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Neil Gaiman's Interesting Thought Process Behind Death's Peculiar Personality In The Sandman

Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman" has officially reentered the public zeitgeist with the official release of the Netflix adaptation of the original DC comics. In it, seven powerful beings known as the Endless oversee the balanced continuance of mortal life. These Endless are Destiny, Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), Dream (Tom Sturridge), Destruction, Desire (Mason Alexander Park), Despair (Donna Preston), and Delirium. 

For the most part, these entities are characterized in a way that befits the standard assumptions for the natural force which they embody. Desire is mischievous and cruel; Despair is eternally sulky, and Dream is a moody e-boy. 

Death, however, defies stereotypes. While one might initially assume Death, the literal grim reaper, would be, well, grim, that's not true at all. This, as it turns out, was an intentional deviation on Gaiman's part and one that stirred the curiosity of fans. Here's why Death is so unique, according to the original author himself.  

Gaiman created the Death he'd feel comfortable meeting

During a Twitter-themed Q&A for Wired, Neil Gaiman answered @waterdargonn's question, "Why is Death so adorable in The Sandman?" In his response, Gaiman said, "Death is so adorable in The Sandman because I wanted to create the kind of Death that I would like to meet when my life is over. And I thought I would like a Death who is practical, a Death who is sensible, and a Death who is, above all, kind."

All of his descriptors are seen in Kirby Howell-Baptiste's performance as Death, especially in the episode entitled "The Sound of Her Wings," which sees Dream following Death as she ferries souls from this life to the next. To each soul, she's never cruel or impatient. Death provides a calm yet firm guidance that permits grief while transitioning, regardless of whether that soul has received eighty years of life or barely two.

Interestingly, Death's preferred attire, that is to say, chains, Doc Martens, and all-black clothing, is rarely associated (in media, at least) with a kindhearted character. This feels like another way that Gaiman subverted expectations with her. The gothic aspect of Death has little to do with who she is as a member of the Endless — that's just her aesthetic. Besides, who wouldn't want to be taken to the beyond by a friendly goth?