Who Is the Sandman? Comics Explained

Photos: DC Comics (outside); Columbia Pictures and Marvel Entertainment (inside)

We’ve got another conversation with a fan today! Read on as we answer your questions from the wonderful world of comics!

Dear Marvelous Movies,
I’ve been hearing a lot about the Sandman–how they made a new audio drama of him, and they’re apparently working on a Netflix series too. I heard it was based on a DC comic–and it sounded pretty trippy! But I always thought Sandman was from Marvel, and a bad guy! How is it that he’s now the star of a DC series too?
Marco Wesley, of Sandy Springs, GA

Great question, Marco! Let’s see if we can help you out. Here’s what we know:

Spider-Man 3 - Wikipedia
Photo: Columbia Pictures
and Marvel Entertainment

MM: You’re sure right about the Sandman being a Marvel villain! This character, a man who could turn his whole body into sand, first appeared as an enemy of Spider-Man in the early ’60s. Of course, he was popularized in 2007 when he appeared in the critically acclaimed and enthusiastically received superhero film classic Spider-Man 3.

MW: Well–sure, that’s one way to put it. But then how did he become DC?
We’re glad you asked! Enter an up-and-coming comics writer named Neil Gaiman. Gaiman, who specializes in fresh new takes on old characters. Gaiman was best known for writing Marvel 1602 in the early 2000s, an alternate-universe story that put the Marvel heroes in Elizabethan England.

MW: So let me guess. In that world, people thought the X-Men were all just witches?
MM: Basically, yeah!

Anyway, like everyone else, Gaiman watched Spider-Man 3 when it came out in 2007–but the film’s intricate plot and rich character development awoke something deeper in him. He was instantly inspired to write a fresh new take on the Sandman! But, since Marvel already had a Sandman, he had to sell the idea to DC instead.

MW: Makes sense. More than one character in the same universe can’t have the same name, after all.
MM: Nope! Definitely never happens in comics ever! Just ask Spider-Man!

Into the Spider-Verse' brings in diversity, innovation and some ...
Photo: Columbia Pictures/Sony Animation/Marvel Entertainment

MW: Which one: Peter Parker or Miles Morales?
MM: Um. So anyway, Gaiman noticed how Sandman in Spider-Man 3 wasn’t actually a bad guy, but more of a sympathetic antihero put in a tough spot. Such a complex and layered character would make the perfect protagonist for his series. To distance himself from Marvel’s version, Gaiman gave his character a completely black-and-white appearance, which he undoubtedly took from Spider-Man 3‘s other villain, Venom.

Photos: Columbia Pictures and Marvel Entertainment (left); DC Comics (right)

MW: I should have guessed. What else did Gaiman copy from Marvel?
MM: Well, one of the main characters of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was the Sandman’s sister, Death. But Marvel had also previously published a female incarnation of Death who was the love interest of Thanos!

Photos: DC Comics (left); Marvel Comics (right)

MW: Wow, you’re right! The very concept of Death being embodied as a humanoid person was definitely original to Marvel Comics in the last 50 years. DC clearly and unquestionably ripped them off in every way!
MM: Now you’re getting it!

Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1 545 | Marvel Database | Fandom
Photo: Marvel Comics

MW: Okay, but I saw some of the Sandman comics, and they dealt with a lot of weird supernatural stuff, like angels and demons and spirits. That doesn’t have anything to do with Spider-Man!
MM: Ha! Tell that to Mephisto, Joe Quesada, and J. Michael Straczynski!

MW: And besides, didn’t the Sandman comics come out in the ’90s, way earlier than Spider-Man 3?
MM: Well, you know–time is always a bit wonky in comics, what with time travel and all. Sometimes the sands of time run differently!

MW: But that doesn’t make any–
MM: Speaking of time, looks like we’re about out for today! Any last-minute questions?

MW: Sure. What’s one fun fact I might not know about the Sandman?
MM: Great question! You may not know that the Sandman is Anakin Skywalker’s least-favorite comic book character of all time! Who would have thought?

Have questions about comics and superheroes? Email them to thegeniuses@marvelousmovies.com, and we’ll answer them in a completely reliable, factual, unbiased, and non-sarcastic way!

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