Writer and creator of The Sandman Neil Gaiman has been ardent in defending the casting choices for the Netflix series adapting his work that has met with harsh criticism for breaking with the source material. Quite vocal on Twitter, the author doubled down on a previous comment that the comic was always woke in a recent interview.
Chatting with Inverse, Gaiman says real fans understand why women, including one of color, were cast as Lucifer and Death. “Death’s casting wasn’t controversial with Sandman fans,” he said, “because Sandman fans know that the Endless are supposed to look like what the people looking at them think they look like.” To an extent, this is true.
In episode four, Dream assumes the form of an African man when he stumbles across a former lover named Nada suffering in Hell. Gaiman expanded on this in 2021 to explain – and maybe justify – why Kirby Howell-Baptiste plays Death. “The ability to give us the great personality was important,” he tweeted. “The skin [color] of the actresses auditioning for the role was not.”
As for Lucifer, the reasoning had to do with the androgyny of angels which are often depicted as sexless beings. The Lord of Hell being no different, Gwendoline Christie was cast and according to Gaiman, real readers would “know that Lucifer looked kind of like an androgynous David Bowie and doesn’t have any genitalia because they’re an angel.”
Fans on the other side of the argument have disputed this logic. One presented images of Bowie juxtaposed with Lucifer in the comics, tweeting, “It is very obvious what Lucifer was supposed to be. You can like a change without acting like it wasn’t changed.”
Gaiman quickly responded to point out the obvious, that Bowie is deceased.
“Dude. This is going to hurt, but David Bowie’s dead. We knew he wasn’t available to play Lucifer any longer. That’s why we cast Gwendoline Christie,” Gaiman answered.
Gaiman also addressed complaints that some fans wanted Tom Ellis to reprise his role as Lucifer. “Other grumpy people tended to be Tom Ellis fans, who were like, ‘I love Tom Ellis! Lucifer is based on him, why didn’t you cast him?’ And honestly, he’s not.”
“He’s a lovable rogue,” Gaiman elaborated. “He wouldn’t work in Sandman because we have to get someone that makes people scared.”
Far from the only gender-swapped character, he conversely explained in his Inverse interview the casting of Jenna Coleman as an alternate for Constantine was an “economical” decision, not a woke one.
Running down the history of the established character Johanna Constantine lightly, he said, “Sandman fans know that she was a character introduced in Sandman No. 13 in 1989 and that she goes off and has several more adventures in the Sandman storyline. So it was much more economical for us to get her and to have Jenna play her.”
Johanna is also lesbian/queer in the show, as many characters are, which is another item Gaiman is tired of hearing complaints about. “Occasionally, you get people shouting at us for… all of these gay characters who weren’t in the comics, and then we’d go ‘Have you read the comics?’ And they’d go ‘No.’ And we’d go, ‘They were gay in the comics,'” he said.
He added, “And they’d go ‘You’re just woke and nobody is going to watch your horrible show.’ And then we went Number 1 in the world for four weeks. And they went ‘It’s all bots! We hate you. You’re woke.’”
Season 2, possibly drawing inspiration from the queer-heavy volumes “Season of Mists” and “A Game of You,” has a high probability of leaning further into the LGBT themes, which might be Gaiman’s gambit. He doesn’t take his detractors seriously and writes them off as right-wing crackpots. “It’s a weird silliness,” he said, assuming their various prejudices as he continued.
“These complainers don’t like gay people, they don’t like Black people, and they don’t like women,” Gaiman added. “And if you look at their profiles, they don’t like vaccines, they don’t like Democrats, and they’re not big on voting.”
He might find out otherwise if viewers vote with their remotes and The Sandman S2 has less success than the first.
What do you make of Gaiman’s comments?