Perchance to Dream: A Look at The Sandman Before the Netflix Show

  • Posted on: 24 February 2021
  • By: Jon Schafle

Who Exactly is The Sandman? - A Brief History

The upcoming series "The Sandman" is based on the series of comics written by acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman, though his incarnation of the Sandman character wasn't the first.


Golden/Silver Age Sandman

The original Sandman was a superhero in the 1930's named Wesley Dodds who fought crime with his strangely prophetic dreams and donning a green business suit, fedora and gas mask and used his gas guns to put criminals to sleep, but over time transitioned to a transitional unitard spandex suit and fought crime with a Robin-esque sidekick named Sandy, the Golden Boy. He was one of the founders of the original super-team, the Justice Society of America (sort of a precursor to the Justice League with members including the Golden Age versions of Superman, Batman, Hawkman and others). After the 40's, Sandman faded into obscurity to be revived a few times since the 1980's by various people with ties to the Justice Society or Dodds himself.


Bronze Age Sandman

In the 1970's, the character was re-imagined by famed comic creator Jack Kirby, who had Garrett Sanford assume the mantle of the Sandman. Despite his colorful superhero costume this incarnation was supposed to be the eternal Sandman of myth and had a new set of powers, sidekicks and skills. Sandman was accompanied by two living nightmare sidekicks named Brute and Glob and used his dream monitoring devices to either enter the dream or reality streams to protect sleepers from unnatural nightmares. The series was short-lived but the character reappeared in a handful of appearances with later writers ret-conning him as a human that was trapped in the Dream Dimension that could only escape for an hour at a time and his original suit was altered to include a red hourglass on his chest.

Modern Sandman

Dream, or Morpheus, is one of the seven members of the Endless and is the literal personification of dream, storytelling and reality. The character is more closely aligned to the mythical Sandman and previous incarnations of the character were explained as Wesley Dodd's receiving his prophetic dreams as reality trying to right itself because of Dream's absence due to his imprisonment and Brute and Glob being rogue servants of Dream that attempted to create a new Sandman in which they would have more influence over. The Neil Gaiman series follows Dream escaping his imprisonment after being trapped for most of the twentieth century by an occultist after he was in a weakened state. The beginning of the series began before the Vertigo imprint of DC was established and even featured a few superhero cameos among the familiar faces such as the Justice League and Doctor Destiny but also incorporated fringe characters like horror anthology hosts from older DC titles such as Cain from House of Mystery, Able from House of Secrets, and the three witch sisters from The Witching Hour. 

Who Will We See in the Show? -



Desire - One of the seven Endless, twin of Despair, and is the anthropomorphic personification of their name. Referred to as 'sibling' by other members of the Endless because Desire is gender-fluid and can assume any form.
♦ Lucienne - The Librarian of the Dreaming, Dream's realm, and is essentially Dream's second in command. Gender-swapped from the comics' male version Lucien, who was originally the host of a short-lived horror anthology comic Tales of Ghost Castle. He also bears a passing resemblance to Cain since they were designed by the same artist.
♦  Dream - Morpheus, the lord of dreams and one of the seven Endless - he is the protagonist of the series. Following the comics, the show will begin with Dream breaking free after being imprisoned for most of the twentieth century.
Death - Second oldest of the seven Endless and elder sister of Dream, she is the personification of Death as is a kind hearted and upbeat as is usually shown as a young goth woman. Everyone meets Death twice, when they are born and when they die.
Despair - Twin to Desire and second youngest of the Endless, her realm is filled the mirrors she uses to gaze upon humans in their despair. She always wears a sigil in the form of a hooked ring.
♦ Lucifer - Lucifer Samael Morningstar, the Biblical fallen angel and devil of the Christian faith, whose look in the comics was originally based off David Bowie, acting as a supporting character in the series.
Unity Kincaid - A woman effected by a powerful sleeping sickness after the imprisonment of Dream, she was raped by Desire and gave birth to Miranda Walker, mother of Rose and Jed.
Lyta Hall - Daughter of Earth-2's (or the Golden Age's) Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, she went by the codename Fury in the superhero team Infinity Inc.. Her husband was Hector Hall, another incarnation of the Sandman and son of Earth 2's Hawkman and Hawkgirl. She is a very protective mother to their son Daniel who was concieved in the Dreaming.
Gilbert - The human guise of a sentient part of the Dreaming called Fiddler's Green, associated with travelers and especially sailors. After Dream's capture he enters the human world to live as a man. He helps Rose Walker locate her brother Jed.
Ethel Cripps - Mother of John Dee/Doctor Destiny and mistress of Roderick Burgess, gives John the Dreamstone to allow him to break out of Arkham Asylum.
John Dee - Known as the super villain Doctor Destiny, who fought the Justice League on numerous occasions. His body was warped by use of the stolen Dreamstone which he used to break out of Arkham Asylum. He is the son of Roderick Burgress and Ethel Cripps.
Rose Walker - A woman with a mysterious connection to the Dreaming.
♦ Abel - The Biblical Abel, the first murder victim and brother of Cain. In the comics he was originally a horror host for the anthology series House of Secrets.
♦ Cain - The Biblical Cain, the first murderer and brother of Abel. In the comics he was originally a horror host for the anthology series House of Mystery.
♦ Roderick Burgess - An English occultist who set out to capture Death but instead mistakenly caught her brother Dream. He imprisons Dream and steals his powerful tools and attempted to hold him hostage for immortality.
♦ The Corinthian - A nightmare created by Dream that goes rogue in his absence. In the comics he is portrayed by typically wearing all white and sunglasses to hide the fact he has no eyes, but two small mouths where they should be. He also takes the eyes of his victims.
Johanna Constantine - An ancestor of John Constantine, and original owner of Blackwood Estate/Fawney Rig, which is the home of Roderick Burgess in modern times. She crossed paths with Dream in the late 1700's.
Matthew the Raven - Originally appearing in Swamp Thing, Matthew Jonathan Cable was a man who died in a coma after being possessed by Anton Arcane (arch nemesis of Swamp Thing and uncle to Matthew's wife) and as such entered the Dreaming and was offered a chance at new life by Dream.

Reading List - Books From the Catalog

Golden Age Sandman

The Golden Age Sandman Archives by Gardner Fox & others

Reprinting the first appearance of the original Sandman and his earliest adventures.







Sandman Mystery Theatre by Matt Wagner & others (Series)

Set during the 30's and inspired by the Thin Man movies & novels as well as other film noir elements it follows the adventures of Wesley Dodds and his fiance.







The Neil Gaiman Sandman Series

The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith, & others

An occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his 70 year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey, Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman - Doctor Destiny. This book also includes the story "The Sound of Her Wings," which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl Death.




The Sandman Vol. 2: A Doll's House by Neil Gaiman, Malcolm Jones III, & others

The Sandman has returned to find that a few dreams and nightmares have escaped to reality. Looking to recapture his lost possessions, Morpheus ventures to the human plane only to learn that a woman named Rose Walker has inadvertently become a dream vortex and threatens to rip apart his world. Now as Morpheus takes on the last escaped nightmare at a serial killers convention, the Lord of Dreams must mercilessly murder Rose or risk the destruction of his entire kingdom.




The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman, Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, & others

The third volume of the Sandman collection is a series of four short comic book stories. In each of these otherwise unrelated stories, Morpheus serves only as a minor character. Here we meet the mother of Morpheus's son, find out what cats dream about, and discover the true origin behind Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream.




The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman, Matt Wagner, P. Craig Russell, & others

Ten thousand years ago, Morpheus condemned a woman who loved him to Hell. Now the other members of his immortal family, The Endless, have convinced the Dream King that this was an injustice. To make it right, Morpheus must return to Hell to rescue his banished love -- and Hell's ruler, the fallen angel Lucifer, has already sworn to destroy him.




The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman, Collen Doran, & others

Take an apartment house, mix in a drag queen, a lesbian couple, some talking animals, a talking severed head, a confused heroine, and the deadly Cuckoo. Stir vigorously with a hurricane and Morpheus himself and you get this fifth installment of the Sandman series. This story stars Barbie, who first makes an appearance in The Doll's House, who here finds herself a princess in a vivid dreamworld.





The Sandman Vol. 6: Fables & Reflections by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, & others

Follows the Lord of Dreams through nine remarkable tales as he touches lives from the mists of the past to the nightmares of the present. In these episodes, kings and spies, emperors and actors, ravens and werewolves all share their stories and their dreams--dreams of life and love, and of power and darkness.





The Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman, Jill Thompson, & others

Dream's youngest sister, the loopy Delirium, convinces him to go on a quest for their missing brother, Destruction. But Dream may learn that the cost of finding his prodigal sibling is more than he can bear.






The Sandman Vol. 8: Worlds' End by Neil Gaiman, Mike Allred, Mark Buckingham, & others

A "reality storm" draws an unusual cast of characters together. They take shelter in a tavern, where they amuse each other with their life stories. Although Morpheus is never a focus in these stories, each has something to say about the nature of stories and dreams.





The Sandman Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman, D'Isaeli, Charles Vess, & others

A former superheroine blames Morpheus for the death of her child and summons an ancient curse of vengeance against the Lord of Dream. The "kindly ones" enter his realm and force a sacrifice that will change the Dreaming forever.





The Sandman Vol. 10: The Wake by Neil Gaiman, Charles Vess, & others

In which the repercussions of the Death of Lord Morpheus are felt, and, in an epilogue, William Shakespeare learns the price of getting what you want.






The Sandman Vol. 11: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman, Bill Sienkiewicz, P. Criag Russell, & others

Alternately haunting, bittersweet, erotic and nightmarish, the seven stories in this book-one for each of the Endless siblings, each illustrated by a different artist-reveal strange secrets and surprising truths about the Endless.





The Sandman Vol. 12: The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman & Yoshitaka Amano

Featuring striking painted artwork, this love story, set in ancient Japan, tells the story of a humble young monk and a magical, shape-changing fox who find themselves romantically drawn together. As their love blooms, the fox learns of a devilish plot by a group of demons to steal the monk's life. With the aid of Morpheus, the King of All Night's Dreamings, the fox must use all of her cunning and creative thinking to foil this evil scheme and save the man that she loves.




The Sandman Overture by Neil Gaiman, J.H. Williams II, & Dave Stewart

A prequel to the first Sandman volume, featuring the epic battle that diminished Dream enough to be captured in the events leading up to Preludes & Nocturnes.






Sandman Books & Novels

The Sandman: King of Dreams by Alisa Kwitney

The first and only comic book to receive the World Fantasy Award, The Sandman continues to break new ground in the comic book medium and beyond. Author Alisa Kwitney explores its beginnings and chronicles the comic's emergence as a unique and undeniable force in the literary world. Richly illustrated, this history shows how Gaiman and The Sandman's gifted artists, such as Dave McKean and Yoshitaka Amano, create a haunting (and haunted) main character who wields immense power. With illustrations never before published, behind-the-scenes stories, handwritten notes, and interviews with Gaiman himself, this volume is a true testament to the dream king and his creator.



The Sandman: Book of Dreams edited by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman's The Sandman is the most successful adult comic of all time and the first ever to win a World Fantasy Award. Gaiman's moody, twisted tales made Morpheus, Lord of the Dreaming, an icon recognized across the globe. Now millions of new readers can appreciate Neil Gaiman's award-winning creation as interpreted by some of the most imaginative minds in modern literature and one of the most breathtaking assemblies of talent in publishing history: Clive Barker * Tad Williams * Barbara Hambly * Gene Wolfe * Nancy A. Collins * Tori Amos * Steven Brust and others.




The Sandman Companion by Hy Benner

The Sandman was a groundbreaking and award-winning series that told the dark and tragic tale of Morpheus, the King of Dreams. A fascinating mythology of horror and consequence, this epic masterfully combined intriguing literature with captivating art. THE SANDMAN COMPANION is an exhaustive guide to this legend. Revealing hitherto undisclosed information and behind-the-scenes secrets, this book features in-depth interviews, never-before-seen illustrations, character origins, and story explanations and analysis. Also including excerpts from the original proposal for the series, this handbook is the perfect complement to the Sandman graphic novels.



One-Shot Collections

The Dreaming: Beyond the Shore of Night by Terry LeBan, Alisa Kwitney, & Peter Hogan

Spun from the pages of The Sandman, The Dreaming Beyond The Shores Of Night offers readers a chance to once again enter the Realm of Dreams. This collection features Cain and Abel, Lucien the Librarian, Eve, Matthew the Raven, gargoyles Goldie and Gregory, and other faces familiar in The Sandman, as well as some fascinating new characters. Told with a blend of seductive charm and sly humor, this book offers a glimpse of the range and diversity of The Dreaming series.




Midnight Days by Neil Gaiman & others

Midnight Days collects some of the accomplished author's earliest work. Included in these never-before-reprinted and original publications are entertaining tales featuring the Golden Age Sandman, Morpheus, the Swamp Thing, and John Constantine.





Spin-Off Series (Older Vertigo)

Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman & John Bolton

A quartet of fallen mystics dubbed the "Trenchcoat Brigade" is introduced in this first collection of the adventures of Timothy Hunter. John Constantine, the Phantom Stranger, Dr. Occult, and Mister E take Hunter on a tour of the magical realms. Along the way he's introduced to Vertigo's greatest practitioners of magic and must choose whether or not to join their ranks.





Books of Magic Vol. 1: Bindings by John Ney Rieber & Gary Amaro

Tim Hunter, destined to become Earth's greatest sorcerer, defends the realm of Faerie from the deadly manticore while trying to maintain a normal childhood life. Is his real father the one-armed drunk in the front room or is he the man who can turn into a hawk? Is his mother dead and buried or is she Titania, Queen of Faerie? Plus Death herself weighs in on the subject of identity.





The Absolute Death by Neil Gaiman, Mark Buckingham, P. Craig Russell & others

From the pages of Newbery Medal winner Neil Gaiman's The Sandman comes the young, pale, perky, fan-favorite character Death in a new Absolute Edition collecting her solo adventures! Featuring the miniseries Death: The High Cost of Living 1-3, in which Death befriends a teenager and helps a 250-year old homeless woman find her missing heart. The Absolute Death collects the miniseries Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life together with "The Sound of Her Wings" and "Façade" from The Sandman 8 and 20, the P. Craig Russell-illustrated "Death and Venice" from The Sandman: Endless Nights , and the never-before reprinted stories "A Winter's Tale" and "The Wheel." This deluxe volume also features an introduction by The Dresden Dolls' Amanda Palmer as well as extensive galleries of Death portraits and retail products, sketches by artist Chris Bachalo, and the complete original script by Gaiman for The Sandman #8.

John Constantine, Hellblazer by Jamie Delano, Mike Ridgeway, & others (Series)

John Constantine is an unconcerned, somewhat amoral occultist with a British working-class background. He's a hero, of sorts, who manages to come out on top through a combination of luck, trickery, and genuine magical skill. The Original Sins collection is a loosely connected series of tales of John's early years where Constantine was at his best and at his worst, all at the same time.





Lucifer Book One by Mike Carey, Peter Gross & others

Cast out of Heaven, Lucifer Morningstar has resigned his throne in Hell for Los Angeles. Emerging from the pages of The Sandman, the former Lord of Hell is enjoying retirement as the proprietor of L.A.'s most elite piano bar when an assignment from the Creator Himself threatens to change all that. Collects The Sandman Presents: Lucifer #1-3 and Lucifer #1-13.





Lucifer Book Two by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, & others

In this second new Lucifer edition, the Lightbringer is hard at work on a New Creation outside the bounds of any authority but his own, complete with a new pair of inhabitants for a new Garden of Eden. But as he tries his hand at universe building, back on Earth (and in Hell) schemes and betrayals continue to grow. And in the tale Nirvana, a beautiful angel with an ancient score to settle puts out a contract on Lucifer Morningstar. But can the Devil really die? Collects Lucifer #14-28 and Lucifer: Nirvana.




Spin-Off Series (Current Sandman Universe)

Books of Magic by Kat Howard & others (Series)

While Tim's trying to study and attract the cutest girl in his class, there are cultists who want to kill him, believing his magical powers will eventually corrupt him, turning him into a merciless mage that will bring upon the end of magic forever! Luckily, the new substitute teacher for his school wants to mentor him and educate him in the magical arts so that he can discover the secrets behind the Books of Magic...





The Dreaming by Simon Spurrier & Bilquis Evely (Series)

Lord Daniel's absence triggers a series of crimes and calamities that consume the lives of those already tangled in his fate. Until he is found, his realm's residents must protect its broken borders alone. But the most senior storytellers are tormented by invasive secrets, the warden Lucien is doubting his own mind, and beyond the gates, something horrific awaits with tooth and talon. Only Dora, the monstrous, finds opportunity in madness, stealing dreams for the highest bidder. But she has no idea how deep the danger lies. Meanwhile, in Daniel's gallery, something new is growing...




House of Whispers by Nalo Hopkinson, Domo Stanton & others (Series)

From her bayou, Erzulie scries upon the mortal realm and sees four human girls open a mysterious and magical journal filled with whispers and rumors that, if they spread, could cause a pandemic unlike any the Earth has seen, with the power to release Shakpana, the loa lord of infectious disease and nephew to Erzulie, who is currently banned from the human plane. Meanwhile, a mysterious infection doctors are calling "Cotard's Delusion" spreads, trapping countless souls in the Dreaming and leaving their physical bodies yearning for death.




John Constantine, Hellblazer by Simon Spurrier, Kat Howard, Aaron Campbell & others (Series)

John Constantine is back in London, back to his old tricks and just in time, as things have become very dark indeed in his old stomping grounds. A small-time gang lord has found himself dealing with a big-time outbreak of supernatural weirdness and, without any allies to call on and nothing left to call his own, John doesn t have much choice about taking a paycheck from one of London s worst, or accepting the help of one of the gang lord s would-be foot soldiers. But what should be an open-and-shut exorcism turns out to be nothing but and madness is just getting started! The original Constantine is back in this series from Si Spurrier (The Dreaming) and Aaron Campbell (Infidel), with nothing to his name but decades of bad memories and an unearned second chance. How, exactly, will he squander it?


Lucifer by Dan Watters, Max Fiumara, & Sabastian Fiumara (Series)

This is the one true tale of what befell the Prince of Lies, the Bringer of Light--Lucifer. The blind, destitute old man, who lives in a small boarding house in a quiet little town, where nothing is quite what it seems and no one can leave. He's trapped, you see? Trapped in a bizarre prison with no memory of how he got there or why. He has no recollection of setting out to find his offspring. He also does not remember that if he does not find him it could be the end of all things. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a cop who may have brain cancer is tasked with a mission. Find and Kill Lucifer.