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Here’s Why Constantine Is Different in The Sandman

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preview for The Sandman - Official Trailer (Netflix)

The challenge of adapting a famous comic book or novel is that there will always be fans who aren’t happy with the inevitable changes a show will have to make. A great adaptation makes it so that fans barely even think about changes made along the way; poor attempts to bring concepts to the screen make any changes appear like a gross oversight from what fans actually wanted. For Netflix’s The Sandman, there’s both minor and major changes from Neil Gaiman’s much revered comic book series. A minor change, like Dream’s hair shrinking from its otherworldly size to a more reasonable tease, is easy for most people to come around on. There’s one major change, however, that’s causing a bit of a stir.

In a noted departure from the comic, the television adaptation of The Sandman doesn’t have the British warlock John Constantine (who has previously been portrayed by Matt Ryan and Keanu Reeves). Rather than his more well-known appearance as a blond-haired man in a pinstripe suit, The Sandman stars Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine, a direct female descendant of John Constantine. Gaiman’s comics typically depict the actual John Constantine.

Coleman’s performance is exciting, despite only appearing fleetingly in The Sandman Season 1. And if the show gets a Season 2 green light from Netflix, we’ll hopefully get to see more of Coleman’s take on the magician. For fans of the comic, it may be a little confusing, but below we have a clear explanation of how Johanna Constantine and John Constantine fit into Netflix’s ambitious new fantasy show.

Who Is Johanna Constantine? Is she the same as John Constantine?

While John Constantine is in The Sandman comics, he doesn’t appear in Netflix’s The Sandman. Instead, his descendant Johanna Costantine appears (and has an identical ancestor). Rather than simply a gender-swapped version of the warlock, Johanna is a character in the DC Comics, much like John.

Created by Neil Gaiman, Johanna Constantine is an 18th century aristocrat and adventurer who is an ancestor of John Constantine. She first appeared in The Sandman #13. As in the television series, she interrupts a meeting between Dream and Hob Gadling, who meet once every century. While in the show Dream puts her to sleep, in the comics he proposes a secret deal with her.

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Who Is Jenna Coleman?

The British actress has been in the film and television business since the late 2000’s, appearing in various movies and television shows, including The Serpent, Doctor Who, and starring in the Emmy-nominated Victoria.

At a press event before The Sandman’s premiere, SlashFilm spoke with Gaiman, who explained it was a conscious decision to cast a woman as Constantine. “The truth was, we talked about that [during] the initial—sitting and having dinner before we pitched it to Netflix and everybody, that was one of the things that just sort of seemed to make sense. It was big and obvious that we were going to [cast a woman].”

He also praised Jenna Coleman for her portrayal.

“I think Jenna is the best Constantine on screen so far and weirdly somehow the truest, because she both has the humor, and the attractiveness, and that sleazy, doomed quality. You know that if you fall in love with her, you are dead and demon-fodder. And you also know that you can’t help falling in love with her.”

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