The Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s seminal comic book series The Sandman has added Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine

Netflix have announced former Doctor Who companion Jenna Coleman as one of the cast of the much anticipated series. Based on The Sandman comic books it sees the one-time Impossible Girl playing a dual role. Coleman will be featuring as two members of the Constantine family, separated by centuries. Lady Johanna Constantine is an 18th century libertine and magician, who battles the evils of Hell while snubbing her nose at the conventions of her time. Meanwhile, Coleman also plays her descendant, also named Johanna Constantine. The modern day Constantine continues the family tradition into the year 2021, as she aids the Sandman in his quest. Though she might have an agenda of her own…

 

Coleman takes over the role previously played by Joanna Lumley in the audio adaptations

Neil Gaiman created Johanna Constantine in 1989, with The Sandman #12 her first appearance. The character was originally presented as an ancestor of established comic book character John Constantine. However, later comics began to strongly imply that the magicians of the Constantine line were actually the same soul reincarnated over and over again. Constantine is a figure stretching back a thousand years in the past and even millions of years into the future. Sometimes reincarnated as a man and sometimes as a woman. But always with the same unmistakable attitude.

The comic originally featured John Constantine in the present day scenes. But in the new Netflix series the Johanna aspect of the character will appear then as well. This is possibly due to John already being tied up in two other live action productions. He’s a regular character on the DC’s Legends of Tomorrow TV show on the CW, where he’s played by Matt Ryan. And there’s also an upcoming Constantine movie at HBO Max, with Keanu Reeves penciled in to reprise the role.

 

The Sandman Season 1 adapts the first sixteen issues of the comic. Art by Dave McKean (c) DC Comics Netflix Neil Gaiman
The Sandman Season 1 adapts the first sixteen issues of the comic. Art by Dave McKean (c) DC Comics

The Sandman is one of the best loved comics in history, with the new series adapting its first two story arcs

The Sandman is generally regarded as one of the most popular and groundbreaking comic book series of all time. Over 75 issues from 1989 to 1996, Gaiman built his modern mythology centred around Morpheus, also known as Dream or the Sandman. He’s one of the Endless, seven personifications of the fundamental aspects of life, such as Death, Desire and Despair.  But he must uncover a conspiracy against him from within, and an ancient trap millennia in the making. The first season of the Netflix series adapt the first two storylines of the comic; Preludes & Nocturnes, in which Morpheus escapes from a century of imprisonment and tries to rebuild his realm, the Dreaming; and The Doll’s House, in which a young woman called Rose hunts for her missing brother, not realizing the literal nightmares that stalk her.

 

Stephen Fry, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Nina Wadia play Cain, Gilbert and Fate Mother in The Sandman (pictures (c) BBC Studios and DC Comics)

The Sandman also stars three other Doctor Who veterans from recent years

Jenna Coleman isn’t the only Doctor Who connection to the new show, of course. Creator Neil Gaiman scripted the Doctor Who episodes The Doctor’s Wife and Nightmare in Silver. He also wrote the short stories Planet of the Rain Gods, Nothing O’Clock, and One Virtue, and a Thousand Crimes. Finally, he wrote the minisodes Rain Gods and Rory’s Story. Outside of Doctor Who, Gaiman is famous for his novels, series and films such as Good Omens, American Gods, Stardust and Coraline. While the upcoming Marvel Studios film The Eternals appears to owe a debt to Gaiman’s run on the comic originally created by the legendary Jack Kirby.

Also included in the cast is Stephen Fry (Spyfall) who plays Gilbert, an eccentric resident of Rose’s boarding house. Sanjeev Bhaskar (Death in Heaven) is Cain, the Biblical killer who long ago claimed asylum in the Dreaming. And Nina Wadia (The Eleventh Hour) is one of the three Fates, whose scheming and plotting cast a shadow over the story.

Meanwhile a core director for The Sandman, behind the camera for four of the eleven episodes, is Jamie Childs. Childs likewise directed four episodes of Jodie Whttaker’s first Doctor Who season, including her first appearance in The Woman Who Fell to Earth.

 

The Sandman is currently in production, and expected to arrive on Netflix later this year

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