"I'm not merciful or blessed. I'm just me. I've got a job to do and I do it....When the first living thing existed, I was there. Waiting. When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I'll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave."
A generally kind and upbeat individual, though this was not always the case, billions of years ago she was quite cold and pragmatic. Everyone meets her twice: at birth she gives the breath of life, and everyone, from stars to gods, see her once more. At the end of time, when the universe dies, she claims that she will "put up the chairs, turn off the lights, and lock the doors behind me when I leave."
She loves her job and takes it very seriously. She has also taken the role of the maternal elder sister among her siblings. She can be frequently seen throughout the The Sandman series, serving as Dream's confidante, giving advice, and pointing out his faults or getting angry at the twins Despair and Desire for their "games", which often interfere with the other Endless' affairs.
She is closer to Dream than any other member of the family, and he sought her advice on several occasions.
Billions of years ago
Death of the Endless came into existence shortly after the first lifeforms appeared in the universe.
She is destined to function as the embodiment of both life and death until the very last living thing is dead. After that, she was destined to put the universe to rest. As she likes to put it: "When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I'll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave."
Death does not guide the soul of the dead into any particular afterlife, she is merely a gateway into what lies beyond.
80,000 years ago
After Despair was murdered, Death and the Endless went to the necropolis to put her body to rest. The necropolitans had long lost their passion for their job, and didn't know about the necropolis' arrangement with the Endless, so they laughed at them when they asked for Despair's cerements and the book of rituals. The Endless revoked the necropolis' charter, causing it to be destroyed. The village of Litharge was granted a charter by the Endless and became the new necropolis.
Destruction called a family meeting of the Endless, and announced to Death and the rest of his family that he was abandoning his duties as one of the Endless and taking his leave of them for good.
Dream made a bet with Despair that the power of dreams could save Joshua Norton from despair. He gave Joshua the dream of becoming Norton I, emperor of the United States. Death met with Dream and told him she had her doubts about what he was doing, especially since the elder members of the Endless usually avoided the games Despair, Desire and Delirium engaged in.
Emperor Norton I died, and Death took him. She told him that she had taken every king, emperor and ruler in history into the afterlife, and of all those she'd met Norton was by far her favorite.
Death spent one day of the century as a mortal, as was her custom. She took the form of a peasant girl and spent the day by the Yangtze River with a young ox driver who told her his grand schemes and plans.
Death met up with her brother Dream and yelled at him for not getting a hold of her earlier after he'd been released from decades of imprisonment. She told him to stop moping just because he felt purposeless after finishing a quest to retrieve his helm, pouch and Dreamstone. Death had him accompany her while she went about her work and cheered him up a good deal.
Death heard Element Girl crying and went to talk to her. Element Girl hated her life as a metamorph, and asked Death to take her. Death told her she couldn't but since Ra made the metamorphs she advised Element Girl to speak to him, to speak to the sun, and kindly ask him for an end. Element Girl took Death's advice, and Ra took her life. Death wished Element Girl better luck in her next life.
Destiny called a gathering of the Endless, telling them a meeting with the Fates made him aware that he had to call the family gathering to set in motion a chain of events that would cause change and upheaval. During the course of conversation Desire got under Dream's skin by reminding him of Nada. Dream was indignant, but Death said she agreed with Desire, sending his lover to Hell for spurning him was an awful thing to do. Dream vowed to make amends by journeying to Hell and saving Nada's soul.
Dream asked for Death's advice on what he should do with Hell. She was confident he'd figure things out, and couldn't stay to chat because she was very busy containing all the souls Lucifer Morningstar freed from Hell when he abdicated his realm.
Death came to take Charles Rowland into the afterlife, but his spirit wouldn't abandon his friend, Edwin Paine. Death explained that she had already taken Paine, one of the souls released from Hell when Lucifer retired. Rowland refused to leave his friend, so Death, who was already completely overworked, allowed Rowland to remain on Earth as a ghost.
Death took Wanda Mann, who was killed when the witch woman Thessaly brought the moon down to the Earth. Before they left for the afterlife she let Wanda wave goodbye to her good friend Barbie.
Death took Bernie Capax, one of Destruction's old friends. When Destruction left the Endless he set up a safeguard that would make it difficult for his family to track him down, and it caused the deaths of several of his friends when Dream and Delirium sought him out.
Dream called Death to the Dreaming for advice after he ended his search for Destruction. Death was angry with him because when Dream refused to continue seeking Destruction he was harsh with Delirium, and as a result she closed off her realm. Death told him she was worried Delirium might leave the Endless like Destruction did, and she advised he apologize to her for being so rude.
On a parallel Earth Death took Prez into the afterlife. Death didn't like the fact that in that world's afterlife Prez would be in the hands of Boss Smiley, so she told Dream of her interest in Prez and asked him to save Prez from Smiley.
Death met Dream and correctly guessed that he'd let things go so far in his battle against the Kindly Ones because he wanted to leave his role as Dream of the Endless, but couldn't abandon his post like Destruction did. The Kindly Ones arrived and Dream allowed them to destroy him in order to save the Dreaming, and Death took Dream.
Death appears as an young, attractive, slim woman of average height in her early to mid 20's. She has very pale skin, dark eyes, long jet-black hair that she wears in a variety of styles and has an Eye of Horus painted under one of her eyes.
She prefers to dress casually and she always wears black clothing usually in the form of a black tank top and slim jeans and occasionally a black multi-tiered/ruffled skirt, and a pair of opaque black tights. Death has a variety of accessories including top hats, spiked bracelets, and a leather jacket. Despite her dislike of formal wear, Death does on occasion wear Victorian style dresses. Sometimes she carries an umbrella or cane but her most notable accessory is a silver ankh which she wears on a chain around her neck.
She has been described as 'goth' in appearance and many people, both men and women consider her to be very beautiful. Also although she is the second oldest of the Endless, her appearance makes her look as though is the youngest, with the exception of Delirium.
Death, to the surprise of many, is exceptionally kind, cheerful, laid-back, and compassionate. Also, despite her virtually infinite power, authority, knowledge, and influence she is shown to be extremely easygoing and humble. She prefers to dress and act casually, disliking formal dress and events, to the surprise of many who encounter her--and who they assume would be an ominous personage.
As the second oldest of the Endless, Death has taken on a maternal role among the siblings and has a good relationship with all of them, but Dream in particular. She takes offense when he thinks that she wouldn't care about his issues, reprimanding him for moping around after reclaiming all of his powers, when he could have just gone off to do something else or talk to her when he's feeling down.
Death despite her job description has always been the perkiest of the Endless. While Destiny, (the eldest of them) is very cold and detached, Death is warm and caring and she has taken the role of the peace-maker among the siblings. She can be frequently seen throughout the The Sandman series serving as Dream's confidante, giving advice and pointing out his faults or getting angry at the twins Despair and Desire for their "games", which often intervenes with the other Endless' affairs. She is closer to Dream than any other member of the Endless, and he sought her advice on several occasions. She also has shown that her job takes a backseat when it comes to her family, unlike Dream and Destiny, both of whom seem to take their job seriously.
Out of all the Endless, she is the most affectionate towards humanity, and she is the one who is most able to relate to humans. Some have interpreted the statement on Death loving a mortal, and assuring their downfall as a reversed statement; since everyone will die at some point or other, this could mean that Death loves everyone.
Death, by her own admission, was not always who she now is. At the beginning of time, she thought she had the hardest job among the Endless, and it made her unhappy - so sad, in fact, she stopped doing it. When nothing died, chaos reigned, and she was begged to return to her realm. She did so, but she became "hard and cold and brittle inside." A suggestion of this could be seen in Endless Nights: The Heart of a Star in her arrogant and icy attitude. Her demeanor didn't change until she was asked by one she collected; "How would you like it?" After that, she resolved to live for one day as mortal to see how she liked it, and what she could learn. It was only after her taste of mortality that she altered the way she thought about her job. She decided that at the end, most would be glad for the company of a friend, and that was what she tried to become.
Despite Death's kind and gentle nature she is able to inspire great fear and intimidate the most fearsome and persistent of cosmic forces, including beings such as The Three and her own sibling, Desire.
Powers and Abilities
Death is perhaps the most powerful member of the Endless and is certainly one of the most powerful beings in the universe, being the anthropomorphic embodiment of a universal fact.
Death was once referred to as "she who trumps and defines all of existence".
Death has the power to free the soul of a body and escort a soul to its appropriate destination. Death sometimes leaves this task to various death gods. For death gods or demons to claim a soul instead of Death herself, they usually have to have a valid claim on the soul; either a contract with the deceased or the deceased worshiped the death god's pantheon. The exact nature of the relationship between death gods and Death itself is unknown.
- Omnipresence: Being Death, she is everywhere on Earth at any moment, but not in a form visible to humans, usually. She can travel instantly anywhere in the mortal realm, and, so long as she shows proper respect, she can easily enter and transit most magical realms, too. Death apparently is also there at the time of one's birth and can infuse a body with life. She commonly does this at the time of birth or at certain times to give another a second chance (reincarnation) the criteria for the latter is not known.
- Omniscience: Death is possibly the most powerful of the Endless having been shown (in a flashback in Brief Lives) to be virtually omniscient and being able to intimidate the Furies, who show no fear of the other Endless, simply by raising her voice. She can see all possible futures and ends for all the beings who fall under her auspice.
- Immortality: Death is ageless and virtually immortal. It was stated that she would be the last thing in existence, and she would lock the door of the universe behind her. She outlived even Destiny who is seen claimed by her in The Book of Magic when Mr.E and Tim go to the end of time.
- Shape-shifting: Death can change her size, appearance and clothing instantly at will.
- Ancient Rules: Death is the only member who is mentioned to not bounded by the rules Endless follow,like Destruction said: she can do whatever she wants to
Behind the Scenes
- Death's look was inspired by the late model, Cinamon Hadley, who was a friend of Neil Gaiman and Mike Dringenberg.
- It is known that Death takes a mortal form in order to understand her charges on Earth, but it is unknown whether or not she does this on other worlds also.
- In Madame Xanadu #6, Death was referred to as "she who trumps and defines all of existence".
- Unlike her siblings, Death's speech bubble is completely normal, which is suggestive of the idea that she is the most 'human' of the endless. Notable in that she is the one Endless who does not have a special style of lettering or speech bubbles, perhaps to emphasize that of all of them,
- Death's sigil is the symbol of life, an ankh, which she often wears as a necklace. While the ankh is said to have immense power, it seems able to be easily replaced as the texts describe an instance where the Order of Ancient Mysteries conspired to steal her necklace to uncover its powers but found it worthless. When Death was next encountered, she had simply replaced it with an ankh bought from a novelty shop.
- Stating that she's "the girl everyone eventually dies to meet," Death of the Endless was ranked 2nd in Comics Buyer's Guide's 100 Sexiest Women in Comics list, coming in just behind the winner, Red Sonja. Death was the only Vertigo character to appear on the list.
- There are many characters in DC that are known as "Death gods" or are somehow connected to death, it is said that she represents "death as a comforting release", whereas Nekron represents "death as the ultimate opponent". The Black Racer represents Death for the New Gods and the Black Flash represents Death to speedsters/speedforce users. However, Neil Gaiman along with DC Comics have confirmed that Death of the Endless is the ultimate personification of Death after the controversial comic issue Captain Atom #42 in which Death of the Endless is presented as a mere aspect or representation of death. The relation (or lack thereof) of Nekron and others to this character remains a mystery.