Writers: Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs
Narrators: Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, Michael Sheen, Arthur Darvill
Publisher: Audible Originals
What is the material of dreams? And what is the price we pay for those dreams? These are the questions to which author Neil Gaiman repeatedly turns throughout The Sandman. The Sandman is a unique comicbook series within the DC Universe that has fascinated fans since its original publication in 1989.
In the recent audiobook rendition, The Sandman (2020), from Audible.ca, the comicbook series is transformed into a masterful audio dramatization featuring a stellar cast. Converting a comicbook series to an audio drama may seem like an ambitious project, especially since comicbooks are a largely visual form of literature. However, a combination of excellent narration, talented voice acting, and spooky sound effects produces a splendid result that captures the essence of the Sandman story.
The titular character Dream, or Lord Morpheus (James McAvoy) among other names, exists in the DC Universe. However, unlike other superhero characters normally depicted in the universe, Dream, his family, and many of the other characters in the story exist on a mystical or archetypal plane. The audiobook covers the first 20 issues of Sandman, beginning with the imprisonment of Dream by a human occult magician and ending with the meeting between Dream and William Shakespeare (Arthur Darvill), as the Bard puts on a play for a supernatural audience. These adventures include cameos by popular members of the DC Universe such as John Constantine, Batman, Green Lantern, and other members of The Justice League. The series also includes references to lesser-known DC characters — such as characters from the original conception of Sandman in one of DC’s short-lived series (1974 – 1976), as well as a particularly tragic subplot involving Element Girl.
Gaiman’s unique style combines mythology with superhero action and adds a distinctly punk rock twist. The dramatized audio version of Sandman is a beautiful retelling of the story that manages to capture this style. As a result, some of the most enchanting and imaginative aspects of the story are able to maintain their magic, despite the lack of accompanying artwork. One example is the Dream’s visit to Hell and confrontations with its demonic occupants to win back something precious — a subplot inspired by Swamp Thing’s own infernal quest in Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing.
The voice acting and sound effects make up for the lack of artwork in a way that complements and inspires the listeners’ imagination. Among comicbooks, it is hard to find a series that rivals Sandman in artistry and sophistication. It remains one of my favorite series since I first discovered comicbooks in my teenage years. This audiobook adoption of Gaiman’s signature series is a tribute to both the genius of the author and the value of the ever-expanding range of literary mediums.