For better or worse, we're living in the age of the cinematic universe, which means no comic book adaptation can be released nowadays without questions arising over how it relates to all the others.
When it started life on the printed page back in 1989, The Sandman was firmly rooted in the DC Universe, with early issues featuring cameos ranging from incarcerated Batman villains to card-carrying Justice League members.
However, as the ongoing comic book continued, it moved further and further away from the publisher's established continuity to carve out a special corner all of its own.
As a result, some fans have been left wondering which DC Comics characters will show up in the shiny new Netflix series and whether these appearances will tether The Sandman to existing films or television shows.
In an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com, creator and executive producer Neil Gaiman discussed where Netflix's The Sandman sits within the broader landscape.
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Is The Sandman set in the DC Extended Universe?
While The Sandman comic book initially took place in the DC Universe, Gaiman quickly grew frustrated with the limitations that this setting brought with it.
"I began it in the DC Universe incredibly intentionally," he recalled to RadioTimes.com. "And then, somewhere around issue five, when I tried to put the Joker into Arkham, I had to rewrite it so that it was the Scarecrow because they just lost the Joker because something was happening…
"I just thought: ‘This is too much like hard work actually trying to do all this continuity and keep it all going with other comics, I think I’ll just not. I’ll go off and do my own thing and when I visit DC continuity, I’ll go and visit those bits that everyone’s forgotten about and nobody cares about, like Element Girl or Prez.’
Gaiman continued: "So, with The Sandman [the Netflix series], I think we’re using what we need. There were things that I borrowed and took from the DC Universe, there were things that already existed... characters that I inherited or stole or begged or borrowed from the DC Universe itself."
So, while there are certain elements of the DC Universe that are baked into the Sandman story and thus need to be present in any adaptation, the show will function independently from what is going on across the wider franchise – as it did in the comics.
As for whether it could be in the DC Extended Universe – home to the likes of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa's Aquaman – Gaiman told a fan via Twitter explaining that The Sandman "is happening in all possible universes, including ours."
Which DC Comics characters appear in The Sandman?
In its early issues, The Sandman comic book includes appearances from several familiar faces in the DC Universe.
Batman villain Scarecrow appears in an issue that sees John Dee (aka Doctor Destiny) escape from Arkham Asylum, mere hours before bringing unimaginable pain to customers at a certain 24-hour diner.
Meanwhile, DC superhero J'onn J'onzz, better known as the Martian Manhunter, also makes a cameo, where it is revealed that Dream was a sacred figure to residents of his home planet.
Occult hero John Constantine also appears in an early issue, just four years on from his debut in a Swamp Thing story by legendary comic creator Alan Moore.
Constantine is the only one of these characters to make the cut in The Sandman streaming series on Netflix, where the character is gender-flipped to be played by Jenna Coleman in the present day.
Based on his comments to RadioTimes.com, it seems that Neil Gaiman had little interest in tying The Sandman into DC lore, which is likely the reason for Arkham, Scarecrow and Martian Manhunter being omitted from the adaptation.
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