The Movie DC Needs To Make Is An Underrated Neil Gaiman Masterwork
The Books of Magic would be the perfect way to introduce the concept of magic to the new DC Universe.
DC Studios is preparing to take a bold new step in the very crowded world of comic book movies, with co-heads James Gunn and Peter Safran recently announcing an ambitious slate of projects titled Gods and Monsters. However, nowhere on that list was the underrated Neil Gaiman classic The Books of Magic. While Gaiman’s Sandman finally made it to Netflix in an astonishing serial adaptation, his teen wizard Timothy Hunter is exactly what DC Studios needs to expand its universe.
The Books of Magic was originally a four-issue miniseries written by Neil Gaiman and published in 1990, later followed by a number of ongoing series on DC’s “mature” Vertigo Comics imprint. It centers on a young boy named Timothy Hunter, whose ordinary life is upended when he encounters four mysterious magic users who inform him that he may potentially become the greatest and most powerful magician in existence, but that he has to make the choice to enter into the dangerous world of sorcery. In each issue, Hunter is guided through a different aspect of DC’s world of magic by a different figure, essentially giving readers a tour through the same.
James Gunn could not ask for a better set-up to introduce the concept of magic in the DC Universe; The Books of Magic is basically a prime of concepts like King Arthur’s Camelot, characters like Zatanna and John Constantine, and a fan-friendly “chosen one” of magic. It is literally designed to explain DC’s version of magic, with a protagonist perfect for acting as an audience surrogate.
It also helps that audiences might be looking for an alternative to Harry Potter with the cultural baggage of J.K. Rowling and her never-ending self-pity party. The Books of Magic predates Harry Potter by years, though Neil Gaiman has been on the record as saying he does not believe the other series about a bespectacled teen boy with magic powers and an owl buddy was ripping him off. If DC wants to figure out a way to transfer fan loyalty for the archetype onto a new, non-controversial IP, it could do a whole lot worse than The Books of Magic.
However, The Books of Magic stands on its own as a story and does not necessarily need Harry Potter’s leavings. The original series saw Timothy Hunter learn all about his potential future as a godlike magician, who might end up becoming a tremendous force for good or a world-ending malevolent threat. That alone could make for a good first film, which could also introduce DC’s extensive roster of magic-themed characters to the new DC Universe.
James Gunn’s Gods and Monsters wave of films and shows pretty clearly indicates his fondness for some of the more obscure and odd aspects of the DC Universe, most exemplified by the announcement of a Creature Commandos animated series. If the creative head of DC Studios is interested in bringing in Frankenstein to fight Nazis in World War II, it’s probably safe to say he could be interested in some of the weirder aspects of The Books of Magic.
The upcoming movie The Flash seems positioned as the final nail in the coffin of the Snyderverse, with Ezra Miller’s time travel shenanigans potentially resetting the continuity of the franchise. There could not be a better time to bring in the magical aspect of the DC Universe and The Books of Magic is the perfect way to do it, allowing James Gunn to unveil a hidden world to audiences while maybe even bringing Keanu Reeves back into the fold as John Constantine.
So far, the only magic we have really seen in the DC Universe has been in the Shazam movies and Dwayne Johnson’s debacle of a Black Adam movie. The Books of Magic has both a greater depth of themes than either Shazam or Black Adam and a whole lot less confusing backstory to try to explain to newcomers. All you need is to get on board with the idea that a kid suddenly discovers he has an almost inconceivably vast and terrifying destiny, which pretty much everyone is already used to. DC Studios, don’t screw this one up.