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Who Came First - Harry Potter or Tim Hunter?

Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at brianc@cbr.com).

This is an odd one, as you would think that this would be something that I would have covered at CSBG in the past, but I see that it is not (but maybe I missed something somewhere?). In any event, reader Bruce G. wrote in to ask, "Who came first: Tim Hunter (Books of Magic) or Harry Potter?"

The project that eventually became The Books of Magic began at DC in late 1987 as a project written by J.M. DeMatteis with painted art from Kent Williams and Jon J. Muth. The concept of the series was to define the world of magic in the DC Universe. I asked J.M. DeMatteis about it years ago and he explained it as such, "I was the original writer of BOOKS OF MAGIC and the plan was to have Jon J Muth, Kent Williams, Dave McKean and others doing the art. My memory is that. after the plan was firmed up, the artists decided, for reasons that I can't recall, not to get involved with the project; so I stepped back from it, as well. I don't think I ever got around to writing anything -- we were in the very early stages of development.

At the time, I was a little disappointed that the project fell through, but, clearly, it all worked out very well in the end!"

However, DeMatteis' vision of the series did not involve a young magician at the center of the story. No, when the project fell to Neil Gaiman, instead, the new writer had a free hand in doing his own take on the concept. The only thing he had to stick with was the original basic idea, which was to give the readers a tour of the world of magic in the DC Universe. Gaiman decided to have the focal point of this tour be a young boy with glasses named Tim Hunter who could possibly become the greatest magician in the world. The "Trenchcoat Brigade," (a number of notable DC magicians who happened to all wear trenchcoats) agreed to each take turns showing young Hunter the various aspects of DC's worlds of magic, beginning with Books of Magic #1 in 1990 (with painted art by John Bolton)...

J.K. Rowling's famous young magician (with glasses), who had a pet owl just like Tim Hunter, made his debut in 1997 with the novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (later changed to Sorcerer's Stone for dumb Americans) ...

So, 1990 is seven years before 1997.

Closed case, right? However, are things ever quite THAT simple?

Rowling once explained the origins of Harry Potter to Urbanette magazine, and as it turns out, Harry Potter's origins go back a lot further than you would think...

“In 1990, my then-boyfriend and I decided to get a flat and move to Manchester together. We would flat hunt every once in awhile. One weekend after flat hunting, I took the train back to London on my own, and the idea for Harry Potter fell into my head. Coincidentally, I didn’t have a pen and was too shy to ask anyone for one on the train, which frustrated me at the time, but when I look back it was the best thing for me. It gave me the full four hours on the train to think up all the ideas for the book.”

Rowling then had a number of major life changes in the early 1990s (including her mother passing away, Rowling moving to Portugal, getting married, getting divorced, all sorts of stuff) that delayed the release of the book.

So, did Harry Potter come first? With a 1990 release of a painted book, it is likely that Tim Hunter was conceptualized in late 1989.

However, Neil Gaiman has a fascinating take on the whole thing...

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