10 Times ‘The Sandman’ Characters Appeared in Other Comic Books
Via DC Comics
Now that Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman is getting its own Netflix adaptation coming to the streaming service on August 5, we thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of 10 times characters from the legendary work of graphic fiction appeared in other comic books.
Originally spanning the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, DC’s The Sandman is a tale that weaves together elements of ancient folklore, mythology, religion, and history. It centers on the titular Sandman, who also goes by Dream or Morpheus, who is the ruler and physical embodiment of all things dream and story-related. Dream has six siblings, who are collectively known as The Endless and are similarly anthropomorphic embodiments of commonly-understood notions of existence. The Endless, from youngest to oldest, include:
Some of these characters have appeared in comic books other than The Sandman, and occasionally even in properties outside of DC entirely. We’ve got a roundup of all the highlights from such cameos.
Captain Atom #42-43 (1990)
The very first appearance of any member of The Endless in a non-Sandman comic book occurred during a two-issue run of Captain Atom in 1990. The titular hero dies in the comic, takes a tour of hell, and encounters various incarnations of Death, one of whom is the goth girl-like version from Sandman who is a member of The Endless — an embodiment of the merciful side of Death in Captain Atom’s interpretation. Nekron and Black Racer are a couple of the other embodiments of Death in the story. According to WMQ Comics, the long-held rumor is that Gaiman was unhappy with his version of Death’s diminished role in the comic, which was the impetus for DC always getting the author’s approval when The Endless characters appear in non-Sandman properties from that point forward, as a courtesy.
Justice League of America #22-23 (1998)
In 1998, Sandman himself appeared in Justice League of America. However, this is not the original Morpheus, as he appeared in Gaiman’s first Sandman run. Rather, it is his successor, Daniel Hall, who as the new Lord of Dreams, helps out Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern battle Starro, as IGN pointed out. Daniel’s assistance was done as a way to prevent the demise of both the world as we know it, and the world where dreams reside, and to repay a debt to Earth’s superheroic protectors incurred by his predecessor. And that’s not the first time Daniel has crossed paths with some of DC’s most prominent heroes…
Dark Nights: Metal #1-6 (2017-18)
Of course the nocturnal Batman was bound to have an encounter with the Lord of Dreams at some point, and this is exactly what unfolds in 2017’s Dark Nights: Metal, an Audible blog pointed out. In the comic book, the Daniel Hall iteration of Morpheus warns Batman of future threats the superheroes face. In Gotham’s nearby sister city of Metropolis, the townsfolk there would have their own encounters with members of The Endless…
Action Comics #894 (2010) (Lex Luthor meets Death)
The goth-dressed Death had a rather philosophical discussion with Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor, during a period when the bald-headed mogul was the lead character for Action Comics. After Lex makes impact on the ground from a fall from a helicopter — and being shot — he encounters Death and the pair talk about “faith, the concept of the afterlife, and even Lex’s commitment to keep fighting no matter where he ends up,” as CBR reported. Lex’s departure from the world of the living was short-lived, however, as he soon regains consciousness and returns to life following the brief encounter. And that isn’t the only citizen of Metropolis who has had an encounter with one of The Endless…
Superman #352 (1980) (Destiny faces off with Super-Man in pre-Gaiman era comics)
While Sandman has been a title in DC’s rotation since the 1930s, in some very different iterations than how we know the character today, Destiny is also a character who pre-dates the Gaiman-era comics by more than a decade. Originally appearing in 1972’s Weird Mystery Tales #1, Destiny would later face off against the Man of Steel himself — way before he was considered part of The Endless — in 1980’s Superman #352, as IGN pointed out. In the confrontation, the specter-like figure urged Superman to let the citizens of Earth embrace their own destinies, rather than depend on their big blue boy scout savior to bail them out at any sign of danger. And that’s not the last time Destiny showed up in a non-Sandman DC adventure…
The Brave and the Bold: Lords of Luck #4 (2007) (Lobo and Supergirl meet Destiny)
In 2007’s The Brave and the Bold: Lords of Luck #4, the odd pair that is Supergirl and Lobo would come across none-other than Destiny himself. This all happens after the duo emerged from a hedge maze while on a mission to retrieve the Book of Souls, as the DC Wiki explained. While Destiny confirms he is the Book’s guardian and has been since the beginning of the universe’s existence, he also lets the pair know the text has been corrupted and isn’t sure how to fix it.
Locke & Key/The Sandman Universe: Hell & Gone #0-2 (2021)
Sandman won’t be the first comic book adaptation to hit Netflix and it probably won’t be the last, either. Another comic book series to have had the privilege of getting the Netflix treatment is Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key. This dark fantasy series from IDW crossed over with DC’s Vertigo label to give birth to the limited-run series Locke & Key/The Sandman Universe: Hell & Gone, which ran from 2020 to 2021 with issues #0-#2. The plot of the series centers around Mary Locke trying to win back her brother John’s soul from Hell, with a little help from Morpheus’ stolen artifacts while he is imprisoned, according to DC’s website. And speaking of crossovers from other comics companies…
The Incredible Hulk #418 (1994)
There are a few rare instances in which DC and Marvel have official crossover events, but a few unofficial nods from one comics giant to another will slip through from time to time, as well. That was the case when Dream’s sister, Death, showed up in The Incredible Hulk #418. Though she’s not identified outright, and her face is never shown, many things about the character seem to imply she is ripped straight from The Sandman universe, including her distinct goth/punk rock appearance. As a blog for Audible pointed out,
“Death is unmistakably at the wedding of Rick and Marlo who have been resurrected from the dead in The Incredible Hulk #418. Marlo sees a pale-skinned woman with dark hair wearing all black. When Marlo asks the woman if they’ve met before, she simply says, ‘Briefly.’ It’s also heavily suggested here that Death is the same Lady Death that Thanos fell in love with.”
The Golden Age Sandman comics (1930s)
While Gaiman undoubtedly revitalized the Sandman name within the world of DC, his revolutionary version was not the first one to bear that name in the company’s long history. Beginning in the 1930s, a masked vigilante named Wesley Dodd fought crime utilizing dreams that predicted the future while sporting a green suit and fedora, as Alabama’s Huntsville-Madison County Public Library blog pointed out. The character also wore a gas mask, presumably so he would not be inoculated by his own sleeping-gas gun, which he used to make criminals go unconscious. The character would undergo a few redesigns and reimaginings in the 1940s and 1970s, the latter of which was re-envisioned by the legendary Jack Kirby. There’s even more to be said about the older versions of Sandman that is deserving of its own article, but suffice it to say Gaiman’s iteration of the character is the one that most people remember best. But have the old school Sandman and the new school one ever met? We’re glad you asked…
Sandman Midnight Theatre #1 (1995) (Gaiman-era Sandman meets Golden Age Sandman)
As it happens, there would be an eventual crossover of the modern Gaiman-era Sandman with his Golden Age-era counterpart from the 1930s. This all occurred in 1995’s Sandman Midnight Theater #1. The one-shot comic book established that Morpheus and Wesley Dodd actually have a link to each other. As IGN explained,
“Sandman Mystery Theatre had already hinted that Dodds’ dreams were being influenced by Morpheus (who at this point in the Sandman timeline was imprisoned by cultist Roderick Burgess). In this issue, Dodds actually traveled to Burgess’ English estate and encountered his namesake in the cellar.”
Honorable mentions of Sandman characters appearing in something other than comic books
American Gods (2001)
Neil Gaiman’s novel, American Gods, appears to have contained a cameo from a Sandman character, according to fans’ speculation. The story about old gods warring with new gods contains a scene in which the main character, Shadow, sees “a young girl” with “her hair dyed green and orange and pink” sitting with a dog in the streets of San Francisco, which many have taken to be Delirium, as WMQ Comics pointed out. When Dark House comics adapted the novel into a comic, they replaced the woman with a man, perhaps in a bid to not anger the DC gods, despite the fact that the rest of the graphic adaptation remained quite faithful to the source material.
In the world of DC, the character Lucifer may have originated in The Sandman, but a different interpretation of the character — whose broader cultural origins can be traced back to ancient folklore — also appeared in the somewhat-underrated comic book film Constantine. Keanu Reeves starred as the titular John Constantine in the film, the main character of Vertigo’s Hellblazer comic series, with Fargo’s Peter Stormare portraying a delightfully slimy Lucifer. In The Sandman comics, Lucifer gives up control of hell. But in the Constantine film, Lucifer is still the dark realm’s ruler. There are a lot of other instances of The Sandman characters appearing in live action, such as the various shows in the CW’s Arrowverse; however, that is a category deserving of its own list.
In case you didn’t already know, John Constantine is also a regular in the Sandman comic books, though he did not originate in them and the character will be reimagined as a woman — Jenna Coleman’s Johanna Constantine — for the Netflix show. Lucifer will also be portrayed by a woman actor, Gwendoline Christie, for the Netflix show. The titular Dream will be portrayed by Tom Sturridge in the show.
The original The Sandman series, helmed by Gaiman, concluded decades ago, capping off at 75 issues that ran from 1989 to 1996. Since then, Gaiman has returned to the world of Sandman in a couple of one-offs. However, in 2018, DC’s Vertigo label launched a 30th-anniversary revival with various series under the umbrella of The Sandman Universe. Though Gaiman doesn’t personally pen the comics, he does oversee their creation and the franchise is ongoing to this day, according to Entertainment Weekly.
You can check out The Sandman Netflix series on August 5.