I pay a small fortune for Direct TV with HBO, Starz and Showtime. I stream Amazon and Apple TV …but it’s painful.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Your take on criticism was both open-minded and compassionate. It was the perfect transcript of what I wish I could have written on the subject but just couldn’t find the words. I think your attitude towards the subject will affect how I write reviews in the future. Bravo.

    By the way, I barely skimmed over the parts about “The Sandman,” since I haven’t watched it yet. I never read the Neil Gaiman comics either, but I was a huge fan of American Gods. The novel, not necessarily the entire television series.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I thank you for those very kind comments. Much appreciated. I have heard good things about American Gods, both the novel and the TV series (which they are still trying to find a new home for). Please circle back and let me know how you like The Sandman series when you get to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I started to read Where The Crawdads Sing and couldn’t get into it. I’ll try again because I’m assured by people whose opinions I respect that I’ll like it. As for the movie, will see it after.

    I’ve not read The Sandman, but know of it– again via friends. I’ll watch the Netflix version before [maybe] reading it.

    My point, if I actually have one, is that I engage with stories regardless of the medium because people who I trust suggest I’d like the story. Not because of any social media fanbase composed of who know who.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. While I’m not personally familiar with either of the stories you mentioned, in general making movies from books rarely ever does the book justice, and the books are almost invariably better. Even if the movie doesn’t outright change things like they often do, there’s always stuff left out because the time frame of a movie doesn’t allow it to go into the depth of a book.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. We’re pretty far through ‘The Sandman’ and are enjoying the rich cinematic treatment (haven’t read the comic). Perfect, no, but well done. We have read ‘Where the Crawdad’s Sing’ and thought it was excellent, but have avoided the film because the critical consensus it that it doesn’t do the book justice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mitch, so glad you are enjoying The Sandman. As for Where The Crawdads Sing, I told my wife as soon as we left the theatre agreeing it wasn’t much of a movie it probably did make for a very good book. I agree the consensus has been the film did not do the book justice. Some written properties are harder to pull off than others. I do plan on reading the book, even if I didn’t care for the theatrical presentation. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


  12. I agree with your opinion about reviews on social media. Sometimes I have to turn it off because I just don’t want to hear one more opinion. I feel like we’ve become so polarized. I loved this movie so I hate the competition. Can’t we really love one thing without totally hating another?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I agree with your thoughtful post, especially how different media attract/speak to different people and how fans can be possessive and plain mean. They must be a heavy weight to bear for some writers. I’ve never had any interest in comics, but did make my way through one of The Sandman ones recently as I had heard so many good things. I was intrigued by the Shakespearean one, but our library didn’t have it, so I picked another. The adaptation would probably suit me better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Susan, I found the Netflix adaptation quite easy to “enter.” Neil Gaiman finally found the right recipe and partners to introduce his character in a visual medium. The best part of course…you don’t have to know anything about the comics going into it. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Lulu: “Our Dada has been watching ‘The Sandman’ and our Mama has also been kinda watching it. At least, she’s in the same room and she’s awake.”
    Charlee: “Dada says he only read the first volume of the comic and didn’t really get into it, maybe because he didn’t really like the artwork, but he thinks the show is pretty good so far.”
    Chaplin: “It may help that he doesn’t remember the comic very well … But then again he’s liked other adaptations of Neil Gaiman’s work, like ‘Stardust’, which he says he expected them to screw up but they didn’t, and also ‘Coraline’, so I guess they must be doing something right.”

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Nice write-up! Man, we tuned into this last week, and I was reluctant at first because for some mysterious reason, I never could get into Gaiman’s novels, even though I really really wanted to. But we’re loving the series. Just saw episode six a few nights ago, in fact, and I agree–it’s a doozy and well worth seeing. The one last night about the man who never dies was also fascinating, fun, and very moving.
    I once did a review of The Revenant on my blog. It’s one of my favorite movies ever. And one follower’s comment was only that they regarded the movie as “fugly.” So, yeah, the inability to couch responses anymore, the abyss that’s grown between common courtesy, common sense, and empathy is so immense I doubt it will be knit back together anytime soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stacey, I am so glad to hear you guys are into The Sandman. I also like your phrase – “the inability to couch responses.” Perfect. Yeah, I do think the fabric of society is going to need an awful lot of knitting to get back to throwing empathy at people instead of insults.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I will never understand why people spend so much of their time complaining about things they don’t like or just spewing hate in general. I’ve been in so many fandoms over the years and there are some that are less toxic than others. But I can’t even get on some Twitter threads because it can get so bad when I just want to see others enjoying the thing (with reasonable criticisms) like I am.

    I enjoyed your thoughts on the subject 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Meagan, I couldn’t agree more with your comments. It is sad we cannot reasonably discuss our thoughts and possible differences of opinion about artistic efforts without dragging the conversation down to an intolerable level. I enjoyed your comments…and thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I always love reviews and enjoy the debate about what people like or dislike about a show or movie. Thanks to this review I will be continuing on with The Sandman since I had only watched the first episode and then moved on to other shows. I have rarely found an adaptation that I enjoyed more than the book, but I always love checking them out. Where the Crawdads Sing was on the bestseller list for a long time and even with all the wonderful reviews it took awhile to talk myself into finally reading the book and when I finished I was already looking forward to the movie. Even with all the reviews I’ve read, I’ll be watching it once it’s available to watch at home and most likely saying again I can’t believe the book is always better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cimple, I agree on the adaptations. I really do think in a lot of cases filmmakers don’t do a good job of maintaining that balance between honoring the spirit of the book and making a spirited viewing experience. Let me know what you think about Crawdads once you see the movie. I still may read the book, as I saw enough from the movie to make me think the book gives the story and the characters a lot more depth, which a book should always do anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Brilliant article on adaptations, criticism, and appreciation! It’s such a touchy subject nowadays. Not all adaptations fit exactly as the consumer imagined them in the first place. Just like not all creators stick to the original vision of a creator when telling their story with said character. I will always love exploring new interpretations and remain open-minded about them. It allows me to appreciate more of something I already adore. I read 1 of the 3 omnibuses of the Sandman series and I look forward to completing that comic book series. I haven’t yet started the Netflix adaptation yet but I know they did a pretty decent job with it and now, after reading your thoughts, I definitely look forward to it more than ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lashaan, I just started reading my Sandman collection which I purchased before the series dropped on Netflix. I wanted to watch the show first and then “back into” the source material/comics. Please circle back after you see the series and let me know your thoughts!


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