Monday, 17 September 2007

A Tribute to the Wonderful Deaths of Pratchett and Gaiman (Which Is Not What You Think)

(Disclaimer: This post was written with no knowledge whatsoever of the death of Robert Jordan at the time, and thus should not be taken out of context...)


Death is such a morbid subject that you'd hardly expect anyone to turn it into something funny and comely, let alone pretty and flirty.

But that's what some writers have done, depicting Death as more than just a skeleton in hooded cloak wielding a scythe. Or in some cases, as the devil himself.

But then again, if you're an avid fan of Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett, you're probably used to your Deaths having a little more meat in them, both metaphorically and literally speaking.

These two authors are responsible for perhaps two of the most wildly popular and unique 'Deaths' in the modern fantasy age - Pratchett with his cat-loving, Binky-riding, CAPS-LOCK-SPEAKING Death; and Gaiman with his cute, sweet, floaty and ultimately charming little vixen of a Death in the Sandman series.

No surprise then, that when these two got together to write Good Omens, the Death in that book (along with the other three riders of the apocalypse) turned out to be very odd indeed (though I have to say that the GO Death reminds me more of Pratchett's Death).

Ah yes. Pratchett's Discworld Death. At first glance, he looks like the conventional stereotypical Death, ie. a skeleton in a hooded cloak, wielding a scythe. But wait. What sort of Death:
  • Rides a white horse named Binky (The fiery horse kept setting the stables on fire, while the skeletal one kept falling apart)
  • Has a soft spot for kittens
  • Has a granddaughter named Susan
  • Has indoor plumbing in his house that does not lead to anywhere.
  • Has been a rockstar, a farmer, and even Santa Claus at one point

(Drawings of Death by Paul Kidby, taken from

Nope, DW Death is not your conventional Death indeed. He's appeared in almost every Discworld book that Pratchett's written, and he's even got his own sub-series, comprising Mort, Reaper Man, Hogfather and Soul Music (did I miss any?).

Gaiman's version of Death, however, is probably one of the most inspired, enigmatic, endearing and morbidly er... infactuatious (as in infactuation-inducing) characters in the series.

Death the Eternal is the elder sister of The Sandman himself. No skeletons and cloaks for this Death - she's a cute, chirpy young gal dressed mostly in black, jeans, and has one heck of a scruffy hairdo. She also wears this silver ankh symbol around her neck, and has some weird pattern on her right eye.

It's hard to believe a character as ominously morbid as Death could be so endearing and cute, and yet so sad at the same time. Death is like the perfect foil to the glum and dreary Dream, and next to the floaty Delirium, she's my favorite character in Sandman.

She's also got two mini-series of her own, both written by Gaiman as well - Death: The Time of Your Life, and Death: The high Cost of Living.

Like I mentioned before, Gaiman himself is directing the movie for Death: The High Cost of Living. That's somewhat good news, because then we'd be sure he will be able to keep the essense of the character intact and not turn it into a parody of itself like a certain Ghostly Mat Rempit was reduced to recently. Then again, he might just screw up the rest of the movie, but who cares? It's DEATH!

So here's to two of my favorite authors, who have so far come up with the best 'deaths' I know of: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett!


PS: Other 'cool' Deaths in pop culture I know of include:

South Park:
Death shows up in South Park and chases the kids, and finds time to watch and laugh at Terrence and Philip farting at each other. He eventually ends up killing Kenny. You Bastard!

Family Guy
: Portrayed as a "loser" who still lives with his mother, has asthma and has never had a successful date. He apparently hates the fact that he is dead and the fact that he has no ass. (Wikipedia)

Marvel Comics: Another 'girl' Death, but also depicted as a skeleton with a PURPLE robe. Why PURPLE????

(From The Death of Captain Marvel, by Jim Starlin)

Anyone can come up with more pop culture Deaths from books or movies?

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