Audible is putting out a huge project, starting this past week: a full-length audio drama adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, taking Audible’s normal focus on audiobooks to the next level. Directed by Dirk Maggs and starring James McAvoy as Dream, it sounds like it’s going to be a pretty impressive thing, and it was created in an interesting way.
“I gave Dirk the original scripts,” Gaiman told Comics Beat. “So Dirk got to read the instructions that I gave to the artist all those years ago. So I describe rooms, describe people talking about things. And very often that was what I wound up reading as a narrator, 33 years after I’ve written these lines, which were never expected to be read by anybody other than Sam Keith or Mike Dringenberg or Kelley Jones, or whoever I was writing them for. There’s no cuts. There’s no trims. If anything, what we’ve done is let things breathe a little bit more.”
Those types of instructions, on setting and action, are an integral part of most comics scripts but are usually never used for anything except the creation of that comic. Using them as the basis for an audio drama is an interesting idea, one that allows this adaptation to be a fairly faithful one.
According to Comics Beat, the first audiobook release clocks in at a whopping eleven hours, through twenty episodes, a span that still only covers the first three collections of The Sandman.
“By the time that we finish, it’ll be 100 or 120 hours of audio drama. But the idea is that we tell the whole thing, but we also get to treat it as an audiobook,” Gaimain said.
“For years, I’ve had people with seeing issues saying that they wish that they could read Sandman too, and so this is for them and for the rest of us,” director Dirk Maggs said of the adaptation, which him and Gaiman have been conceiving of in some form or another for decades. Maggs is a prolific British writer and director famed for his audio drama productions, many on BBC Radio, including a stint in the early 2000s producing new episodes of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy audio drama. The Sandman will end up being one of his most sprawling, complex works, a massive set of dramas featuring superstar talent, with McAvoy being joined by stars like Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, and Michael Sheen.
It’s unusual for an audio drama to end up happening at such a scale, but Maggs and Gaiman both seem pleased that it’s so, even if it took a long time to make happen.
“Neil wasn’t Neil then, he wasn’t Neil Gaiman. Not so much,” Maggs said, referring to the time the two first thought of collaborating on The Sandman, a fully 28 years ago. “But as Neil says, both he and I know a bit more now. And we have a bit more influence so we could bully our way through things that we wanted to do a certain way and we were able to do a better job overall, hopefully.”
The Sandman’s first part is available on Audible. And a TV series is coming, too, lest you forget.
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