- Delirium (DC Comics)
caption=Delirium amid fish
debut="The Sandman" #21 (December 1990)
Neil Gaiman Mike Dringenberg
powers=nigh-omnipotent aspect of
Delirium is one of The Endless,
fictional characters from Neil Gaiman's comic bookseries "The Sandman".
Fictional character history
Delirium, known to the Greek culture as Mania, is the youngest of the Endless, yet still older than the rest of existence. She is usually quite short, and thin, and looks no older than a fourteen year-old human girl. Her hair changes style and color constantly, as do her clothes. Her shadow never reflects her shape, and is tangible, like velvet. She is said to smell of sweat, late nights, sour wine, and old leather. Her sigil in the galleries of the other characters is a multicolored, abstract swirl. Her realm is a chaotic, constantly changing mass of colors and strange objects and shapes, and contains a sundial with the inscription "Tempus Frangit" ("time breaks," a Latin pun on the phrase "Tempus Fugit", "time flies".) Delirium travels with a "guardian" of sorts, a
German Shepherddog named Barnabas, on indefinite loan from her brother Destruction.
First incarnated as Delight, she transformed into Delirium for reasons even Destiny does not know. She can be seen as a very young Delight in "
Endless Nights", a collection of stories about the Endless; a statue of her as Delight can be seen in Destiny's garden in "Brief Lives", and her official portrait in Destiny's gallery depicts her as Delight, not Delirium, in " Season of Mists". She is scatterbrained and easily distracted; she often forgets the thread of her conversations, and comes out with offbeat and seemingly inconsequential observations. Todd Klein, the series' letterer, draws her speech as letters which do not quite match in height or line up neatly, against a multi-colored background. Very occasionally she is able, with an effort, to become more controlled in thought and speech, at which point her speech is drawn more neatly and the background fades to near-white. This effort, as she says later, causes her pain. Her speech as Delight in "Endless Nights" takes the same form, with somewhat orderly lettering and a faint rainbow background.
The other Endless (particularly Death and Destruction) seem to be fond of Delirium, to varying degrees, and protective of her. She in turn is affectionate towards them, particularly Destruction.
Delirium features in many of the most inventive sequences of the series, particularly in the seventh collection, "", in which she and Morpheus attempt to track down Destruction. One of the most striking frames of the whole series features Delirium lying on a hotel bed with a bottle of bubble-blowing liquid, blowing bubbles in a variety of impossible shapes—diamonds, crosses, cats, and what appears to be Totoro from the Japanese animated feature "
My Neighbor Totoro" (this is probably a visual joke on the part of artist Jill Thompson). Also, in a very important moment in the story, Destiny imparts upon Dream the information and the means by which he may find Destruction. Due to Dream's distress at this revelation, Delirium is forced to collect herself so much that her usual mis-matched appearance disappears, and she becomes a very symmetrical creature, reflecting perhaps that in Delirium, Delight still exists, no matter how painful.
It may be noted that Delirium once exhibited a very deep form of order. Towards the end of "Brief Lives", as she recounts to Destruction the steps she and Dream undertook to find him, her appearance - hairstyle, clothing, et cetera - recapitulates in almost the exact order it had originally appeared. Her long and rambling recollection seemed nonsensical, but readers noticed that it more or less accurately described everything that had happened - just not very clearly. This suggests that Delirium may be less crazy than she looks and merely has trouble expressing herself.
Delirium also seems to know many things none of the other Endless know. She says so when she is teased by Desire during the family meeting in "Season of Mists". At the end of "Brief Lives", Destruction describes a situation in which Death told him that everybody knows everything and they just pretend they don't, but neither he nor Dream really understand or believe this. Delirium, however, says, "She is. um. Right. Kind of. Not knowing everything is all that makes it okay, sometimes." ("One who knows too much eventually goes insane." "One who knows truth as truth and nothing else can't comprehend this world of lies.")
It is said that Delirium knows pathways outside of Destiny's garden, which only she may travel.
Delirium, like her siblings, has also exhibited a form of prophetic knowledge; however, her prophecies rarely make sense until it is too late to do anything about them, and no other character recognizes them. In "Brief Lives", she persuades a man to give the dancer Tiffany money, when Tiffany would later be the only mortal to survive the explosion of the building in which she was dancing; in "The Kindly Ones", she knows full well that her brother is in trouble and unsuccessfully tries to persuade him to help her find Barnabas; also, when read the quote 'Quoth the Raven', from
Edgar Allan Poe's poem, " The Raven," she says 'Whatever', which, down to the pronounced 'ev' had been and would be said by Matthew the Raven throughout the book.
It has been suggested that Delight was once engaged to be married, and the eventual failure of that to occur caused her to change into Delirium. In "Endless Nights", in the story "On the Peninsula", when Destruction is talking to the female archaeologist, she notes that Delirium might have had her heart broken, and in "Fables and Reflections" she mentioned she was once betrothed.
In Delirium's story in "Endless Nights", "Going Inside", she has retreated into her realm so deeply that no one can retrieve her, save five insane human individuals gathered together by Daniel, Matthew and Barnabas, as only those who are already deeply insane can enter her realm unscathed.
Delirium and Barnabas may also have a cameo appearance in
San Franciscoin " American Gods".
Inspiration for the character
The most commonly recognized source of inspiration for Delirium is that of Neil's personal friend and well-known musician
Tori Amos("..Neil believes I'm more Delirium than Tori, and Death taught me to accept that..."). [cite book
title = ""
first = Neil
last = Gaiman
authorlink = Neil Gaiman
id = ISBN 1-56389-133-6 ] However, in "The Sandman Companion", Gaiman stated specifically that he did not meet Tori Amos until several years after the Delirium character had been created. [cite book
title = "The Sandman Companion"
first = Hy
last = Bender
authorlink = Hy Bender
id = ISBN 1-56389-644-3 ] In that book Gaiman listed the immediate inspirations as postmodern feminist writer
Kathy Acker, artist Jill Thompson, and parts of himself. Granted, he'd later admit "Delirium was created before I met Tori, but they steal shamelessly from each other." [http://www.hereinmyhead.com/neil/delirium.html]
*Characters of "The Sandman"
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