Why The Sandman TV Show Is Not Set In the DC Universe

The Sandman creator Neil Gaiman reveals why the series does not contain any references to the larger DC Universe. First published in 1989 under DC's mature imprint Vertigo, The Sandman has become a comic book staple, with many attempting to adapt the story to film over the years. The Sandman has finally premiered on Netflix, and while it makes efforts to stay faithful to the source material, it does make some changes in regards to its connection to the DC Universe.

During the early issues of The Sandman, the series featured appearances from DC characters like John Constantine, Martian Manhunter, and Justice League villain Doctor Destiny. The series forgoes many of these characters. The show does include a new character named Johanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman), and Doctor Destiny (David Thewlis) appears as John Dee, but does not resemble his comic book counterpart. Many were curious about the changes and wondered if it was because The Sandman was on Netflix as opposed to HBO Max or the CW, which is where all the other DC series air.


Related: How Is Johanna Constantine Related To John Constantine?

In an interview with Variety, Gaiman reveals the actual reason is that it was an attempt to bring The Sandman closer to the arc of the comics, which, as the series progressed, featured fewer references and connections to the DC Universe. Gaiman also revealed it was to make sure audiences won't expect the Justice League to show up or feel like they had to catch up on another series to enjoy The Sandman. See what he had to say below:

‘The Sandman’ itself started out in the DC Universe, the comic, and then it just sort of wound up wandering off into its own place. Its world joined up more and more with our world and became less and less a world in which costumed crime fighters fly around and so on, which meant that by the time ‘The Sandman’ finished, it had its own aesthetic which really wasn’t the DC Universe anymore. We didn’t want a TV show where you felt that you had to have read a whole bunch of comics published in 1988 and 1989 to understand what was going on."

The Sandman's attempt to stand on its own can be seen most distinctly in the portrayal of Lucifer. In the new series, the character is played by Gwendoline Christie as opposed to Tom Ellis, who played Lucifer on the hit series of the same name that aired on Fox and Netflix. That version of the character also appeared as part of DC's multiverse in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Lucifer is an adaptation of the comic that was a spin-off of The Sandman, but this new series seems to be unconnected. Ellis could have returned as Lucifer for The Sandman but the series decided to go for a version closer to the comic.

Gaiman's decision to not use characters like John Constantine in The Sandman could also have been due to the character not only being well established on the series Legends of Tomorrow, but also due to the fact that an HBO Max series from producer J.J. Abrams is in development. However, that project's status is unclear given as are many other DC projects following the cancelation of Batgirl and David Zaslav's new 10-year plan for the DC brand moving forward.