Neil Gaiman in 1989 created Sandman aka Morpheus aka Dreamer. This would become one of his most famous creations. 8 issues into the series he showed us a charavter who has been around since time it self DEATH.
But unlike the version depicted in all of cinema and tv up to that point this was a perky little goth girl. She would be the living embodiments of Death, but in a fun way. The original apearence of Death before the Crisis On Infite Earths is Werird War Tales #8. The artist on the Vertigo book was Steve Dringenberg. Marvel has their own version who is coveted by Thanos, the Avenger villian.
She tries to help her brother Dream lighten up after the crap he went thru with Dr.Destiny in the previous issues.
Death design is based on a singer.
Neil Gaiman is quoted below about Death
“Death is the only major character whose visuals didn’t spring from me; that credit goes to Mike Dringenberg. In my original Sandman outline, I suggested Death look like rock star Nico in 1968, with the perfect cheekbones and perfect face she has on the cover of her Chelsea Girl album.
But Mike Dringenberg had his own ideas, so he sent me a drawing based on a woman he knew named Cinamon Hadley the drawing that was later printed in Sandman 11 — and I looked at it and had the immediate reaction of, “Wow. That’s really cool.” Later that day, Dave McKean and I went to dinner in Chelsea at the My Old Dutch Pancake House and the waitress who served us was a kind of vision. She was American, had long black hair, was dressed entirely in black — black jeans, T-shirt, etc. — and wore a big silver ankh on a silver necklace. And she looked exactly like Mike Dringenberg’s drawing of Death”
She would return a few issues later to help a transgender Metamorpho with identity confusion.
Then in 1993 She got her own series. This is how I learned of the character and was hooked ever since. Death the High Cost of Living and in 1996 Death the Time of Your Life. Both were written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Chris Bachalo.
In both stories she is taking a day off to help those in need. High cost is considered the better of the two.
Death demonstrates safe sex by placing acondom on a banana held by John Constantine. Lightening the impact of the underlying message, she informs the reader that when one is through with the demonstration, “you can eat the banana.” This was used in high school health classes and is also reprinted as an addendum to the Death: The High Cost of Living trade paperback.
There is a third Death series, but she never appears and acts more as a force of nature. So similar to what she is in real life.
Recently DC published all Death stories and art in one volume except the manga.
She had a DC manga series as well called At Deaths Door by Jill Thompson.
She made two appearance in the Marvel Universe, at the wedding of Rick Jones and Marlo Chandler in The Incredible Hulk #418 (handing Marlo a hair brush, a visual pun referring to Marlo’s recent ‘brush with death’).
Then in the JLA Avengers crossover she appears with the Marvel Universe Death, and Dead man a DC character.
Death appeared in Action Comics #894, which was written by Paul Cornell. Cornell confirmed that Neil Gaiman has given his approval for the use of Death in the storyline. In the story, while searching for a black power ring. Luthor had encountered the rings in the Blackest Night story arc. Death never appeared and I never learned why.
Lex Luthor has a conversation with her in that issue. The cover is by David Finch and one of my favorite drawings of her.
She appears again in Action Comics #900 and in The Flash(vol. 3) #6, part of the Brightest Day crossover.
In the DC television series Arrow, a younger Felicity Smoak is shown with black hair and an ankh necklace as a subtle nod to Death
Death has yet to show up in the new 52, we can only assume it’s a matter of time before she shows up in new The Sandman series or one of the other supernatural DC books.