This week, DC Comics announced a new character who’ll be appearing in the first issue of Suicide Squad spin-off comic The Black Files, and they look awesome. The character, called “Dr. Endless” in a sketch by artist Scot Eaton, is a dapper, gender-fluid hero with a shock of white hair at the front of their stylish black locks, a white trenchcoat with psychedelic lapels, and a black suit and vest over a white tie. It’s a bold look for a dashing new character–and perhaps most striking is the Eye of Horus imagery over their right eye, which is an obvious nod to the character of Death, from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.
DC published Sandman in the ’90s, and the book’s runaway success shaped much of how the publisher approached comics for decades to follow. It led to the creation of the adult-oriented Vertigo imprint, and had a broad influence on the industry’s shift toward publishing collected editions as graphic novels, by creating a long-running series that fans wanted to keep on their bookshelves, as opposed to in boxes in a closet. And part of the deal between DC and Gaiman included an agreement that the Sandman characters would only appear in DC Comics with his permission.
Gaiman has been willing to grant that permission in the past–the Sandman has appeared in issues of JLA, and Death met Lex Luthor in Action Comics a few years back–but according to comics website Bleeding Cool, Dr. Endless (whose name references The Endless, the seven primary characters of Sandman) didn’t get cleared by Gaiman before the company announced plans to go to press.
According to the site, Gaiman only got wind of the character in recent days, and while they’ll still be premiering in Suicide Squad: The Black Files, the Sandman references (including the name Dr. Endless) are likely to be stripped out. Gaiman presumably has no objection to a gender-fluid hero based on his characters–he introduced mainstream comics’ first gender-fluid character, Desire, in the pages of Sandman in 1988–but he’s within his rights to ensure that the Sandman family of characters he created are used in a way that’s consistent with the original work. Hopefully, he gets a chance to check out Dr. Endless, and introduce the character to readers in the way that Eaton and writer Jai Nitz intended.