Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series has been a bridge between comics and novels since it was published. It is widely considered to be one of the best graphic novels ever written, with many additional comics and books like The Sandman resulting from Gaiman’s inspiration. Running for 75 issues between January 1989 to March 1996, the series follows Dream, or Morpheus, as he is released from imprisonment and begins to rediscover what the world looks like. The Sandman is plotted in Gaiman’s signature style of anthropomorphizing metaphysical entities, which in plain English means he has a tendency to turn gods and ideas into humans (or give them human shape), then see how they interact.
It is difficult to overestimate The Sandman‘s influence on modern graphic novels. Between the storyline’s meandering-yet-interconnected style and the iconic art, Dream’s journey has lent ideas to many a graphic novel author, as well as novelists, and will — after 21 years of trying — debut on the small screen with Netflix’s The Sandman series on August 5, 2022.
You could, of course, prepare for the 10-episode season 1 by reading (or re-reading) the series itself. However, as a person who is always caught between the horns of the “Do I or don’t I read the book before the series comes out?” dilemma, my recommendation is to instead read similar books to set the tone. That way I’m far enough away from the source material that I don’t spend the entire series thinking “That’s the wrong line” or “This scene doesn’t go here.” I can settle into the enjoyment of the adaptation without too many expectations.
To that end, I’ve gathered 10 comics, graphic novels, and books like The Sandman series, whose many themes are ripe for a list at least ten times as long. Alas, as Morpheus and his siblings know, our time on this earth is short, so I’ve narrowed it down.
Fables by Bill Willingham – Graphic Novel Series
Willingham’s Fables is the story of what happens when storybook characters are real. Some characters have adapted to modern life and have integrated with non-magic folk, but others must be kept separate for their own safety and the safety of others. Predictably, chaos ensues (that’s irony!).
Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross – Graphic Novel Series
Tom Taylor’s father is the best selling author of a boy wizard series, the protagonist of which bears an uncanny resemblance to Tom. When a giant scandal reveals that Tom may, in fact, be his fictional counterpart made flesh, his journey truly begins.
All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue – Novel Series
Maeve’s newly discovered gift at reading tarot makes her a celebrity at St. Bernadette’s. But then her ex-best friend Lily draws The Housekeeper, a card no one has seen before, and Maeve wishes that Lily would just disappear — which she does.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll – Graphic Novel Standalone
One of the only standalone graphic novels on this list, Through the Woods is made up of five gothic horror-style short stories that will leave your spine tingling.
The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie – Graphic Novel Series
The Pantheon is a group of 12 deities, reincarnated every 90 years, and all of whom must die within two years of their reincarnation. While they are alive, they are the ultimate celebrities. But something is not quite right this time around…
Killadelphia by Rodney Barnes and Jason Shawn Alexander – Graphic Novel Series
I don’t know why the title of this graphic novel doesn’t land with me, but I’m delighted by the premise: a small town beat cop comes home to Philly to bury his murdered father. While seeking more information, he discovers that the City of Brotherly Love is also home to a vampire plot led by undead President John Adams to inspire a bloodier American Revolution.
You read that right. Bonus points will be awarded if anywhere in this series has a reference to 1776: The Musical.
Urban Legendz by Paul Downs, Nick Bruno, and Michael Yates – Graphic Novel Series
Dwayne’s life is uprooted when his mother dies, forcing him to move into the house in Brooklyn where she grew up. But his personal problems fall to the wayside when he joins a group of young vigilantes determined to solve the monstrous crimes plaguing the city. What if all of the Urban Legends we fear…were real?
Quincredible by Rodney Barnes, Selina Espiritu, and Kelly Fitzpatrick – Graphic Novel Series
After “The Event” meteor shower that leaves many people with superpowers, Quinton Weston’s gift is invulnerability. The problem is, he’s also only 100 pounds. At the advice from his mentor, he starts using his passion for Rube Goldberg machines to outsmart the enemy.
The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas – Standalone Novel
The Hacienda is on this list because when I think of gothic horror, I think of Rebecca, of The Turn of the Screw, and of the entire ouevre of Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Set just after the overthrow of Spanish rule in Mexico, Beatriz’s story starts with her arrival at Hacienda San Isidro, the home of her new husband and generations of his ancestors. But San Isidro itself is not what it seems, and neither are any of the people who live there.
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo – Standalone Novel
Set in Malaya during British colonization, The Ghost Bride is an atmospheric triumph. Li Lan comes from a poor family with no prospects, so when she receives a proposal to become the wealthy Lim family heir’s ghost bride — a posthumous bride intended to placate restless spirits — she is pulled into a world rich in spirits, mysteries, and the danger that her soul may become trapped in the Chinese afterlife.
Want even more books like The Sandman? Find more authors like Neil Gaiman here! And, if you’re looking to read more of the books that spawned your favorite shows, look no further than Book Riot’s own Tailored Book Recommendations! Our team will talk to you about your reading habits and where you’d like to explore, and create a set of recommendations just for you.