Deadman is a ghost, formerly a circus acrobat named Boston Brand, who was murdered during a trapeze performance by a mysterious assailant known only as Hook. His spirit is given the power to possess any living being by a Hindu goddess named Rama Kushna, in order to search for his murderer and obtain justice. However, Brand finds himself obliged to help others while on his search, using his power to intervene and control living persons to help the innocent.
The criminals used the traveling circus they worked for to smuggle "snow" -- either heroin or cocaine.
Ultimately, Boston finds out the truth about his murder and came to accept his role as one who intervenes in mortals' lives.
Over the course of several years, Rama Kushna has Deadman confront the sorcerer Caldera multiple times over the fate of the souls of several deceased superheros. Two of them are Flash (Barry Allen) and Robin (Jason Todd). During the Robin incident, he tries to possess the Joker but was driven out by the man's insanity.
Rama also maintained a city for some time, called Nanda Parbat. The most evil people in the world came to live there, where Rama's power kept them sane and good. One of the worst was Darius Caldera, who almost destroyed the world when he left the city. Unfortunately, Nanda later fell due to a combined military and mystical force. All the evil people are now back in the real world, still a danger
His twin brother Cleveland is killed while possessed by Boston, while doing Boston's circus act. The killer was out to kill Boston Brand. His 'benefactor' Rama Kushna also dies in order to defeat Jonah, a spirit similar to Deadman.
Around this time, Deadman assists the Spectre in defeating a newly formed demonic being (and werewolves). Formed from the skeletons of many souls in hell, this blue-eye, blonde-haired being comes to Earth to foment chaos and death. It manages to actually remove much of the Spectre's substance. Deadman is forced to merge with Spectre until things are stabilized.
Later, Deadman receives a birthday present from his diminutive friend, Max Loomis. Max places himself in a trance so he could 'meet' Deadman and the two take a pleasant journey down 'memory lane'. Soon after, Loomis meets with old circus friends and Deadman involves himself in a case of suspected murder. Deadman wants to be going after the escapees of Nanda Pavrat, but Max thinks pursuing the murder is a better course.
Youth and Hell
In the Sins of Youth incident, Deadman is one of the dozens of heroes reduced to a pre-teen age by Klarion the Witch Boy and an alien machine owned by Doiby Dickles. He is still a spirit, now with a small d on his chest. He assists Secret in confronting Teekl, Klarion's companion, in an effort to restore everyone. He also joins in the fight against mystically created and mystically altered villains.
During the Day of Judgment incident, Boston Brand travels with a group of heroes to the frozen wastelands of Hell. Their goal is to restart the demonic fires, thus recalling all the demons from the earthly plane. An accident strands Brand and the others under the frozen waters of the River Styx, forcing them to live out what would be to them, Hell. For Brand, it is that the sharpshooter hits him in the shoulder, thus he survives. Brand feels he needs to die in order to learn 'how to live'.
The corporeal remains of Boston Brand were recently raised by a Black Lantern Ring making him one of the of the Black Lantern Corps. Deadman, having newly learned of Blackest Night attempted to possess his corpse but was unable to control its actions and was forced to leave the body due to the agony involved. He did however receive impressions of what was going on in Blackest Night and was able to inform the Lanterns on how to defeat Nekron. He was one of twelve individuals resurrected by the power of the white light, startled to find himself among the living once more.
Following the Blackest Night, Boston is now the only person still in possession of a White Lantern ring. The White Entity reveals to Boston that it is dying and his task is to find the chosen one who will take over for the Entity. Boston begins to search for the chosen one with the help of Hank Hall and Dawn Granger, the latter of which Boston falls in love with.
While searching for the chosen one, Deadman's ring reaches 100% and transforms him into a White lantern, transporting him to Hawkman and Hawkgirl. The Entity tells them that in order to reclaim their lives, they need to learn to live apart from each other as they value love over life. The couple refuses to be separated again and the Entity says "So be it", reducing them to white dust in front of Deadman's eyes.