The Books of Magic is a four-issue English-language comic book mini-series written by Neil Gaiman, published by DC Comics, and later an ongoing series under the imprint Vertigo. Since its original publication, the mini-series has also been published in a single-volume collection under the Vertigo imprint with an introduction by author Roger Zelazny. It tells the story of a young boy named Timothy Hunter who has the potential to become the world's greatest magician.
The Books of Magic began life when DC Comics decided to highlight some of their mystical characters across the range. They initially approached writer J. M. DeMatteis to script a prose book with illustrations from Jon J Muth, Kent Williams, Dave McKean and others, but when it reached the stage of confirming the artists' involvement, the suggested artists all declined to be involved. At that stage, DeMatteis also decided to step back and DC instead approached popular writer Neil Gaiman and asked him to come up with a four-issue prestige-format series "about our magic characters". Drawing on a childhood spent working his way through the children's section in his local library and a childhood love of magic and fantasy stories such as T. H. White's The Once and Future King, Gaiman created an everyman character of a twelve-year-old boy called Timothy Hunter, who would need to be given an extensive tour of the DC magical universe before being able to decide if he should embrace or reject his destiny as the world's greatest magician.
Gaiman used the four issues to formally split the structure of the story, and allow for a different artist to draw each issue:
In Book I: The Invisible Labyrinth (artwork by John Bolton), Tim is introduced to the history of the DC Universe by the Phantom Stranger;
In Book II: The Shadow World (artwork by Scott Hampton), he is taken around the present world by John Constantine;
In Book III: The Land of Summer's Twilight (artwork by Charles Vess) he visits Faerie, Gemworld, Skartaris, King Arthur's Camelot, Hell, and the other mystical realms with Doctor Occult;
In Book IV: The Road to Nowhere (artwork by Paul Johnson) he travels to a possible future of the universe with Mister E.
This structure allowed Gaiman great scope to include various magical characters from across DC's ranges, as well as reintroducing characters that weren't currently in print. In his introduction to the collected edition, author Roger Zelazny also noted that the structure bore some similarity to the key story points of the mythic structure identified by Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces - although he did allow that this might come from Gaiman's intimate knowledge of the same source material rather than a deliberate attempt to follow Campbell's guidelines. When the book was initially released over 1990/1991, it proved very popular and led Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger to make it a regular ongoing series under editor Stuart Moore.