ISSUE #65: At Death’s Door

 

Welcome back to another shiny new Cover Tunes, everyone. I hope you’ve had a good week and if you’ve attended any of the conventions this season, either as a seller or a buyer, that you’ve done well. I attended Fanboy Expo in Knoxville, this past weekend and aspects of it were excellent while other aspects were not. Either way, I have a big treat from that show coming for you all later this week, so stay tuned for that.

This week, I’m featuring a beloved character of mine. She is one that I have admired since I began reading comics and she has certainly become a fan favorite for many, over the years. I’m talking about Death of the Endless (not to be confused with other incarnations of Death like the hooded Grim Reaper or, worse yet, a cheap lady rip-off of Vampirella).

The character is one of Neil Gaiman’s seven “Endless” characters used as archetypal representations of our seven predominant states of being (Dream, Death, Delerium, Destruction, Destiny, Desire and Despair). She is an ironic take on the traditional model of Death in that she is an attractive female who is usually casually down-to-earth and pleasant. There is nothing frightening about her. As the omnipotent and immortal representation of death, she not only ushers in death as one would expect, but also ushers in life. She is usually shown in black “Goth” clothing with an Ankh (the hieroglyphic symbol for life) around her neck and the ancient Egyptian eye of Horus (symbol of power and protection) around her right eye.

With recent news of a Sandman television show, Dream’s little sister has seen quite a bit of attention in the market. However, she is rather an obscure character with very few actual covers. She appeared in single or double appearances in a variety of Vertigo-esque books (and a few mainstream ones, as well), but usually only in cameo. It was really within the pages of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and a few of her own short mini series that we see her really shine.

Here are a few of her best covers…

A Death Gallery #1 (1994 One-Shot)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – January, 1994

ARTIST: Dave McKean

 

McKean is the man when it comes to Gaiman-related covers. His cover for Sandman #8 (Death’s first appearance) has become a formidable key issue. However, he has many other great artisticly manipulated photo/still life decopage covers and a few painted ones. The above is a fantastic example. They are albeit weird to some and may be an acquired taste for others, but they scream 80’s and 90’s Vertigo. His covers were always a lot more about masterful layout than anything else. The finished product is often moody and elegant.

 

Lucifer #25 (2000 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – June, 2002

ARTIST: Chris Moeller

 

Perhaps the most beautifully rendered cover for Death, this fully painted jobby is gorgeous. The entire comosition is amazing with the doves in the sky and the way Death sort of fades off toward the bottom as if she is spiritual. The best part of the cover is probably the prostrate Lucifer in Death’s arms. It is emotional and graceful. The color palette is well-chosen, as well, in that the purples lend a certain femininity to the piece which keeps it softer and serene than a typical cover depicting Death or an incarnation thereof.

 

Books of Magic #4 (1994 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – August, 1994

ARTIST: Charles Vess

 

Charles Vess is another name that is synonomous with Neil Gaiman’s work. While Gaiman didn’t write this particular series, he did create and write the original 4-issue mini series in 1990 for which Vess did an amazing cover. Vess’ style is perfect for the Endless in that it has a certain fragility to it. It is delicate and intricate and, as a result, has a beautiful elegance to it. It feels timeless and gentle. Those variables shine brightly on this cover. Even though there is a lot going on in this composition, it doesn’t ever feel cluttered or “argue with itself.”

 

Death: At Death’s Door #1 (2003 One-Shot)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – September, 2003

ARTIST: Jill Thompson

 

Yet another name that is closely linked with Neil Gaiman’s work, Jill Thompson brings a very playful style to Gaiman’s dark characters. In the instance of Death’s character, this lends very nicely to her perky demenor. With a much more cartoon-ish/anime style, this is a very different cover than other Death covers. It is not nearly as dark and brooding. Even though it is an expertly finished piece, I like the sketch cover nature of the look of it and it definitely appeals to a very different audience than that of the more austere McKean covers.

 

 Death: The High Cost of Living #3 (1993 Mini Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – May, 1993

ARTIST: Dave McKean

 

Rather than go through the same diatribe on McKean as I did above, I will simply say that this series is excellent from both a story perspective as well as from a cover perspective. Again, McKean uses his photographic elements extremely well, but on this #3, he takes it to a different level adding in much more artistic flourishes than on other similar covers. The result is a very haunting composition.

NOTE TO VARIANT HUNTERS: There is an error version and a corrected version of this issue. In the error version, pages 19 and 20 do not face each other. There is virtually no price difference although the error is a little tougher to find.

 

Death Talks About Life (1994 One-Shot)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – 1994

ARTIST: Dave McKean

 

In this little pamphlet sized book, Death talks about AIDS wih the help of Constantine, a banana and a condom. Use your imagination. The reason I like this little book is not only because it is scarce (especially in high grade since it is so thin and virtually all black), but because it showcases McKean’s regular interior-style pencil/ink work (he did both) in a simplistic rendition of the character. It shows that McKean knew the rules and chose to break them which is the mark of a true master. It was 8 pages and was a free promotional giveaway. Even though it is not easy to find, it is still rather cheap at $5-$10.

 

*****

QUICK HITS

 

*****

 

Action Comics #894 (1938 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – December, 2010

ARTIST: David Finch

 

Not much to say about this book that hasn’t already been said. It is a beautiful cover by Finch that can still be gotten for under $10 mostly because people have moved on to Captain Atom #42 as Death’s real 1st appearance in DC continuity. Note that there was a hard to find 1:10 variant for this by P. Craig Russell with Death also on the cover, but it isn’t a very good cover.

 

Madame Xanadu #6B (2008 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – January, 2009

ARTIST: Frank Quitely

 

Just a gorgeous cover and a slight departure for the character in that she is given a more Victorian feel. I love it as it fits the character perfectly. There is also a variant of this book by Amy Reader Hadley. It is the “A” cover and it’s decent, but not nearly as awesome as this Quitely “B” cover. This one is a little tough to find, but shouldn’t cost more than a couple bucks when you do.

 

*****

 

So, that does it for yet another week. I really hope Netflix and DC get this one right as I love this character and she has a legion of fans. I hope you all enjoyed it and, as always, drop a comment and tell me what you think. Until next time, be well, thanks for reading and happy hunting.

 

 

9 comments

  • Avatar

    sweet didn’t know about that Action Comics 894

  • Peter Renna

    Nice picks this week. I didn’t know about that Madame Xanadu. Gonna go looking for one now. If I can find one for a decent price.

  • Clint Joslin

    Mike GREAT read. That Lucifer is breathtaking. I really enjoyed getting to know this character and feel she stands out above other “goth” entities. Also, I am with Peter and had never seen that Xanadu cover. It gives me something else out there to chase in the wild! Thanks for another excellent piece!

  • Avatar

    Nice selection of covers. The Lucifer is my favorite.

  • Avatar

    Near Mint issue this week Mike. That Lucifer cover is amazing. 9.6 from me only because IMO that Finch cover is so much better than the Books of Magic but to each his own. Keep them coming.

    • Mike Morello

      Oh, I agree… the only reason I put the Finch in the quick hits was because so many people had already been talking about it as it was thought (for only about a week) that it was Death’s 1st DCU appearance. It was quickly realized that Captain Atom 42 was the real book for that honor. However, that certainly does not take away from just how beautiful the Finch is. Still definitely a book worth tracking down. I know I want one, that’s for sure.

      Thanks, so much, for the comment and the kind words. Always appreciate it very much.

  • Avatar

    ” it was Death’s 1st DCU appearance” – I don’t get this – Sandman always took place in the DCU. Multiple DCU characters appeared throughout the series. Swamp Thing was Vertigo and a DCU character so that shouldn’t be the thinking.

    • Mike Morello

      I agree wholeheartedly. My comment was merely stating that everyone jumped on the Action 894 train and didn’t do their research. Captain Atom is the clear choice IF (and only if) one cares about such semantics. For me, I’m with you… Sandman #8 for Death. It is THE book, it will always be THE book, there is no other book. End of story.

      • Avatar

        I agree as well and stated my case in the “All Things Sandman” post and will do the same here.

        In my opinion, The Sandman Universe was always a part of DC continuity. The series has direct ties with Swamp Thing and its offshoot Hellblazer, and all three series began pre-Vertigo as a part of DC’s ‘For Mature Readers’ Direct titles. When Vertigo was launched in 1993, the first Death mini series was its first title. It wasn’t until Sandman #47 when Sandman switched over to the Vertigo imprint. Up to that point, there had been many DC Continuity characters who appeared in the title. Wesley Dodds, the Golden Age Sandman is in Issue #1. Other characters that made appearances, Batman, Green Lantern (and multiple mentions of the Justice League), Etrigan The Demon, Martian Manhunter, Scott Free (aka Mister Miracle who even graces the cover of Issue #5), Granny Goodness, Doctor Destiny and Scarecrow, and that’s just in the first seven issues. Some may agree with my position, others may not, but to me there’s just too many tie-ins and interactions for Sandman not to be considered In-Continuity. I’m curious what other people think.

        I see Sandman and his siblings as part of the whole fabric of the DC Universe, kind of like gods, kind of like the very essences of their namesakes, existing regardless of having actual human form and being drawn on the page. When any DC character dies, Death is technically there. Same goes for any character that has a dream, or experiences desire, etc. That was part of Neil Gaiman’s genius where he not only ret-conned many things to tie the Sandman into DC’s history, but also linked it to many things in our real world history.

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