10 Most Heartbreaking Deaths In The Comics, Ranked

ytsfreeSeptember 15, 2022

Content Warning: The following article contains spoilers for the Sandman comics and discussions of suicide.


Netflix’s The Sandman introduced some iconic characters from Neil Gaiman’s renowned comic book series. Its faithful adaptation of the storylines from the comics has resulted in some upsetting deaths in some episodes, which include the kittens from A Dream of a Thousand Cats and Unity Kinkaid’s sacrifice for Rose Walker.

Fans of the comics know the deaths on the show barely touch the surface of the shocking demise some characters have in the source material. The most heartbreaking among them often happens to beloved characters with tragic storylines, most of which will hopefully be depicted in the Netflix adaptation in potential future seasons.

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10 The Kittens

It may revolve around cats, but A Dream of a Thousand Cats has one of the most disturbing moments in the Sandman comics. Viewers got a chance to see the event that motivated the Siamese leader to go on her quest to transform reality – the death of her kittens.

Her heartless owners did something far too common in real life, placed the kittens in a bag and threw them away. While the scene is undoubtedly painful, it’s used more as an instrument rather than a central event in the comics. The Siamese cat’s message resonates more than her kittens’ deaths.

9 Emperor Norton I

Based on the real-life historical figure, Joshua Abraham Norton, the comics twist his story to involve the Endless and their cruel game. Despair challenges Dream to take the failing businessman from her, which he does by giving him the dream of becoming the first and only Emperor of the United States.

Norton’s incredible story touches everyone he meets, who humor him by taking his souvenirs and listening to his speeches. By the time Death comes around to take him, he has made such a large impact that thousands attend his wake. It’s more of an inspiring than harrowing ending that underscores Dream’s power.

8 Charles Rowland

Charles Rowland’s life was already not the best before attending boarding school, as his neglectful parents abandon him there during the holidays. Instead of mingling with regular students, he finds himself in danger when the ghosts of former students and mean teachers come back to haunt the school – it’s a consequence of Lucifer’s departure.

He does manage to make a friend, though, the ghost of Edwin Paine helps him navigate the treacherous halls until they hide in the attic. It’s unsettling to hear the two young boys talk about death, with Charles experiencing a particularly painful one from his wounds, starvation, and dehydration. The only consolation is that the two of them go on to star in a spinoff series, Dead Boy Detective Agency.

7 Unity Kinkaid

Just like her counterpart in The Sandman on Netflix, Unity Kinkaid forms a brief but loving relationship with her long-lost great-grandaughter, Rose Walker. Their bond is so strong that Unity intervenes at the last second and prevents Dream from killing Rose, who’s the Vortex at that time.

A shocking revelation by Unity uncovers Desire’s meddling in the situation in an attempt to trick Dream. Unity valiantly sacrifices herself as the original Vortex in Rose’s place, giving her family the chance to live the full life she never got. It’s a satisfying ending that emphasizes Unity’s bravery.

6 Didi

In the spinoff series, The High Cost of Living, the concept of Death taking a mortal form every hundred years to be in touch with her human subjects is explored. This time, Didi springs to life as an excited and optimistic version of Death, who knows she has a limited time on earth.

She makes the most of her day, even enjoying the misadventures she encounters along the way. By the time it’s over, Didi obviously doesn’t want to go and reminds her companion that both the good and the bad in life make it worth living. Her optimistic and honest experience is both inspiring and saddening.

5 Element Girl

There’s no shortage of moments that prove Death is the best character, but her time with Element Girl stands out because of the compassion the Endless sibling shows. The DC superhero just goes by her name, Rainie Blackwell, in the comics. Way past her glory days, she spends most of her time alone, too ashamed of her appearance to spend time out with the few friends she has.

Unfortunately, Rainie wants nothing more than to die by suicide, but her powers make it impossible for that to happen. She is tired of feeling like a monster and Death thankfully helps put an end to that. Her demise is a bittersweet and oddly moving one, mostly thanks to Death’s kindness throughout the situation.

4 Wanda

Barbie could have never gotten through her journey in The Land if it wasn’t for her loyal and supportive friend, Wanda. The fierce and protective character has had a tough life, as she has been unfairly rejected more than once because of her gender identity. In many ways,

Barbie is her real family, which explains why she’s willing to stay alongside her despite how wild the circumstances become.

Things sadly don’t end well for Wanda, who is crushed by the collapsed building by the end of the arc. A touching moment shows Barbie crossing out the wrong name Wanda’s family put on her tombstone, as Barbie knew that’s what her best friend would have wanted.

3 Fiddler’s Green

The fan-favorite dream, Fiddler’s Green, has already been depicted on the show as the charming and sweet old man he is – that is before it’s revealed that he’s a place in the Dreaming, of course. He just wanted to experience life as Gilbert before going back to his old duties, and he also helped Rose in the process.

While his murder scene with the Fates is hard enough to stomach, it’s his return that’s truly heartbreaking. Fiddler’s Dream is revived by Daniel (as the new Dream), but he refuses to come back to life, explaining that it would all have meant nothing if he did.

2 Orpheus

Inspired by Greek mythology, Orpheus’ storyline in the comics is altered to make it so that Dream of the Endless is his father. A rift between them forms after Dream refuses to help Orpheus revive his dead wife, which turns out to be a disastrous quest that leads to him becoming nothing more than a severed head.

Dream finally intervenes by sending Orpheus to Naxos, an isolated island where Morpheus establishes an order of priests to protect his son. Orpheus’ life here is peaceful but monotonous, as, at that point, he has lost the love of his life and most of his physical body. It’s not surprising that he asks for his death when Dream offers him a boon, which results in one of the most emotional scenes in the comics.

1 Dream

Without a doubt, the most heartbreaking death in the comics would be the protagonist’s, Dream. Fans have certainly fallen in love with the complex character by the time they reach the climactic end of Dream’s arc. He’s pursued by the Kindly Ones because of his violation of divine law, which soon backs him into a corner alongside Death.

It feels surreal to see Death finally accept what Dream wants and offer to take his hand, which is a moment he saw coming from long ago. Dream orchestrated his own death because he could no longer go on being the ruler of his realm, as he has explained several times that the responsibilities the Endless carry are a heavy burden. His tear-jerking death still hit hard despite the numerous clues leading up to that harrowing scene.

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