Sandman: Death of the Endless

by JoHarrington

The Grim Reaper has been envisaged many times in literature and art, but never as fabulously as in Neil Gaiman's graphic novel 'Sandman'.

When you see Death coming towards you from a gray tomorrow, is it scary?

Is that dread horizon haunted by something skeletal, grinning skull-like from the depths of a cowl? Or worse, an intangible shadow skulking, inexorably closer with each passing day?

Well you can keep your vision of Death, because I have mine and she's peachy keen! A Goth girl, who is assured the fullest welcome in the home of any 'Sandman' fan. But only when it's time.

Unless it's just a social visit, and she's popping the kettle on, of course!

Living Within the Sound of her Wings

'For in that sleep of death what dreams may come...' William Shakespeare

Image: Death from SandmanBenjamin Franklin once astutely observed that only two things in life are inevitable - death and taxes. Personally, given the evidence, I fear the second more.

That's because I've spent most of my adult life in the knowledge that Death looks and acts like your cool big sister. That's precisely who she is for Morpheus, the protagonist of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series.

A less grim Reaper is hard to imagine.

Death dresses as a Goth chick, quotes Mary Poppins song lyrics and keeps two goldfish. When we first meet her, she's throwing a loaf of bread at Dream's head.

She will listen to your crap, and offer sound, pragmatic advice. Absolutely nothing fazes her. But then she is Death. She is the Dark Lady creeping near. For every elderly person, who died peacefully in their sleep after a full and satisfying life, she must have collected another twenty candidates for a Darwin Award.

Death has seen it all and collected them all. She's been around since the first spark of life flickered, blazed and snuffed out. She shadowed our ancestors back when they were all single cells. She's been in our periphery since birth.

DC Collectibles Sandman Death Statue

"You get what anybody gets. You get a lifetime."

In the world of the Endless, Death is the second eldest. She followed Destiny into being, when reality first spawned something alive.

That thing naturally had to die. It's part of the deal to which we all subscribe.

Like all of the Endless, Death changes her aspect to suit whomever she encounters. She could be mist, or feline, or mineral, or human. Yet you can bet she'd be the most stylish of whatever she becomes.

Her bubbly personality embraces life to the maximum. She's generally got a positive spin to put on things, however dark they may at first appear. Or if not, then she'll be the one to deliver the home truths, in order to mend things as quickly as possible.

She also has a seemingly infinite supply of down to Earth wisdom.

Death may be the Dark Lady, but she carries her persona with aplomb, accessorizing with top hats, umbrellas and whatever catches her fancy. And an ankh. Always an ankh.

Embracing the Inevitable Kiss of Death

Neil Gaiman's graphic novel series Sandman gave us many memorable characters. But few come close to touching the popularity of Death.

As anthropomorphic personifications go, Death has it all - killer one-liners, classy aspect and a manner which makes us all feel like we're already best friends.

I have friends with her face tattooed on their bodies. I have others with her picture on their wall.

While not exactly making any of us want to rush towards the end, Sandman's Death does at least take the sting out of that old inevitability. It seems like the last thing that will ever happen to us is to meet her; and that is quite a welcome thought.

Such was her appeal that Death was featured in the first two solo adventures to spin off from the Sandman graphic novels.

Death Lives for One Day

In the graphic novel Death: The High Cost of Living, it was revealed that she chooses - or is compelled - to manifest as a mortal woman, one day in every century.

The ultimate irony is that Death is immortal. She will never be able to empathize with lives spent in the sure knowledge of its ending. She cannot feel danger, because nothing can harm her. She knows that she exists as long as something out there lives.

By taking on a life, however briefly, Death reaches out to those whose mortality she will inevitably snuff out. She explores those concepts so alien to her, about physical pain and mental uncertainty, and the experience of knowing that oblivion beckons.

This tale takes place during one of those living Death days, when she takes on the aspect of a young woman named Didi.

Thus breathing, Didi helps out a 250 year old woman, who's lost her heart.

Death: The High Cost of Living

Death: The Time of your Life

Striking a Deal with Death

It's the mainstay of so many literary, and mythological, stories about Death. The brave individuals who barter for their lives, playing chess on the shore or, in the case of Granny Weatherwax, Cripple Mr Onion in a cow-shed.

Death: The Time of your Life graphic novel gives us Neil Gaiman's spin on that old theme. But Death isn't playing games. Simply chatting with her is enough. If she's convinced, then maybe she'll listen to the terms.

Foxglove and Hazel are familiar characters from the Sandman canon too. When their infant son Alvin is being taken by Death, Hazel launches into a bitter and desperate deal.

Death concurs.

The story then takes us on a whirlwind trip through myriad issues - the fleeting glamor of fame; lesbianism in public; the pressures of romance and domestic violence. But it was a complex sub-plot already half unfolded in Sandman itself.

Death of the Endless Graphic Novel Collections

Death's solo graphic novel adventures have been collected in two omnibus editions.

Absolute Death collates the two mini-series stories, alongside stand-alone chapters featuring Death from the main Sandman stories. The Sound of her Wings and Facade are the additional stories.

Death Deluxe merely gives us the mini-series tales in one single volume.

Absolute Death

Death Deluxe Edition

In the Midst of Life, We are in Death

Death is so full of life that she makes us glad to exist. After all, was living ever so precious as at the moment it's taken away?

When you think about it, there's something quite screwed up about Death from Sandman.

She's the kind of cool that we all want to be. She's beautiful and bubbly, warm and wise, making us all fall in love with her. Then she kills us.

To be fair, it's not Death that ejects us from this mortal coil, it's life. But the sight of her is pretty much the clarion call that our time is up. She causes us to be half in love with our own demise.

Yet she does it in such a way, as to make us truly appreciate living for the first time.

Nobody lives like Death. She gets excited about eating apples. She refuses to dwell on all that's ill. Try shouting in her face and she'll reply, 'No reason to turn down a perfectly peach keen half a hot-dog.'

She dances like there's nobody watching. She embraces adventure like there's no tomorrow. She wears top hats in the street, even when everyone's looking. Because top hats are great, and she knows that's what everyone is thinking when they look.

Death doesn't blink when people rant, rave and spin stories so fantastical that anyone else would be sneering by now. (She knows those reports could possibly be true.) Instead she cuts through to the crux of the matter and fixes it.

Or offers a hot-dog. Or a Band Aid. Or a needle and thread to sew the tear in your jeans. Or a trip outside your comfort zone, into a place that will possibly help you see the world anew.

She teaches us to reach beyond mere survival into the wondrous grasping of all that it means to be alive. Perhaps because Death, more than any being, knows how impermanent existence will be. She's heard every death-bed regret ever uttered. She learned to love life and smiles at it so fondly, as she snuffs it out.

Of all the Endless, Death seems the most like us. A better, brighter, more brilliant version of living, breathing things. Yet she is still Death, the destroyer of us all.

Now, would anyone like an apple?  They're deeee-lissssh!

The Endless Tributes: Death

A-NeilGaimanCharacter has collated this mixture of official and fan-made depictions of Death from Sandman.

Death Statues, Plush Toys and Action Figures

Vertigo: Death Statue

Death of the Endless comes for all of us eventually...but now you can get her before she gets you with this statue! Featuring a faithful re-creation of the haunting DEATH RETAIL...

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Death Miniature Statue Vertigo Randy Bowen

This collectible figurine features Death from 'Sandman', as sculpted by artist Randy Bowen.

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Mattel SDCC 2012 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Action Figure DC Universe Vertigo Death

Some envision Death as a grim reaper or dark angel to be feared. But as created by Neil Gaiman for DC Comics TM line of Vertigo comics, the Sandman`s older sister is pretty, perky and always gets the job done. She`s been around since the beginning...

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Death Plush

Death's arrival can come in unexpected forms, but never as unexpected as this loveable soft toy, one of the first two released by DC DIRECT. Standing 7" tall, the Sandman's sist...

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DC Direct Sandman: Action Figure of Death from Sandman

Death 5.25" action figure in black outfit with umbrella.

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DC Direct Death Variant Action Figure

Sandman's Death action figure, with top hat. Figurine of the Endless Death, as seen in 'The Sound of her Wings'.

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Updated: 03/16/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 03/04/2014

The thing that REALLY grabbed me about Sandman (other than the mythology etc) was the artwork. I think that you would.

Robin on 03/04/2014

you think even I would like reading this? me being the person that doesn't read and such.. :P

JoHarrington on 03/01/2014

Yay! Thank you for (nearly) reading it! <3

Ember on 02/28/2014

This is also going in my saving for later file :p <3

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