...Of Spectacled Boys and Owl Companions
Friday, September 23, 2005
During the early 1990s P10 could go a long way for comic book reading kids like me at the time, since it was still possible to buy comic books at P10 from National Bookstore, and take note that these were not mere PsiCom reprints but legitimate back issues of DCs and Marvels. It was the time way before Comic Quest was cool and it was the time when Filbar's only has 2 branches and that it still sticks to its 'comics only' sales strategy.

Looking back at that great period in National Bookstore I was one of those fortunate kids who were able to partake of the P10 comic book bargain blessing of National Bookstore and it was during that time that I was able to collect a substantial amount of comics to create a library of
comic books, it was there where I was able to buy my a lot of Giffen/De Matteis JLA/JLE, as well as almost complete the Millenium Crossover series of DC and also buy a lot of cool individual comics ranging from Superman's Time & Time Again, Red Glass Trilogy; The Flash; Armageddon 2001; a number of Batman & Detective Comics; Jim Lee/Portacio era X-Men & X-Force. And during that time comic book collecting was just for fun and not the aspect of collecting it for its future value, and it was that grand time of wonderful storytelling just in time before the sudden emergence of such mindless scarred super-heroes from Image Comics (Spawn, WildCATS, Supreme, Youngblood, Witchblade etc) and the eventual de-evolution of DC and Marvel into merely writing about super-heroes fighting the next big bad supervillain in a dire attempt to save the universe as we know it. (i.e. Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, Eclipso The Darkness Within, Bloodlines, Underworld Unleashed, Marvel Versus DC, Amalgam, Final Night etc.)

And that I could even devote another post for such adventures that I've had during that exciting time in my life, but this post is not intended for that.

It has been the'in' thing for a couple of years now and that almost (if not) everybody who are so pretensiously projecting an intellectual yet youthful image have been bragging of being a fan of such a sod little spectacled boy named Harry Potter. And this is about that boy and how its creator JK Rowling have somewhat a lot of things to explain concerning its startling coincidences about Potter's startling similarities with a Neil Gaiman creation called Tim Hunter.

Now you might be asking what on earth does this have to do with the time that I was still able to buy cheap comic books at National Bookstore?

Please read further.

The year was 1994 when I was about to graduate from elementary when I just so happen to buy a copy of this graphic novel called The Books Of Magic Volume 4 at National Bookstore, Tutuban for a startling price of P20 (or lesser I've long since forgotten, but I'm pretty sure its the
closest guess). It was written by Niel Gaiman and published in 1990 by DC Comics in a prestige graphic novel format, with its pages layered by the masterful artworks from Paul Johnson.

During that time I simply bought it because I believe that in comic book collecting its really cool to have a graphic novel in your collection, and that it was only sold for P20 that makes it quite a bargain for me since graphic novels and Trade Paperback collection of comic books at
the time were already pegged at P300 and can be bought only at Filbars. So what I did was that I immediately grabbed the opportunity and bought it right away along with this other graphic novel called Twilight, written by Howard Chaykin and illustrated by Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez.

The story wasn't that alien to me since earlier at the time I've already somewhat read a summary of the story which was written on the back of three DC Cosmic Teams trading cards, with its entry on The Worlds Of Magic. But as to my astonishment the comic book was beyond that of the ordinary trading card article and not to mention the fact that what I have with me is only a single volume of the entire collection thus containing only a portion of the overall story.

For those of you who haven't heard of the story yet, it just goes like this:

Herein we follow a young man, Tim Hunter, destined to be one of the greatest mages in history, as he introducted to magicks past, magic in present day world, the lands just beyond commonplace reality and magicks future by four DC Comics magicians: the Phantom Stranger (condemned to walk for eternity); Dr. Occult (who switches gender and personae as the occasion demands); John Constantine, Hellblazer (a con man and rogue, few powers but he has taken on the Devil himself and survived); and
Mister E (a dangerous fanatic on the side of order).

Last year, Neil Gaiman, British author of The Sandman, pointed out that his 1990 work, The Books of Magic, features a dark-haired, bespectacled boy who discovers he's a wizard and is accompanied by a magic owl. Rowling had said that 1990 was the year the idea for the Harry Potter series came into her head on a train journey. Rowling has not been shy about admitting other influences, especially C. S. Lewis, and most readers will easily spot other literary forerunners throughout the first three Potter books, including Lewis Caroll's Alice books, Enid Blyton's Mallory Towers, Thomas Hughes' Tom Brown's Schooldays, the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, T.H. White's The Sword In The Stone and some of the classic fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm.

According to Gaiman, he was contacted months ago by a journalist who had noticed that Tim Hunter and Harry Potter were similar and wanted Gaiman's comments on the connection. Gaiman replied that, no, he didn't think the two were connected and that neither he or Rowling were the first to write young magicians with potential stories.

...and Neil himself said (through Puck at The Dreaming)

"I was surprised to discover from yesterday's MIRROR that I'm meant to have accused J.K. Rowling of ripping off BOOKS OF MAGIC for HARRY POTTER.

Simply isn't true -- and now it's on the public record it'll follow me around forever.

Back in November I was tracked down by a Scotsman journalist who had noticed the similarities between my Tim Hunter character and Harry Potter, and wanted a story. And I think I rather disappointed him by explaining that, no, certainly *didn't* believe that Rowling had ripped off Books of Magic, that I doubted she'd read it and that it wouldn't matter if she had: I wasn't the first writer to create a young magician with potential, nor was Rowling the first to send one to school. It's not the ideas, it's what you do with them that matters.

Genre fiction, as Terry Pratchett has pointed out, is a stew. You take stuff out of the pot, you put stuff back. The stew bubbles on.

(As I said to the Scotsman journalist, the only thing that was a mild bother was that in the BOOKS OF MAGIC movie Warners is planning, Tim Hunter can no longer be a bespectacled, 12 year old English kid. But given the movie world I'll just be pleased if he's not played by a middle-aged large-muscled

Not sure how this has transmuted into "Gaiman has accused Rowling of ripping him off." But I suppose it's a better story than the truth."

So no, there isn't any reality to a Rowling / Gaiman Courtroom Deathmatch...sorry.

"I was surprised to discover from yesterday's Mirror [18 March 2000] that I'm meant to have accused J.K.Rowling of ripping off Tim Hunter from Books of Magic for Harry Potter. Simply isn't true -- and now it's on the public record it'll follow me around forever.

Take it as it may be. I am no Harry Potter fan. The thought of its overall concept seems silly for my type. Growth in terms of his magical skill etc. doesn't do much for me, more depth can be had if you'd watch five consecutive episodes of Bob Brush's The Wonder Years, maybe what I'm saying is that all this Harry Potter hype has been done to death especially with shows that dealt with the occult (Charmed, Buffy, Angel and Sabrina I'm definitely looking at your direction).

As opposed to when Gaiman did his take on the whole idea and then left it off to other writers to go around it. Another is the whole idea that Tim Hunter (the Harry Potter character pattern) in the end of Gaiman's story chose to rather not have anything to do with magic or magick as how it was reffered to in the story.

Now you may be thinking that I'm just a sour graping geek that's angry because I can't ride the HP bandwagon but no. I'm just saying that while the rest of the world adores and gives their respects to the bespectacled boy has an owl for a companion other stories get ignored. And it just so happened that the amazing story of Gaiman's Books of Magic that was blatantly given a poor light with this HP hype.

So what's with the Gaiman's book anyways?

You may ask?

It's a difficult thing to put a finger on, but there's something about that book that I really like. The book is an expertly crafted story, showcasing many aspects of the Gaiman imagination. The art is great, perfectly demonstrating the skills of the four artists involved. And the characters are a whole bunch of DC's back catalogue from throughout the ages.

For starters, there are a lot characters to take in, but for folks like me who've been an avid fan of the universe that spawned Batman & Superman such is a fun thing, moreover its ambicious to tackle a whole bunch of characters and weave them into an amazing narrative of Tim's experience.

All of them are from DC's occult universe, though there's no reason why you should know any of them (or there are if you're into exploring the DC universe), except for maybe John 'Hellrazer' Constantine (whom most of you don't probably know co-exists on the same universe with Superman) and a couple of cameos by some siblings of the Sandman. Both Constantine and the Sandman crew feature in far superior work in their own books. Here you have something that feels like an advert for their other titles.

The main character, Tim Hunter, is a 12-year-old boy, deemed to have the potential to become a powerful magician. The story is not completely unlike Dickens' A Christmas Carol, in that Timothy Hunter is shown the past, the present and possible futures by a bunch of DC's spooky occult characters. Unlike Scrooge, Tim is also shown around a few parallel worlds, including old Gaiman favourites Faerie and the Dreaming.

There's no denying there's something of the Harry Potter about this, with Tim's bespectacled appearance, though this is no chicken and egg situation. Gaiman certainly beat Rowling to the young magician concept.

Gaiman has done better and it surprises me that he left his young wizard creation for others to pick up. (Or maybe he ended the story of Tim for good, since it ended with Tim giving up on the path of magic).

It's not a bad book, especially for those people who are skeptical of the literary capabilities of comic books also for those die-hard HP addicts who spend hours and their precious lunch money to be able to buy those expensive books.


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