When news hit about DC's latest string of cancellations, many fans were disappointed -- myself included. The list comprised of many of DC's best books, most of which don't get nearly enough press considering how stellar they actually are. Among the books announced as being canceled was DEMON KNIGHTS, a series centered around a group of DC's mythical characters including Etrigan the Demon, Xanadu, Sir Ystin, Vandal Savage and many others. However, not even a great team like the one listed could keep this series alive as it was announced that the title would come to an end in August, 2013.
So why was DEMON KNIGHTS canceled? In the case of this title, it was not the constant shifts in creative vision or the change in creative teams.
At the end of the day, it all came down to the money. Sadly not even a series of fantastic stories could save this book and since DC is a business, they can really only afford to keep publishing monthly books that sell; and based on the numbers, this one did not do so well. According to figures listed on ICV2, in the month of April, DEMON KNIGHTS #19 sold 12,941 copies and came in at 155 overall. In the month prior (March) the title only sold approximately 12,975 copies. While the sales of this book were consistent (the title didn't seem to fluctuate very much in terms of number of copies sold), and although these figures don't include the number of digital sales, this was still not enough to keep it alive.
Not enough people were buying DEMON KNIGHTS, and now fans of the series (like myself) will have to suffer the consequences. So this is the part where I feel a little bit guilty and responsible for what happened here. Perhaps I did not do my job properly by talking enough about how great this book was (and still is!), or maybe the publisher could have done more to promote the book. In the end, it's a little bit late and although it is a bit sad, we can still look back on a pretty awesome series. For those of you who have missed out on the last 20 issues of DEMON KNIGHTS, here is a recap of some of the awesome things you missed.
The series was consistent
Unlike many of DC's 'New 52' titles, this one was consistent. The stories were generally pretty clear, the arcs were organized and the continuity was definitely there. Beyond that, even though the book took place outside of the DC universe (it was set in approximately 1043 A.D.) it still felt like you were reading a DC comic book. The series was launched in September, 2011 by Paul Cornell who remained the series' writer until DEMON KNIGHTS #16 when the series was taken over by writer Robert Venditti. Cornell's run was so good that many wondered whether Venditti would be able to top it -- needless to say, the series did not suffer one bit and remained interesting. The vision Cornell initially set for the series remained the same and felt consistent throughout Venditti's run, and the result was awesome.
This was one magically, stellar team
Of all the team books DC published in the last two years, this one was by far one of the more interesting. What other book could bing Vandal Savage together with the Amazons of Themyscira? I can't think of any, but this one managed to do it -- and do it with humor.
Not only were the characters some of DC's most interesting (Etrigan was at the center of nearly every story), but they came from very different parts of the DCU and were brought together in a way that made sense. These characters were connected by magic and mythology and it was generally done in stories that were interesting. The current arc, for example, brings all these characters together and sends them off on a search for the holy grail. Why would Vandal Savage want to join this team of travelers in a journey to seek and find the Holy Grail? The decision to put such a diverse cast of characters together in one place is one of the things that really excited me about this comic. The interactions between this unique group of characters is one of the qualities that had me coming back to read this series month after month, and now that it is over I will certainly find myself missing that very different and very entertaining dynamic in the monthly titles I enjoy reading.
DEMON KNIGHTS broke barriers
Generally speaking, issues like intersex characters, homosexuality, transgender or anything that might be considered "taboo" in comics are presented in very elaborate ways -- but not here. In a previous article we discussed whether or not making a certain BATGIRL character transgender was done in a genuine way, or whether it was done for shock value. DEMON KNIGHTS deals with the introduction of a transgender and/or intersex character (it is still somewhat unclear) by tip-toeing around the subject. It is an issue that underlines the entire series and isn't something that is introduced out of the blue. Neither Cornell, the series' previous writer nor Venditti define Ystin, but rather they hint at what her sex or sexuality might be. Initially a Golden Age character, Ystin was re-introduced in Grant Morrison's SEVEN SOLDIERS series as a woman who dressed as a man in order to become one of King Arthur's knights.
Cornell brought the character into the New 52 and took that idea further, never clearly defining Ystin's sex or sexuality to readers, but rather making us guess by integrating it as part of the plot. Cornell's decision to make Shining Knight's sex ambiguous to readers from the very beginning is part of what made reading this series so entertaining. And when Ystin finally did reveal information about her sex (under Cornell's pen) it was done so discretely and as part of the overall story. The way it was written made something that is an issue essentially a non-issue, and in that sense, this series broke barriers. It (possibly?) introduced the first intersex character to mainstream comics but it did so in a way that wasn't shocking and had actually been
She loves him, she loves him not, she loves him?
Amidst the adventures the team has experienced is also a very bizarre romance that has been brewing. Beneath the surface of the story is the love affair between Xanadu and Jason Blood. Or is it Xanadu and Etrigan? For those unfamiliar with the character, Jason Blood is cursed with being tied to Etrigan for all eternity, and therefore when the demon is called, Jason Blood descends into the depths of hell while Etrigan is unleashed on Earth -- but only for a short period. The thing is, it is never really clear whether Xanadu loves Etrigan or whether she loves Jason Blood, and part of that mystery is what makes this story so interesting to read. When she is with one, she always curses the other, something that keeps us wondering whether she loves either Etrigan or Jason at all.
This is by far one series I will absolutely miss seeing on my pull list each month. It is well written and features a dynamic between an eclectic group of characters that is definitely going to be hard to replace. It is a great example not only of great character interaction, but great storytelling in general. The language and dialogue have always been fantastic and the art equally so. I will miss this great group of characters and their adventures, and I only hope that DC decides to integrate them into a new series. I will say that at the very least I am glad we will get to see this series reach issue #23 and I am glad I was along for the ride. What did you think of DEMON KNIGHTS? Is it a series you enjoyed? Will you miss it? Which of DC's announced cancelations has you the most disappointed? What kind of a series do you hope replaces this and the other previously announced cancelations?
Source: graph photo via Comic Book Revolution