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Franchise / The Sandman

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"We of the Endless are the servants of the living — we are not their masters. We exist because they know, deep in their hearts, that we exist."

The Sandman is a fantasy media franchise spinning out of The Sandman (1989), initially written by Neil Gaiman and published by DC Comics. It focuses on the affairs of Dream, a powerful being in charge of stories, beliefs, dreams, and nightmares of every living thing.

The main story concerns Dream in the aftermath of a decades-long imprisonment by humanity, and how he adjusts to both his realm the Dreaming and the waking world with his change in perspective. To a lesser extent, the franchise also concerns the dealings of his siblings, the Endless, a dysfunctional pantheon of seven anthropomorphic personifications of certain universal functions, as well as other side stories set within the universe.

The franchise is ostensibly set in The DCU, and in fact began as an attempt to revive The Sandman starring Garrett Sanford, the Silver Age Sandman. Both Sanford and Wesley Dodds, the Golden Age Sandman, would retroactively be included in Dream's mythos.

Comics in the franchise include:

  • The Sandman (1989-1996): The original 75-issue run.
  • The Books of Magic (1991): A four-issue spin-off mini-series written by Neil Gaiman that functioned as a "tour" of the DC magical universe and featured several Sandman characters in supporting roles, introducing the boy Tim Hunter who had the potential to become the greatest magician of his time. It was followed up by a 75-issue ongoing series written by John Ney Reiber and Peter Gross, which got several spin-offs and sequels on its own.
  • Death: The High Cost of Living (1993): A three-issue spin-off mini-series written by Neil Gaiman and penciled by Chris Bachalo about Death's one day as a mortal. Notably the first comic released under the Vertigo Comics imprint.
  • Sandman Mystery Theatre (1993): A series created by Matt Wagner and Guy Davis about the Golden Age Sandman, Wesley Dodds, during the late 1930s. Had more of a noir feel to it, with most of the villains being non-superpowered criminals and crooks. Lasted for 70 issues and one annual.
  • Sandman Midnight Theatre (1994): A crossover between Gaiman's Sandman series and Matt Wagner's Sandman Mystery Theatre co-written by Gaiman and Wagner.
  • Death: The Time of Your Life (1996): A three-issue spin-off mini-series written by Neil Gaiman and penciled by Chris Bachalo featuring several minor characters from the Sandman as well as Death.
  • The Dreaming (1996): A spin-off of Gaiman's Sandman that lasted 60 issues. Most of the stories concerned the inhabitants of the Dreaming. The issues were written by a number of authors including Terry LaBan, Alisa Kwitney, Bryan Talbot, Caitlin R. Kiernan, and Peter Hogan, and illustrated by a number of different artists. Declared non-canon by Gaiman.
  • The Sandman Presents: A series of mini-series and one-shots all under the label "The Sandman Presents."
    • The Sandman Presents: Lucifer (1999). Three issues (later spun off into an ongoing series simply titled Lucifer, below) written by Mike Carey and drawn by Scott Hampton.
    • The Sandman Presents: Love Street (1999). Three issues written by Peter Hogan, drawn by Michael Zulli.
    • The Sandman Presents: Petrefax (2000). Four issues written by Mike Carey, drawn by Steve Leialoha.
    • The Sandman Presents: The Dead Boy Detectives (2001). Four issues written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Bryan Talbot.
    • The Sandman Presents: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Dreams...But Were Afraid to Ask (2001). One shot written by Bill Willingham.
    • The Sandman Presents: The Corinthian (2001). Three issues written by Darko Macan and drawn by Danijjel Zezelj.
    • The Sandman Presents: The Furies (2002). One 92-page graphic novel written by Mike Carey and painted by John Bolton.
    • The Sandman Presents: The Thessaliad (2002). Four issues written by Bill Willingham, drawn by Shawn McManus. One spin-off in Thessaly: Witch for Hire.
    • The Sandman Presents: Bast (2003). Three issues written by Caitlin R. Kiernan, drawn by Joe Bennet.
    • The Sandman Presents: Thessaly: Witch for Hire (2004). Four issues written by Bill Willingham, drawn by Shawn McManus.
  • Lucifer (2000-2006): A 75-issue spin-off series written by Mike Carey following the life and times of the eponymous fallen angel after giving up the title of Lord of Hell, as he fights to escape the control of his father, God.
  • The Sandman: Endless Nights (2003): A graphic novel with seven short stories, each about a different member of the Endless. Written by Neil Gaiman, with different artists for each story.
  • Sandman Mystery Theatre: Sleep of Reason (2007): A six issue series written by John Ney Rieber and drawn by Eric Nguyen. Doesn't involve Wesley Dodds, but rather a current person who takes on the name "the Sandman".
  • The Sandman: Overture (2013): A six issue mini-series that acts as a prequel to Gaiman's Sandman. It details what happened to Dream just before he was captured by Rodrick Burgess. Written by Neil Gaiman, drawn by J. H. Williams III.
  • The Sandman Universe: The label for a series of spin-offs that started in 2018, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1988 series. The series are all overseen by Gaiman, but written by new creative teams.
    • The Sandman Universe: A one-shot prelude to the first four ongoing titles, The Dreaming, Books of Magic, Lucifer and House of Whispers.''
    • The Dreaming: 20 issues, written by Simon Spurrier and drawn by Bilquis Evely.
    • Books of Magic: 23 issues, written by Kat Howard and drawn by Tom Fowler.
    • Lucifer: 24 issues, written by Dan Watters and drawn by Max and Sebastian Fiumara.
    • House of Whispers: 22 issues, written by Nalo Hopkinson and drawn by Dominike Stanton.
    • The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer: One-shot, written by Simon Spurrier and drawn by Marcio Takara.
    • John Constantine, Hellblazer: Ongoing, written by Simon Spurrier and drawn by Aaron Campbell.
    • The Dreaming: Waking Hours: Limited series, written by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by Nick Robles.
    • The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country: Ongoing, written by James Tynion IV and drawn by Lisandro Estherren and Yanick Paquette.
  • Locke & Key/Sandman: Hell & Gone, a crossover with Locke & Key.

Other Media in the Franchise:



  • The Sandman (2020), an audio drama adaptation of the comic. It was first released on Audible in 2020. Apart from featuring Neil Gaiman himself as the narrator, it boasts quite an impressive voice cast supporting James McAvoy as Dream. Three installments ("Acts") covering the comic's first eight volumes have been released as of 2022.

Live-Action TV

  • Lucifer (2016-2021): An adaptation of the spinoff comic Lucifer, starring Tom Ellis as the titular demon. It ran for its first three seasons on Fox before moving to Netflix for its last three.
  • The Sandman (2022-present), the comic's live-action adaptation, starring Tom Sturridge as Dream. It premiered on Netflix in August 2022. The show is set in the 2020s; its first season adapts the first two volumes and half of the third. It is set in a different continuity from Lucifer.
  • Dead Boy Detectives (2024-present), a series based upon characters introduced in the Sandman comics and adapted to the Doom Patrol series. Serves as a spinoff to both Sandman and Doom Patrol.

Western Animation

Tropes across the franchise:

  • Continuity Nod:
    • In The High Cost of Living, someone says they would like to die between two virgins at the moment of orgasm, via elephant crushing. In Endless Nights, someone does exactly that. This comes up occasionally in other places too; it's more of a Running Gag.
    • Also in Endless Nights, Despair talks with Rao (Krypton's sun) about her plan to create the ultimate being of despair. Namely, for an unstable planet to host life and leave a single survivor when it dies. Apparently she thinks that the life on that world would be more beautiful, because at any time it could be destroyed. Superman is NOT in the throes of Despair though, so it looks like her plan backfired. In the same issue, the green sun and Dream's alien girlfriend represent the sun and a resident of Oa, which form the background of the Green Lantern stories. If her developing energy powers and her role as a protector of the planet are any indication, she may be one of the founders of the Corps.
  • Earth Is Young: This Verse goes for the postmodern Type D version. Time, history, and reality are all very relative concepts, and what says that an act of creation can't be retroactive anyway?
    • Putting together evidence from Season of Mists, "The Parliament of Rooks", Brief Lives, and Lucifer, it appears that in this Verse the fossil record is true, if incomplete, but the Garden of Eden plot and the war in Heaven happened — 10 billion years ago, before Earth was even formed.
    • Abel says as much in Fables and Reflections, indicating that their Biblical backstory did not happen on Earth. Cain likewise states that none of them, including the Endless, looked remotely human at the time.
    • In Endless Nights, Sol, the personification of our Sun, plays a minor role. Oa, the home of the Guardians of the Universe, already has sentient beings, but Sol says explicitly that none of his planets have life yet. The conclusion reveals that this has been a bedtime story from Sol to young, lifeless Earth.
  • Life Will Kill You: An overarching theme and motif of Death, who meets many, many minor characters who all meet mundane ends, such as electrocution, car accidents, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It's demonstrated again in Brief Lives, where a man who's been alive for 15,000 years dies because of a random construction accident, and again in Time of Your Life, when she's nonchalant about the Balancing Death's Books deal.
    Death: You got a lifetime. No more. No less.
  • The Older Immortal: This shows up in multiple fashions in the franchise, but the most prominent example is the Endless themselves, who in order of age are Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, the twins Desire and Despair, and Delight/Delirium. They are either as old as or only slightly younger than the current universe, and predate most known deities and immortal figures.