In Comics, Only the Good Die Young

Nimue does not take kindly to impending doom.

As with so many other things that are artistically awesome, they come to an end long before they should. Over at Bleeding Cool, rumor has it that Madame Xanadu will soon meet her demise at Vertigo. Whether because of corporate rearranging of characters, low sales, or the creators having other projects they deem priority, this falls under the category of tragic.

I only recently discovered Madame Xanadu. The first trade, “Disenchanted,” was exceptional. When I finished reading it, I immediately re-read it. Amy Reeder’s art is out of this world. She draws Madame Xanadu so beautifully, with ethereal hints of Manga that make her work bright and unique. Matt Wagner’s story is nothing short of brilliant. He depicts a character who is so powerful and ageless, yet internally flawed by deep emotional wounds a thousand years old. Wagner ingeniously weaves in characters like Merlin, The Phantom Stranger, and Morgan Le Fey, which entices the continuity hound in me. The second trade was also very good, albeit quite different. An alternate artist, Michael William Kaluta, added a rugged vibe to the arc. It worked for the time-period of the story. Think Spanish Inquisition and Jack the Ripper. The writing continued to be fanfuckingtastic as we see a more mature Xanadu, settling into who she’s decided to be. So good in fact, I started buying the issues. The most recent arc, beginning at #26 (check my review over at Newsarama), is very promising.

I could sycophantically profess 100 other things I love about this book, but I’ll stop here, as it’s not going to change anything. I’ve learned to accept that when I really, really love a book, it will inevitably get canned. I’m not so completely narcissistic to believe that I’m one of the few who recognize true excellence. But how does a book like Brightest Day (aka the UBER-MEH) continue on while Xanadu must cease? Sales, I’m sure. To that, I say: Advertise the damn book! I’m so over this “It’s not selling” cop-out. If Xanadu got nearly as much ad space as Brightest Day, I bet it would sell. Pardon me, Mr. Wagner, if I’m being presumptuous and assuming it wasn’t your decision. You are a gifted writer; perhaps you decided to move on. I know Ms. Reeder is taking on Batwoman (aka the MEGA-WIN), and covers for Supergirl, which I’m sure will be splendid. But why do the books I love have to go?

Birds of Prey is back, and that’s great. DC previously discontinued that book and let the characters get turned into feminine frailty. Gail Simone is very quickly rectifying that, but it took four years for DC to figure out what a gem they had with Simone and BoP. Amid the hoopla surrounding Wonder Woman, DC claimed her books weren’t selling either, thus justifying the redesign/reboot. Again, perhaps the books would sell if she got even half the ad space as Batman. Issue #600 sold like hotcakes because it was advertised out the wazoo, combined with the gimmick of changing her appearance. Surely, there aren’t that many JMS fans. Sorry.

Vertigo books consistently have solid writing and good art. I’d say that about a third of the books at DC prime are working with that combo. I acknowledge the factor of sheer numbers. Fine. But this cash cow momentum is a ruthless executioner.  Madame Xanadu is being unjustifiably sent to the guillotine.

10 thoughts on “In Comics, Only the Good Die Young

  1. I’ve never read MX, but I know what a bummer it is when good material gets the ax. The rave reviews make me want to order the trades, but I hate becoming attached to characters/stories that already have an ending sealed. I didn’t get to see Firefly until almost two years after it ended. I fell in love with those folks, and I found myself wishing that I could watch the last few episodes in slow motion. It was almost painful for the final credits to roll. Just seeing kaylee in her pink dress made it worth the heartbreak, though.

    Hmm, maybe I will get the Madame Xanadu trades.

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  2. If true, that’s really disappointing. I was hoping that Vertigo’s lower expectations for monthly sales might save the book, but then that’s only really an option because of trade paperback sales — and I suppose if those aren’t high enough, that’s it.

    I have been kind of worried to see Amy Reeder on a bunch of high-profile assignments at DC — not for her, of course, it’s great that she’s getting more recognition and work, but for Madame Xanadu. I do recall reading that Wagner had a limited amount of time he wanted to spend on the character, so it may be that Vertigo has decided to end the book when he leaves rather than look for a new writer.

    Or it may just be that DC wants its toys back.

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  3. Like all entertainment, the exceptional is usually not universally loved/appreciated. The masses love mediocrity. And worse, old comic fanboys flock to the books they know and avoid anything new or different. Too man people will keep buying Superman or Batman, regardless of whether the stories are actually good, simply to continue their collection or because they love the character.

    We geeks like to think we are outside the influences of the mainstream…but we ain’t. Just like how a bunch of tween girls will flock to anything that says ‘High School Musical” on it, so too will there be a bunch of geeks who will buy anything that says ‘Star Wars’ on it. All the while allowing new shows to die before their time (I’m looking at you, Firefly).

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    • Yes, we geeks like to think we’s an exclusive bunch. Shit, this year’s SDCC gave an emphatic statement of otherwise.

      We’ll see what happens. There’s been no official announcement yet. Fingers crossed, but still dubious.

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  4. If the rumor is true, part of the reason for cancellation is that DC is taking back many of their previously-not-Vertigo characters into the main DC Universe. Madame Xanadu appeared for years in mainstream books. Perhaps DC has a plan for her in the mainstream DCU. Admittedly, that’s not likely. She’ll probably be pulled back to the DCU and then only appear once ever three years in some ridiculous crossover.

    The Irredeemable Shag

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  5. This happens routinely with television shows I love. Seriously; who are the people propping up “Two and a Half Men” while “Community” and “Parenthood” struggle for a respectable audience? I guess it depends on what people want out of entertainment, comics included. And the sad fact is that recognizable titles and event comics will always sell, whether they’re good or not. The only thing we can do is to get street-level evangelical about it and tell friends about the alternative books we’re reading that are worth their time.

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  7. I am going to be so heartbroken if this is true. I have made a point to tell EVERYONE I know to buy this comic out of the fear that this might happen. Gah, I’m so sad now. :-(

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  8. For the record, the rumor is true. The last issue of Madame Xanadu is #29 which is the end of the current story arc “Extra Sensory.” The shitty thing is, DC/Vertigo didn’t even bother to do a blog post about it. They simply mention it in the November solicits:

    Eisner Award-nominated artist Amy Reeder returns for the amazing series finale! Set in the New York City of 1966, Madame Xanadu and her new protÈgÈ, Charlotte Blackwood, ponder what the future may hold. According to The Phantom Stranger, they stand on the edge of a new age – and the coming of a familiar team of heroes…FINAL ISSUE • On sale NOVEMBER 24

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