Neil Gaiman’s prolific DC/Vertigo comic series, The Sandman, is being adapted into an Audible audio drama with an iconic cast including the likes of James McAvoy, Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis and Gaiman himself. The adaptation will cover the first three graphic novels in the series — Preludes & Nocturnes, The Doll’s House and Dream Country.
That’s over 600 pages of storytelling, which leaves a lot of wiggle room for an adaptation. Here are nine key moments from those arcs that should be included in the audio drama set to be released on July 15.
In Preludes & Nocturnes, the Sandman — Dream, or Lord Morpheus — is drawn from his dream realm by a secret cult and trapped on Earth. While the unholy sect was really trying to ensnare Death, they had to make do with Dream, ultimately holding him captive for 70 years.
This event provides the foundation for all that unfolds going forward. In captivity, the Sandman loses his three symbols of office (Dream sand, the Mask/Helmet of Dreams and the Dream stone), which are designed to aid in the management and rule of his world and its denizens. As a result, multiple Nightmare creatures escape and his domain steadily deteriorates, forcing Dream to recover his sigils, recapture the escaped Nightmares and patch his world back together.
“The Oldest Game” is arguably one of the best scenes in any of The Sandman storylines. Dream challenges Choronzon, a Duke of Hell, to get his helmet back. As the one being challenged, Choronzon gets to choose the challenge itself. He chooses The Oldest Game and the challengers just face off in a spoken-word, jazz-like riff.
“There are many ways to lose the oldest game,” Dream says. “Failure of nerve, hesitation… being unable to shift into a defensive shape. Lack of imagination.” On and on they continue, each providing a potential scenario that can’t be countered, until Dream wins with: “I am hope.”
This moment shows how much fun Gaiman can have with the DC Universe. In his efforts to find the Dream stone (which is, at one point, reportedly in the hands of Doctor Destiny and liberated by the Justice League), Morpheus visits the JLA.
Scott Free (Mister Miracle) and J’onn J’onzz (Martian Manhunter) are the only team members at hand, but luckily J’onn is able to provide Dream with the information he needs. Mister Miracle is somewhat shaken up by the exchange, to which J’onn replies, “Come, Scott Free; let us hit the kitchen. I have a secret stash of Oreos of which you are welcome to partake.”
When Dream visits Hell to get his helm back, he runs into Nada, an old acquaintance. Readers don’t know who she is at this point, but they know Dream sent her to hell for 10 thousand years.
The Doll’s House opens in what appears to be Africa, a long time ago. In a tradition as old as time, a tribal elder tells his grandson the “one tale:” The story of their beginning. It describes their first Queen, Nada, who falls in love with the Lord of Dreams, but rejects him when she finds out who he is. Four times she rejects his advances, answering the question of why she was punished and showing readers just how proud and dangerous Dream can be.
In “Men of Good Fortune,” Dream and his sister, Death, meet a character named Robert Gadling in the middle ages. Gadling insists dying is a “mug’s game” and refuses to take part — so the story of his immortality unfolds. Dream agrees to meet him in 100 years to discuss what Gadling thinks of life everlasting.
The two continue to reconnect throughout the centuries. Readers bear witness to Chaucer and Shakespeare making their respective marks on the literary world, along with many highs and lows for Gadling. Despite how low he goes, Gadling still insists he’d rather live than seek death’s respite.
This is a long and meandering conclusion to The Sandman Volume 2, but it addresses questions and themes from throughout the series. Rose Kincaid discovers she is a dream vortex, one of the “complications” created during Dream’s incarceration on Earth and something that could destroy the world of dreams.
More importantly, she has a revelation about life in general: “We’re just dolls. We don’t have a clue what’s really going down, we just kid ourselves that we’re in control of our lives.”
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Dog lovers may want to avoid this excerpt, as it speaks to the fact that cats once ruled the earth. Cats hold a special place in much of Gaiman’s work and this is especially true in “A Dream of a Thousand Cats.”
Readers learn cats can change the world by “dream[ing] the world the way it truly is. A world in which cats are the queens and kings of all creation.”
Gaiman reintroduces William Shakespeare and readers learn Dream was the inspiration behind Shakespeare’s plays that speak to dreams and faerie creatures. The story itself is well told, but it’s the interplay between the actual faerie creatures watching themselves in the performance that makes this moment so good.
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Audible will release The Sandman audio drama in July. Here are 9 key moments from the first three volumes that should be adapted for the production.