The Corinthian is a creation of Dream. His most notable physical feature is his lack of eyes: in their place, two rows of small jagged teeth line each eye socket. The Corinthian often wears sunglasses to cover this up.
The second Corinthian is extremely skilled at hand-to-hand combat. He is extremely resistant to damage; during his battle with Loki, he survived a gout of godly fire with little more than an "OWW" and a few blisters. He apparently has a swift healing factor as well, since the blisters were gone mere minutes after the battle had ended. During his search for Daniel Hall in the Norse land of Swartalfheim, the Corinthian snapped the neck of a dire wolf with his bare hands, showing apparent superhuman strength.
The first incarnation of the Corinthian displayed an excellent memory, stating "I don't forget things." The Corinthian's second incarnation has not demonstrated many of the abilities of the first, such as possession, though this is likely because he has yet to encounter an opportunity to use them. The second incarnation of the Corinthian has demonstrated the ability to perform divination such as scrying to track a target. As a nightmare he has shown the ability to distinguish between humans and dreams. Neil Gaiman has stated that the Corinthian is gay on his online journal and a homosexual in The Sandman Companion in that the first Corinthian consumed eyes only from boys. The second Corinthian is featured with a boyfriend as written by Caitlin R. Kiernan in The Dreaming.
It is not certain, from the text of the comics, whether the abilities of the two incarnations of the Corinthian are entirely the same, as there are simply not circumstances wherein the first Corinthian could have displayed the fighting skills or divination displayed by the second; conversely, similar statements can be made of the second not displaying skills of the first. When Morpheus recreates the Corinthian, he states that the previous incarnation was flawed, though it is unclear whether those flaws stem from the absence of the Dream Lord's supervision of the Corinthian (during Morpheus' incarceration throughout the largest part of the twentieth century) or from some intrinsic imperfection in the first Corinthian's construction.
Dream does eventually recreate the Corinthian in The Kindly Ones. This new, more reliable Corinthian helps rescue and protect Daniel just before Morpheus dies. In the process, he battles, defeats and eats the eyes of Loki, who, along with Puck, was holding the child hostage.
The Corinthian wants someone to teach him "how to kill", and finds himself frustrated with Charles' inability to do violence even in self-defense. He eventually develops a rapport with Charles' traveling companion, a wealthy, traveling heiress who is degenerate and possibly insane. The woman claims that she cannot die, that she is the living incarnation of Pestilence, and refers to herself (and asks others to refer to her) by a new name each day, changing identities as she travels about. After she fatally shoots The Corinthian, and he survives by possessing the body of her young Italian lover, Amedeo, the woman recognizes The Corinthian as something other than human who can "become someone else." The two form a pact in which the woman agrees to teach The Corinthian how to murder, and The Corinthian agrees to teach her how to "stop being you."
The pivotal moment in the story comes while the characters are all attending the Venetian Carnival in costume. The woman, now calling herself Columbine, and The Corinthian Arlecchino murder another celebrant, but The Corinthian finds himself unable to take part, cursing himself. However, he eventually finds a way to fulfill both her promise to him and his promise to help the woman "stop being [herself]", by slitting her throat. Charles Constantine, happening upon them while dressed in his own carnival costume, finally steels himself and kills The Corinthian, who offers no resistance, with his own knife. The tale draws to a close with Charles leaving the country and The Corinthian beginning his murder spree, starting with Amedeo's young lover and the policeman guarding her in jail.
The new Corinthian appears again in The Dreaming spinoff, returning to earth for the three-part "Souvenirs" storyline. Later in the series he hunts down Echo, who was previously a murderer who cut out the eyes of his victims, as per the instructions of his boyfriend Gabriel who was one of the first, and only surviving, victims of the first Corinthian when he went on his murdering spree. A result of this is the accidental death of Matthew the Raven. As punishment the Corinthian is turned into a mortal and Echo (made a natural female in the Dreaming) is given his position. As a mortal he develops compassion for humans and comes to understand fear, particularly after the death of his lover Sila. He is eventually deemed fit to come back and serve as the Corinthian, with Daniel Hall finding another place for Echo.
In the Death In Venice miniseries, a beggar (who is not entirely reliable) claims that he exchanged one of his eyes for one offered to him by The Corinthian, and that he called him by the first thing he saw when he opened his new eye - a Corinthian pillar.
It is also likely that the name is a reference to the Biblical verse 1 Corinthians 13:12, which is the source of the phrase "in a mirror, darkly". This is clearly related to the Corinthian's "Black Mirror" nature.
According to an interview with Gaiman in The Sandman Companion, The Corinthian takes his name from the mode of behavior; specifically, "a Corinthian" was another term for a rake: a devil-may-care, ne'er-do-well.