Introducing Madame Xanadu! Ryan Daly and guest Greg Araujo review the first issue of Doorway to Nightmare featuring the debut of DC's most famous Tarot reader, Madame Xanadu. Plus, listener feedback from episode 11, the Easter show with the killer rabbit.
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Music produced by Neil Daly. Additional music: "King Tut" by Steve Martin.
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12 responses to “Midnight 14: DOORWAY TO NIGHTMARE #1”
Fun episode guys! I have never read this comic, for whatever reason I always assumed MX was positioned as a female Phantom Stranger–more narrator than active participant in the main action.
Val Mayerik is one of those artists whose work I think I like, but his style is so scratchy and fine that I think it suffers greatly under newsprint printing. I would like to see what his work looks like on better paper, to see if it makes a difference.
As to the future direction of the show: while I was looking forward to the coverage of Deadman and Swamp Thing, those are (by now) beloved characters whose classic stories have gotten a lot attention in the last few decades. It may not do much for the show’s download #s, but I’m excited to hear about more obscure stuff like Doorway to Nightmare, Weird War Tales, Night Force, etc.
Someone get PJ Frightful a lozenge!
I haven’t read any of her earlier appearances (I might try to find these Doorway to Nightmare issues just to have them), but I dug the hell out of the 2008 Madame Xanadu series from Vertigo. It was written by Matt Wagner with art by Amy Reeder (for two arcs), Mike Kaluta (for one arc), Joelle Jones (for a two issue interlude) and a whole assortment of artists for the last six issues.
It had more of a fantasy feel than horror, but still with that Vertigo edge. That was much more character-based, you really get to see Xanadu across different time periods and how she interacted with the larger DCU. There’s an appearance by everybody’s favorite character from Sandman (which was the selling point for me, personally). No Constantine or Zatanna, which seems like a bit of a missed opportunity, but a few important DC heroes show up.
It might be because it’s one of the first I ever read, but I think this is my favorite Vertigo book of all-time. I think Xanadu got some really good character development, there’s something in every story that would appeal to fans of fantasy-horror, and there wasn’t a single bad artist for its 29 issue run.
Ok, firstly, no question that the black and white cover is a million times better.
It’s a shame that the story doesn’t quite pull together because there’s quite a few details I like about this, particularly in regards to Xanadu herself. I’ve always been fascinated by characters who have to interact with things indirectly in order to achieve their goals. An example is the villain Doctor Facilier from the Disney film The Princess and the Frog. He had access to vast voodoo based powers, but it didn’t work if he tried to use it for direct gain. So instead he would manipulate people into bargains where the things he’d use his powers to do that ostensibly were for them actually furthered his own goals. Or another similar example is the Marquis de Carabas from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, who trades exclusively in favors even though he admits that “It’s too expensive in the end.”
Unfortunately, knowing that there’s the new creative team with each and ever story, that removes much hope that we’re seeing stories to give context for Xanadu’s collection so we’re later able to see what she uses all these things for. Because while the story itself is fine for what it is, THAT is definitely the angle that grabs me and makes me want to know more. It’s kind of a shame that it doesn’t seem like they knew what they had in a host who also participates.
Great episode. I found the Madame Xanadu one shot in adollar bin last year and loved the Wagner/Reeder series but I don’t have any Doorway to Nightmare so can’t wait to hear the coverage.
I definitely like the internal art by Mayerik. It fits the tone. In looking at the pages and hearing the coverage, my guess is whatever ritual Erika is doing has some physical/sexual component. It might explain why she isn’t draining homeless people?
As for the future show, I was an avid reader of the anthology books growing up. They (and the twilight zone) clearly influenced my writing style as most every fiction thing I write comes with a twist often macabre ending. So I’ll be here if that is where the focus will be!
Sounds like “Bead-curtain to Nightmare” would be the better title to this. Still gutted you didn’t play Xanadu at the end. But, good episode. Always enjoy hear Greg.
Great episode guys! That play-out music was new to me.
I really liked this issue, from the splash page on – – straight away we get very evocative scene setting, dripping with description, not repeating what the picture shows, but enhancing it.
I think later Madame Xanadu writer Matt Wagner really latched onto that line, ‘And that is what we shall call her’ as he later reveals her real name was something far removed from that.
I’d forgotten about the jars. As another Madame said, you gotta have a gimmick.
Michelinie is good at giving MX and Cindy different voices – the latter’s description of her tatty flat, ‘furnished it in early flea market’, is like something Mary Richards, another small town transplant to the big city, might say.
I like that Mayerick doesn’t draw MX as a traditional beauty, instead giving her a flat nose and cold eyes.
It’s clever that Michelinie goes to a cliffhanger on page 8, where the ad break comes in.
I like the drippy panel on page 10 as Brad looks out the window, it’s almost anticipating the late melting of Erica which, by the way, I’m amazed isn’t in the gallery – it’s one of the most gruesome sequences I’ve ever seen in a Code Approved book.
Deja Thoris is right – that’s not how your average cancer patient dresses.
And yes, ‘Proportional pyramid power’ was very Seventies!
Did you read the text page from the original comic? It totally reads like the series pitch.
Who cares if this story passes the Bechdel test? There’s no reason every tale should.
As regards the story not living up to the Doorway to Nightmare title, how many of DC’s horror story actually lived up to the billing on the cover? Mind, almost losing my fella to a soul-sucking demon who then melts in front of me… that’s
hardly everyday stuff to me.
I wish DC had kept MX as mystic adviser rather than turning her into a superhero as of the New 52. That role was hers, there are a zillion sorceresses around.
My problem with Madame Xanadu is that I know entirely too much about the Tarot, a trope that is so rarely used accurately in film, tv and comics. We don’t see much of it here – Death on the cover and the Devil later on – and one feels they are used literally rather than using the Arcana’s actual meanings.
The Devil heralds Erika’s appearance and she turns out to be a devilish presence, or one might point to the appearance of a demonic phantasm in the kitchen. Bleh. The Devil is the dark self (often with sexual connotations), the thing we hide inside ourselves. I’ll give the story credit for sexually apposing Cindy and Erika, but the explanation is slim and probably incidental.
Example of a correct (and subtle) use of Tarot cards: the 2016 film The Love Witch. Recommended.
Madame Xanadu is one of those characters that I’m familiar with, but I can’t honestly tell you any stories I’ve read with her in them. The was a very interesting article in Back Issue awhile back about Xanadu, and it featured photos of the model Kaluta based her on. They even interview here there. Highly recommended, of course!
Kaluta definitely gave Xanadu some seriously haunting eyes, and they are really the selling point of the cover. But yeah, the coloring butchers the art. The interiors by Mayerik have a semi-Wrightson-like vibe to them, which is of course appropriate. His stuff always had a visceral component to it many comic artists lack.
I recall some small amount of controversy around the character of Madame Xanadu in the late 80s Spectre series. I think I read in Comic Buyers Guide of the time she appeared naked in that series and it caused a mini-stir. Believe it or not, it still is, as seen in this article from Bleeding Cool a while back:
Really enjoyed Madame Xanadu’s work on Rumours.
Was there another house ad where she’s dealing tarot cards, or am I confusing her with Scorpio Rose?
It’s quite possible my first exposure to Madame Xanadu, in-story and perhaps otherwise, was in Millennium, so it can’t have been all bad.
I much prefer the limited run randos to pure anthology or long form character-specific stuff here at Midnight.
An alternative musical choice for this story would be Phish’s “Sample In A Jar.”