• When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network.

Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN audio series (7/15/20)
2 2

38 posts in this topic


Neil Gaiman talks Sandman Audible adaptation, how it differs from upcoming Netflix show


The Sandman is a story about change. The iconic comic series — originally created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg — focused on Morpheus, the immortal lord of dreams (he himself is even sometimes known simply as Dream). In Gaiman's world, dreams are the source of all stories, so Morpheus' adventures took him (and readers) through a plethora of genres and concepts. There are Sandman issues based on Shakespeare plays, horror movies, and high fantasy — sometimes all at once. On top of that, the innovative multi-media covers by artist Dave McKean told readers to be ready for anything. Now, 31 years after it first began, The Sandman is going through some changes of its own. This week sees the release of Audible's audiobook adaptation of The Sandman, and there's that previously-announced Netflix TV adaptation that should be on the way whenever our own world returns to normal.


Audible's Sandman audiobook casts Gaiman as an omniscient narrator, while James McAvoy gives voice to Morpheus. EW caught up with Gaiman to discuss the adaptation process and how the audiobook differs from the TV series. Below, you can listen to an exclusive clip from the series, taken from the iconic "The Sound of Her Wings" chapter which introduces Morpheus' incredible older sister Death (Kat Dennings), whose name belies how vivacious and full-of-life she is.


Aside from Morpheus, which actors’ performances surprised you the most?


Morpheus was funny because it was like, the last thing we put in was the foundation. For me the most surprising moment in the studio was probably Michael Sheen’s Lucifer. Michael was a huge fan of the comics, reading them since he was a kid, so Michael knew that Lucifer had been drawn as the young David Bowie. I think of Michael Sheen as one of the greatest actors of his generation, which he is. I forget he is also one of the greatest impressionists. All of a sudden, I’m standing here in the studio, and Michael Sheen’s mouth is open, and David Bowie’s voice is coming out. It was so weird and amazing. 


For me, it’s always interesting revisiting Lucifer’s first Sandman appearance, because I’m just so eager to get to his character development in Season of Mists, which is probably my favorite Sandman volume. You’ve talked before about how the first eight or so issues of Sandman were you still figuring out the tone of the series. When you have to go back to the beginning for an adaptation like this, are you frustrated by those early stories? Or does it all feel of a piece?


Because we aren’t changing things, it feels like we’re doing an adaptation of a classic audiobook. I know it gets better, I know it goes to different places, and I feel very much like if you like this, just hang on because oh my gosh, we’re gonna take you to so many amazing places. With the TV show adaptation with Netflix, we’re getting to play in a slightly different way. With Netflix the idea is very much “okay, let’s say it’s 2020 and we’re starting a Sandman story, how do we do it?” It’s wonderful getting to use and reuse characters from the original, and if you are a Sandman fan then there are going to be amazing things waiting for you. Some of them will be things you know and love, and some of them will be things you’re not expecting at all. It’s a different way of telling it. Whereas for the audio drama, we’re not trying to reinvent it or reshape it. We’re trying to take a series of graphic novels and do a very literal adaptation for everybody. 


For the last couple years, you’ve been overseeing this new line of Sandman Universe books at DC, with different writers and artists coming in to play with different pieces of the Sandman world. In the wake of that, was it like coming back to Morpheus and these original stories after all these years, in both the audiobook and TV show?


It’s always like revisiting an old friend and it’s always wonderful. I forget how well I know Sandman, and how well I know this work. Then I’m sitting there answering questions or clarifying things or reading Dirk Maggs’ scripts, and it’s always a joy. I remember when I stopped doing Sandman, I explained it to people by saying “look, I want to leave while I’m still in love.” I never want to get up in the morning and go “oh great, time to write Sandman.” Writing Sandman was always an adventure, and always a delight. That’s how I feel with everything I get from Dirk Maggs on the Audible adaptation, and everything I get from Allan Heinberg on the Netflix adaptation. I’m so lucky! There have been lots of attempts over the years to make bad Sandman movies and things. All I would do is explain to people that I would rather that no Sandman movie was made than a bad one. I feel like now I’m in the best of all possible worlds, where I get to have adaptations made that are faithful either literally or spiritually. We get to make magic. 

Cool interaction sound file in the article between Dream and Death.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Sandman on Audible Review: The Stuff of Dreams and Nightmares


It's been 30 years since the first issue of The Sandman hit comic book stores. The series was written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by a long line of talented artists over its 75-issue run. The series, which inspired the creation of DC's mature reader Vertigo Comics imprint, has resisted adaptation for decades. For such a seminal work of comics, a fundamentally visual medium, to get its first adaptation in an audio format comes as a surprise. And yet, today sees the release of The Sandman audiobook exclusively on Audible. The project has veteran director Dirk Maggs, who worked with Gaiman on full-cast audio adaptations of his prose novels, and who has had a storied career in the audio drama business. On top of that, Gaiman and Audible brought on an all-star cast to voice The Sandman's characters, with James McAvoy taking the lead role as Morpheus, accompanied by Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Michael Sheen, Andy Serkis, and others in supporting roles.


The audio version of The Sandman is a faithful recreation of the comic book's story. Over 20 chapters, the audiobook tells the stories found in the first 20 issues of The Sandman comic book series. The comics-to-audio process follows the same playbook as if this were an audio adaptation of a prose novel. Dialogue is lifted straight from the page, and Gaiman's notes and descriptions for the artist that he put into the original Sandman comics scripts set the scenes and explains the action.


Experiencing the story in a new format, as someone already familiar with The Sandman, was fascinating and had me resisting the temptation to pull down the Absolute Sandman volumes and re-read the series in its entirety. The voice cast does a stellar job with dialogue intended at times to be more explanatory than performative or to compliment a visual than to stand alone. McAvoy brings an abundance of emotion and humanity to Morpheus when he could easily have interpreted the king of Dreams as cold, distant, and monotone.


Maggs' audio direction and the sound engineers' work on the series is similarly solid across the board and shines during moments of dreaming, when the landscape and genre may change instantly. There are some scenes where the audio approach falters. It's hard to recreate an homage to Little Nemo in Slumberland without visual queues, but it does try admirably to communicate the spirit of it. Similarly, the narration -- provided capably by Gaiman -- can't capture Elemental Girl's strange appearance from the story "Façade" the same way the original artwork can. On the other hand, the elegant music and soundscape enrich "The Sound of Her Wings," the first appearance of Dream's sister Death, illuminating Dream's emotional arc through the story in brand new ways.


The Audible adaptation also doesn't shy away from Sandman's early connections to the DC Universe, with characters like John Constantine, Scot Free, and the Martian Manhunter showing up. The Sandman later grows more distant from DC's superhero characters. These appearances may take newcomers by surprise, but they shouldn't be too hard to take in stride.


Audible's Sandman does an admirable job of replicating the magic of The Sandman using sound and performances by incredible actors. For those non-comics reading Gaiman fans -- particularly those who are unable to read comics -- that want to experience the story that launched the author's career, the Audiobook adaptation is a gift. For those already familiar with Morpheus's saga, it's an exciting new way to experience the story, with successes and flaws all its own, that may reignite longtime fan's interest in the source material. While not every aspect of The Sandman has aged well, it's still an astounding work of storytelling worth experiencing and revisiting again and again. Having listened to all 20 chapters of The Sandman that are now available, I'm more likely to pull down those hardcover Absolute Editions to re-read the story than to put my headphones back on for another listen. And yet, I remain eager to see what the next installment of The Sandman's Audible adaptation brings.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm about an hour and a half in so far and I'm really enjoying it. Its my first audio book but all the sound effects, music, and voice's have been great. I thought it was going to just have talking and was surprised with all the other effects, really sets the atmosphere for the current scene. On my phone is says its about 10 hours and 40 minutes long so I still got a ways to go. The link posted above I was able to get it for free since I have prime and started the Audible trial.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


“For years, I’ve said that I would rather have no adaptation of Sandman than a bad adaptation,” says Neil Gaiman – and for years we’ve had no Sandman adaptation. But perhaps surprisingly, given the very visual nature of a graphic novel, the first one to make it past the finish line is an audiobook – more than an audiobook, a scripted audio drama, something akin to a radio play or perhaps an ‘audio movie’ of the first three volumes of Gaiman’s The Sandman graphic novel series. It might not be the adaptation audiences were clamoring for but it works surprisingly well and might just set a path for a whole new way of consuming classic storytelling during a time when traditional screen productions are stymied.


Directed by Dirk Maggs who is well known in radio for producing complex, immersive and cinematic audio productions, the new Sandman adaptation has a Hollywood cast and an epic feel, spanning almost eleven hours in total. It’s a project which almost certainly couldn’t have worked as anything other than an audio production and retained the scope and scale, especially right in the middle of lockdown.


“When we made Coraline, on a good day, you would get seven usable seconds,” Gaiman explains. “Shooting a movie, on a good day, you get four minutes. Shooting Good Omens, on a really good day, we would get six minutes done. The amazing thing about audio is because we are just using voice and sound and because you’re relying on the listener to work with you as a co-creator and to imagine and to build, themselves, things are relatively – and I’m using the word ‘relatively’ here just because I do not, in any way, want to diminish the magnitude of what Dirk Maggs and his collaborators have done here – but it’s ‘relatively’ simple.”


Simple compared to a full on 11 hour screen version but, still with a ferocious number of moving parts and a massive cast spread across different countries, there were still major factors to take into consideration. Talking separately to Maggs we start to get a sense of the magnitude of the production. Sound was, unsurprisingly, the key to making the series work.


Maggs explains that they first recorded the ensemble cast, a group of around 60 actors who between them formed all the smaller supporting roles – some who are A-listers in their own right. These parts were recorded in London.


“I shoot on shotgun microphones, the same mics that you use on film sets to pick up actors’ voices, because I’m trying to carry this cinematic feel through everything,” he says. “So my first question to the other studios we were using is ‘what mic have you got?’ and then we work from that. Then it’s just a case of me carrying in my head how the recording is shaping up now. The director’s job for me is to make sure that as an audience, the listener isn’t suddenly thinking ‘hang on a minute, that sounds like it was recorded 3000 miles away, a month later.’” 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
2 2