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Comic icon ‘The Sandman’ TV series in works

BY BORYS KIT & JAMES HIBBERD

 

Exclu: “The Sandman,” the Neil Gaiman-penned comic book series considered a seminal work in the medium, is in the early stages of being developed into a TV series.

 

Warner Bros. TV is in the midst of acquiring television rights from sister company DC Entertainment and is in talks with several writer-producers about adapting the 1990s series. At the top of the list is Eric Kripke, creator of the CW’s horror-tinged “Supernatural.”

 

more at the link

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This doesn't sound good. Nope, it doesn't.

 

Remmeber there was that really bad sci-fi series called "Sandman" back in the mid or late 1990s?

I remember seeing a commercial for it, which was obscure, and hearing "Sandman", and thinking that there was a Neil Gaiman Sandman series or movie coming.

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This doesn't sound good. Nope, it doesn't.

 

Remmeber there was that really bad sci-fi series called "Sandman" back in the mid or late 1990s?

I remember seeing a commercial for it, which was obscure, and hearing "Sandman", and thinking that there was a Neil Gaiman Sandman series or movie coming.

 

This is pretty much the worst possible news one can get re: a Sandman adaptation. The WB network is aimed squarely and solidly at the teen market (primarily women). They're known for Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill and Supernatural. If they do end up making a Sandman show, it'll be targeting the goth/'indie' teen market (for whom having read 'Sandman' is, admittedly, quite the badge of credibility). It almost literally couldn't get any worse than this, short of SyFy making the show or one of the networks.

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Four positives:

 

1- Supernatural is the closest thing TV has come to recreating the DC's horror universe onscreen. One character's appearance is even based on Constantine!

 

2- As Supernatural and Vampire Diaries show, they're not afraid to do long-form, surprisingly complicated story arcs.

 

3- They've got a huge female viewership that isn't put off by horror and fantasy shows. That at least means the chances of it being a boom-biff, everything exploding kind of series is diminished.

 

4- Take away the superheroes and the earlier Sandman stories wouldn't look out of place on the current CW. There's no reason they can't start out there and gradually turn it towards the more broadly fantasy elements seen in the rest of the series.

 

My only real concerns are whether they'd end up sticking to a particular format - which would mean dropping the meandering structure of the comics - or end up having to base everything around Morpheus rather than allowing him to have a smaller (but significant) part in other peoples' stories.

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I don't know, James...I don't think it's enough that they're not put off by long form, complicated narratives. Soap operas fit that description too. What scares me is that it looks like they're going straight for Gaiman's disaffected teen/goth fanbase as opposed to trying to make something intelligent out of the comics. Supernatural can, occasionally, be decent (nowhere near the quality I'd like from a Sandman adaptation though) but the rest of their shows are pretty bad to absolutely awful. The Vampire Diaries is a straight up capitalization on the current craze for boy toy vampires. I don't even need to say anything about 90210 and Gossip Girl. Makes me worry that they're going to take all the ideas, allusions and sheer jawdropping horror out of the comics and replace it with Sparkly Morpheus, Kristen Stewart-lite Death and a story more Stephanie Meyer than Neil Gaiman. I'm not afraid of this becoming a boom-biff show the way I would be if, say, Spike TV were picking it up. I'm afraid it will become a teen soap opera the way the majority of the CW's programming is.

 

If they're skewing this to a teen audience which - given their primary demographic - they're likely to do, they're almost certainly going to have to take out much of what makes Sandman interesting in the first place. A Sandman adaptation should be on one of the premium cable networks or FX/AMC (the two basic cable channels that actually attempt to work around the idiotic industry standards of what can or cannot be shown, not to mention not treating their audience like idiots).

 

I'm open to the possibility that this might be good but, given the CW's history and demographic, the odds do not look good at all. The CW is a very distinct brand, composed of shows like One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl, 90210 and Supernatural, all of which have a lot (of bad things) in common. When I think 'good Sandman adaptation' I don't think of it being part of a programming schedule that includes those shows.

 

Then again, this may all be academic. Looks like it's very early days on this thing and it might not even happen at all. But let's just say I would've been a lot more enthusiastic if it was an HBO/James Mangold project.

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The Vampire Diaries is a straight up capitalization on the current craze for boy toy vampires.

 

Which is the same thing as "it's a bad show" why, exactly? Half of HBO's output in the early 2000s was a straight up capitalization on the then-current craze for gritty, violent adult drama, and I don't see you complaining about that. "Making shows people want to watch" doesn't seem like a particularly terrible goal for a TV network to have, particularly if those shows are well-made. From what I've seen and heard The Vampire Diaries is thoroughly high-quality entertainment, albeit aimed at a demographic to which I don't belong. Same goes for Gossip Girl, actually - I've got no interest in watching it, but I've seen enough of both shows to know that they're stylishly directed, with good casts, very high production values, reasonably sophisticated plotting/characterisation, and sharp, witty dialogue. Likewise Supernatural. Don't confuse subject matter and tone with quality.

 

Say what you like about 90210 and One Tree Hill, both of which appear to be varying shades of crap (as are plenty of popular shows on HBO, FX et al), but you're being needlessly harsh on the rest. Besides, as you sort of acknowledged before veering away from the subject because it made you uncomfortable, the core audience of Sandman is, was, and always has been heavily dominated by intelligent teens, particularly gothy teenaged girls. An adaptation which didn't skew in that direction wouldn't be doing the source material justice - and besides, "aimed at teenage girls" is hardly a synonym for "unintelligent" "soapy" or "bad". Think Buffy, a show which has far more in common with both CW's current output and with most of Gaiman's writing than anything on HBO does. It's not like there wasn't plenty in there for an intelligent adult viewer to appreciate.

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Well, I've seen episodes of Supernatural, Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries too and I thought they were all quite bad. I agree that they're often well directed and acted but the writing/storylines/characterizations...not so much. In my experience, TV 'aimed at teenage girls' does generally lead to 'soapy, unintelligent and bad'. This is not me saying teenage girls are unintelligent and prefer shitty entertainment. This is me saying that network execs' idea of what should be aimed toward teenage audiences seem to encompass 'unintelligent','shitty' and 'bad'. Sure, there's Buffy but then there's nearly everything else that the CW has put out. Buffy (and Veronica Mars now that I come to think of it) is the reason I put in the fact that I'm open to some vague possibility of this being good.

 

Again, the last post was not so much about me maliging female, teen audiences (though rereading it, I can see how you may have got this impression) but about my low opinion of what TV execs think such audiences would like to see.

 

As for why I didn't bring up HBO's capitalization on 'gritty violent adult drama' is the fact that such dramas can, occasionally, lead to good television. Stephanie Meyer-esque sparkly vampire stories are much less likely to do so.

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I discovered Sandman when I was 15 or 16, I don't actually remember exactly. What I do remember is what a revelation it was to me, and how completely different it was from anything else I'd read up until that point. I was absolutely one of those girls who had their lives changed by Neil Gaiman, and his work, and at the same time, I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer religiously, but also read a lot of other stuff - like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice and all sorts of other accepted "worthy" literature.

 

I have now read all four Twilight books, and seen the three movies so far. I read a whole load of paranormal fantasy and love romance novels. I watch Gossip Girl occasionally. I do watch The Vampire Diaries and Nikita, both CW shows, every week. I also teach teenagers English and Norwegian. I also read Margaret Atwood, John Irving, Salman Rushdie, Michael Chabon and Tolkien. Teenage girls are complex creatures, most of the girls I teach who have read and like Twilight also possess critical faculties and can tell mindless entertainment from true quality.

 

I would also like to point out that L.J. Smith started writing her Vampire Diaries series almost a decade before Stephenie Meyer wrote about sparkly fluffy vampires and the benefits of chastity in Twilight. Same with Charlaine Harris and her Sookie Stackhouse books. Only now have both series been turned into really popular TV shows, thanks to the Twilight craze. Both have very different vampires and supernatural worlds from Meyer's books, there just wasn't as big a market for it before. So to lump anyone who writes about vampires in with Stephenie Meyer, or her many, often scary, fans, is unfair.

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Teenage girls are complex creatures, most of the girls I teach who have read and like Twilight also possess critical faculties and can tell mindless entertainment from true quality.

 

 

 

This is not something I am disagreeing with, even though - again - I can see why you thought that from my initial post. I'd refer you to the second paragraph of my response to Mark.

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I'm with Abhi here.

 

I totally agree with you, Malin. This isn't about that issue.

I read Uncanny X-Men and Amazing Spider Man comics, and I also read Hemingway and Gaiman's Sandman.

It's not an either/or.

I thought the Spider Man movies were pretty decent for adaptations of those comics.

But, that doesn't mean that if the same type of creativity put into Spider Man were put into a Sandman movie that would make the Sandman movie basically ok.

Or, we can look at the Hellblazer movie as an example of this. And, HB is hardly as sophisticated as Sandman. Not wanting to take away from HB here, but since Delano left the book, HB hasn't exactly been the most creatively charged concept.

I've seen the Twilight movies actually. My girlfriend wanted to watch them. She's not a fan of Twilight, by the way. But, we we were bored, and she decided to see what it was all about, and I watched it with her. The movies are not terrible, for what they are. They're just really, really melodramatic. It's obvious that Hollywood is attempting to market it to a type of stereotypical teenage girl. It works fine. But, that doesn't mean that the same concept would work if applied to Wuthering Heights.

I'm sure we can all agree that "love" is not the same at the teenage level as it is when you hit your mid-20s and that how you felt in your mid-20s isn't how you'd act in your mid-30s. Experience changes our behaviour and ability to understand concepts. It has nothing to do with intelligence levels, but I'd argue that it isn't a matter of intelligence which understands certain concepts that humans deal with.

 

I discovered Neil Gaiman at the age of 18, and like Malin, I'd say it was a life-changing experience for me also. I'd never seen anything like that.

I had read Shakespeare at age 12. I was reading Anne Rice novels in high school...and absolutely loving every word.

But, I knew that Sandman was at a different level, creatively, than Anne Rice.

It's not a matter of "sophistication". I'm sure that a teenage girl reading Twilight and feeling her life changed by it is probably relatively "sophistacated" in the same way I considered myself rather "sophisticated" as a teenager. Maybe doesn't fit in. Maybe doesn't fit all the female stereotypes. Maybe not popular and somewhat above average intelligence or empathy.

OK, that's all fine. But, it still doesn't mean that pursuing the same concepts in Buffy with Sandman is going to work. Maybe someone might still find it entertaining...but for us comic nerds who adore Gaiman's work, it's just not going to cut it, anymore than a pop Hollywood idea about John Constantine enthused most of us HB fanatics, even though some members of this Forum were able to see it as a "fun movie" when removed from the context of "Hellblazer movie".

Because, no, I don't see Buffy at the same creative level as Sandman.

I've never really enjoyed Buffy. It didn't have anything to offer me, although if it had been around when I was in high school, maybe I would have found value in it. Sandman, on the other hand, I can still appreciate in my 30s.

 

I'd say this is a matter of creativity versus subjective tastes that is being argued.

Subjectively, we can read a Hellblazer story and say it's a damn fine read, but I don't know how one could argue that creatively an issue of Hellblazer could rank alongside of Kafka or Camus.

It doesn't mean that we're "uncultured rabble" for enjoying HB, even if you've never read Camus.

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What scares me is that it looks like they're going straight for Gaiman's disaffected teen/goth fanbase as opposed to trying to make something intelligent out of the comics.

 

Based on what? Who are 'they' in this instance? The CW? Are you basing that on other CW shows? Because I'm not sure 'disaffected teens' and 'goths' are their target demographics. Teens in general, probably. Twentysomethings definitely. And I don't see how a bare bones news story shows what kind of angle they're taking with it.

 

Supernatural can, occasionally, be decent

 

Opinions, obviously, but I'd say that after a terrible first season Supernatural grew into one of the most consistently excellent, intelligent and witty genre shows on TV. Possibly ever.

 

Makes me worry that they're going to take all the ideas, allusions and sheer jawdropping horror

 

Supernatural, dude. Seriously.

 

out of the comics and replace it with Sparkly Morpheus, Kristen Stewart-lite Death and a story more Stephanie Meyer than Neil Gaiman.

 

Based on...? Actually, Vampire Diaries - what little I've seen of it - can be horrendously gruesome and has a ludicrously high body count. It's not Twilight, despite how the posters make it look.

 

The CW is a very distinct brand, composed of shows like One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl, 90210 and Supernatural, all of which have a lot (of bad things) in common.

 

I'd like to know what links 90210 and Supernatural. Really.

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'They' is the CW in this instance. I'm basing it on their general target demographic, yes. It's got nothing to do with the news story and I didn't say I was sure. It's just a concern on my part. I would be scared that it'd turn into what you called a 'biff-boom' show if it were Spike TV that picked it up or that it'd become a low budget schlockfest if SyFy picked it up. I don't see what it so outlandish about being concerned that an upcoming show on a certain network will share the characteristics of many of said network's previous shows. Now, I realize that you guys seem to think that the CW has a lot of quality output right now but I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that. As James said - opinions.

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Yeah, but the problem is that you haven't done a very convincing job of explaining what you think these shared characteristics of CW shows actually are, or how they might be applied to a Sandman adaptation (aside from a frankly laughable bit of straw-man nonsense about how they'll turn Morpheus into an Edward Cullen-a-like). Beyond the fact that they're broadly aimed at precisely the 18-30 demographic which would clearly be the optimal target audience for something like Sandman (mainly because that was more-or-less the core demographic of the comic as well), with more effort taken than is typical to engage female viewers, I share James' confusion as to what substantial links you could possibly be seeing between, say, 90210 and Supernatural. Beyond, again, the fact that you personally don't like them.

 

 

(Thanks for your response to my last post, by the way - while I'm inclined to agree with your take on stereotypically-clueless network executives in general, I still don't agree with many of the points you're making, but I appreciate you taking the time to clarify what you were originally getting at).

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I'm apprehesive, not because of the target audience or whatnot, but because it would be really really hard to translate the magic of the comic to the screen. Things that look cool in a comic often just come off as kitchy on screen. In some ways it's easier to adapt a book well.

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Oh, I'm not holding out much hope for a truly great show either, for much the same reason, and more besides (and that's if it even ends up happening at all, which is still pretty far from a given). I just don't think Abhi's specific concerns are particularly well-founded.

 

That said, I should probably have found a better way of saying that in the first place, because my last post in particular reads as far more condescending/hostile than I was aiming for. Sorry, Abhi.

 

(you're still wrong about Supernatural, though :wink: )

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I'm with James and Mark on this one. Particularly given that, Gaiman's most likely going to have some kind of script approval, and has a long history of being a bit precious about what gets done with his intellectual property. Presumably he feels that the lengthy and complicated story from the comics will work better as a television series than being simplified and cut down for a film, which is fair enough.

There's certainly no reason a series would require Morpheus to be foregrounded in every story. There are plenty of television serials with connecting characters who aren't particularly involved in the action, after all. Hell, having Dream just coming on at the start of an episode to do a Rod Serling introduction, or just lurk in the background somewhere, watching would work pretty well on the telly, wouldn't it?

 

(And I could definitely take issue with Abhi's comments about all post Stephanie Myer vampire fiction being crap, but it looks like Malin's already demolished that argument. I can remember when Laurel Hamilton was the be all and end all of shitty vampire serial fiction twenty years back...)

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There's certainly no reason a series would require Morpheus to be foregrounded in every story. There are plenty of television serials with connecting characters who aren't particularly involved in the action, after all. Hell, having Dream just coming on at the start of an episode to do a Rod Serling introduction, or just lurk in the background somewhere, watching would work pretty well on the telly, wouldn't it?

 

Mmmm, but I'm not sure that CW would necessarily buy that. Or modern-day acting agents who want their clients to be in the foreground of every episode. A Sandman series that tried to be like the comic would sit uncomfortably between horror anthologies (only one regular character as a storyteller of sorts), ensemble shows where prominent characters go in the background every now and then to let others take over, and lead-led shows like Supernatural.

 

Then again I'm watching Justified at the minute and there are entire episodes where Timothy Olyphant's US Marshall doesn't do much more than turn up at the end and shoot the bad guys.

 

A bigger concern would be whether they would dare have an irregular, only occasionally-occurring supporting cast and let the show drift about like the comic did, but Supernatural does that as well.

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Good point about actor's agents: that hadn't occurred to me. It would work, but there would be a lot of actors who wouldn't really be up for doing it that way whether it works or not, true enough.

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I don't even think it will get made at all. At the most they will probably shoot a pilot which won't test well, and that will be that.

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Whilst I often find Abhi's intellectual snobbery amusing I have to admit that One Tree Hill is probably the worst televison programme I have accidentally sat in front of for ten minutes on a Sunday morning. The blonde one had some cool stickers on her locker, though.

 

That will be all.

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Whilst I often find Abhi's intellectual snobbery amusing I have to admit that One Tree Hill is probably the worst televison programme I have accidentally sat in front of for ten minutes on a Sunday morning. The blonde one had some cool stickers on her locker, though.

 

That will be all.

 

Well, glad to provide you with amusement. The whole pithy and to-the-point thing you have going on the forum is always rewarding so the feeling is mutual.

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The blonde one had some cool stickers on her locker, though.

 

That will be all.

 

Is that a euphemism?

 

 

I have seen about 30 mins of each of the above programmes and they are shit.

If Eastenders wanted to remake Sandman I would be more confident.

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