On July 15th, the audiobook adaptation of The Sandman was released. The Sandman is a comic book series written by Neil Gaiman published by Vertigo (DC) between 1989 and 1996. This audio adaptation directed and dramatized by Dirk Maggs, known for his work on the BBC, is closer to a radio drama than a traditional audiobook.
About a decade ago, audiobooks were still enormous box sets of CDs or tapes, taking dust in the far corners of libraries and mostly regarded as book substitutes for the blind. With the explosion of podcasts and streaming services available on smartphones; avid readers, short on time, have turned to the medium enthusiastically. Even the master of horror himself, Stephen King, in his autobiographical work On writing, confessed that he listens to audiobooks often.
More than an audiobook: « audio live-action »
The Sandman audio adaptation is more than just an audiobook. Music, actors and sound effects have replaced what made reading the comic such an extraordinary experience: its visual art. While audiobooks afficionados might find all the “noise” distracting from the text, the illustrations transmuted into sounds, help create new visions. If you have read the comic, it will feel rather chaotic at first. It might require a couple of chapters to adjust to the new experience. The layering of sounds could be a deliberate creative choice, an attempt at mimicking the baroque artwork from the comic. Either way, the new format helps conjure old and new images. The listeners using their imagination, freed from the comic book squares, can turn the blurry memories of colorful pictures, into a vivid and compelling live action.
The audiobook follows the storylines from the first three volumes of The Sandman. It is with delight that fans cross paths again with iconic characters from original comic and the Vertigo/DC universe. How exciting to meet Death again or John Constantine (who has not recieved much love himself with his own TV series and film adaptations). How horrifying, to listen to Doctor D spread chaos and terror into the hearts of the hapless patrons of the 24h diner and to re-live the nightmare.
The work of the actors giving their voices to these characters is fantastic. This adaptation can proudly claim its place within the great British radio play tradition. Hollywood-famous headliners like James McAvoy (Morpheus) and Michael Sheen (Lucifer) contribute to the audiobook meeting its “Audio Movie” ambitions. In addition, there is absolutely no lack of talent among the 68 voice actors in total, who brilliantly bring these characters to life.
An adaptation true to the comic book
30 years after the first publication, certain subject matters and character treatments can feel a little dated. Some will celebrate this adaptation remained loyal to its origins. Others might regret that some stories were not updated to reflect the changes experienced by the world and its people over the past three decades. However, the true greatness of The Sandman lies the characters themselves. DC’s strength has always been their Superheroes. Superman and Batman remain the two most popular superheroes in the world. Iconic and charismatic, they have not gotten out of fashion since their beginings in the 1930s.
Morpheus, joined by Lucifer, John Constantine, and Death (who have all had their own comic series), have very much earned their place in that superhero pantheon. Dark, gothic, poetic and with a punk-rock edge, they have captured the imagination of countless dreamers. Today, thanks to this audiobook they are grabbing the hearts of new listeners. These unique and unforgettable characters make The Sandman timeless. Morpheus’s other name “Dream of the Endless” takes all its meaning.
The Sandman fans have been craving an adaptation of the comic series for a long time. This audiobook will be an excellent fix while they wait for the Netflix series to come out. Let us just hope it won’t be another 30 years’ wait.