My first encounter with Death from Sandman wasn’t in Sandman. It was her guest appearance in The Books Of Magic, John Ney Rieber’s continuation of Neil Gaiman’s original Books Of Magic. Basically Harry Potter before Harry Potter existed. Big favorite of mine. When I started dabbling with Vertigo comics, this was one of my first, making me both a Books Of Magic fan and a Death fan. (Click to see more Death pages.)
Books Of Magic hasn’t aged as well for me as I wish it had. Seems a bit young-adulty now, and everything Death says in here feels a bit more cliched. But it still feels to me like the definitive Death. Whenever she pops up in Sandman, it feels like I have a weird little secret history with her— like when someone you know is on TV and you knew them in person first. I love how Gary Amaro and Peter Gross drew her, and I also really love Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh’s muted coloring choices in the Death pages.
Kinda funny to think that where superhero comics would throw in a Wolverine guest appearance in order to boost sales of a struggling new title, the Vertigo version of that was Death. Wolverine for goths.
In hindsight, every female character in Books Of Magic was a manic pixie dream girl. Sometimes literally.