Why Isn't This A Film? - The Sandman: Endless Nights

What have we got here then?

The Sandman: Endless Nights is a graphic novel from best-selling author Neil Gaiman. Published in 2003 the book heralds the return of Gaiman to The Sandman series which ended when he left the DC/Vertigo publication in 1996.

OK fine. What’s it about?

Endless Nights is split into seven chapters with each one focusing on a different member of The Endless, seven brothers and sisters who form personifications of different concepts which govern the Universe (Dream, Death, Desire, Destruction, Delirium, Despair and Destiny). The novel explores storylines and plot facets which were present in The Sandman series and, although some stories are loosely linked, each story is mainly intended as a stand-alone narrative.

Interesting. Is there something more?

Gaiman says in the foreword to the novel that his reasons for returning to The Sandman were varied but that he was motivated primarily by stories he wanted to tell and artists he wanted to work with. As such, the unique hook of Endless Nights is that each of the individual narratives are illustrated by a different comic book artist. From the straight illustration of Glenn Fabry to the abstract art of Barron Storey, each tale has both a unique look and a unique style of storytelling.

Save me the trouble then – is it any good?

The stories where Gaiman manages to tell a coherent and satisfying narrative in and amongst his overtly ambitious artistic leanings are the best and most successful parts of the novel. Death And Venice obviously looks to Thomas Mann's Death In Venice and is both beautiful and engaging. What I've Tasted Of Desire is an uber-sexualised tale of feminine empowerment and self satisfaction and navigates a tricky narrative arc with both taste and rampant physicality. Destiny's tale (which takes the Endless Nights title) is short, bitter-sweet and a fitting end to the collection. The loose artistic strands of otherworldliness, mysticism and fantasy, which weave through the novel are recognisably Gaiman and fans of his work will find several things to get excited about.

A page from Delirum's story Going Inside, where 'abstract artistic imagination runs wild at the expense of story'.


Some of the stories favour invention and envelope pushing illustration over narrative to a degree that could be considered distracting. In Delirium's narrative in particular, abstract artistic imagination runs wild at the expense of story. Ditto Despair's, which isn't necessarily a narrative but is rather more of a mid-novel pause to wander through an art gallery. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but for those expecting something more akin to Gaiman's more straightforward works (Coraline, et al) you might find yourselves disappointed.

What are its chances of being made as a film?

Slim to none. Rumours of a Sandman film have swirled since the series ended but for Endless Nights to make it to the big screen a lot of the backstory would probably have to be sewn in first. The most logical destination for the novel would be a The Animatrix-style collection of shorts, which would complement a more defined narrative produced elsewhere. Increasingly, that 'elsewhere' looks like being on television, if it ever happens at all.

But who'd star in it?

Dream is ethereal and distant but is also one of the main characters and would therefore justify a big name. Johnny Depp has the qualities but feels a bit too obvious (comic fans would also probably hate this choice) and realistically you're probably looking at a new name to fill the role. Delirium is presented as a young girl and, owing to the character's kooky nature, a return to more serious work for Zooey Deschanel might work. Death is also presented as female here and is a much more mature and straight character than Delirium. Monica Bellucci could work wonders with the role. Destiny only really needs a square chin to succeed (his face is covered by a hood), something which Jason Isaacs has in abundance. Desire is presented as asexual which is obviously very difficult to pull off in a live action film and has, in the past, been worked around by creating a CG character. Destruction is large and imposing but recognisably human. Chris Hemsworth is unlikely to take a role with passing similarities to Thor but Jason Momoa might fancy this route after starring as Conan. Despair is hardly presented as a character here at all. Pick anyone from Elle Fanning to Brian Cox and you could create a logical argument.

Will it be any good?

Recent Gaiman adaptations seem to have aspired higher and higher as studios come round to what his fans want to see and exactly what it is he tries to create in his books. Coraline succeeded on some levels, particularly in the aesthetics department, and the forthcoming American Gods series is sounding promising. If the trend continues in this way and Gaiman's appeal can make the successful crossover to film and television then there could be something really special waiting to be made here.

Anything else I should know about it?

For more Gaiman keep an eye on the development of the American Gods series and track down The Graveyard Book which won numerous awards and continues to sell well across the globe.

Jason Isaacs: square-jawed.

Why Isn't This A Film? is a regular Film Intel feature which takes a book (you know... one of those things with pages in, doesn't project on to a screen, makes small rustling noises), comic, video game or graphic novel and assesses its adaptation prospects. One day this feature will get something right and we will win something major and valuable. Possibly.


  1. I don't know about Monica Bellucci. Death is supposed to look forever-mid-twenties, like a perky goth/subversion of the MPDG (or something). As fantastic as she is, you'd have to age down.

    If this were the seventies, Bowie would own Desire. That is all.

  2. That's a good point which I hadn't thought of although if she was done like that she might end up a bit close to Delirium? Could perhaps be overcome by having Delirium as still being Delight (which she is in one of these stories).

    Bowie = good call.