Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” has long frustrated efforts to bring it to the screen. But the popular comic’s wake-up call might have finally come — beginning this week with the chance to hear it, as performed by what its creator calls “the cast of your dreams.”
The comic-book series — which made its debut in 1989 — becomes an 10-plus-hour Audible presentation, featuring a cast that includes James McAvoy, Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, and Michael Sheen. (“Sandman” was published by DC, which like CNN is a unit of WarnerMedia.)
The dense plot involves Morpheus (voiced by McAvoy), the King of Dreams, who has been held for decades by an occultist who was seeking to capture Death in exchange for eternal life. Once liberated, Morpheus begins a quest to regain his power.
The project comes as “Sandman” has finally taken a major step toward a TV adaptation, with the announcement last year that Allan Heinberg (who wrote “Wonder Woman”) and David S. Goyer (a veteran of comics adaptations, including “Batman Begins” and “Krypton”) are developing the project for Netflix. That follows a premium-TV version of Gaiman’s “American Gods” for Starz and “Good Omens,” the series that he produced for Amazon.
Much like the graphic novel “Watchmen,” which was called “unadaptable” before becoming a movie in 2009 and more recently inspired an HBO series sequel, “Sandman” has represented a sort of Moby Dick for movie makers. Talk of a movie began in the 1990s, and the last serious attempt involved actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (of “Inception” and “The Dark Knight Rises”), who left the project in 2016.
Amid various stops and starts to film the project, Gaiman famously said that he’d “rather see no ‘Sandman’ movie made than a bad ‘Sandman’ movie,” as he told a crowd at Comic-Con International.
Gaiman is narrating the Audible production, which is written and directed by Dirk Maggs, who has worked on a number of Gaiman audio adaptations, including “Neverwhere” and “Stardust,” as well as “The X-Files.”
For strangers to Audible dramas, the production includes all the trappings of an old radio play, including a lush musical score by James Hannigan. The opening chapter runs an hour, while most of the 19 that follow are in the 30-minute range, encompassing the first three of the graphic novels.
“The Sandman” is available for download on Audible beginning July 15.