Gothic Icon: Death of the Endless

When the last living thing dies, her job will be finished…. What could be a more obvious gothic icon than the physical manifestation of death herself? Today I want to highlight Death of the Endless, a character from Neil Gaiman's comic book series The Sandman.

The Sandman was a DC Comics series running from 1989 to 1996 that chronicled the story of Dream (also known as Morpheus or the Sandman), one of seven deities that personify particular concepts. Dream's older sister, Death, first appeared in Volume 2, number 8 (August 1989). Apart from being the embodiment of the concept of death, this character also acts as a psychopomp, escorting the newly deceased into the afterlife. When we first meet her in Volume 2, Death is accompanied by Dream as she travels around the world, visiting people in their final hour. Her perky attitude contrasts with this dreary job, and her zen outlook on life and death helps many characters to find peace. She often serves as a confidant and nurturing figure for her brother Dream.

The character of Death was co-created by author Neil Gaiman and artist Mike Dringenberg. In fact, Dringenberg exerted more creative control over Death's design than he did most the other Sandman characters. He based her appearance on a friend of his—a real-life young goth woman named Cinamon Hadley. Death tends to dress in all-black modern clothing, like jeans and a tank top. She has dark hair, teased into the voluminous Siouxsie Sioux-esque style that defined '80s goth fashion. She always wears a large ankh necklace and sports an Eye of Horus design around her right eye—both Egyptian symbols associated with death and the afterlife.

Death's style is easy to imitate, since her iconic look is made up of only a few simple elements. She's probably one of the easiest closet cosplay options for any goth who finds themself at a comic convention. But even more than her style, it is Death's outlook on life that is worth emulating. Death defies the stereotype that goths are always gloomy and morose. Instead, Death makes a point to enjoy life, reveling in simple joys and making an effort to be compassionate to those around her—both the humans in her care and her fellow Endless. Perhaps for these reasons, Death continues to be one of the most beloved comic book characters, decades after The Sandman was first published.

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