If you’ve followed the DC animated movie scene over that past thirteen years or so, you’ll know that alongside the main features released primarily on DVD and Bluray there are sometimes additional short films released alongside those features. These are typically branded as part of the DC Showcase series (referring back to this anthology series of comic books) and are short films of about 10 minutes or so featuring a more obscure or second tier character from the DC universe.
The current DC Showcase series of films include:
- The Spectre – Featured on the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths distribution
- Jonah Hex – Featured on the Batman Under the Red Hood distribution
- Green Arrow – Featured on the Superman/Batman: Apocalypse distribution
- Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam – A longer short film that was distributed independently of any DVD or Bluray release.
- Catwoman – Featured on the Batman: Year One distribution.
All of these titles can also be found on the DC Showcase Original Shorts Collection which includes extended versions of several of these stories.
In the most recent Wonder Woman animated film from DC – Wonder Woman: Bloodlines – the Bluray includes one of the new DC Showcase stories, that of Death from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman universe, whose characters are increasingly more connected to the mainstream DC stories. In the story, Death, one of the Endless is encountered by a struggling artist, Vincent. Wrestling with his inner demons – portrayed as firey demonic figures – and the loss of his passion as an artist, Vincent’s encounters Death as he approaches the end of his life, and in painting her banishes the demons and comes to terms with his life. Killed in a fire, all the remains of him and his work is the painting of Death, which will become his enduring masterpiece.
The film is short and rings true to the characterisation of Death found in both Sandman and spinoff comics such as Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life. Death here is powerful and relentless, but not without some elements of compassion and empathy.
This has me thinking about other places Death is personified in popular culture. Places like Death in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, or in Supernatural, and any other number of places the Biblical figure of Death as one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse turns up. For example, I just picked up a copy of the book, Death Wins a Goldfish: Reflections from a Grim Reaper’s Yearlong Sabbatical written by Brian Rea.
Pondering whether an edited collection of essays on Theology and Death in popular culture might be something to investigate.