?Deep down we’re all a little afraid of death. It’s one of the few big question marks still around for humanity. What happens when you die? Does it hurt? Do you go anywhere? Does it all just go dark? To try and understand death, humans have personified it in an effort to try and glean some glimpse of insight into the process. This process has created innumerable personifications of death, from vengeful reaper to a goth chick who’s actually pretty cool and just about everything in between.
We put together a list of the coolest, weirdest and best versions of Death, basically the versions we hope are completely off base or are dead-on accurate (puns!). You might recognize a couple Deaths from our Awesome Afterlives list a few weeks back — because when you have an afterlife, chances are you have a Death that brought them there. But still, this list is all about the reapers, grim and otherwise.
12) Death on Family Guy
Is it ironic that one of the coolest interpretations of Death comes from a show that was resurrected? Probably not, but it’s kind of an interesting coincidence. In his first appearance on the series, Death was a more laid back, asshole-ish version of the reaper than we’re used to and was voiced by Norm MacDonald. He popped up several times afterwards, suddenly voiced by Adam Carolla, with full episodes devoted to him getting laid up in the Griffin household while Peter takes over his responsibilities and another where Peter tries to hook him up on a date.
11) Angel of Death
?For months before the release of Hellboy II: The Golden Army, fans saw images of the impressively creepy Angel of Death. Knowing that the sequel wouldn’t take as much from the existing comics, but branch out into its own thing, we were uber curious about how this rad looking being played by special effects actor Doug Jones would figure into the story. In the end, she appeared once and didn’t really do a whole lot, pulling a shard out of Hellboy’s chest and telling Liz Sherman to give HB something to live for. Yawn. Well, at least the Angel LOOKED cool, even if she didn’t do much of interest.
10) Marvel’s Death
?Probably the most interesting aspect of Marvel’s incarnation of Death is that she has so purely and completely made the mad Titan Thanos her bitch. Dude was one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel U and even wielded the all powerful Infinity Gauntlet, but when it came to this purple robed broad with a skeleton face, he was like a 12-year-old girl reading through the all Bieber issue of Tiger Beat. Her next biggest accomplishment? Killing Captain Marvel… with cancer.
9) Black Racer
?Jack Kirby’s embodiment of death for New Gods might have been named a little on the nose, but he’s still got a great visual. Or at least had one while he was still alive. Literally riding around the cosmos on a pair of skis and keeping himself on track with poles, the Black Racer was fused with human Sgt. Willie Walker in Kirby’s Fourth World epic and went on to become one of the many versions of death in the DC Universe. Supposedly one of the more stalwart and undeniable incarnations of death, we’ve seen the Racer talked out of killing Steel by Superman and then got iced himself.
8) The Kids In The Hall’s Version
The first new Kids in the Hall material in years, Death Comes to Town, offered fans a multi-part mystery with the citizens of Shuckton trying to figure out who killed the mayor and stuffed his head into a mailbox. With their usual flare for irreverent humor, the Kids created a death who hangs out in hotel rooms, drinks owl blood and holds a grudge against a kid. See, the kid was supposed to be aborted, but wasn’t because Death showed up late. He’s basically the one that got away. Mark McKinney nailed the character with a perfectly over the top performance and costume which consisted of a speedo, scythe and crazy hooded robe.
7) Black Flash
?A superhero has to be pretty badass to have an entire version of death in place just to track down them and their kind. That’s the case with DC’s Black Flash, which is the personification of death for speedsters like the three Flashes, Impulse, Kid Flash, Max Mercury and the rest. Considering the number of times Wally West has outrun the Black Flash and the fact that Barry Allen and Max Mercury have come back from the Speed Force after being chased down by him, we’re thinking the Black Flash isn’t so good at his job. Hey, chin up buddy, you’ve got Johnny Quick… for now.
6) Judge Death
?If you’re reading TR, you probably already know that Judge Dredd wasn’t just a completely random movie starring Sylvester Stallone from 1995 but also a long running British comic that has spawned some of the biggest names in the comic book universe over the years. The aptly named Sydney De’ath started out as dentist and become an undead killing machine whose sole desire for the eradication of life and therefore crime put him at direct odds with Judge Dredd. So rad is Judge Death’s design that he’s starred in his own comics and even got his very own action figure in Toy Biz’s now defunct Legendary Comic Book Heroes line of figures based on alternative and independent comics.
5) Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey
Yeah, we know that the board game playing version of death from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey is a play on Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, but frankly, we prefer a Death who wants to play games for our immortal soul and frankly sucks at them. Losing at everything from Twister and Clue to electric football and Battleship, William Sadler’s portrayal of Death may try to trick you out of the spoils of victory, but in the end he’s a man of his word. We bet he sucks at Halo 3, too.
?The recent big bad behind DC’s Blackest Night event, Kronos rules a dead dimension and wants to add every universe to his realm. He plotted for years to attack the DC Universe by allowing dead heroes to come back to life and using his Black Lantern rings to bring the unresurrected dead back to life after a fashion. Heck, this dude’s so powerful that he not only enslaved the Anti-Monitor — yeah, the guy who helped bring an end to the multiverse in Crisis on Infinite Earths — but also made also-ran villain Black Hand seem like a cool bad guy.
3) Final Destination‘s Death
To paraphrase Tony Todd’s Bludworth in the first installment of the Final Destination series Death is one mack daddy you don’t want to fuck with. Truer and more hilarious words have rarely been spoken. Not so much a person in the Final Destination movies, Death is more of a force of nature with set of rules and a really nasty sense of humor. This death gets off on revenge killings that would make Rube Goldberg jealous, using the slightest changes in a person’s surroundings to eventually do them in. Whether making a kid slip and accidentally hang himself in a shower or dropping a huge plate glass window on another, this version of death always goes after the one who got away, but even he has to follow his own rules.
2) Death of The Endless
?Neil Gaiman’s version of Death is the one we’d most like to meet when our time comes. He got rid of the scythes, flowing cloaks and scariness by making the reaper a 20-something looking young woman who looks like she should be hanging out at a coffee shop waiting for open mic night instead of assisting your soul off this mortal coil. Used almost exclusively in Gaiman’s Sandman book from Vertigo, Death did make a few random appearances in mainstream DC comics like Captain Atom and Legion of Super-Heroes.
1) Death of Discworld
Death of Terry Pratchet’s Discworld book series might be the most well-documented, non-mythical version of death ever with appearances in nearly all of the almost 40 books, not to mention two animated series’ based on those books. Keeping a usually detached yet curious eye towards humanity, Death has done everything from adopting a human daughter to being a Horseman of the Apocalypse and building a wonky house to taking a vacation from his position and joining the army. Plus, he seems like a generally alright way to go. Sure he’s not a hot chick, but every now and then he’ll let someone slide a bit. Seems like a good dude all around.