After decades of fans begging for a screen adaptation, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics finally landed a Netflix series.

The dark fantasy follows Morpheus, a powerful being who controls humanity’s dreams and nightmares. The Sandman operates as a standalone series… but what new fans might not know is that it also connects to the wider DC Universe.

The Sandman comics were originally published under DC offshoot Vertigo. And Gaiman liked to drop in little references, crossover moments, and even brief character appearances from other DC properties.

So, here’s how the first season of The Sandman connects to the wider DC Universe.*

*Note: While officially a DC property, The Sandman isn’t considered a part of the current “DCEU canon.” (It’s a rights thing – that’s why other DC properties are on Warner Bros.-owned HBO Max, and The Sandman is on Netflix.)

John Dee fought the Justice League

If John Dee’s control of Morpheus’s ruby seemed like the makings of a supervillain to you, you’re right. John Dee is actually the secret identity of DC villain Doctor Destiny

In his earliest appearance in DC comics, Doctor Destiny attempts to capture Green Lantern and devises a series of traps for the Justice League of America. After these plots fail, he shifts his focus to dream manipulation, even giving nightmares to the Dark Knight himself.

Bonus fun fact

This also means David Thewlis has played two different DC villains. He previously appeared in Wonder Woman and Justice League as Ares.

Dee was also committed to Arkham Asylum

The Sandman. (L to R) Joely Richardson as Ethel Cripps, David Thewlis as John Dee in episode 103 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
Ethel Cripps (Joely Richardson) visiting John Dee (David Thewlis) in Netflix’s The Sandman

The Dreamstone’s power ultimately drove John Dee to madness. And where does DC lock up those deemed criminally insane? Arkham Asylum, of course. In the comics, Ethel Cripps visits her son in Arkham, and he escapes with the help of her protection amulet. After his showdown with Morpheus when the Dreamlord re-absorbs the ruby’s power, Morpheus returns Dee to Arkham. The Netflix series does follow these same plot points, but for whatever reason (probably a rights thing), Arkham Asylum isn’t specifically referenced.

Bonus fun fact

The Sandman‘s early issues related to the John Dee plot also include references to and appearances by several DC characters, including Scarecrow, Mister Miracle, Martian Manhunter, Batman, and Green Lantern.

Several residents of The Dreaming come from other DC comics

Asim Chaudhry as Abel in episode 102 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

While their appearances have changed over years and iterations, several key characters in The Dreaming first appeared in other DC comics. Cain, Abel, and Gregory the Gargoyle all originated in the DC horror anthology series The House of Mystery. Lucien (gender-swapped to Lucienne in the Netflix series), appeared in 1975’s Tales of Ghost Castle.

Bonus fun fact

The character of Lucifer originated in The Sandman comics, but later landed his own spinoff series. That series has already been (loosely) adapted for TV starring Tom Ellis. The character of Death also became so popular, she makes a few cameos in other DC comics.

John Constantine is a descendant of Johanna Constantine

Yes, it’s an obvious one, but we can’t not talk about John Constantine, right? He’s a fan-favorite DC character! In the original Sandman comics, Dream encounters Lady Johanna Constantine in the 1700s (just like her cameo in “The Sound of Her Wings” episode), while he confronts her descendant John Constantine in the present day to retrieve his sand. Since Constantine was first introduced in the Swamp Thing comics years earlier, this is one of the more significant crossovers between the two universes. (The Sandman includes several DC character cameos, but rarely do they get their own story alongside Dream in this way.)

The Netflix series gives John’s plot to Johanna, in a move that might be read as a true gender-swap of the character, or simply a clever way to avoid those pesky licensing issues again. (Johanna was created by Gaiman for The Sandman. John was not.)

Bonus fun fact

1700s Lady Constantine owned the manor which ultimately became the property of Roderick Burgess – the site of Dream’s century-long imprisonment.

Lyta is the daughter of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor

Did Razane Jammal’s smart fashion and casually perfect hair remind you of anyone? Someone like… Diana Prince, perhaps?

Lyta – full name Hippolyta, which should clue you in – is actually the daughter of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. She even has a superhero alter ego, Fury, and teamed up with her husband Hector Hall (Silver Scarab) to create Infinity, Inc., a superhero team founded by the children and successors of the Justice Society. Also, Hector’s father is Carter Hall, making Lyta’s father-in-law Hawkman.

Bonus fun fact

In the Sandman comics, Lyta and Hector’s son, Daniel, ends up kidnapped by Loki. But thinking Dream is responsible, Lyta goes on a quest for vengeance against him, helped by the Furies.

DC exists in The Sandman universe

Probably the most on-the-nose references to the DC Universe come from Jed. The boy pretty much presents himself as a superhero fan every moment he’s on screen. (So yes, the DC Universe both connects to The Sandman and exists as an entity within The Sandman.)

When we first meet Jed, he’s packing action figures into a suitcase while wearing a Static Shock T-shirt. Later, we see him watching the animated Justice League series. Plus, when Jed transforms himself into “The Sandman” in his dreams, Glob references his “gallery of rogues” – the same phrase often used to describe Batman’s many foes.

DC Enters The Dreaming

So, what’s your favorite connection between The Sandman and the wider DC Universe? Did we miss any from season 1? Drop them in the comments below.

You can stream The Sandman season 1 on Netflix now.

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