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The Sandman could spawn a shared universe – from Constantine to Lucifer

Netflix has found a franchise that could get it back on the front foot.

Tom Sturridge, Gwendoline Christie and Cassie Clare in The Sandman
Netflix
Published: Wednesday, 10th August 2022 at 6:17 pm
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When a star-studded project like The Sandman comes along, it's only a matter of time before people start talking spin-offs. In this case, it didn't take long at all. The epic fantasy series has been streaming on Netflix for less than a week and already fans are campaigning for their favourite cast members to get solo projects, with the buzz around Jenna Coleman's occult detective Johanna Constantine being acknowledged by Neil Gaiman himself. Ever the hype man, he was unsurprisingly in favour of seeing the sorcerer's further adventures, but our question is: why stop there?

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Spin-offs are very much part of The Sandman's history, with the main comic book series complemented by several offshoots over the years, many of which were crafted by other writers and artists. Consequently, it's easy to see the potential for this breakout hit to explode into an incredible shared universe of connected shows, which could be the thing to help Netflix stand up to its rivals, most notably Disney. The House of Mouse currently has franchises that carry far more recognition than anything Netflix has produced, with the one exception being Stranger Things.

But while the Duffer Brothers' juggernaut sci-fi drama recently dominated streaming viewership, it remains unclear whether the show has a future beyond its upcoming final season. The creators have announced they are exploring spin-off ideas, but much of the existing cast will be looking to move on soon and the Upside-Down isn't going to stay interesting forever. There's also the small issue that the last time the Duffers attempted a de facto pilot – season 2's The Lost Sister – it was greeted with overwhelming derision. All this to say, when it comes to a shared universe, The Sandman is Netflix's safer bet.

For inspiration, we need only go to the source. There are plenty of companion books to the main Sandman series, some following characters who have already appeared in live-action and others featuring ones we are yet to meet. As mentioned, Coleman's Constantine has emerged as an early frontrunner, with the character's vast library of solo stories likely helping the campaign (the original Hellblazer series ran for 300 issues in total).

Although the character has been gender-flipped and seemingly kicked their smoking habit, this is otherwise a relatively faithful translation of the Constantine fans know from the comics. Her tragic backstory with Astra Logue has already been addressed in The Sandman – a story which is prominent in early Hellblazer – along with her bisexuality, which is an important aspect of the antihero's persona for many fans. The biggest obstacle in getting Coleman her series could be Warner Bros, who have been threatening to add Constantine to the DCEU for years now (via Justice League Dark), and may not want any more competing small screen versions now that the Arrowverse is finally winding down.

Fortunately, The Sandman's other associated comics are more disconnected from the wider DC Universe, instead adding extra colour to Gaiman's distinct corner of it. The writer himself penned two spin-offs for Death, whose popularity has surged following Kirby Howell-Baptiste's warm-hearted portrayal, making her another strong candidate to go solo. The Sandman also spawned an offshoot titled The Dreaming, which takes a closer look at the unique inhabitants of Morpheus' realm, including Lucienne (Vivienne Acheampong) and feuding brothers Cain (Sanjeev Bhaskar) and Abel (Asim Chaudhry).

Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death in episode 106 of The Sandman
Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death in The Sandman Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix © 2022

Of course, there is also the devil in the room. Lucifer has already been a mammoth hit for Netflix, but the crime procedural starring Tom Ellis was not particularly faithful to the comic that inspired it. If The Sandman is renewed for a second season, it looks like we will see Gwendoline Christie's Morningstar quit her job in hell for a new life on Earth, a development which was teased in episode 10's ominous final scene. It may seem a bit too soon for another Lucifer show – the previous one ended just last year – but with a greater focus on the comic book stories and fantasy elements, this fresh take could be near-unrecognisable.

Between Constantine, Death, The Dreaming and Lucifer, we've already found four viable spin-off shows for Netflix to mull over – but that's only scratching the surface. There are still eight volumes of The Sandman graphic novels left to adapt, not counting the recent prequel Overture, each of which bring more fascinating characters worthy of their own starring roles. The irony is that The Sandman brand technically belongs to Netflix's rival Warner Bros, but with HBO Max rumoured to be drastically scaling back its scripted output, this hot property is ready to be capitalised on by anyone bold enough to do so – and Netflix is nothing if not bold.

The Sandman is available to stream on Netflix. Check out more of our Fantasy coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.

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