Neil Gaiman Remembers When DCU Didn’t “Self-Love”

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As we await an official trailer & release date for Netflix’s upcoming adaptation of The Sandman from creator, EP & co-writer Neil Gaiman (good omens); EP, co-writer & showrunner Alan Heinberg (wonder woman); and EP & co-writer David S Goyer (Foundation), The Goddess of Television Karma (a story for another time) has given us the unique opportunity to revisit another popular topic. But first, a modern history lesson. Back in June 2021, HBO Max animated series Harley Quinn co-creators and EPs Justin Halpern & Patrick Schumacker offered a very sobering revelation about Batman’s sex life. speaking with Variety for a piece on how superhero shows are subverting the genre, Halpern & Schumacker explained how having a series populated by DC’s villains gave them more leeway to take deeper dives when it comes to violence, cursing, sexual scenarios, etc. But if they were heroes ? Halpern explained what happened when they were going to have Batman get “up close & personal” with Catwoman from an oral perspective. “A perfect example of that is in this third season of ‘Harley’ [when] we had a moment where Batman was going down on Catwoman. And DC was like, ‘You can’t do that. You absolutely cannot do that.’ They’re like, ‘Heroes don’t do that.’ So, we said, ‘Are you saying heroes are just selfish lovers?’ They were like, ‘No, it’s that we sell consumer toys for heroes. It’s hard to sell a toy if Batman is also going down on someone.'” Now thanks to Gaiman, we’re getting a reminder that this wasn’t the first time that DC put its foot (or another body part) down when it came to sex and the DCU.

Image: Screencap

When a fan retweeted a screencap of an article reporting that Gaiman was told by DC Comics execs that he couldn’t use the word “masturbation” and the reason they gave for the word not being able to be used, Gaiman didn’t mince words with his confirmation: “Yes.” So it’s time for another brief modern history lesson. Running from September 1989 to June 1990, DC Comics/Vertigo’s The Sandman story arc “The Doll’s House” was filled with a number of memorable lines & moments- with the serial killer convention probably being at the top of many lists. Now as much as the comic book series was already defining itself as something far different than anything else going on in the DCU, it was still part of the DCU. So you can imagine that the DC Comics brass would’ve red-flagged having anything to do with serial killers and conventions, right? Well, not quite. Speaking with the San Francisco Chronicles In 1991, Gaiman revealed that “the only word that got censored [in that issue] was ‘masturbate.'” If you’re getting a sense that the Batman/Catwoman controversy from last year was another example of history repeating itself, then Gaiman’s follow-up definitely won’t surprise you. “It was explained to me that people do not masturbate in the DC Universe. Actually, that explains a lot. That’s probably why the characters all dress in tight costumes and go around thumping the shit out of each other.” On the plus side? Now that Morpheus is taking a deep dive into live-action streaming, he’s free to have all of the dreams he wants- wet or otherwise.

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Image: Screencap

Now here’s a look back at the “Geeked Week 2022” trailer that included some new looks at the upcoming adaptation:

Gaiman and Sturridge covered a number of topics in their interview last week, including how they approached translating Morpheus’s literary-like speech to the small screen, what it was like for Sturridge to film naked early in production & much more:

For Gaiman & The Creative Team, There Was No Doubt That Tom Sturridge Was Their Morpheus: “Having watched all those other auditions, we were able to go to Netflix and say, ‘It’s Tom. We know it’s Tom.'”

Sturridge Understands Why the Casting Process Needed to Take So Long: “It was entirely necessary because this is a character who is so utterly beloved — by me more than anyone. That requires you to spend time with a human being to discover if they can live up to the dream you have of who he is, “Hey explained. “I think ‘The Sandman’ pervades culture. Even the name Morpheus, King of Dreams, kind of haunted me in my youth.”

Kicking Off Filming Naked Was a “Baptism-by-Fire” for Sturridge: “It was definitely a baptism-by-fire to be introduced to the people I was going to spend nine months with naked, climbing into a glass box — which, because of the way it’s built, couldn’t be broken apart easily. I would genuinely sit in it for hours at a time, which was very COVID safe,” the actor said with a laugh.

Focusing on Morpheus’ Physical Look First was “Quite Satisfying” for Sturridge: “I cared very much about the physicality and image of Morpheus. We’ve all seen those pictures, we know about his skeletal, muscular, otherworldly physique. Something that’s very exciting about the physical aspect of things is you can solve that problem. I can make my body look like that — it requires A, B, C, and D — in a way that I can’t easily get into the soul of an Endless.There was something quite satisfying about beginning with a task that was achievable , and I worked hard to create this physicality that I felt was unusual.”

Gaiman on the Importance of Translating Morpheus’ Style of Dialogue from Page to Screen: “Morpheus’ dialogue is incredibly specific. It was probably the thing I was most obsessive about. Someone would have written a fabulous script, [showrunner] Allan Heinberg would have rewritten a fabulous script, and I would have seen it at every iteration, but there would always be a point at the end where I would still be noodling on the Morpheus dialogue: Making sure the words were right, that the rhythms were right.”

Sturridge on What Gaiman Said to Him About Portraying Morpheus: “I remember [Gaiman] said to me that everything he says has to feel like it was etched in stone. He’s never improvising. He has experienced and perceived every thought, dream, and moment, and therefore he knows what you’re going to say. That was very helpful.”

Gaiman Put a Quick Stop to Sturridge’s “The Dark Knight” Approach: “I growled at him once and said, ‘Stop being Batman. He was trying to get a bit whispery” (though Sturridge wanted to make it clear that it was his “literally my first day” but he found the advice “incredibly helpful “).

A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama, and legend are seamlessly interwoven, The Sandman follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic — and human — mistakes he’s made during his vast existence.

“For the last thirty-three years, the Sandman characters have breathed and walked around and talked in my head. I’m unbelievably happy that now, finally, they get to step out of my head and into reality. I can’t wait until the people out there get to see what we’ve been seeing as Dream and the rest of them take flesh, and the flesh belongs to some of the finest actors out there,” said Gaiman in a statement coinciding with the initial casting news. “This is astonishing, and I’m so grateful to the actors and to all of The Sandman collaborators — Netflix, Warner Bros., DC, to Allan Heinberg and David Goyer, and the legions of crafters and geniuses on the show — for making the wildest of all my dreams into reality.”

The Sandman announcement key art.  (Image: Netflix)
The Sandman announcement key art. (Image: Netflix)

Stemming from Warner Bros. TV, Netflix’s The Sandman stars Tom Sturridge, Gwendoline Christie, Vivienne Acheampong, Boyd Holbrook, Charles Dance, Asim Chaudhry, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Mason Alexander Park, Donna Preston, Jenna Coleman, Niamh Walsh, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis, Kyo Ra, Stephen Fry, Razane Jammal, Sandra James Youngand Patton Oswalt.

Posted in: Netflix, Preview, TV | Tagged: dc comics, neil gaiman, preview, sandman, trailer

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