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The Sandman's Endless family and their comic book origins explained

The Sandman - The Endless art by Leo Colapietro
(Image credit: DC)

Like its source material, Netflix's The Sandman focuses primarily on its titular character: Morpheus, AKA Lord Shaper or Dream of the Endless. Originally hailing from Greek mythology, the character was adapted for The Sandman comics created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg, which ran for 75 issues between 1988 and 1996.

In the decades since, The Sandman – and by extension, its cast of incredibly memorable characters – has become a classic, not just for comics fans, but for fans of all kinds of media. And now that the series has finally seen a screen adaptation via Netflix, it's seeing a major resurgence in popularity.

Although Dream is the primary focus of The Sandman, he hails from a rather large family known as the Endless. All told, Dream has six siblings, though we only meet three in The Sandman season 1. 

Who are the other siblings of the Endless, and what are their domains and powers? Their comic book origins have the answers.

The Endless in The Sandman

(Image credit: DC)

Who are the Endless in the Sandman universe?

The Endless are a family of some of the most powerful beings in the DC Universe, who are godlike but not exactly gods themselves because they are not created by mortal belief. Each one embodies a certain aspect or idea, rather than a specific set of characteristics, and they perform certain roles within the Sandman universe based on their primary functions.

Although Dream and his six siblings – Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destiny, and Destruction – appeared for the first time as the Endless in 1989, their parentage was unclear until 2015's The Sandman: Overture #5, in which it's revealed that their father is Time and their mother is Night.

In their anthropomorphized forms, the comics versions of the Endless are most often depicted as very pale with black hair (though Delirium and Destruction are both redheads), and their appearances often change to fit situations or expectations.

Here's what else we know about Dream's siblings.

Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death

Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death (Image credit: Netflix)

Who is Death, and what is her role in the Endless?

Aside from Dream, Death has perhaps the biggest role of the Endless in Netflix's The Sandman. Although she primarily appears in episode 6, 'The Sound of Her Wings,' she makes a huge impact by telling Dream to stop moping about his job and then explaining how and why she goes about hers.

Death's primary job is to be a reaper who escorts the dead from Earth to the afterlife. She has no say over which domain these spirits will occupy for eternity, and she has no qualms about doing this work, even when it means reaping an infant. Her sigil is the Egyptian Ankh, which she wears on a necklace.

As the second oldest of the Endless, Death seems intent on setting a good example for her younger siblings. She's certainly the most level-headed one, and she approaches her role from a place of kindness. Death is the only member of the Endless who can travel freely through her siblings' realms without asking permission.

Mason Alexander Park as Desire

Mason Alexander Park as Desire (Image credit: Netflix)

Who is Desire, and what is their domain?

Desire appears briefly throughout The Sandman season 1 on Netflix. In the comics, the character is described as androgynous and they can appear as any gender; in the streaming series, they're played by non-binary actor Mason Alexander Park, who uses they/them pronouns.

Desire is the third youngest sibling of the Endless, and they are Despair's fraternal twin. In addition to being brutally honest at all times – especially to Dream, with whom they have a rivalry of sorts – Desire has a cruel streak that runs deep.

They are also apparently obsessed with their own visage. Desire's realm, called the Threshold (as in 'the threshold of desire'), is a massive flesh-and-blood statue of themself, and their sigil is a silver-tinted glass heart.

Donna Preston as Despair

Donna Preston as Despair (Image credit: Netflix)

Who is Desire's twin, Despair?

Desire's twin, Despair, appears only once in the first season of Netflix's The Sandman, played by Donna Preston. In that brief scene, she revels in her twin's cruelty against Dream and self-harms by pushing a fish hook into her cheek. The hook is her sigil, and she wears it on a ring.

In the comics, there are two incarnations of Despair; it's hinted that the first was murdered and that her killer will suffer until the end of existence. In both incarnations, Despair is much less involved in her siblings' feuding than her twin, though she occasionally works with Desire on their schemes – particularly those involving Dream.

Despair is the second youngest of the Endless and her realm is gray, foggy, and filled with rats and mirrors. However, instead of admiring her own visage, Despair uses the mirrors to watch people in their own despair

Delirium by Bill Sienkiewicz

Delirium by Bill Sienkiewicz (Image credit: DC)

Who is Delirium, and what happened to her?

Delirium is one of three siblings of the Endless who does not appear in the Netflix adaptation of The Sandman.

The youngest of her siblings, Delirium is depicted in the comics as a young girl whose form changes frequently based on her mood. Her sigil is a shapeless, colorful blob, and she typically wears eccentric clothing to match her multicolored hair. Delirium's eyes are also mismatched – one is pale blue and the other is emerald green with silver flecks. Her eyes are her only permanent physical characteristic.

Delirium is technically the second incarnation of herself because she was previously known as Delight. But a traumatic event that she cannot recall caused her to shift, changing her sigil from a flower to an abstract shape. She's a powerful magic user who can teleport, enter the minds of humans, and see the future.

Destiny by Frank Quitely

Destiny by Frank Quitely (Image credit: DC)

Who is Destiny, and what is their domain?

Like Delirium and Destruction, Destiny has not yet appeared in Netflix's The Sandman. He's also the only sibling of the Endless who was not initially created for The Sandman – Marv Wolfman and Bernie Wrightson created him for 1972's Weird Mystery Tales, and he was later adopted by Neil Gaiman.

In the comics, Destiny is the oldest of his siblings and he knows everything there is to know about the past, present, and future. He's chained to a large book known as the Cosmic Log, which has the sum of all existence written inside and also serves as his sigil. 

Perhaps because he is the oldest or perhaps because of his incredible knowledge, Destiny performs his function with the most sincerity and self-possession of any of the Endless. He's far less personable than his younger siblings and appears as a blind man dressed in neutral-colored robes that make him look like a religious figure. In his garden, souls walk the paths of their lives.

Destruction by Linda Medley

Destruction by Linda Medley (Image credit: DC)

Who is Destruction, and where did they go?

Destruction is referenced throughout season 1 of Netflix's The Sandman, though not by name, and he does not actually appear on screen. This is because he's the prodigal brother who abandoned his post three centuries ago, making Dream's century-long incarceration at the hands of humans look like a mere blip in time.

Destruction is the middle sibling of the Endless, and he has little problem with accepting change. However, he refuses to be responsible for how the Enlightenment scientifically destroys the world, which is why he walked away from his duties. Ever since, the rest of his family has referred to him as either 'Prodigal' or 'Brother,' and he has yet to make amends with any of his siblings.

Typically appearing as a large, bearded, red-headed man, Destruction is passionate about creativity and construction, but lacks the talent for either because they directly clash with what he embodies and represents. His sigil is a sword.

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Samantha Puc
Editor, Newsarama

Samantha Puc (she/they) is an editor at Newsarama and an avid comics fan. Their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., The Beat, The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School.