Death: The High Cost of Living

Death: The High Cost of Living

Cover of Death: The High Cost of Living TPB.
Art by Dave McKean, featuring Tori Amos
Publication information
Publisher Vertigo Comics
Format Limited series
Publication date March, 1993 - May, 1993
Number of issues 3
Main character(s) Death of the Endless
Creative team
Writer(s) Neil Gaiman
Penciller(s) Chris Bachalo
Inker(s) Mark Buckingham
Letterer(s) Todd Klein
Colorist(s) Steve Oliff
Creator(s) Neil Gaiman
Mike Dringenberg
Editor(s) Karen Berger
Lisa Aufenanger
Collected editions
HC (Nov 1993) ISBN 1-56389-132-8
TPB (Jun 1994) ISBN 1563891336

Death: The High Cost of Living is an American comic book miniseries, written by Neil Gaiman with art by Chris Bachalo and Mark Buckingham. It is a spin-off from Gaiman's best-selling Vertigo Comics series The Sandman, featuring the Sandman (Dream)'s elder sister, Death of the Endless. Its premise is that Death takes human form once a century, to remain grounded and in touch with humanity,[1] an idea touched upon in several other media, for example in the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday and in the Terry Pratchett novel Reaper Man.

A movie based on this series has been in the works for several years in various stages of development and until recently was in the works at New Line Cinema. Gaiman had previously confirmed that this movie was in progress and that he was planning on writing the script and directing it, with Guillermo del Toro as executive producer. The film, which is currently on hold, was operating under the title Death and Me.

Publication history

Death: The High Cost of Living was originally published as a three-issue comic book miniseries, published monthly by Vertigo, DC Comics' mature readers imprint and cover-dated March to May 1993. It was the first stand-alone mini-series derived from the then-on-going Sandman series by Gaiman, and was written by him with artwork by Bachalo and Buckingham and covers by regular Sandman cover artist Dave McKean. The High Cost of Living was one of the first new titles published under the newly created Vertigo imprint, alongside Peter Milligan's Enigma, and is also notable for being one of the very few Vertigo comics to feature an alternative cover, as #1 did.[2] Vertigo's other output in its debut month consisted of a half-dozen continuing DC series, newly moved to the mature imprint. These continuing series' included Hellblazer and Gaiman's own The Sandman.[3]

Collected editions

The High Cost of Living became one of Vertigo's earliest hardcover collected editions when it was published as such in November, 1993. The collection was prefaced with a foreword written by Gaiman-fan and collaborator, singer Tori Amos, as well as the hard-to-find public service announcement AIDS-awareness 8-page comic Death Talks about Life.[4] This short comic was written by Gaiman and drawn by Dave McKean, and featured basic safe sex information about the transmission of HIV and AIDS. Included in issues of Sandman, Shade, the Changing Man and Hellblazer, it featured Death discussing life and demonstrating how to wear a condom through the use of a prop banana, and an embarrassed cameo from Hellblazer protagonist John Constantine.[1]

The hardcover collection was reprinted as a trade paperback in June 1994 under a new McKean cover, with identical content.


The mini-series shared the Comics Buyer's Guide Fan Award for Favorite Limited Comic-Book Series for 1993 with Frank Miller's Daredevil: The Man Without Fear.[5] For their work in the mini-series, Neil Gaiman and Karen Berger received Eisner Award in 1994 as Best Writer and Best Editor.[6]


The main character is a teenage girl named Didi, who appears to be an eccentric, orphaned goth, but who also insists that she is Death personified, taking her one-day every hundred-year sabbatical as a living person. She guides a suicidal young male protagonist called Sexton on a journey of self-discovery. As the story goes on, Sexton gains a reason for not wishing to die, his love for the girl claiming to be Death.

Gaiman's take, as he started in issue 8 of The Sandman, is a young, attractive, perky Death in this fresh interpretation of the concept. For it was said in Sandman 21: 'One day in every century, Death takes on mortal flesh, better to comprehend what the lives she takes must feel like, to taste the bitter tang of mortality.' Didi manages to eat from street vendors, run into a number of people including a megalomaniac known only as "The Eremite" (not overtly stated, but implied to be an alternate future version of Mister E, after his return from the end of time at Death's hands in the original Books of Magic miniseries), and a British woman named Mad Hettie who is looking for her heart.[1]

A character similar to Didi appears in Gaiman's American Gods, in which she is seen at Rock City where the "Old Gods" are about to go to battle with the "New Gods". Here, she is portrayed as a host of the Voodoo spirit Baron Samedi.

Film adaptation

For several years, a film based on Death: The High Cost of Living, to be called Death and Me, was under production at New Line Cinema. Gaiman wrote the screenplay, and would also direct, with Guillermo del Toro as executive producer. Gaiman spent several days on the set of del Toro's film Hellboy II: The Golden Army to get pointers on how to direct.[7]

Other than two additional scenes at the beginning (set in a Tibetan monastery and Alaska), and a move from New York City to London for the main setting, the screenplay was relatively unchanged from the comic script.

After being in development hell for several years, work on it was renewed in 2007, but quickly derailed again due to the WGA strikes.[8] According to Gaiman, the studio "may still be New Line, but Warner Independent is keen on it too." Shia LaBeouf may have had a role in the film, possibly as the lead character Sexton, due to his help in trying to get the movie developed.[9]

On October 14, 2010 it was reported in an interview with Gaiman that as of June or July, DC and Warner Bros. had closed down work on the film and it was unclear if they would start it up again.[10]

Other Sandman spin-offs

See also


External links

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