Madame Xanadu

Madame Xanadu
Madame Xanadu
Promo for Day of Vengeance Special #1,
Art by Walt Simonson.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Doorway to Nightmare #1, (February 1978)
Created by David Michelinie (writer)
Val Mayerik (artist)
Michael William Kaluta (character design)
In-story information
Alter ego Nimue Inwudu
Place of origin Earth
Team affiliations Sentinels of Magic
Partnerships The Spectre
Abilities Precognition, sense and interpret magical forces, immortality

Madame Xanadu is a fictional character, a comic book mystic published by DC Comics. The character is identified with Nimue, the sorceress from Arthurian mythology made popular by Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.


Publication history

The character debuted in Doorway to Nightmare #1, (February 1978). The character was designed by cover artist Michael William Kaluta at the request of Joe Orlando (editor), based on Kaluta's unnamed host character (later known as Charity in the pages of Starman) from the DC Comics mystery title Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion (seen only on that title's indicia page) and the person of Cathy Ann Thiele. The original storyline was developed by David Michelinie and Val Mayerik.

Doorway to Nightmare, introduced in 1978, was the last of the DC "Mystery" line of titles in the 1970s that became the forerunner of Vertigo. It did not have a consistent creative team—the intent was to create writer-artist pairings that had never occurred before, except for the cover art of Michael William Kaluta.[1] Madame Xanadu, the star of the series, was not a host but an active participant, albeit never the main character in her stories. The Phantom Stranger was criticized heavily in letter columns for taking a similar approach.[2] The Doorway to Nightmare strip lasted for ten issues: five in its own series, four in The Unexpected, and one issue of Madame Xanadu, which was DC's second direct sales only comic.[3][4] The first issue of Madame Xanadu bore little difference from an issue of Doorway to Nightmare. There were several requests to reprint it[specify] in letter columns of The Spectre, but they were refused because that issue gave little background as to her character, although it did introduce Ishtar to the DC Universe, who dated Destruction.

Madame Xanadu was a regular supporting cast member in volumes 2 and 3 of The Spectre, those versions written by Doug Moench (31 issues, 1987-1989) and John Ostrander (62 issues, 1993–1998).

A Madame Xanadu ongoing series from Vertigo was announced at the 2007 San Diego Comic Con[5] and started in 2008.[6] It is written by Matt Wagner,[7] with art by Amy Reeder Hadley.[8][9] The series has also featured art stints by Kaluta, Joëlle Jones, Marley Zarcone, Laurenn McCubbin, Chrissie Zullo, Celia Calle, and Marian Churchland. The series was concluded after 29 issues, the final one dated January 2011.

Story structure

The Doorway to Nightmare stories were typically structured around a protagonist stumbling upon Madame Xanadu's shop (stated to be on "Christy Street" in the East Village (changed to Greenwich Village in The Unexpected #192) and deciding to enter. She (usually) or he would tell a story of romance that was frustrated by an outside element. Xanadu, through a tarot reading, always determined this element to be of an occult nature, then sent the protagonist to do some task in which she would intervene with the use of her powers. Upon concluding the story, the occult element would wind up in a mason jar in her back room. In the first issue, she apparently became trapped in a burning building. The central couple returns to her shop for nostalgia's sake and discovers her to be quite alive. This was a hint at the extent of her powers. The primary variation in the stories was what the occult threat actually was, be it demonic forces, Asian mummies, vampires, incubi, or other supernatural threats. In one story, she fought Azazel, but he looked nothing like in The Sandman.[10]

When the title was moved from its own series to a revamped, 68 page and ad-free version of The Unexpected (the stories were actually expanded from 17 to 22 pages with the move, part of the DC Implosion), she was shown to be friendly with Abel in the inside front covers, which may or may not have been in continuity. She never met Abel in an actual story until DC Special Series #21, when she and the Phantom Stranger arrive at the House of Mystery with Christmas presents.

Fictional character biography


Madame Xanadu's origins are explored in an ongoing Vertigo series. According to this series, her full name was once Nimue Inwudu and she is the youngest sister of Morgana (to become Morgaine Le Fay) and Vivienne, the Lady of the Lake. The sisters are descendants of the Elder Folk, survivors of Atlantis who evolved into the race known as the Homo Magi.

Madame Xanadu is the same Nimue who casts an imprisoning spell on her former lover Merlin, blaming him for manipulating Camelot and the course of history for his own gain. Merlin has the last laugh, though, as he succeeds in stripping her magic away from her, forcing her to use potions to maintain her immortality. The mysterious Phantom Stranger influences her betrayal of Merlin and the two continue to meet throughout the centuries, sharing an ambivalent relationship. Shortly after this, either she or the Lady of the Lake (regardless, called "Nimue") bore a son to Kon-Sten-Tyne, an ancestor of John Constantine. The child was left with Kon-Sten-Tyne, who sacrificed the boy as a teenager to Eve.[11]

Nimue wanders around the world for some time, becoming an advisor to many great rulers. She spends time in Kublai Khan's court at Xanadu, leading to her nickname of "Madame Xanadu." During the French Revolution, she attempts to advise Marie Antoinette. During this era, she is able to regain her immortality by besting Death in a card game. Other incidents in her long years of life include a doomed lesbian love affair during the Spanish Inquisition.

In the 1940s, she has a sexual relationship with John Zatara, who wishes to marry her, but she foresees his true love, and the later existence of his daughter, Zatanna, a love with whom she could never compete. Despite this, she merely uses Zatara to trap and ensnare the Phantom Stranger, preventing him from witnessing, and curbing, the supernatural origins of the Spectre. This in turn prevents Madame Xanadu from interfering, despite having foreseen the potential menace the unchecked Spectre would have brought on Earth. It's revealed that Xanadu's later behaviour stems from this earlier fault, her magic parlor being devised as a way to control the supernatural being, ultimately hoping to restrain and quell his rage.

Eventually, Madame Xanadu decides that she wants to atone for her sins and begins operating the fortune-telling parlour out of Greenwich Village (originally said to be on "Christy Street" in the East Village). She however remains without any real magic might of her own, which has led her to manipulate various forces in order to gain power. Having developed herself as an advisor, she now meets clientele plagued by supernatural problems. Although she can advise them, some force prevents her from directly interfering in solving their troubles. If one of her clients manages to conquer a supernatural force, she can contain that entity in jars within her fortune parlour to prevent it from causing any further trouble.

Later History

Madame Xanadu #1 (1981) cover, art by Michael Kaluta.

When the Spectre is destroyed by the Anti-Monitor, Madame Xanadu performs a magic ritual that brings him back to existence. From that day forward she acts as the Spectre's spiritual advisor while he is bound to the soul of Jim Corrigan. At first, Xanadu tries to lead Corrigan astray in order to use the Spectre force for her own agendas. She is depicted in a nude love scene with the Spectre in the form of mist, although readers in the letters column did not find this clear and Xanadu's nudity gratuitous. Subsequent issues made clear that this was a romantic relationship, but no more nudity was used.[12]

Over the course of their affiliation however, a strange form of friendship grows between Corrigan and Madame Xanadu. Over time, Madame Xanadu is instrumental in ensuring the safety of Corrigan's soul, stopping the various rampages of the Spectre, and ultimately shows up at Jim Corrigan's funeral not as an advisor or enemy, but as his friend. She even sheds a tear as Jim Corrigan's soul leaves the mortal plane to go to Heaven.

She is also consulted by the Suicide Squad about the increasing difficultly of dealing with Enchantress. She provides the Squad with a ring and necklace that can harm the Enchantress if she tries to use her powers against the ring-bearers' wishes.

Madame Xanadu also gives Timothy Hunter a reading, helping him along his path as an emerging sorcerer. She also confronts Tim's companion John Constantine, whom she believes stole a magic artifact called the Wind's Egg from her.

Although Madame Xanadu, among others, has no great love for or trust in the Phantom Stranger, she is a member of the Sentinels of Magic, a loose group of mages and mystics that are called upon to thwart Asmodel's uprising in Hell. Nonetheless, she prefers to operate alone and is one of the few heroes who outright refuses to ally herself with the Stranger.

In order to gain more power, Madame Xanadu bartered her soul to the demon Neron, who gave her three loyal demons to do her commands in exchange for it. At first, the demons responded to her every whim and almost raged out of her control. Over time, as she controls her own emotions, she has become able to control the demons as well.

Day of Vengeance

In Day of Vengeance #2, an Infinite Crisis tie-in, the Spectre, then unstable and believing that magic equaled evil, disabled Madame Xanadu and took her eyes.

In the Day of Vengeance special it is revealed that Madame Xanadu is still blind. She has regrown her eyes 14 times, only for them to be burned out again, because the Spectre's powers are beyond hers. However, Madame Xanadu's abode would be the rallying point of the offense against the Spectre, gathering the Phantom Stranger, Zatanna, and Nabu.

Xanadu has also found a way around the Spectre's curse by training an adept, Daena, to read the cards for her. Through Daena, she sees the destruction of the world with the Spectre winning and destroying everything. It is at her place that Nabu begins his offense against the Spectre as well as the strategy for restoring the Rock of Eternity.

One Year Later

Madame Xanadu's standing in the new magic order has yet to be explored in detail. However, it is known that she is still trying to cure her blindness. She assists the Shadowpact when members of their team were temporarily blinded by the mystical powers of the villains known as 'the Congregation.' It is the mystical aspect that allows her to help, though some of the group are able to heal the blindness on their own.

Madame Xanadu appears in Countdown #50, operating out of "Hokus & Pokus Occult Curiosities" in Greenwich Village. She is unable to help Mary Marvel locate Captain Marvel Jr. She does advise Mary to avoid Gotham City, because "it isn't safe for magic."

The New 52

Madame Xanadu has resurfaced in the new continuity, the result of Barry Allen's unintentional tampering with the timestream and the merging of the Vertigo, WildStorm and DCU universes.[13]

In the new continuity Xanadu is no longer blind, and despite her past as Nimue still applying, she seems have taken a more pro-active stance during the Fall of Camelot. Instead of quietly observing like she did in her core miniseries, she staunchly opposed the surrendering of Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake, and then started traveling with Jason Blood, meeting other Dark Ages based heroes and villains as Vandal Savage and the Shining Knight. Furthermore, the Dark Ages Madame Xanadu is seen in a relationship with both Etrigan and Jason Blood, each one believing she was humoring the other for the sake of their forced merging.[14]

As of September 2011, the present-days Madame Xanadu will be featured in the DC Universe reboot, in Justice League Dark, resuming her role as the keystone and supporter of the magical community in the DCU.[15][16]

Powers and abilities

Madame Xanadu has a supernatural sensitivity to occult activities and mystic phenomena. She uses tarot cards to interpret what she senses, and is also able to tell the future of others. Xanadu can levitate objects, teleport herself, and banish demons. Madame Xanadu's parlour is full of magical books and objects, as well as jars containing the essences of malevolent entities. She rarely uses these objects of power, merely acting as a guardian of them.

Madame Xanadu is immortal, never aging and unable to die of natural causes thanks to her deal with Death. In the DC Universe, she may be outright unkillable even by beings such as the Spectre.

Other versions

Tangent Comics

In the Tangent Comics series Joker's Wild, Madame Xanadu is one of three women who masquerade as a heroic version of the Joker.


In the alternate timeline of the Flashpoint, Madame Xanadu is still a fortune-teller.[17] When Traci Thirteen teleported and discovers that Madame Xanadu is dying. Before dying Madame Xanadu tells her to stop the instigated Doctor Thirteen.[18]

In other media


  • Madame Xanadu appears in the Young Justice episode "Denial" voiced by Cree Summer in an affected Creole accent. In a radical departure from her comic book counterpart, Xanadu is portrayed as a New Orleans-based con artist who uses sleight of hand tricks to swindle unsuspecting customers. Despite this, Kent Nelson mentions that she has the "perfect aura for the work". When Abra Kadabra abducts Kent Nelson, Madame Xanadu flees upon seeing what she just saw. The show's creator Greg Weisman has [commented] that there's "more to her story," implying she may reveal actual powers in a future episode.

Collected Editions

  • Madame Xanadu Vol. 1 Disenchanted (240 pages, collects Madame Xanadu #1-10)
  • Madame Xanadu Vol. 2 Exodus Noir (128 pages, collects Madame Xanadu #11-15)
  • Madame Xanadu Vol. 3 Broken House of Cards (200 pages, collects Madame Xanadu #16-21)
  • Madame Xanadu Vol. 4 Extra-Sensory (collects Madame Xanadu #22-29)


Madame Xanadu vol. 2 was nominated for a number of 2009 Eisner Awards: "Best New Series", "Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team" (Amy Reeder Hadley and inker Richard Friend) and "Best Cover Artist" (Hadley).[19]

Eisner Award 2010 Nominee: "Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team" (Michael Kaluta), Madame Xanadu #11–15: “Exodus Noir” (Vertigo/DC). [20]


  1. ^ Doorway to Nightmare #5
  2. ^ Letter columns in The Phantom Stranger vol. 2, issues 31-41
  3. ^ Madame Xanadu at the Grand Comics Database
  4. ^ Catron, Michael (June 1981). "DC Taps Fan Market for Madame Xanadu". Amazing Heroes (1): 25. "Madame Xanadu, a 32-page/$1.00 comic that marks DC's first attempt at marketing comics specifically to fans and collectors, went on sale in early April. The book contains a 25-page tale by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers entitled 'Dance for Two Demons' ... The tale was originally commissioned for Doorway to Nightmare but was put into DC's inventory when that title was cancelled." 
  5. ^ McGuirk, Brendan (July 26, 2007). "SDCC '07: Matt Wagner Talks Vertigo's Madame Xanadu". Newsarama. Retrieved June 8, 2008. 
  6. ^ Madame Xanadu vol. 2 at the Grand Comics Database
  7. ^ Renaud, Jeffrey (April 11, 2008). "Wagner Saws Madame Xanadu in Half with Vertigo". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved June 8, 2008. 
  8. ^ McGuirk, Brendan (August 23, 2007). "Talking Madame Xanadu with Amy Hadley". Newsarama. Retrieved June 8, 2008. 
  9. ^ Alverson, Brigid (February 5, 2008). "From Manga to Madame Xanadu". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved June 8, 2008. [dead link]
  10. ^ Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1/The Unexpected #190.
  11. ^ Hellblazer Annual #1
  12. ^ The Spectre (vol. 2) #9, which was controversial and continues to be cited in Overstreet because of its lack of a mature readers labeling with Xanadu's nipples clearly visible in more than one panel
  13. ^ Flashpoint #5 (August 2011)
  14. ^ Demon Knights #1 (September 2011)
  15. ^ "MILLIGAN: DCnU JUSTICE LEAGUE Spin-off 'Emotionally Dark'". NEWSarama. Retrieved 2011-06-29. 
  16. ^ Justice League Dark #1 (2011)
  17. ^ Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint #1
  18. ^ Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint #2 (July 2011)
  19. ^ 2009 Eisner Nominations Spotlight Newcomers, San Diego Comic-Con International
  20. ^ [1]

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