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The following story contains light spoilers for The Sandman comic and Netflix series.
We’re living in a world of interconnected universes. If you’re a fan of television or film, you know exactly what I’m talking about, and if you’re not, that probably sounds like something Neil Degrasse Tyson or Carl Sagan would say. Alas, we’re not talking about the actual cosmos of outer space, but the somewhat-related worlds of sci-fi, horror, and genre movies and shows.
When shows like Peacemaker are spinoffs to movies like The Suicide Squad, just about everything we watch on Disney+ is connected to some larger world—either the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars—and even franchises like Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, and The Boys are now expanding with prequel series, it’s sensible to wonder whether something like Netflix’s The Sandman (which is based on a DC Comics series written by Neil Gaiman) is connected to any larger DC Universe, much in the same way that the aforementioned Peacemaker is.
Luckily, we’ve got the answer for you. And even more luckily, it’s not all that complicated.
Is The Sandman comic part of the DC Universe?
Yes! While the initial 75-issue run of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comic generally tells its own standalone epic—consisting largely of interconnected short arcs and standalone tales—there are numerous references to the story existing in a world where other DC staples, such as Gotham City, also exist.
For example, in the first arc of The Sandman, titled “Preludes and Nocturnes”—which is adapted into much of Season 1 of Netflix’s The Sandman—when we first meet up with John Dee (played by David Thewlis in the show), he’s become a monster-ish shell of a human after overusing the ruby stolen from Dream. We see him going by the persona of Doctor Destiny, a superhero getting beat up by the likes of Batman and the Green Lantern. This is how he eventually ends up in an asylum.
An asylum, you say? Yes, you guessed it—the asylum that Dee ends up in is none other than Arkham Asylum, known best as a home at one point or another for most of Batman’s unhinged villains. There are other connections even in that first Sandman volume as well, including fighter-of-the-occult John Constantine (previously played in live-action by Keanu Reeves and Matt Ryan, played in The Sandman on Netflix in kind-of-gender-swapped form, as Johanna Constantine (a DC character in her own right) by Doctor Who‘s Jenna Coleman) and a brief visit with Justice League member Martian Manhunter.
But since The Sandman was sold off as its own universe, these connections are largely limited to the comic.
Is The Sandman Netflix show part of the DC Universe?
Nope! The references from the comic to places like Arkham Asylum and people like Green Lantern, Batman, and Martian Manhunter are nowhere to be found in Netflix’s show—which makes sense, considering Netflix has no other connection to the DC Universe or any original projects featuring those characters.
The only slight connection comes through the character of Johanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman), who basically functions a a rebooted version of the occult-immersed character of John Constantine, who was previously played by Keanu Reeves in the 2005 film Constantine and by Matt Ryan in both the NBC series Constantine and the CW Arrowverse.
While Netflix doesn’t set its story in the larger DC Universe, The Sandman does have a comic universe of its own—and its possible that if the show is a success, Netflix continues to build that out.
Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.
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