"Take away the despair and there is nothing left. Nothing but an empty room, and a hook of the perfect shape and size for snagging your heart."
Despair and her older twin, Desire, are second youngest of the Endless. Despair's sigil is a hooked ring she wears on her left hand which she uses to tear into her flesh. Her realm is a gray, foggy space filled with rats and mirrors which she uses to look upon people in their despair.
Despair is most often seen as a short, naked, rotund woman with pointed teeth and black hair tied into a bun. She has no odor, but her shadow has been described as smelling musky and pungent, like the skin of a snake.
The first incarnation of Despair was marked with intricate lines.
The incarnation of Despair seen in the bulk of the Sandman episodes is the second incarnation. While similar to her previous incarnation in shape, this Despair is gray and shorter.
Despair is perpetually somber and monotone, yet she maintains a cold, quietly intelligent manner. While she seeks to sow misery and unhappiness through tragedy, she is not an active enforcer in this regard, and mostly allows misfortune to happen at its natural pace. Regardless, Despair still takes delight in it, and often is encouraged to cause it if Desire convinces her to. She has a habit of carving her flesh with a hooked ring, her sigil.
Despair's first incarnation was more talkative and self-assured than her second incarnation.
In the distant past, she was the first of the Endless to be destroyed and reformed. How or why she was destroyed is not currently known. It was said "that another aspect of one of us had re-assumed the position." It is unclear if the current Despair was, like Daniel, another being who became one with the personification of one of the Endless.
In 19th century San Francisco, Despair challenged Dream to a contest over a failed businessman, to see which of them had more sway over the lives of mortals. Dream gave Joshua Abraham Norton the dream of being Emperor Norton I, which kept him from falling into the depths of despair, as well as keeping him from the traps set by Desire and Delirium. By so doing he won the contest, angering Desire.