Top 10 Things You Missed In The Sandman
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Nick Roffey
Netflix's "The Sandman" has plenty of details you may have missed, whether you're new to it or a diehard comic fan. For this list, we're looking at subtle details and references in the Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman's celebrated comic book series. Our countdown includes the Cereal Convention, Hunting Grounds, Matthew's Origins, Dreaming Details, and more!
Netflix's "The Sandman" has plenty of details you may have missed, whether you're new to it or a diehard comic fan. For this list, we’re looking at subtle details and references in the Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s celebrated comic book series. Our countdown includes the Cereal Convention, Hunting Grounds, Matthew's Origins, Dreaming Details, and more! What details did you love in “The Sandman”? How did you like the first season? Let us know!
#10: Dreaming Details
“Sleep of the Just”
Dream’s domain, the Dreaming, is home to thousands of denizens - both dreams and nightmares. The opening scene of the series showcases this realm, from the Gates of Horn and Ivory, to Cain and Abel’s Houses of Mystery and Secrets, to Dream’s magnificent castle. The name of the gates derives from a literary image that first appeared in Homer’s Odyssey, playing on the similarities between the Greek words for “horn” and “fulfill”, and “ivory” and “deceive”. We also catch brief glimpses of Martin Tenbones and Mervyn Pumpkinhead, who reappear in later episodes - voiced by the legendary Lenny Henry and Mark Hamil respectively.
#9: Starry Eyed
Among Morpheus’ most iconic features in the comics, besides his wild, very 80s hair, are his eyes. Foregoing the humdrum of ordinary human eyeballs, the King of Dreams gazes out at the world through distant stars. “Sandman” creator Neil Gaiman, who serves as executive producer on the show, said that in pre-production tests, contact lenses and CGI diminished the magic of Tom Sturridge’s performance. The eyes convey a lot of emotion, helping to make Dream relatable - no mean feat given the abstract, metaphysical nature of the Endless. Having said that, there are a few shots where lights in his eyes reflect the starfields in which Dream stands. It’s a nice nod to his appearance in the comics.
#8: Matthew’s Origins
Neil Gaiman cites Alan Moore’s “Swamp Thing” as having gotten him back into comics in his 20s, and Moore’s influence pervades “The Sandman”. In fact, when Matthew the Raven mentions that he wasn’t always a dream, he’s referring to his life in “Swamp Thing”. As investigator Mathew Cable, he suffered damage to his mind that allowed him to alter reality, leading him down a dark path. He ended up in a coma and chose to end his life. John Constantine, who appears in “The Sandman” comics, also originated in the pages of “Swamp Thing”. In the Netflix adaptation, ‘Johanna’ takes his place, with a similar backstory involving Astra, and the same exes! Her ancestor, Lady Johanna Constantine, was created by Gaimon for “The Sandman” comics.
#7: Apocalypse Live
Does the news seem darker these days? Well, it certainly is on “The Sandman”. As John Dee uses the ruby to wreak havoc in the diner, the world outside begins to fall apart. Even a feel good fluff piece on the news takes a sour turn. The presenter announces that after 10 years together, captive pandas have mated - a real story by the way from April 2020, although the pandas have different names. However, she unexpectedly segues into a cynical polemic against procreation. We later hear about a wave of violence, traffic pile ups, plane crashes, and other tragedies. The diner is a microcosm of the carnage in the wider world. No wonder the Three saw fit to appear, prophesying through the women in the diner.
#6: Hunting Grounds
‘Fun Land’ is a particularly creepy character with a monstrous predilection. There are chilling hints about where he finds his victims, described as a place with rides and thousands of kids … He claims to have met the voice actor behind the Big Bad Wolf - a character who’s featured in numerous Disney animations. In the comics, he also professes his love for the song “It’s a Small World” - which plays in Fantasyland at various Disneylands. The ears on his hat might be pointed and wolfish, rather than round, but we’re pretty sure we know what Gaiman was getting at. That’s … really dark. Kevin Smith actually brought Fun Land back for the limited series “Batman: The Widening Gyre”.
“The Sound of Her Wings”
If Bill and Ted had a literature assignment, they’d do well to just follow Hob Gadling through history. In the year 1389, when Hob first encounters Dream, a man is singing the praises of William Langland’s allegorical narrative poem “Piers Plowman” to his friend, Geoffrey. That’s actually Geoffrey Chaucer, renowned writer of “The Canterbury Tales”. In 1589, the inn’s visitors include ‘Kit’ and Will Shaxberd. ‘Kit’ was the nickname of “Doctor Faustus” author Christopher Marlowe. “Shaxberd” of course turns out to be Shakespeare. So why “Shaxberd”? Well, his contemporaries spelled his name dozens of ways - and “Shaxberd” was one of them. By the way, listen attentively, and you’ll notice that the same conversations are recurring across time periods. You can’t escape death, taxes, and, apparently, sneaky vicars.
#4: An Ironic Symbol
“The Sound of Her Wings”
Just like in the comics, Death wears a surprising symbol around her neck. It’s an ankh - an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol that actually means “life”! The ankh is also seen in Desire’s residence - the Threshold - and Dream’s castle. The other sigils are Destiny's book, Dream’s helm, Desire’s glass heart (or mirror in her own dwelling), Despair’s hooked ring, and Delirium’s swirl of colors. The missing sigil belongs to Dream’s younger brother Destruction - referred to as the Prodigal, because like the Prodigal Son in Jesus’ parable, he’s abandoned his home and responsibilities. Speaking of the Threshold, Desire’s tail in episode 10 recalls her cat costume in “The Sandman” ssue 16.
#3: Cereal Convention
You can forgive Jed for thinking that a cereal convention would be all about breakfast! The attendees describe themselves as “collectors”, but they’re not collecting cornflakes. Just in case the penny hasn’t dropped, “cereal” really refers to “serial killers”. The convention episodes also work in some clever comic book crossovers. The missing keynote speaker, The Family Man, is a former policeman who went on a killing spree until being shot dead by John Constantine in “Hellblazer”. The absence of the Bogeyman is another allusion to “Swamp Thing”; he’s missing because he drowned in the swamp in volume 2 issue 44.
#2: Finally Alive
Fictional characters should pay close attention to whatever’s on TV. It’s always pertinent! As Jed sits in a room at the convention, the episode “Toys in the Hood” from the animated series “Static Shock” is on TV. The episode features Darci Mason, an android with free will who flees her creator, Toyman, wanting to lead her own life. She promises to love Toyman if he gives her a new body, modeled after a human girl, but betrays him and runs off again - only to melt due to a failsafe device. This story closely parallels the Corinthian’s - he also transitioned into the world of flesh and blood, betrayed his creator in the pursuit of an independent existence, and is destroyed as a result.
Morpheus isn’t DC’s first Sandman. In fact, he’s the fourth. The first was Wesley Dodds, and the second Garrett Sanford, who was replaced by Hector Hall! Originally, Neil Gaiman had wanted to revive Garrett Sanford’s story, but was asked to dream up a new character instead. In “The Sandman” comics, Hector’s story is retconned, so that he only exists within Jed’s mind. The Netflix adaptation still includes Hector - but as Lyta’s deceased husband in her own dreams. It’s Jed who thinks he’s the Sandman - complete with Garrett Sanford’s classic costume. Oh and Lyta? You’re looking at Hippolyta: Wonder Woman’s daughter with Steve Trevor.