Audible’s unique audiobook model of The Sandman is a well-produced, fascinating experiment. That’s becoming, on condition that the unique story — a comics sequence in regards to the king of Dreams — was additionally a bizarre experiment.
Back in 1988, up-and-coming comics author Neil Gaiman was provided the prospect to reboot the Sandman, a traditional DC Comics superhero who by no means fairly made it huge. The ensuing juggernaut of a sequence, illustrated by greater than two dozen artists over seven years, was a masterclass in mythopoetic storytelling, with barely any superheroes in it in any respect.
The Audible model is a remarkably trustworthy adaptation that retains just about each line of dialogue and narration from the primary three volumes of The Sandman, whereas including solely what was minimally needed to interchange the comedian’s imagery. I discovered that accuracy pleasant, typically flattening the unique comics off my cabinets to verify towards them as I listened.
But it’s additionally the audiobook’s largest weak spot. The Sandman in audiobook is an adaptation the place nothing has been misplaced in translation, besides the chance to make a narrative about everlasting tales extra timeless.
The Sandman (audiobook) adapts the primary three volumes of the whole 10-volume set DC Comics has been printing for many years now. This consists of the comedian’s opening arc, “Preludes and Nocturnes,” through which the King of Dreams is imprisoned, escapes, and recovers his artifacts of energy; the second arc, “The Doll’s House,” through which he seeks out a number of rogue goals who escaped his realm in his absence; and each one of many chapter-long tales included in these two volumes and the third.
Along the best way, we meet a sprawling forged of characters, together with a handful of Dream’s siblings, the Endless — members of a household of anthropomorphic personifications of concepts that begin with the letter “D.” John Constantine, William Shakespeare, Lucifer Morningstar, and even a couple of superheroes and villains present up as nicely.
The audiobook itself is superbly produced, and from the casting announcement, it ought to come as no shock that the voices are, on the entire, extraordinarily good. I used to be significantly happy by Taron Egerton as John Constantine, Bebe Neuwirth because the Siamese Cat, and, in fact, the chocolate-voiced James McAvoy as Dream. Ironically, the most important sore thumb within the forged is Neil Gaiman himself, within the position of the Narrator.
I’ve listened to loads of Gaiman’s audio work earlier than, from books to short-story readings to radio performs, and loved them. But in The Sandman, the place every chapter kicks off with a Doctor Who-like musical fanfare, and actors are crying and hissing and roaring, his storybook monotone stands out. I needed a narrator to do extra, nicely, illustrating together with his tone. Ironically, the duty of illustrating The Sandman has by no means fallen to Gaiman earlier than.
Fortunately, Gaiman isn’t all the time the Narrator, and even when he’s, the audiobook nonetheless has pretty stretches of feat. The entire opening arc comes off nice — the cameos from John Constantine, unique Sandman Wesley Dodds, and superhero Mister Miracle are vibrant highlights. The sequence additionally shines in variations of Sandman’s single-issue tangent tales, like that of the unintentional immortal Hob Gadling, the goals of cats, and the unique 1605 manufacturing of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
It could appear odd to name The Sandman (audiobook) an adaptation. Audiobooks are, in any case, translations: readings supposed to protect an unaltered textual content. But The Sandman isn’t a ebook, it’s a comedian ebook, and its audiobook isn’t simply translating textual phrases to spoken ones. It’s an adaptation masquerading as a translation — it’s a product of writers and audio artists making decisions about the best way to current purely visible data. It could be a disservice to the numerous artists who crafted the comedian to fake in any other case. The flaw of the audiobook is that it’s an adaptation the place the creators don’t make sufficient decisions.
And that flaw is nowhere extra conspicuous than in its word-for-word reproductions of The Sandman’s informal violence towards queer individuals and girls. These are plot-inessential background parts that simply might have been softened or diminished for a 2020 adaptation.
Take the character of Judy, a doomed lesbian girl on the outs together with her girlfriend, who seems in a single concern solely. Did we have to preserve the element that the primary queer couple within the story is bodily abusive? Did we’d like the a number of fleeting, florid references to the brutalization of queer, underage, male intercourse employees? Did we have to create an audioscape of a person “nervously” raping the muse Calliope? Or to painstakingly, with out edits, retell the plot-inessential one-shot story “Facade” — the ethical of which might be learn as “Suicide isn’t tragic if you’re freakish enough”? And might we’ve taken a re-evaluation, maybe, at the suggestion that “it” is just as appropriate a pronoun as “he,” “she,” or “they” for Dream’s genderfluid sibling, Desire?
I’d love to listen to audio productions of later arcs of The Sandman, like “Season of Mists,” through which a conclave of gods petitions Dream for the keys to Hell; “Brief Lives,” through which Dream takes his little sister Delirium on a cross-country highway journey to search out their misplaced brother Destruction; or the tragic, unending story of Dream’s son, Orpheus.
But I’ll firmly move if meaning we’re going to be revisiting the “A Game of You” arc with none thought-about updates made to the character of Wanda, a trans girl whose id is denied at each flip — together with by a god of the female! — till she dies together with a lot of the forged and her bigoted household buries her in a swimsuit and with a brief haircut, underneath a stone together with her deadname on it.
The Sandman was written and set between 1988 and 1996, and was undoubtedly knowledgeable by up to date occasions just like the AIDS epidemic in America and England. Its therapy of queer individuals as sympathetic victims, fairly than deserving ones, might be seen as progressive in its time. In that context, it’s maybe simpler to dismiss the comedian’s use of homophobic statements as villainous chatter, simpler to file its depiction of queer lives as typically brutish and brief underneath the umbrella of “contemporary realism.”
But the Sandman audiobook is a contemporary new creation, and the selection to re-create inessential cases of rape, homophobia, and queer tragedy — particularly when working straight with the sequence’ unique author — merely reads as callous. Gaiman himself has mentioned that he would change aspects of the comic if it were written today. Audible’s version doesn’t.
If I’m being blunt about this, it’s out of affection; a deep affection and nostalgia for The Sandman and the standard of its storytelling when the sequence is at its biggest. Gaiman and his collaborators — a assassin’s row of trade giants like Kelley Jones, Colleen Doran, Chris Bachalo, and extra — crafted one of many perfect tales about tales that the canon has ever seen. I would like that story to stay so long as potential.
In The Sandman, tales start gods, form worlds, and confer immortality in methods each supernatural and completely mundane, even traditionally correct. If the sequence has a secondary theme, it’s that immortal issues — whether or not they’re tales, gods, superheroes, fortunate people, and even the so-called Endless themselves — can not resist change. In reality, one of many audiobook’s solely improvisations is a gap intro that features Gaiman’s personal unofficial abstract of the story. “The Lord of Dreams learns that one must change or die, and makes his decision.”
And I simply want the Sandman audiobook had determined to alter.