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Warlord #14, writing and art by Mike Grell, colors by Adrienne Roy, and lettering by Todd Klein.

When Death was bae

Contributed by
May 6, 2019

In the Major Arcana of the Tarot, the card of Death isn’t really a bad thing, which is why it was so awkward when this writer burst into tears and hid under a table the last time it came up during a reading. No, in the world of Tarot, Death means an ending as well as a new beginning. Rather than appearing as a pale demon or a portent of doom, Death is there to let us know that every season has to pass for the next one to begin.

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Death from the Paula Colman Smith deck.

The Tarot provides us with one of the healthiest, most charming ways to look at the inevitability of Death, and though Death might be a little scary, it’s nothing to be afraid of. Yet it isn’t the only idea rolling around out there about what the personification of the Grim Reaper might look like. For some, Death is a grim white skull under a dark black hood, silently wielding a scythe and hurrying people to the afterlife. In other interpretations, Death is a gentle entity that coaxes us delicately along to our final resting place.

Well, we here at FANGRRLS believe that Death could be all of these things and more. To that end, we came here to talk about what we feel are likely the most important personifications of Death — the ones where Death is a stone cold fox.

 

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Thanos Quest, written by Jim Starlin, art by Ron Lim, John Beatty, and Tom Vincent, lettering by Ken Bruzenak

The Dysfunctional Throuple that is Death, Deadpool, and Thanos

Here we have one of the most important love stories of all time. That’s right, we’re talking about the tempestuous tale of Death and Thanos and Deadpool. Though Deadpool has his own franchise and Thanos most recently showed up in a couple of high-grossing movies, this subplot never quite made it to the screen. Possibly because it involves more than one character full-on making out with Death.

Within the MCU canon, Thanos is motivated to snap half of the universe's population out of existence because he believes there aren’t enough resources to go around. That plan is terrible, so it might delight you to know that in the comics, Thanos is actually motivated by a very weird obsession with the living embodiment of Death, who in the Marvel Universe has hips that just won’t quit. As in the movies, Thanos is abusive and terrible, so it’s always pretty great to watch Death turn him down cold even after he kills millions of people just to get in her good graces.

Later, we discover that Deadpool actually began an affair with Death when he was teetering on the edge during his time at Department H. She appeared to him in his fever dreams, and one thing led to another. In this context, we don’t know what all that entails, but Death would appear every now and again to flirt and make out with Deadpool, which is a fun image to have stuck in your head for the rest of your life. Naturally, this led to a long-running animosity between Deadpool and Thanos until Deadpool realized he’s just not that into her and broke things off.

Marvel Death is a bizarre character for a few reasons, not the least of which being that she is a skeleton with boobs. Considering the fact that she could care less about having, you know, a face, it’s a pretty interesting choice for her to have made. Color us intrigued. Besides, we stan a woman who cons Thanos into destroying half the universe exclusively for her benefit and then refuses to return his texts.

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Warlord #14, writing and art by Mike Grell, colors by Adrienne Roy, lettering by Todd Klein

Warlord Meets Death

The comic book The Warlord by Mike Grell is one very strange story, focusing on a Vietnam vet who ends up stranded in the hidden mystical realm of Skartaris, a place where everyone wears way less clothing. In Warlord #13, the eponymous Warlord is very nearly taken out by a hunter named Stryker who shoots him full of tranquilizers. He spends Issue 14 unconscious and struggling against Death, who appears as a scantily clad babe trying to seduce him into joining her in the land of the dead.

These two run circles around each other for most of the issue, but in the end, Warlord resists Death’s siren call and returns to life. This only happens, however, after Death calmly assures him “all men are mine.”

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Sandman #8, written by Neil Gaiman, art by Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, and Robbie Busch, lettering by Todd Klein

Cool Death

While Death in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series might not be portrayed as particularly amorously inclined, she does present as a babe. Of all the forms she could have chosen, she specifically went for that of a goth rocker type with a great sense of humor, which is the exact type of pretty much everyone. Not to mention, the sensitivity she shows to the humans she deals with all day every day is truly profound, and we do indeed love a multifaceted Grim Reaper.

The Sandman is based around seven ancient gods in their present incarnations, one of whom is Death. She makes her first appearance in Sandman #8, meeting up with her brother Dream after he managed to escape the clutches of a weirdo who kept him trapped in a glass bottle for decades. Realizing he was at his weakest and thus needed to retrieve some of his totems that gave him strength, he ran into a group of humans that truly went wild in a diner one night. Issue 8 begins with him experiencing the god equivalent of an existential crisis, sitting on the stairs of a public building, feeding pigeons. Death casually strolls up and sits down, trying to cheer him up with some jokes, providing us with the first glimpse of humor at the end of a very intense story arc.

Death showed up many more times in the Sandman series and has become a visual icon even for a lot of people who have never read the comic. In the end, if we have to die, being gently cajoled to the netherworld by a rad babe cracking dad jokes is our preferred method.

 

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Claire Forlani and Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black (1998)

Meet Brad Pitt

Finally, what Death is dreamier than Joe Black, the Death who pretty much took on a human form just so he could flirt with a billionaire’s daughter. The billionaire (named Bill) fears death, but Joe Black says it’s no problem and he doesn’t have to die as long as he hangs around and shows Joe what life is like.

This Death woos Bill’s daughter Susan, who begins the movie in an unsatisfactory relationship with a very boring guy named Drew. Pretty soon, she’s making out with Death, not a care in the world. This is probably an upgrade from Drew, and we are here for it. Because the story is mostly about learning to accept death and to move on and let go of people when it’s time, this romance was not to end completely happily, but again, if Death looks like Brad Pitt circa 1998, sign us up.

It’s hard to know quite what to make of a story in which Death appears as a romantic figure. For Thanos, an obsession with Death led him down a dark path of tyranny and mass murder, while Warlord escaping Death’s seduction is a personal victory. For Joe Black, learning of his own nature as Death while helping others accept their own ends was the moral of the story, while in the Sandman Death is the most affable of all characters. There are a lot of ways to take these stories, but perhaps no one summed it up so well as the version Death that appears in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, who quietly admits at one point that, “Humans haunt me.” In genre, humanity’s inability to emotionally deal with Death is often reflected in Death’s surprising attempts to meet us on our level.

 

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