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In 1991, on the pages of Evil-Ernie, a comic written by Brian Pulido for Eternity Comics, the eponymous character encountered, in his delusions, a beautiful, pale woman. He fell in love with her, and she exhorted him to commit Megadeath, the extermination of every human on Earth, so they could be together. She was Lady Death.
In 1994, Pulido gave her her own title (or more accurately, several limited-series stories, with one flowing into the next) with his own imprint, Chaos Comics. In this, hers was the epic story of a young woman in Sweden named Hope. Her mother died when she was young; her father, a warlord named Matthias, was callous and brutal, and even consorted with dark powers, which eventually provoked a rebellion from the people. When he escaped by summoning a demon, she was included in the mob's ire, and was burned at the stake. In desperation, she uttered an incantation she'd heard him use, summoning a demon who offered her a bargain: serve the powers of Hell and renounce humanity, and he would spare her from death. She woke up in Hell, in the midst of a civil war between Lucifer himself and her own father. Corrupted by her surroundings, her skin, hair, and eyes turning white, Hope sought allies, at first finding only an exiled blacksmith--one of Hell's finest. In preparation, she set aside entirely her mortal name and self, and declared herself Lady Death, before leading a rebellion against the lords of hell. She rebelled, and defeated Lucifer by casting him through a gate to Heaven, assuming the throne of Hell as Queen of the Damned. Or did she...? In any case, as a last curse, Satan told her she would never be able to return to Earth as long as the living walked. She decided to circumvent this pronouncement, and declared she would exterminate every living thing on Earth if she had to.
In 2001, Chaos! Comics folded. Pulido lost the rights to all of his characters except Lady Death. He licensed Lady Death was picked up by Cross Gen Comics, who took the character in a new direction. In Lady Death: A Medieval Tale, an ongoing series, which takes place entirely on Earth, humanity is at war with the Eldritch, who raid and pillage human cities bordering their lands. Though quick and powerful with magic, they are kept back by a relative lack of physical strength and their aversion to Christian iconography. During one raid, a noble (as in high-ranking) Eldritch finds himself intrigued by a human woman, who accepts him for a time. Nine months later, the woman gives birth to a girl, whom she names Hope. As she grows up, strange things happen around her, and one day in the market, a man notices her eyes briefly turn white, looking like those of an Eldritch. Asking her mother, Hope is told of her father. Before much more can be revealed to her, though, the townsfolk, riled up by the man who noticed Hope's eyes earlier, storm their house. Defending her mother, Hope is injured, but the wound heals instantly. Seeing this as proof of her evil, the townsfolk take them to the river and drown them. Soon after, Hope's father arrives, and tries to heal them, but is apparently unsuccessful...yet after he leaves, she is revived, and now her appearance matches that of her father's lineage--pale as death, with hair and eyes to match. Desiring revenge, she attacks the town, but they are too many for her. The intervention of a wandering warrior named Wolfram von Bach saves her, and they leave. After burying Hope's mother, Wolfram begins to teach her all he knows of Eldritch and swordplay alike, and warns her that sooner or later she must choose a side...
When Crossgen folded in 2004, Avatar Press picked up the license, and not only continued Cross Gen's take with Medieval Lady Death, but also created a new series that returned the character to her roots. A young woman named Hope was the daughter of Mary and Marius. Marius was a crusader who had a tendency to return from battles without any of his peasant levies, only his most loyal soldiers surviving with him. Hope came to realize the evil that her father was doing, and along with her mother followed him to secret tunnels where they found him summoning dark wraiths, who refer to him as Sagos. Sagos is offering a sacrifice of masses of peasant in exchange for a domain in The Labyrinth, a dark world of the afterlife. When he spots them, Sagos, revealing himself as a being possessing Marius, steals Mary away through a portal, leaving Hope behind. At this point, the peasant rebellion finally catches up, and when they find that Marius has escaped, settle for attempt to execute Hope for his crimes. She utters the incantation Sagos used, and the dark wraiths agree to let her through the portal if she pledges her soul to The Labyrinth. When she passes through, her skin, hair, and eyes become white, the mark of those who willingly go through, and she ends up in a waste called the Blacklands. There she meets a man named Wargoth, who after seeing the natural inclination she now possesses towards magic, agrees to help her in her travels. He also recruits a sorceress named Satasha to teach her, and trains her in battle himself, though every weapon she handles melting due to the uncontrolled magic she possesses slows this process considerably. Over two years, they find that Sagos's army is conquering the Blacklands and turning its denizens to undead, converting them to his cause. They finally track him down, but he is more than a match for all of them, and escapes, leaving them for dead. They survive, and Lady Death not only recovers a sword made for her that can withstand her touch and channel her power through it, but learns great mystic power... and that Sagos not only plans to conquer the Blacklands, not only plans to conquer Earth itself, but has the means to do it.
Relatively little had been done story-wise with the character by Avatar since 2007, though reprints of old stories and new Fan Service books had been published, and in late 2009, it was announced that Lady Death would be changing publishers again, this time to Boundless Comics, a publisher that in fact has been created by the founder of Avatar Press specifically to publish Lady Death (though they aren't against expanding in the future), with another reboot in 2010. In this take, a young thief in medieval Spain named Iladra is attacked by demonic warriors, and from there must find out why... only to learn that she was once the Queen of Hell, her powers, memories, and soul stripped way by a creature calling herself the Death Queen, whom Lady Death knows nothing of, but who seems to have a personal grudge against her. It turns out that it is not a reboot at all, but a continuation of the Avatar story, with the same characters... and that the Death Queen is Hope's mother.
In the storyline, Lady Death, by edict of Pulido, could suffer setbacks and even defeat, but was not and would never be a victim. The medieval story has her dressed more believably, in black armor and clothing that covers her from the neck down, and was less explicitly violent, but still sold fairly well.
These comics provide examples of:
- Animated Adaptation - In the form of Lady Death: The Motion Picture, animated by Koreans and distributed by ADV Films.
- Big Bad - Various, including Satan and at least one Eldritch Abomination
- Big Breasts, Big Deal - Type 3.
- The Blacksmith - In the classic series, Cremator. There was also a mute blacksmith in the Avatar series, but he wasn't nearly so important.
- Bullying a Dragon - Now and again, people really don't take her as seriously as they should.
- Chainmail Bikini - On occasion.
- Crossover - Quite often. The "Nexus of All Things" in hell, through which she searched for an Earth she could go to, made most of them possible.
- Dark Age - Specifically, she all but started the "Bad Girl" craze.
- Distressed Domina - Lady Death is often this esp. against Genocide and all his creepy tentacles, talismans and weird attacks. She teams up with the Valkyries against Genocide in an esp. creepy series where he traps her and she needs rescue.
- The End of the World as We Know It
- Even the Girls Want Her - She generally pulls three reactions from women: seething jealousy, attempts to destroy her, or... (And they're not mutually exclusive!)
- Fan Service - She has several swimsuit specials, resulting, when the story would not normally allow it, in:
- Femme Fatalons - Like Vampirella and Red Sonja, Lady Death has these, very long and talon style and uses them for fighting.
- Go-Go Enslavement - An early subplot, though she manages to escape before anything untoward happens, but included in the art:
- Heroic Albino and Evil Albino.
- The Grim Reaper - In some stories, he's sort of her boss.
- Heroic BSOD - When Lady Death finds out pretty much everything after Satan's "death"" was his manipulating her, she suffers this and gets transformed into another creature, Lady Demon.
- Hot Chick with a Sword - And occasionally scyhe, just for the symbolism.
- Impossible Hourglass Figure - Not always, mind...
- Intercontinuity Crossover - With Top Cow, among others.
- Lesbian Vampire - Purgatori
- Light Is Not Good - The angels are hardly better than the demons.
- Like a Badass Out of Hell - The 'takes over' version.
- Looks Like She Is Enjoying It - More than a few parts where she was in trouble were drawn like something else entirely, such as one scene where she was very sick, lying naked on a bed with red silk sheets, sweating and groaning as her muscles apparently underwent uncontrollable "painful" spasms...
- Lonely At the Top
- Loyal Animal Companion - Lady Death has three; two Nameless Wolves and a horse named Vassago.
- Male Gaze - ...have you been paying attention to this page at all?
- Most Common Superpower - Oh yes. One sketchbook of Pulido's established Lady Death as officially a 38D, though it of course varies depending on artist and continuity; that figure (ahem) dates to the later Chaos days. She was even larger when she first started, rivalling other titans of the industry like Power Girl and She Hulk.
- Motifs - As might be expected, bones and skulls are quite common; most commonly, the metal bits of her clothing (usually fasteners and the like) are almost always golden skulls.
- Naughty Tentacles - This is often the preferred method of attack by Genocide and other nasty enemies to capture Lady Death and her allies like the Valkyries. And they're very effective in doing just that.
- Nipple-and-Dimed - Even in the few treatments where other female characters showed it, Lady Death herself has never been completely exposed.
- Omnicidal Maniac - She just wants to go home. But she has to be this to get there.
- Kill All Humans - Specifically, by doing this.
- Power Creep, Power Seep - Understandable, as Lady Death usually starts with no control over her powers and she has to learn it. One particular version:
- Psycho Lesbian - Purgatori, one of Lady Death's many enemies during the Chaos! days, contemplates her seduction when she's not plotting her destruction.
- Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains - What few truly heroic characters there were usually adhered to the trope, while Lady Death herself is pretty typical of how much fabric most villains wore.
- She's Got Legs
- Shopping Montage - Used when she arrives in the modern world and has to blend in.
- Smells Sexy - In one story, Heaven tries to get her on their side, so they send an angel whose scent is intoxicating. A female angel.
- Stripperiffic - Oh hell yes. Specifically (or at least most commonly):
- Badass Cape
- Bare Your Midriff even when she is wearing reasonable street clothes
- Black Bra and Panties - Spandex, Latex, or Leather, Depending on the Artist
- Chainmail Bikini - She has sometimes ditched them... for "armor" made of bones and such that cover the same amount.
- Collared by Fashion - Usually she wears a choker fastened with a skull emblem, but sometimes her cape has a high enclosed collar.
- Combat Stilettos - Usually hip-high boots.
- Exposed to the Elements - And this hell doesn't only have fiery environments.
- Hell-Bent for Leather
- Opera Gloves
- Fingerless Gloves - Yes, both at the same time. Sometimes the glove's middle finger is intact.
- Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains - And pretty much everyone's evil...
- Stocking Filler - With a garter belt.
- Thigh-High Boots
- Thong of Shielding
- Underwear of Power
- Sociopathic Hero - She's really only the protagonist because everyone arrayed against her is worse.
- White-Haired Pretty Girl - See the page picture.
- Woman in Black
Waldorf: This is the first Death I've ever seen with an hourglass figure!
Statler: Y'know, at our age, jokin' about The Grim Reaper probably isn't a good idea...
Waldorf: Huh. Ya got a point there. Guess it's not that bright to tempt Death.
Statler: ...of course, I might not mind if it was her!