Johanna Constantine of The Sandman explained: Love never ends well
Editor’s Note: The article below contains some spoilers for Netflix’s The Sandman.Netflix’s adaptation of Neil Gaimanit is The sand man stays close to the original comics to the point that some scenes look like they were pulled straight from the pages. However, the series takes many liberties with certain characters, such as Johanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman), a gendered version of DC’s iconic exorcist, John Constantine. But why did the series decide to change characters? And how does the TV show compare to the original comic book character? Now that The sand man is finally available on Netflix, let’s talk about the show’s use of Johanna Constantine.
There are two main reasons why the series decided to turn John into Johanna for the show. The first, more obvious reason has to do with character rights. When Gaiman started writing The sand man series, its comic book history was intertwined with the larger DC Universe, so it was easy to bring many heroes and villains from different comic book series into the pages of The sand man, like John Constantine, Mr. Miracle, and even the Martian Manhunter. The same couldn’t happen in the Netflix series because they weren’t allowed to use other DC characters. And even if they did, it would be confusing to put classic DC heroes in the middle of the show – there’s a reason why even The sand man the comics have become increasingly disconnected from the larger DC Universe.
The second reason for the change is that Johanna Constantine is actually two different people in The sand man universe. In the comics, Dream meets Johanna three centuries before crossing paths with her descendant John. So, for the series, The sand manThe creative team of thought it would be more interesting to have the same actress in both roles. As Gaiman himself said on Twitter“it seemed neater” to feature two versions of Johanna at different points in the story keeping the same actress.
Netflix’s Johanna Constantine is pretty much the same character as John. They are both English exorcists who usually help the wealthy get rid of demons and other supernatural threats for a price. The Netflix series even has a lengthy introduction from Johanna to help showcase her abilities, traumas, and motivations. It’s a wonderful addition that sets the show apart from the DC Universe – in the comics there was no need to introduce John Constantine, but the show needs to explain everything the audience needs to understand .
In the series Dream’s (Tom Sturridge) fateful encounter with Johanna Constantine also follows the general story of Preludes and Nocturnes, the first book in Gaiman’s Endless saga. After escaping from the prison where he spent over a century, Dream must seek out his tools of power to rebuild the Dreaming and capture the escaped Nightmares. One such tool, the Pocket of Dream Sand, was last seen in the possession of Johanna Constantine. Thus, Dream asks for the help of the exorcist to find his powerful tool.
It turns out the cover is in the possession of Constantine’s former lover, Rachel (Eleanor Fanyinka). Unfortunately, Constantine left the pocket behind when he left in the middle of the night, and six months later Rachel was completely dream-emptied. Unaware of Pouch’s powers, Rachel found herself stuck in a bed, unable to move, dreaming nonstop about her lost love. Finally, after months under the spell of the Pocket, Rachel could only stay alive by holding the tool. So, once Dream and Constantine retrieve the item, Rachel dies.
Unlike the comics, Rachel isn’t portrayed as a drug addict who stole the cover, which makes her TV show’s story even more tragic. This is because Rachel’s disappearance is entirely Constantine’s fault. After helping Dream recover her cover, Johanna finally gets rid of a recurring nightmare in which she must witness death caused by her failures. Unfortunately for her, she gains another bad memory in the process.
The sand man is available now on Netflix. Check out the trailer for the series below: