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Madame Xanadu, DC Comics’ Powerful Sorceress

In 1977-78, a new strategy was implemented by DC Comics, it was called the “DC Explosion.” The idea was to give readers more stories for their money and, as a result, happy customers were to buy more and put an end to the unsatisfying sales that started to worry everybody. Multiple new books were then launched. One was Doorway to Nightmare, a horror anthology series with an intriguing new character named Madame Xanadu.

The Creation of Madame Xanadu

Design by artist Michael William Kaluta who based her appearance on real-life model Cathy Ann Thiele, Madame Xanadu was herself a mystery. Co-created by David Michelinie, she was introduced as a mystical fortune teller who did tarot readings to the clients who entered her shop in Greenwich Village (originally in the East Village).

The stories in Doorway to Nightmare were about those clients with Madame Xanadu playing a secondary role. This was for only 5 issues as Warner Communications declared the end of the DC Explosion just after it was launched—barely three weeks after. It was the infamous “DC Implosion” and Madame Xanadu had to move her shop in the pages of the anthology The Unexpected (for only 4 issues). That said, she eventually got a one-shot title simply titled “Madame Xanadu” in 1981.

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American Vampire Reading Order

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In 2010, before becoming very well-known by working on the Batman series at DC Comics, Scott Snyder teamed up with artist Rafael Albuquerque to launch the ongoing series American Vampire at Vertigo. A title that gained a lot of attention at first with Stephen King writing a storyline.

King only put his name on the first 5 issues (backstories only), the story went on for a few years after that. In fact, it concluded in October 2021. That said, we didn’t get a decade’s worth of American Vampire stories as it was divided into three cycles published non-continuously. The first series lasted 34 issues, from 2010 to 2013; the second series was called “American Vampire: Second Cycle,” and lasted 11 issues, from 2014–2015; and the third series, called “American Vampire: 1976“, lasted 10 issues, from 2020 to 2021.

But what is American Vampire about? Vampire in America, of course! In a way, it’s about the story of America. It’s about Skinner Sweet, a violent outlaw who lived in the Wild West. He was going to be killed for his crimes, but an accident led him to be turned into a vampire, the first one to be made in America. He was of a new breed, one that doesn’t suffer from the same limitations as the vampires from the old continent—he is impervious to sunlight, but also faster and stronger.

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Books of Magic Reading Order, The Adventures of Tim Hunter

Launched in 1991 by Vertigo with a miniseries, The Books of Magic is a creation of Neil Gaiman (with artists John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, and Paul Johnson)—and contrary to some beliefs it was not developed as a spin-off of The Sandman, even if the Endless appeared in it. In fact, it was commissioned by DC Comics as a way to highlight the already existing mystical characters in its universe.

The original miniseries introduced us to Timothy Hunter, a twelve-year-old boy who could be the most powerful magician in the world (a character inspired by T. H. White’s The Once and Future King and other classic fantasy stories). The question is: does he really want to be? To find the answer, Tim goes on a trip through the magical world, guided by John Constantine, Phantom Stranger, Mister E, and Doctor Occult, a group of magicians (aka the Trenchcoat Brigade). They want to aid Timothy in his decision.

Once the original Books of Magic miniseries concluded, the story continued with an ongoing 75-issue series by John Ney Rieber (who wrote the first 50 issues) and artists Gary Amaro, Peter Gross, and Peter Snejbjerg. We reconnected with Tim when an enigmatic man named Tamlin decided that he was the key to saving the dying world of Faerie. But exactly how Tim is supposed to do that? And who Tamlin really is? Read the book to discover the answers!

The Books of Magic ongoing series was punctuated with other miniseries, there even was a two-issue crossover miniseries with Hellblazer. Once it concluded, Tim’s story continued in a five-part miniseries by Dylan Horrocks called Names of Magic that opened the way for a new ongoing series, Hunter and the Age of Magic.

An alternate Tim Hunter was also introduced in 2004 with Si Spencer’s 15-issue series called “The Books of Magick: Life During Wartime.” Another version of Timothy was also created during the New 52 era in a Justice League Dark storyline.

In 2018, when Neil Gaiman launched a new Sandman Universe imprint, The Books of Magic was partially rebooted (by writer Kat Howard). Timothy Hunter is back to being a 12-year boy destined to be the world’s most powerful magician who has to learn how to control his burgeoning abilities as well as figuring out whom he can trust—and who wants him dead. Even if it was somewhat of a fresh start, past events were referenced.Read More »Books of Magic Reading Order, The Adventures of Tim Hunter

Last Updated on February 2, 2024.

Sandman (Wesley Dodds), a pulp hero in the DC Universe

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Long before Neil Gaiman introduced his version of the Sandman in the DC Universe, another Sandman haunted the pages of comic books. For a long time, I mean 60 years. The original Sandman was one of the first “superheroes,” a DC Golden Age superhero.

Really, this Sandman was more of a pulp hero. Created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Bert Christman for Adventure Comics #40—but he appeared a bit earlier in the New York World’s Fair Comics #1 (April 1939), a book published on the occasion of the 1939 World’s Fair—, The Sandman was one of the one original mystery men, a vigilante wearing a green business suit, a fedora, and a World War I gas mask who used a gun emitting a sleeping gas to incapacitate criminals.

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Last Updated on February 23, 2024.

The Best Vertigo Comics Series: 15 must-read comics books

Best Vertigo Comics

Before there was a DC Black Label, we had Vertigo Comics, an imprint of comic book publisher DC Comics started by editor Karen Berger in 1993 and dedicated to the publication of comics with adult content. Liberated of the restrictions of DC’s main line, those comics benefited from the larger creative freedom offered to artists and writers who gave us memorable series.

During the 1980s, DC launched a mature readers’ line, and, following the success of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, this kind of book started to evolve separately from the main line. But the real origin of the Vertigo Imprint was when DC stopped submitting The Saga of the Swamp Thing for approval by the Comics Code Authority. Alan Moore’s book opened the door for a new generation of writers, most of them coming from the UK (the famous British Invasion).

Launched in January 1993, Vertigo Comics offered a mix of new and old series, limited or ongoing, and even graphic novels. The first comic book published under the “Vertigo” imprint was Death: The High Cost of Living by Neil Gaiman and Chris Bachalo (see Death Reading Order). A lot of books followed during the 1990s and 2000s and became classics (some are even in our best comics of all-time list), but the imprint started to slowly lose its appeal. Karen Berger left the company in 2012 and was replaced by Shelly Bond. In 2016, new changes at the head of the imprint did nothing to help save it. In fact, even the return of the Sandman Universe (see reading order) didn’t stop the inevitable. DC announced that, as part of a consolidation into a unified branding, the Vertigo imprint would be discontinued in January 2020. 

For a long time, Vertigo was synonymous with quality comics for adults, innovative storytelling, and great art. Here is the list of our favorite Vertigo books. Don’t hesitate to submit yours in the comment section.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2024.

Dead Boy Detectives Reading Order, From the Sandman Universe

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Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (reading order here) led to the creation of multiple spin-offs, not all became as successful as Lucifer (reading order here). It was the case with The Dead Boy Detectives, two young sleuths that are also ghosts.

Created by Gaiman and artist Matt Wagner in Sandman #25, The Dead Boy Detectives are Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine. Edwin was murdered at his boarding school in 1916 and he went to Hell. But when Hell was emptied of its residents, Edwin and the souls of past teachers and pupils came back to the boarding school when Charles and a few teachers stayed for the holidays.

They didn’t survive and Charles became a ghost, like Edwin. The two boys decided to forego going to the afterlife with Death and became detectives investigating crimes involving the supernatural.

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Last Updated on August 8, 2023.

Astro City Reading Order, Kurt Busiek’s classic series

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Created and written by Kurt Busiek, Astro City is an American superhero anthology series (mostly) illustrated by Brent Anderson (from X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills’ fame), with character designs and painted covers by Alex Ross. Still ongoing (?), it all started in 1995 at Image Comics, but it changed publishers multiple times—Homage Comics (1996–2004), Wildstorm (2004–2010), Vertigo Comics (2013–2018), then back to Image Comics.

Composed of three volumes, some miniseries, and special issues, Astro City is about the superheroes of the city, a mid-sized American metropolis, and the citizens who are affected by the many super-beings who live there since the end of World War I. It’s an exploration of the relationship between society and heroes, and how they shape each other.

It was seen as a modern reinvention of the genre, an exploration of the possibilities coming with a shared superhero universe. It clearly came from Busiek’s love of comics.

Due to its anthological format, you can easily jump into Kurt Busiek’s Astro City at any point. The reading order follows the publication order. Some books are hard to find nowadays if you can buy them now, you can skip them without worry.

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Last Updated on January 27, 2023.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Reading Order (Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill)

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Written by Alan Moore (Watchmen) and illustrated by Kevin O’Neill, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen started getting published in 1999, but only concluded recently. It’s composed of four volumes, a spin-off series, and a bit more material.

The story takes us back to London, 1898. The Victorian Era draws to a close and the twentieth-century approaches. It is a time of great change and an age of stagnation, a period of chaste order and ignoble chaos.

It is an era in need of champions. Allan Quatermain, Mina Murray, Captain Nemo, Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde, and Hawley Griffin, the Invisible Man, form a remarkable legion of intellectual aptitude and physical prowess: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The Series ended in 2019.

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Last Updated on June 16, 2022.

The Sandman’s Death Reading Order: What to read with Death of the Endless?

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The world of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman (reading order here) has inspired numerous spin-offs. There are a few anthologies, numerous one shots, miniseries and other specials – few were written by Neil Gaiman.

The character of Death is not one of those who were lucky enough to get an ongoing series, unlike Lucifer (reading order here) and Dead Boy Detectives (reading order here), even if she is extremely popular. That said, we still can find Death in a few publications outside the main Sandman story.

In this Vertigo series, the Endless are the personification of concepts. They all play a specific part in the human world. Dream (or Morpheus) is the king of the Dreaming Wold, where you go when you sleep. His older sister is Death and she mostly meets with the recently deceased and guides them into their next existence.

Death is the second eldest of Endless and possibly the more powerful being in the Universe. In The Sandman, Death takes the appearance of a young goth woman. She is omnipotence and omnipresence, being with all those who die when they die.

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Last Updated on August 12, 2022.

Y The Last Man Reading Order: How to read Brian K Vaughan’s comic book series?

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Y The Last Man Reading Order

Y: The Last Man is a dystopian science fiction comic book series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. It was published under the DC Comics Vertigo imprint between September 2002 and March 2008 and had recently been adapted as a television series. The adaptation didn’t find success and was canceled after one season, but you can just read the comic instead!

The series centers around the sole surviving male human after the spontaneous, simultaneous death of every male mammal on Earth. More precisely, Y: The Last Man starts in the summer of 2002, when Earth is struck by a pandemic plague of unknown origin. This plague destroyed every mammal with a Y chromosome, including spermatosa and unborn children. Referred to as “gendercide”, the plague exterminated 48% of the global population, approximately 2.9 billion men. Two male mammals survived: a young man from Brooklyn named Yorick Brown and his pet Capuchin monkey Ampersand. How and why? The answers to those questions could save humanity from a possible extinction.

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Last Updated on August 17, 2022.