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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Death is a major supporting character in Neil Gaiman's critically acclaimed Sandman comic book series. Sandman is published by the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics. In addition to appearing in Sandman, Death has starred in her own self-titled miniseries (2 series of 3 issues each).
Death is known by other names in Sandman, including "Didi" and "Teleute." Death (capitalized) is the anthropomorphic manifestation of death (lower case), i.e., the principle of the end of life.
Death is one of the seven Endless, in Neil Gaiman's cosmogony. She is the oldest, although she appears the youngest. The other members of Death's "family" are: Dream (also call Sandman, or Morpheus), Destiny, Delirium, Desire, Despair, and Destruction. (Deaths's parents apparently had an odd sense of humor, naming all their children alliteratively, as they did.)
As for Death's actual religious affiliation, this has never been explicitly addressed in the Sandman comics, but presumably Death is non-denominational or pan-denominational. Death wears an ankh on her necklace. The ankh is the Ancient Egypt Cross of Life. Perhaps Death has an affinity for ancient Egyptian classical religion, or perhaps she's just being ironic.
Death is neither fair nor predictable, but she appears to believe in tolerance and inclusion, as she has never been known to exclude members of any religious, ethnic or other group from her embrace.
It is safe to say that Death is not a materialist, as she clearly believes in powerful cosmological entities such as herself.
Certainly adherents of all religious faiths and nearly all "secular" philosophies have specific doctrines about death. People in some religions seem to worship Death. Some people even use explosive devices to help them go to her quickly. Unfortunately, these individuals often bring many other people with them in their journey to Death, people who are not as fond of Death as they are. It is safe to say that even for these people who don't believe in Death, Death believes in them.
The physical appearance of Death's Earthly manifestation is based directly on a real-life Mormon that artist Mike Dringenberg knew in Salt Lake City, Utah. There is no indication within the text of the Sandman comics that Neil Gaiman thinks of Death herself as being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The character of Death in Sandman is an Earthly manifestation of Death itself, and as such, could presumably appear in any form it wishes to. There is probably no deeper meaning to why this particular woman was chosen as the basis for Death's physical appearance, other than the fact that the author and writer liked the look.
From: Leah Finkelshteyn, "Thwak! To Our Enemies", published in Hadassah Magazine, June/July 2003 Vol. 84 No. 10 (http://www.hadassah.org/news/content/per_hadassah/archive/2003/03_JUN/art.htm; viewed 19 June 2007):
Today, there may be fewer Jewish comics creators than in the past, but they are still making their mark in what has become an American institution struggling for legitimacy. The hot list - talents whose names on the cover are likely to ensure a title's popularity - includes writer Peter Allan David (Supergirl, DC, and The Incredible Hulk, among others); British import Neil Gaiman, writer of the award-winning The Sandman (Vertigo, a DC imprint), a series subtly peppered with midrashim; and author-illustrator Brian Michael Bendis, who in an article on his Web site, www.jinxworld.com, talks about coming up with ideas for his crime-noir titles on Passover...
Gaiman's Sandman series received the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story in 1991 for "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which made the series the first monthly comic to win a literary award.
Sandman gives flesh to concepts like dream, desire and destiny, but it is really about stories and the people who tell them. "Three Septembers and a January," a tale about not giving in to despair, stars Abraham Joshua Norton, self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States of America and part of San Francisco legend. A perky anthropomorphized female Death, based on a kabbalistic description of the Angel of Death, comes to claim the Jewish Norton at the end of the story: "They say the world rests on the backs of... 36 unselfish men and women," Death, a popular character in an extremely popular series, tells him. "Because of them the world continues to exist."...
From: "Religion of Comic Book Characters" forum discussion, started 29 March 2006 on AllSpark.com website (http://www.allspark.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4168; viewed 1 June 2007):
post Mar 29 2006, 08:38 AM
I found this great resource entirely by accident:
post Mar 29 2006, 11:08 AM
The League of Mormons!
I knew that Captain Canuck was LDS. The rest were a surprise.
That site is pretty cool for religious dorks like me. :thumbsup
post Mar 29 2006, 11:11 AM
It should be noted that Death technically isn't Mormon, but was listed under there anyway because her appearance was based on a Mormon girl that artist Mike Dringenberg met in Salt Lake City.
post Mar 29 2006, 11:13 AM
That Mormon girl [i.e., "Death"] was HAWT [i.e., "hot"].
On an online forum, these writers are commenting about Adherents.com's "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters" page. From: "The religion of comic book characters" forum discussion, started 3 December 2006 on RPG.net website (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=299781&page=5; viewed 25 April 2007):
12-04-2006, 09:16 PM
Re: The religion of comic book characters
Getting back on topic, The one that really surprises me is seeing Death as a Mormon. That really came out of nowhere for me. I'll never think of my favorite goth-girl the same way again.
12-04-2006, 10:59 PM
Quote: Originally Posted by Moonstone: The one that really surprises me is seeing Death as a Mormon. That really came out of nowhere for me...
Read the link, they just used a Mormon Goth-girl as a model for drawing the character.
12-05-2006, 04:50 AM
The fact that they've tried to place the Endless of Sandman into various religions amuses me greatly.
12-05-2006, 10:11 AM
Quote: Originally Posted by John Nowak: To be fair, though, I doubt it's the fault of the website. If the creators of the characters don't put more thought into the character's religion than "Native American Shamanism", it's a bit unfair to expect the website to be more specific.
If they list death as "Mormon" because a Sandman artist based her image on a girl he knew in Salt Lake, I'm disinclined to let them off the hook...
12-05-2006, 10:33 AM
Quote: Originally Posted by Phasma Felis: If they list death as "Mormon" because a Sandman artist based her image on a girl he knew in Salt Lake, I'm disinclined to let them off the hook.
That's fair. Calling Gaiman's Death a Mormon because of the original character design model is a silly conclusion to reach from bad data. In fact, it's so goofy it's tempting to wonder if it's a deliberate joke.
12-05-2006, 02:23 PM
Quote: Originally Posted by OldKentuckyShark: Next thing you'll tell me is that you DON'T believe in the United Church of the Holy Testament of Hating Spiderman!
That's canon. Dan Slott's JJJ:SOB #4, I think.
I see your point, but there's jokes, and there's jokes. "Hates Spider-Man" obviously isn't a religion, but it's easy to imagine someone unfamiliar with Gaiman's Sandman reading that and thinking there's a Mormon character named Death. And that's kind of going from "Joke" and going into "intentionally misleading."
From: "Religion and Superheroes, Not Just for Thor Anymore", forum discussion started by "Christian" on 4 May 2007 on "Voices from Beyond" website which provides forum service for "Straight to Hell: A Hellblazer Site" website (http://hellblazer.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=5540&st=0; viewed 10 May 2007):
May 4 2007, 12:55 AM
My alternate title for this topic was "Mommy, what religion is the Hulk?".
This web-site has a listing of most superheroes and supervillains and their religious affiliation. I've been having lots of fun with this site!
John Constantine is listed as a humanist...
Holy sh--! Death is Mormon! I kid you not! That blows my freakin' world!
All these questions and more will be answered here!
post May 4 2007, 02:46 PM
Death is listed as Mormon because her physical appearance was based on a Mormon woman Mike Dringenberg knew.
QUOTE [from the website]
"There is no indication within the text of the Sandman comics that Neil Gaiman thinks of Death herself as being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Isn't that dumb?
post May 5 2007, 12:23 AM
Oh. Yeah. It also ruins all the fun, thinking about Death being a practicing Mormon.
From: "The Church of Superman" forum discussion started 19 June 2006 on the "James Randi Educational Foundation" website (http://www.randi.org/forumlive/showthread.php?t=58627; viewed 15 May 2007):
19th June 2006, 06:03 AM
The Church of Superman
Hmmmm... the "religious" affiliations of comic book characters. Huh?
20th June 2006, 12:40 AM
...And I guess death is a Mormon. Who knew?
20th June 2006, 01:18 AM
re: And I guess death is a mormon. Who knew?
How else do you think they compile those huge genealogies?
From: medusasowl, "Four bright eyes gazed longingly", posted 8 January 2007 on "Owl's Soapbox and Sanctuary" blog website (http://medusasowl.livejournal.com/307648.html; viewed 24 May 2007):
Learn the religious affiliation of comic book characters! [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html] Harley Quinn is Jewish. Who knew! Death as LDS is a stretch though...
[User comments posted on this blog page:]
Jan. 9th, 2007 06:18 am
And Catwoman is Catholic! I totally believe that.
Death as LDS? Not sure I can see that. Harley as Jewish, yes.
Jan. 10th, 2007 12:53 am
...The LDS thing was a huge stretch due to her "possessing" or taking on the form of an LDS girl in one issue or another, I think it said. But Oooh! They might be doing a Death movie directed by Guillermo Del Toro! *squee!* Here's hoping! He does beautiful things for comics! *fangirls*
From: "Up, up, and oy, vey!", posted 5 February 2006 on MetaFilter.com website (http://www.metafilter.com/39326/Up-up-and-oy-vey; viewed 19 June 2007):
Nifty, Asparagirl (and hifiparasol). I didn't know Neil Gaiman was Jewish until those links, but I liked his inspiration for Death [link to: http://www.vamp.org/Gothic/Images/images/s-death3.jpg] in the Sandman series: "I once read that you die because you see the Angel of Death, and you fall in love. And you fall in love so hard your soul is sucked out through your eyes, and that's the moment of death. It's a lovely, strange old Jewish legend."
posted by blahblahblah at 10:00 PM on February 5
From: "OT: Religious superteams" forum discussion, started 13 February 2007 on "Soap Operus" website (http://www.gossiping.net/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=167&view=previous&sid=98473f5c220e5dd12ab4c10df9d53477&mforum=so; viewed 29 June 2007):
Posted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 3:15 pm
Religious superteams: Your favorite superheroes, sorted by faith. [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_collage.html]
Posted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 11:55 pm
That was kinda cool. People have written entire essays on the religious denominations of various super-powered folks...
Posted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 1:32 am
I'll repeat my criticisms of this list as I've done every time it's posted...
[I don't like the way that] Death [is] grouped under the Latter-day Saints (though the article on her itself mentions the reason why they've done so: her look is based upon a Mormon). The Endless themselves have said that they are of all faiths in their own way...