Though Netflix’s upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman may come as a surprise to people unfamiliar with the comics, the story’s long journey to the screen has almost become part of its lore.
Few people know just how many developmental twists and turns The Sandman saw before landing on Netflix than executive producer David S. Goyer, whose past writing credits include little-known films like Marvel’s Blade trilogy, Batman Begins, and Batman v. Superman to name a few. With so many bombastic cinematic spectacles under his belt, one might get the impression that sort of energy’s a part of Goyer’s approach to The Sandman, but judging from a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Because Goyer doesn’t quite consider The Sandman to be part of DC’s larger comics universe, he considers himself having moved away somewhat from working on comic book adaptations in being involved with it. The Sandman, Goyer explained, was always something he felt needed episodic storytelling, and a big part of Netflix’s series coming into form came from a Sandman movie script simply not working.
“Neil and I worked on a feature, and through the various iterations, it just kept subtly getting more and more deformed, and shifting more and more away from the true north,” Goyer said. “Finally, we just said, ‘Guys, please let’s stop, please kill it, let’s do it as a streaming show.’ Eventually, they did.”
While Goyer may have stepped away from big screen capes for the time being, he has been taking in the projects that studios like Warner Bros. and Marvel have been putting out in recent years, and drawn some conclusions about what’s working and what isn’t. On the subject of DC’s history of stumbling with its films and playing cinematic universe catch up with Marvel, Goyer reasoned that one of the big challenges boils down to leadership.
“I think one of the issues is that Marvel’s had consistent leadership for the last 15 years or more, whereas DC hasn’t,” Goyer said. “There have been all of these changes in terms of who is running DC. That is fundamentally very hard. It’s hard to make any headway when leadership is changing.”
Beyond Marvel’s more streamlined vision for its movies and series, Goyer also pointed to films like Ant-Man and “The Hulk” (presumably Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk) as examples of the commitment to getting at the spirit of its characters and respecting the comics source material. But while Goyer appreciates a certain degree of paying tribute to the established canon, he also described how he was very much on board with the idea of Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page portraying Superman’s father on Krypton, which Goyer also wrote on. Page reportedly did not land the job due to DC Comics’ chief creative officer Geoff Johns insisting that a Black man could not be Superman’s father. Goyer, apparently, felt otherwise.
“All I will say on this is that I was the one who wanted to cast Page,” Goyer said. “I thought he was amazing. I thought his audition was amazing. I advocated very hard to cast him in that role. I thought he was a fantastic actor back then and he continues to be a fantastic actor. I wanted him to play Superman’s grandfather.”
As tends to be the case, Krypton has come and gone, and new shows based on comic books, like The Sandman, are coming to fill the void that it left. Whether or not those shows will resonate with audiences can’t be said for certain, but from Goyer’s perspective what’s going to determine much of their success is knowing what they actually are.
“[I]f I’m adapting an IP, like a comic book, I don’t try to turn it into something it’s not,” Goyer said. “Because if you do, no matter what, even if you have the best of intentions, it will definitely not work out.”
The Sandman is set to hit Netflix sometime in the near future.