We’re big fans of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman here at the m0vie blog. It’s genuinely one of the masterpieces of the medium, and the perfect book to recommend to somebody who wants to see the very best work in the medium. There has been talk of adapting the story for film before, and I remember having nightmares about the damage that could have been done to it by an industry that hears “comic book” and thinks “superhero.” At one point Gaiman apparently read “not only the worst Sandman script I’ve ever seen, but quite easily the worst script I’ve ever read” attached to the project.
It looks like things actually got reasonably far along, and artist Jill Thompson has released her conceptual artwork for one iteration of the film. It’s really quite lovely, even if it does raise concerns about just how much the studio might have been trying to fit into one film. There are elements there from the vast majority of Sandman stories. Given the series ran for seventy-odd issues, trying to compress all that into a two-hour film seems like a fool’s errand.
I’ve always felt that the material would work best as a HBO show, preferrably animated, given the sheer scale of everything involved. Of course, that runs the risk of alienating a potential audience – given that, for most viewers, animation exists in an even greater ghetto than comic books themselves. Still, I reckon that a television show would actually be pretty close to workable, and given the story the room that it needs to breath. I genuinely believe that Gaiman’s Sandman is one of the great literary accomplishments of the past couple of decades, and that it isn’t “unfilmable.” It just needs the right approach.
Ideally, I’d love to see Henry Selick, the director who brought Gaiman’s imagination to life with Coraline a few years back. I think that his vibrantly macabre vision would suit the material perfectly. (And I think stop-motion would actually work quite well at exploring the rather wonderful “urban fantasy” element to the story – the blending of the fantastic and the mundane in the most wonderful manner possible.
In the meantime, feel free to take a look at Thompson’s wonderful artwork. It captures the mood and atmosphere quite well.