Boston Brand was one of the world's most famous high wire acts, and as "the Deadman," he drew in huge crowds for the Hills Brothers’ Circus, performing death defying acts in theatrical, macabre makeup. His twin brother Cleveland Brand was also an acrobat, but was never talented as Boston was, and retired from the circus life early on. One night, while performing his trapeze act, Boston Brand was killed by an assassin's bullet. As his spirit drifted into the afterlife, he encountered the Hindu Goddess of Balance known as Rama Kushna. She explained to him that due to the many acts of kindness he performed during his lifetime, she would grant his soul the ability to possess mortal bodies for brief periods of time, and use those bodies to do good in the world and to help others.
Now a literal Deadman and not just a figurative one, Brand began taking over different living bodies, and started searching for his killer, who he only remembered had a hook for a hand. He eventually tracked down "the Hook," and learned that he had killed him as part of an initiation ritual to get into the infamous League of Assassins. He was never able to get vengeance however, as the Hook was killed by the League's leader, the mysterious Sensei. Later, with the help of the Batman, Deadman was able to prevent the League of Assassins from taking over the fabled land of Nanda Parbat in the Himalayas, a place that was guarded over by Rama Kushna.
Eventually, Boston Brand asks to possess his twin brother Cleveland's body for one week, and then Boston, inside his own brother's body, starts training to perform his world famous aerial act one more time for a live audience. But during the performance, Boston is shot once again, in an almost exact repeat of his first death. Only this time, his brother also died. Boston and Cleveland both confront Rama Kushna inside a supernatural vortex, but Cleveland is allowed to move on to the afterlife, while Boston must continue on in his mission as Deadman.
Continuing his mission on the Earthly plane, Deadman assists many living beings in seeking justice, sometimes alone, and sometimes with the help of other heroes like Batman, whom he teamed up with many times. Other times, he joined forces with other supernatural crusaders like the Spectre, Doctor Fate, and John Constantine. He briefly joins some of Earth's mystical heroes during in a short-lived group called the Sentinels of Magic, as well as the Seven Soldiers of Victory.
During the Blackest Night catastrophe, his corpse became a part of the Black Lantern Corps. His soul attempted to possess his former body which was now animated by a Black Lantern power ring, but it caused him great agony. While inside though, he was able to gain significant knowledge about the plans of the villainous Nekron, who was behind the Black Lanterns, and help turn the tide in favor of Earth's heroes, helping to save creation. After the conclusion of the Blackest Night, the White Energy of Life brought Boston Brand back to life in his mortal form.
The newly mortal Deadman discovers that his White Lantern power ring can return the dead to life. During this period, he falls in love with Dawn Granger, a.k.a. Dove, another formerly dead hero who came back to life in the aftermath of the BLACKEST NIGHT event, a.k.a. BRIGHEST DAY. But Captain Boomerang kills Boston Brand all over again, denying him his second chance at life, and separating him from Dawn. Before he dies, he passes on his White Lantern power ring to Alec Holland, the Swamp Thing, and shares an emotional goodbye with Dawn.
In the post-FLASHPOINT reality, Boston Brand's origins are changed. In this new timeline, during his life Brand grew up in an abusive household, and ran away to join the circus at age sixteen. He grew into a selfish and egotistical man, and after his assassination on the high wire, he is forced to possess people as Deadman as a way of setting the problems in their lives right, all in an effort to avoid spending an eternity in Hell. He later joins several supernaturally powered heroes in a team that was unofficially called the Justice League Dark.