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Self Demonstrating / Deadman

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Famous last words. Mine were "You know, from up here it almost looks like that guy with a hook is holding a rifle..."
The ghost of Boston Brand

(Best done in the voice of Raphael Sbarge or Michael Rosenbaum.)

So yeah. Lemme tell you a bit about myself. The name's Boston Brand, aka Deadman. Before I was killed, I used to be a circus trapeze artist who performed under that name and used the nice costume you see before you. I admit I wasn't the most pleasant guy under the big top (I was co-owner and would you put up with drunken lion tamers and embezzling employees?) and my girlfriend didn't care for my macabre style for my act, but life was good, until it ended. During one of my performances, I was assassinated by someone in the crowd with a hook for a hand. The bullet shattered my back, but it was the fall that killed me. Despite all this, my spirit was given the ability to possess any living being by Rama Kushna, a powerful Hindu goddess, so I could find whoever killed me and earn some justice in this world.


I first appeared in Strange Adventures #205 (October, 1967). Initially I was written by Arnold Drake (Ya heard of him? He used to pal around with the Doom Patrol) and drawn by Carmine Infantino, although they got replaced by Jack Miller and Neal Adams - him you've definitely heard of, he's a friend of Batman's - after my first appearance, and I got to be depicted by an artist who would redefine the medium's visual style as radically as I tried to with the trapeze act.

So I came back from my meeting with Rama, and found a bunch of smugglers who were using the circus as a front for smuggling drugs (the first Comics Code-approved story to have narcotics mentioned, years before Stan Lee butted heads with the CCA with his Spider-Man story). Being dead, that stuff technically wasn't my business anymore, but it seems my conscience was still alive as ever and I had to step in as I traded in my acrobat calling for the Super Hero one. So, while I was looking around for my killer, I kept getting sidetracked by the other baddies I had to stop as well. Eventually I happened upon the man who had killed me. However it turned out he had only killed me as part of an initiation ritual into Ra's al Ghul's League of Assassins who then killed him to keep him quiet, following me so far? But it then turned out that this group all had a hook for a hand and that the person I thought killed me had his hook on his left hand rather than the right.


Been through a few other things over the years. Rama Kushna had me battle a sorceress over the lives of some deceased costumed heroes. At the same time I paid my dear brother a personal visit, only for him to die while I was hanging around doing the same act I used to do before I was killed. Then I helped run this city where supervillains could live and behave themselves, only it got invaded and destroyed and they were set loose again.

However then something people call the Blackest Night appeared and suddenly everyone was coming back to life, sorta. This included my own body. Turns out everyone had been possessed by black rings and were made to serve some master of death. At the end of it a bunch of rainbow coloured ringslingers managed to defeat this guy, but not before some white rings went and resurrected a bunch of other heroes properly. Somehow this included me. They were calling it the Brightest Day, a whole new start. Me, I had the last white ring on my finger, and no idea what I was supposed to do apart from destroy my own grave. Turned out, the ring had its own ideas, and ended up dragging me around the universe, setting things up so it could take down this master of death's final attack. In the little time I wasn't doing that, I ate some cheeseburgers. Hell, I even got myself a girlfriend. But once entity-thing was done with that - wham, dead again, and still no rest for yours truly.

Oh well, at least I also got to star on TV in an episode of Justice League Unlimited and co-star in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. A super-deformed version of me starred in a couple of shorts made by the guy who made Chowder, where for some reason I have a raven for a pet. It's kinda adorable actually.

I represent these tropes:

  • All-Powerful Bystander: Part of a group with the Phantom Stranger and the Spectre in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
  • Anti-Hero: I'm a type II; I'm no Superman, but I'm still a heroic guy.
  • Back from the Dead: Thanks to that Entity during Brightest Day. Sadly, it didn't last.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: Kinda. I can visit, but not for good.
  • Becoming the Mask: A literal example. I don't naturally look like a ghost, it's my circus outfit that I died in. I didn't learn for a long time that I could actually take the mask off.
  • The Cameo: I may not be Batman famous, but enough writers are fans of mine enough to throw me in a story even if they don't give me anything to do.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: I'd do anything for a pretty face. Gets me in trouble a lot.
  • The Chosen One: By Rama. Turns out I wasn't the first one either, but the first guy went bad.
  • Christmas Episode: One Christmas I got real depressed over being The Greatest Story Never Told for the most part. Then some blonde woman who apparently was wiped from existence assured me that it doesn't even matter if people know you're helping if you make a difference.
    Boston: Merry Christmas, Kara... whoever you are.
  • Circus of Fear: When you're a ghost acrobat, you wind up dealing with one or two of 'em.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Possessing people leads to a lot of fun in combat. Turning enemies against each other, suddenly taking control of weapons, lots of tricky stuff.
  • Cosmic Plaything: For two cosmics; first Rama Kushna made me a ghost to do her bidding and then that white ring dragged me all over the universe.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Yeah, I may look pretty creepy if you can see me and I do possess living people, but it's almost always for a good cause, trust me. If I didn't have to, I wouldn't...there are plenty of living joes out there creepier than I am.
  • Deader than Dead: Okay, if I get killed while possessing someone, that's it for me. So I gotta be careful.
  • Death by Origin Story: Me, natch. Otherwise I wouldn't be "Deadman".
  • Demonic Possession: Ghostly possession. I look creepy, but I'm not demonic.
  • Depending on the Artist: Most versions of me look like I did in costume when I was alive, but some guys like to show me looking more like a rotting corpse, or even a skeleton.
  • Depending on the Writer: Am I a friendly ghost who likes to joke around, or a lonely guy who hates his lot in death? I go through phases.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: I love the ladies, and some of 'em even love me back. But for one reason or another, I usually end up alone. Sometimes they're evil. Sometimes they're ghosts and pass on once I help 'em. There are even a couple who were alive, but it just didn't work out.
  • Dimensional Traveler: I can go anywhere I want to.
  • Doom Magnet: Since I'm already dead, nothing bad ever really happens to me. Unfortunately, this means to keep the story interesting, bad things happen to the people around me.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Very very few people even know I exist.
  • Holding Back the Phlebotinum: There's always some reason I can't just possess the Big Bad. Rama Kushna forbid my job is easy once in a while.
  • Home Base: Nanda Parbat, a Shangri-La-like place where the goddess I work for lives. I can interact with living people normally there, so I go there sometimes.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: My buddy Max Loomis, a midget acrobat detective who understands spiritual stuff a lot better than I do.
  • Invincible Hero: For the most part. Some magic mumbo-jumbo aside, there really isn't any way to hurt a ghost.
  • Invisible to Normals: It sucks, but I've got some friends who can see me, mostly magical heroes.
  • Irony: I was a flamboyant stuntman who loved showing off to crowds. Now I'm The Greatest Story Never Told.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: I'm stuck wearing the costume I was wearing when I died. Ironically, the outfit was designed to make me appear like a ghost.
  • Killed Off for Real: In one universe.
  • Legacy Character: In the world where Superman goes crazy, I get bumped off and choose Nightwing as my replacement.
  • May–December Romance: Almost had one with Madame Xanadu, who's at least a thousand years older than me, but she cut it off just as we were starting to go somewhere.
  • Meaningful Name: I'm dead and a I'm a man, get it?
  • Miles to Go Before I Sleep: I'd love to rest in peace, but I had to find my killer first, but before I could even do that, there was always someone that needed help. It can make a guy think that Being Good Sucks.
  • Mr. Exposition: In Kingdom Come, I basically get Norm McCay up to speed on what's going on from a metaphysical sense. I even give him some advice about his dour guide The Spectre.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: I don't have the best track record with keeping people I possess alive.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Sometimes my powers don't really make sense. I'll be able to possess paintings or read the memories of people I take control of, even though those abilities are never shown before or since.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: There are other ghosts around, but there's only one of me.
  • Possessing a Dead Body: One o' the many tricks in my arsenal. Just gotta be sure I never try it on a Black Lantern.
  • Psychopomp: Sometimes I help other dead people pass on.
  • Rebellious Spirit: If I don't agree with Rama, I won't follow her orders. Sometimes it works out well. Sometimes it doesn't.
  • Sealed in a Person-Shaped Can: First I got stuck in an evil version of Aquaman's dead body, thinkin' I was him. When I came to my senses. Constantine trapped me inside for a while.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Can't get enough of cheeseburgers. Sometimes I'll even possess somebody just to get a taste.
  • Twin Switch: My twin brother Cleveland took up my act after I died. It eventually got him killed too. I wasn't happy about it.
  • Unfinished Business: My original reason for sticking around. Rama Kushna decided to let me hunt down my killer. I continued to stick around after seeing how screwy and unfair the world was.