ByBrad Barnes, writer at Creators.co
Brad Barnes

The DCU is riddled with magic, with magical creatures and sorcerers of every stripe, from before the creation of Superman (1938) to the present day, and any Justice League movie needs a magician to capture what is magical about the JLA!

Beginning with SWAMP THING #20, a practicing magician by the name of Alan Moore began writing our favorite muck monster, and with his introduction of John Constantine in #37, immersed the title with magicks of every hue.

SWAMP THING was created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, who had both spent plenty of time contributing to DC's mystery titles in the 1960s and 1970s. Wein was, in fact, the model for Abel, who served as caretaker for The House of Mystery! Wein was also editor on Swamp Thing for the first 6 issues when Moore took over the title. So when Moore included Cain (from the House of Secrets) and Abel in his Swamp Thing stories and, later, Phantom Stranger (a character who was Len Wein's first regular assignment in the 1970s), Moore was probably ribbing his editor a bit!

However, Moore eventually deepened these characters and brought an unprecedented magical architecture to the DCU (most memorably in "Down Among The Dead Men" in SWAMP THING annual #2 - 1985) that combined the Joe Orlando-verse with the Kirbyverse in a brilliant way!

John Constantine was spun-off into his own long-running title, HELLBLAZER, and continues to cause trouble to this day in the New 52 with CONSTANTINE.

With SWAMP THING, Moore took an existing character with a prestigious pedigree and wove a terrifying tapestry of supernatural suspense. Moore actually served as tutor to Neil Gaiman in comics writing! Gaiman's first regular assignment in comics was taking over Moore's MIRACLEMAN in the 1980s, but Gaiman soon carved-out his own legend with SANDMAN.

Gaiman took an undistinguished character that had been neglected (Sandman was created in 1939) and built a powerful network of alliances around him under the umbrella of Morpheus: The Sandman!

Particularly in the initial issues of Sandman; drawn by Sam Keith; you can see Gaiman riffing on concepts introduced by Moore during his Swamp Thing run. But, soon enough, Gaiman cloaked himself entirely in the silks of The Endless and he rarely looked back, creating a rare masterpiece in comics over the 75 issue run of the SANDMAN title!

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC (1990-1991) represents Gaiman's fond remembrances of DCs mystery titles read during his youth, and his affections spark a most invigorating tale! This four-issue miniseries is a superb introduction to the DCU magic-verse!

12 year old Timothy Hunter is educated in magic, and the introduction is populated by an army of magicians from DC's storied past, both familiar and long-forgotten:

John Constantine (1983), Phantom Stranger (1952), Dr. Occult (1935), Mister E (1980), Zatara (1938), Zatanna (1964), the Demon (1972), Destiny (1972), Death (1989), the Warlord (1975), Nightmaster (1969), Amethyst (1983), Cain (1968), Abel (1969), Dr. Fate (1940), Tala (1969), Tanarak (1970), Deadman (1967), Madame Xanadu (1978), the Spectre (1940), Baron Winter (1982), Morpheus (1989), Dr. 13 (1951) and Sargon the Sorcerer (1941)!

Featuring fully painted art by John Bolton, Scott Hampton and Paul Johnson, and pen & ink with watercolor finishes by Charles Vess, this is as beautiful a comic book as the glory days of Arthur Rackham!

(Vess, Hampton and Bolton deliver career-peak storytelling work, here: if you're a fan of these guys, THE BOOKS OF MAGIC is a must-have for your collection!)

And the story itself is as good as it gets! Written a year after he launched his SANDMAN title, Gaiman is firing on all cylinders with the best artists in the business!

It is impressive that Gaiman is able to blend together such a wide-ranging cast of magical characters from more than 6 decades of DC's history, all anchored primarily by the icy intonations of The Phantom Stranger, our most mysterious member of the JLA!

Any JLA movie without The Phantom Stranger would be lacking the magic that we expect, that we deserve, that we demand! Follow him into strange worlds, for he is… THE PHANTOM STRANGER!


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