My Twitter feed has been full of Sandman TV news for the last month or two, mostly due to Neil Gaiman relentlessly tweeting about it. Sometimes, when a writer goes into “relentless promotion mode” on Twitter, I unfollow them, at least for a while. (I don’t hold it against them; it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do, given the way Twitter works for most people and the general difficulty in rising above the noise.) But Gaiman is so genial about it that it doesn’t bother me the same way it does when, say, Kevin Smith does it. (Again, I love Kevin Smith too. I just get tired of him sometimes.) There was a lot of promotional stuff about the show at SDCC too. I watched a bit of that on YouTube.
Sandman was one of my favorite comics. I haven’t gone back and reread any of it in a long time, but I bought it issue by issue when it was first coming out, and also bought the first few graphic novel collections. It was first published at a time when I was buying a fair number of old-fashioned “floppy” comics every month, and it was always one of the best.
So I’ve been looking forward to the Netflix TV adaptation. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be any good, but I was at least cautiously optimistic. It was released on Friday, and I wound up watching the first few episodes yesterday. So far, I like it a lot. It seems to me that it’s always just on the verge of tipping over into unintentional camp, but it’s done so well that it just carries you along. Maybe if you haven’t read the comics, it would be harder to “buy in” to it, and you’d just find it silly. But, for me, it’s just right. There’s some humor, but none of the winking self-aware stuff that you see in some other comics adaptations.
A lot of folks have had good things to say about the casting for this show. While I think that it all works, some of it seems just on the verge of not working, in the same way that the whole show almost doesn’t work. For instance, I love Patton Oswalt, but he’s almost a bit too snarky. And Gwendoline Christie is almost too weird to be Lucifer, but she pulls it off. (The whole scene between Morpheus and Lucifer is a bit over the top, really. I think a more cautious adaptation would have toned that down, or made it more conventional, but then it just wouldn’t have been as effective.)
Anyway, my plan for this post was just to link to a couple of interesting reviews of the show, but then the preamble got a little out of control… The reviews in question are this one from the Ebert site, and this one from NPR. They’re almost diametrically opposed. The former seems to think it’s a little too faithful to the comics. The latter think that it’s changed just enough to address some of the shortcomings in the original. I guess I’m more on the side of the NPR one.