Precinct1313’s Top Ten Favourite Comic-Book Covers Of All Time: No.06 – Madame Xanadu #6 – Amy Reeder Hadley
Welcome back, fellow fans of fantastic fiction, to the continuing countdown of our absolute favourite comic-book covers of all time. In our earlier ebullient episode we introduced you to dynamic Dave Gibbons’ perfectly phantastic pictorial of The Phantom! This impeccable instalment will highlight the astonishing Amy Reeder Hadley, most prominently her stellar work on Madame Xanadu, with this celestial cover for Disenchanted #6.
Eisner award winning artist Amy Reeder was first discovered by the Tokyopop imprint for whom she wrote and illustrated the popular manga – Fools Gold. Amy went on to work for powerhouse publisher DC Comics, where she was commissioned to illustrate the Madame Xanadu series alongside superstar scribe Matt Wagner. She also was the penciller for DC on Batwoman, and the cover artist for Supergirl before making the transition to Image Comics where she co-created the character – Rocket Girl.
Madame Xanadu was created by David Micheline, Val Mayerik and Michael Kaluta in 1978, making her inaugural appearance in Doorway To Nightmare #1. Xanadu became a well loved mainstay of the mystery series, with the monthly horror anthology eventually paving the way for DC’s adult supernatural imprint – Vertigo.
Disenchanted was the initial ten issue story arc that ran through Xanadu’s monthly exciting escapades, originally released in 2008, written by legendary Grendel creator, Matt Wagner. The vivacious visuals employed by Amy throughout this superb series helped form a very real emotional attachment to the character of Nimue (Xanadu). Amy is an extremely versatile artist and this ultimately shines through in a story that encompasses many eras throughout human history, which meant Amy had to render everything from medieval castles through gritty and grimy London in the 1800’s and beyond, all of which she accomplished with ease thanks to her exquisitely consummate talent.
Why Not Join Us Again Next Time, Fellow Agents Of Precinct1313, For Our Continuing Celebratory Countdown Of Cool And Crazy Comic Cover Collectables!
“It is said that once every century, Death herself takes on mortal flesh to better understand the lives she must ultimately take, and taste the bitter tang that is mortality. This she is tasked to do as the divider of the living and the dead”
Death: The High Cost Of Living is a spellbinding three issue mini-series starring Death, sister of Morpheus (aka Dream) and one of the seven Endless. Written by super scribe Neil Gaiman in 1993, it follows a day in the life of DC Comics’ variant of the Grim Reaper, who once every century takes the form of a human girl to give her role as conductor of souls perspective and keep her in touch with humanity.
The Vertigo variance of Death was originally created by Neil Gaiman and Michael Dringenberg in 1989, making her first appearance in Sandman #8. Death’s appointment entails meeting with the recently deceased and guiding them on their way into an afterlife, but she is also known to visit all new born, though only she ever retains memory of that initial encounter with a new life. DC Comic’s Death character is a universe away from the infamous image of the Grim Reaper, appearing as a young goth girl dressed in black, wearing a silver ankh and bearing a Horus style marking beneath her right eye.
This sensational series revolves around the character of Didi, who claims she is the personification of Death itself, here on her one centennial cycle to mingle with humanity and gain insight into their lives and emotions. Whilst exploring the loves and losses of mortals, she happens upon a suicidal young man named Sexton, who is struggling to find his raison d’etre, that is until the fickle hand of fate guides him to Didi, who befriends the forlorn youth and, in due course, leads him on a odyssey of self realisation and discovery until he finally gains a sense of self worth and an insight into his own mortality, and through these realisations, a love for life itself.
Not your typical superhero style comic, which should come as no surprise considering its author, the high cost of living is an astounding work of comic book fiction with real heart and emotion, and transports you on a beguiling journey into the human psyche, and presents you with a perky, fresh and fun version of Death, no Pale Riders here… just a pale goth, who celebrates life.
This is one of my absolute favourite comic book series of all time and could not come more highly recommended, whether you read comic books or not this is an eloquent, absorbing and stunningly realised story of life, love and loss and is also a great way to introduce yourself to one of this generations greatest writers … the inimitable Neil Gaiman.
With all the extra time on my hands due to the current lockdown and quarantine that the entire planet is experiencing right now, I have finally managed to almost completely exhaust my monumentally vast backlog of comics and graphic novels (my video-game backlog though, continues to grow exponentially!) So with my stupendous supply slashed, I decided to revisit some of my absolute favourite comic collections from the past, beginning with the mysterious, mystifying and marvellous, Madame Xanadu…
Madame Xanadu was created by David Michelinie, Val Mayerik and Michael Kaluta in February 1978, making her first appearance in Doorway to Nightmare #1. Xanadu was the mainstay of the series of mystery comics, with the ongoing monthly horror anthology eventually paving the way for the beginning of DC’s Vertigo line of comic books. Vertigo was an imprint of DC Comics, originally created to publish stories that didn’t meet the strict guidelines set down by the Comics Code Authority, Vertigo enabled DC to have more graphic and explicit content in the stories than was possible in their main superhero line of comic books.
Disenchanted is the trade paperback collection of issues 1-10 of Madame Xanadu’s comic series, originally released in 2009. Written by Grendel creator Matt Wagner, and drawn by Amy Reeder Hadley and Richard Friend.
Madame Xanadu is one of world’s most mysterious and enigmatic magicians, for centuries she has aided both the powerful and powerless alike when threatened by supernatural forces. The esoteric character originally learnt her craft through Merlin the legendary wizard from King Arthur’s court. Wagner and Hadley’s spellbinding tale takes us on a captivating journey through the annals of time alongside Xanadu as she meets and aids illustrious figures from the past, from reading the fortune of Marie Antoinette, through serving in court as a precognitive for Ghengis Kahn, and even cheating Death herself in a game of cards.
Wagner’s tale makes for compelling reading as we follow Nimue through key points in human history. For all her burgeoning power though, Nimue is an emotional and empathetic character, who is fundamentally just trying to find her place in the world. Wagner brings much pathos and poignancy to Nimue, so much so that you cannot help but form a real emotional attachment to the character, which in no small part is also down to the magnificent visuals provided by the very talented Amy Reeder Hadley. Hadley is an extremely versatile artist and this shines through in a story that takes place throughout history, meaning that Hadley had to draw everything from medieval castles, through grimy 1800’s London and beyond into the early 20th century, Hadley’s consummate artistic talent accomplishes this fantastical feat with ease.
Madame Xanadu: Disenchanted comes highly recommended to all comic-book fans but most especially anyone with a love of the supernatural and esoteric. Introducing us to a somewhat lesser known DC character, who is an enigmatic and powerful mystic, yet at times an exceptionally vulnerable and tragic character, masterfully realised by the titanic team up of marvellous Matt Wagner and the astonishing Amy Reeder Hadley.
Welcome fellow Agents of Precinct1313 to another exhilarating episode of “World’s Finest” a series of exclusive interviews that aim to introduce you to some of our very favourite convocation of comic-book characters of… all… time!
Each episode we cordially invite one of our most treasured – Superheroes, SuperVillains, Costumed Crimefighters, Dimension Dwelling Demons, and, of course, Super-Pets to answer a quotient of quintessentially quirky questions about life, the Universe, and cake (’cause everyone loves cake)
And so, let us welcome to Precinct1313’s sacred sanguine sofa of significantly satirical secrets: the Dame of Demise and Duchess of the Deceased – Death, of the Endless…
Precinct1313: Hi there Death, and thanks so much for joining us on this week’s Worlds Finest.
Death: Hi, thanks so much for having me, you can call me Didi, if you prefer.
Precinct1313: Didi? as in die die?
Death: Uh, that’s a little morbid don’t you think? no, as in Deedee.
Precinct1313: Got it, though I do find your morbidity comment rather amusing, I mean, you are the Grim Reaper after all…
Death: Ha ha, nope, that’s my predecessor, although we had to let him go… he was literally scaring people to death!
Precinct1313: Isn’t that kind of the point though, y’know, harvester of souls and all…
Death: Mmmmm, I tend to keep things a little lighter, I mean that whole skull and scythe thing is a little too on the nose, don’t you think?
Precinct1313: Umm, I guess… though technically you perform the same service, right?
Death: In a way, but I tend to gently lead people into the afterlife as opposed to, how did you put it… harvest their souls?
Precinct1313: So, I’m intrigued, how does this whole cycle of life thing work, I mean, how do you specifically know when someone’s about die?
Death: Mmmmm, it’s a little complicated, but I guess the best way to describe it is that I can see the tapestry of their lives unfolding before me as a cartographical certainty. Would you like me to reveal your fate? your ultimate denouement as an example of this?
Precinct1313: I’d really rather you didn’t, thanks…
Death: Ah okay, I understand, you’ll know soon enough anyway…
Precinct1313: Uhhh, what does that mean?
Death: Oh nothing, shall we move on, I do tend to lead a rather busy life y’know…
Precinct1313: Erm, okay… So, my first ever encounter with your character was through the Neil Gaiman masterpiece – Death: The High Cost Of Living, any thoughts on Mr Gaiman and his prodigious writing talent?
Death: Neil is fantastic, a true gent and an outstanding talent, it’s through him that I’ve been able to share my many wonderful adventures and memories.
Precinct1313: I see, and he has been relaying said adventures about yourself and extended family, The Endless, since 1989 I believe.
Death: That he has.
Precinct1313: Well Death, uh Didi, may I just say, once again, thanks so much for joining us on this weeks World’s Finest.
Death: It’s been a pleasure, it’s time for us to go anyway…
Death: Why yes, why else do you think I’m here?
Precinct1313: For the interview, of course…
Death: I’m afraid not… it’s time, just take my hand…
Precinct1313: But, but, I have an appointment at 3pm.
Death: Unfortunately, you’re not going to make it…
*Death, and all images are copyright: Vertigo/DC Comics*
Precinct1313 is a dilemma within a mystery, contained in an enigma… almost two and a half years have passed since this entity first welcomed us into its dark ceaseless corridors, herculean halls and cavernous crypts, and even now, after all this time, we are discovering new chambers and areas. Recently we uncovered yet another mysterious room, aptly named ‘The Scrying Chamber’, within this portentous room stood a single stone table upon which sat an ominous black crystal ball.
So gaze deep, dear readers, into destiny through Precinct1313’s mystical crystal ball of amazement, towards a stark future where humanity has entered into the harsh and bitter fate of a second Ice Age.
Frostbite is the upcoming new series from Vertigo, and depicts humanity’s struggle against the harsh elements of a new ice age. The story itself follows a resilient and heroic woman named Keaton, who transports human cargo across the bleak and ice laden landscape. Brutal gangs roam the icy lands and a highly contagious new and deadly disease has reared its head, named ‘Frostbite’.
Frostbite has the reverse effect on the human body that the new ice age has wrought, it freezes people from the inside out! if you become infected the effect is instantaneous and fatal, there is no cure. That is until now, Dr Henry Bonham and his daughter Victoria have found the answer to ending Frostbite and must make their way to a secret government outpost in Alcatraz, so they can administer the cure across the planet. This is where they meet the aforementioned Keaton and her crew, who must take on the responsibility and potential consequences for humanity’s fight for existence by ferrying the Doctor and his daughter across the harsh and unforgiving terrain.
This new mini-series is brought to you by acclaimed scribe Joshua Williamson (who recently gave us the rather wonderful Flash Rebirth) and artist Jason Alexander (Batman: Arkham City) and will be available at all good comic emporiums on September 28.
Welcome my comic collecting cohorts to another instalment of Comic Cover Of The Week, and our spotlight of excellence this week falls upon Vertigo’s Survivor Club #1, and another epic illustration by Bill Sienkiewicz. Survivors Club is a brand new series that is co-written by acclaimed South African horror author Lauren Beukes (Shining Girls) and award winning illustrator Dale Halvorsen.
Six survivors are brought together by horrors they each experienced in 1987 when an outbreak of occult events occurred across the planet, with fatal results. One of them was possessed by a poltergeist, another was trapped in a haunted house and a third owned a killer doll. Now there are indications that another rash of paranormal events may be happening all over again. So is it possible that these six aren’t survivors, but were actually chosen because of their fates?
Survivors Club #1 is available at your local comic book emporium right now. Written by: Lauren Beukes and Dale Halvorsen. Cover art by: Bill Sienkiewicz. Interior art by: Ryan Kelly.
Even The Endless must ultimately succumb to a final denouement it seems, as Neil Gaiman and JH Williams III’s epic comic series nears its conclusive issue. The Neil Gaiman created King Of Stories and Shaper Of Dreams has been with us now for 26 years, with his first appearance in 1989’s The Sandman (Vol-2) #1.
Known by many names, Morpheus and Dream being the most oft used, he is the personification of dreams and stories, one of the seven Endless, beings more powerful and ancient than the Gods themselves. Morpheus resides in a castle within his realm known as The Dreaming, populating his realm with many dreams and nightmares that have a certain conscience and ability to converse. Gaiman has said that he “always assumed Morpheus had once been alone, so he created the beings for want of company.”
Sandman: Overture heralded Gaiman’s return to both comics and his created character, joining alongside artistic luminary JH Williams III (Batwoman: Elegy, Promethea) whose amazing visual style lights up every single page, with each comic panel an individual masterpiece in its own right. The series first issue was released December 2013 in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the character, with each subsequent issue sporadically released since then, with the final issue, #6 due on September 30. Serving as a prequel to the original classic series, it weaves the tale of a cosmic event that weakens Dream enough that a human mystic is able to capture him.
Released alongside the mini-series were also Overture: Special Editions that included gorgeous gatefold covers, metallic inks, black and white issues and glimpses into the creative process behind the creation of the comics themselves, including original panels sans text, interviews and script notes. As previously mentioned, the end of Overture will segue back to the start of Sandman’s original adventures in Sandman Vol.1: Preludes and Nocturnes, making this series the first stop for any new reader wishing to acquaint themselves with The King Of All Night’s Dreaming.
Sandman: Overture #6 will be available to purchase on 30 September. Written by: Neil Gaiman. Cover art by: JH Williams III & Dave McKean. Interior art by: JH Williams III.
Welcome once more to new comics Wednesday, and it’s a rather sad one this week as we wave goodbye to one of the most inventive and engaging comic-book series ever committed for publication, Vertigo Comics astounding “Fables.”
Fables #150 brings to an end the seminal run of Vertigo’s extremely popular series that revolves around the daily lives of characters from classic folklore and fairy tales, who refer to themselves as “Fables” who after being ousted from their mythical birthplace known as Homelands by the “Adversary,” come together to covertly form a community in New York City known as Fabletown.
Fables began publication in 2002 under the DC Comic imprint of Vertigo, it was a breath of fresh air in a comic book medium that was dominated at the time by the spandex clad Superhero, following the lives and adventures of characters such as Snow White, Jack Of Fables, Cinderella, Bigby: the Big Bad Wolf and many, many more mined from the world of public domain Fairy tale literature.
“Once upon a time, a beautiful princess cared for seven amiable dwarves and waited anxiously for her Prince, so they could live happily ever aft… oh get real, Ms White is no kept woman!! She dumped that two timing Prince Charming ages ago. Now she is trying to avoid her attraction to the Big Bad Wolf, and don’t get her started on how much time she’s wasting bailing out her anarchist sister Rose Red and trying to keep the Three Little Pigs off the picket line. It’s all in a days work since she became Mayor of Fabletown!”
Today marks the release of Fables #150, this last issue is delivered as a full sized trade paperback in celebration of its award winning 13 year run. 150 pages in length, with an 80 page lead story by series regulars, writer Bill Willingham and artist Mark Buckingham. It also includes back up stories from the likes of Neal Adams, Steve Leialoha and Gene Ha. This beautifully presented graphic novel has a gorgeous gatefold cover by Nimit Malavia and a metallic ink font.
Fables #150 is available from your local comic-book emporium right now. Written by: Bill Willingham. Cover by: Nimit Malavia. Interior art by: Mark Buckingham, Neal Adams, Steve Leialoha, and Gene Ha.
Occult detective and full time cynic John Constantine may have had his (extremely enjoyable) TV series cancelled recently, but he is still alive and kicking in the DC Universe with a new series following everyone’s favourite British demon hunter beginning this week. This new ongoing monthly returns John to his roots, feeling a lot more like his classic run of stories from his days as a mainstay of DC’s Vertigo imprint, than more recent interpretations of the character in series such as Justice League Dark (which is still a great series, and comes nevertheless recommended.)
With a varied and complex history, Constantine is one of those characters that if you haven’t been following his mystical adventures on a regular basis over the years, you may find it difficult to click with the character and his odd nuances and quirky character traits. But this new first issue by writer Ming Doyle helps bridge that barrier, giving first time readers all the information they need, and presenting you with a feel for who he is and what he represents, without the need for a complicated explanation of back story.
The story itself is absorbing, and very adult, with a nod towards John’s previously hinted at bisexuality. John’s dark and cynical side is brilliantly offset here with a flirty and jovial nature that really draws you into into his crazy psyche. The art is, unique, seemingly at first rather basic, as you read the comic though you begin to appreciate it more, with a real sense of characterisation of both the players and the world itself. My first impression of Riley Rossmo’s style was unfavourable, but it definitely has grown on me now.
Constantine The Hellblazer #1 can be found at your local comic book emporium right now. Written by: Ming Doyle. Interior and cover art by: Riley Rossmo.
Precinct1313 Rating: Awesome, Unusual, Zany, Dark, Adult, but most definitely Constantine… Buy It!
After a night of sex, drugs and occult ritualism in the woods, Eve Coffin wakes up naked, covered in blood and devoid of all memory of how she got there. One of her friends is missing, another finds herself in a mental asylum, and a third believes that Eve herself is responsible. Years later, Eve returns to Coffin Hill to discover that the darkness she unleashed in those dark woods a decade ago is still loose, and is surreptitiously seeping through the town of this sleepy Massachusetts hollow.
Coffin Hill is a bleak, haunting tale of witchcraft, madness, power and retribution, set against a creepy backdrop of New England. It stars Eve Coffin, an unruly and defiant teenager from a rich and powerful family, that have endured a curse that dates way back to the Salem witch trials of 1692.
Written by best selling horror/fantasy author Caitlin Kittredge, author of the popular Nocturne City and Black London series of novels. Though primarily a novel writer, Caitlin has always had a great love for the comic book medium, especially Vertigo’s Sandman series. After meeting a fellow writer who had recently been solicited by Vertigo, she managed to get her Coffin Hill series picked up for publishing by DC’s supernatural horror imprint.
Coffin Hill has proven a big hit for Vertigo and is currently on its eighteenth issue, I only recently discovered this horror gem by picking up the first trade collection and instantly fell in love with the characters, atmosphere and haunting writing style of Caitlin. The art is also outstanding, pencilled by the very talented Inaki Miranda, who formerly worked on Vertigo’s Fairest and Fables series, and a stint on DC Comic’s Birds Of Prey series.
Coffin Hill’s first two trade collections are available right now and are highly recommended to anyone with a love of dark fantasy, horror and the supernatural. Expertly crafted characters, a brooding atmosphere and compelling storyline make for a tragic tale that is an infinitely addictive page turner.
Precinct1313 Rating: 5 Carrion Crows Out Of 5.
Well, after close to twenty years of failed attempts at bringing the Neil Gaiman created character – Sandman to the screen, it looks like he will finally grace our cinemas with his dream-like presence. Warner Bros have announced that actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been brought on as a producer on the planned movie of the endless. He will be joining writers Neil Gaiman and David Goyer on the proposed project.
Sandman was created by Neil Gaiman, with the debut issue releasing November 1988, the series initial run was 75 issues long, with Gaiman writing each and every comic. Various artists portrayed the Endless throughout its run, though Dave McKean stayed with the title to draw every one of its 75 covers. The Sandman – also known as Dream and Morpheus is one of the seven ‘Endless’, which also include his extended family of – Death (our personal favourite of the Endless), Destiny, Desire, Despair, Delirium and Destruction. No date has been set, but just the fact that one of the greatest comic series of all time is getting a film release is good enough for us.
Precinct1313 Anticipation Rating: Endless!