<i><a href=http://twitter.com/troybrownfield>Troy Brownfield, Newsarama Columnist</a></i> <p>Call them wizards, warlocks, witches, sorcerers, sorceresses, followers of the left-handed path . . . whatever. Say that they got a high roll in Intelligence and be done with it. We're talking about the purveyors of magic. Not a charlatan like the fellow from Kansas with a hot air balloon, but actual magickal members of the pop culture strata. <p>One of these wand wavers is in his final battle with his greatest foe, as the boy who lived, Harry Potter, takes on another powerful wizard in the dark lord Voldemort. <p>So, with apologies to near-miss Egg Shen from <b>Big Trouble in Little China</b>, let's be off to see the wizards. <p>Click "Start Here" and see our picks for 10 magical wizards, and let us know your picks! <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
One of many nefarious magic users in the wonderful world of Disney, <b>Aladdin</b>'s Jafar embodied the evil wizard perfectly. From his look lean and narrow with a long, twisty beard to a nefarious animal sidekick (familiar?) and an unquenchable thirst for power, this is everything an evil magic user should be. <p>Jafar's hypnotizing staff and oily smile let him get away with small infractions for awhile, but eventually he wanted nothing less than the power of the Genie. Even without Genie he was formidable, but with him, he became the most powerful wizard in the world, eventually transforming into a massive snake with one goal: kill Aladdin. After a tricky bit of word-play, however, Jafar took Aladdin's bait and asked to be made into a Genie himself. <p>It was done, and he was given PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER!!!! <p>...with an itty-bitty living space.
One of the primary characters of the Dragonlance saga, specifically the two original trilogies by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Raistlin starts out wearing the red robes of neutrality. <p>Always a shy and frail boy, his trials at the Tower of High Sorcery wrecked his health, leaving him with golden skin and tendency to cough blood. His hourglass shaped eyes allow him to see the effects of time on others, doing nothing for his social skills. To make matters worse, his handsome and strong warrior brother Caramon is well-liked, if a bit dim. Though Caramon loves and defends his brother, Raistlin's true loves are magic and power. <p>He eventually makes a deal with the spirit of crazed mage Fistandantilus and trades the red robes for the black. However, Raistlin later makes the ultimate sacrifice battling the queen of darkness, Takhisis, and later aids the world of Krynn from beyond the grave.
The protagonist of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series unites the worlds of magic and the private investigator. Dresden's been featured in twelve books thus far, with a thirteenth due in July and a fourteenth already announced. He also earned a TV series that ran for one season on SyFy. <p>Why is he on the list? Well, he's the only guy in the Chicago phone book listed under Wizards for one thing. Dresden isn't known for being a finesse guy. He's more of a brute force guy, often using spells in combination to potent effect. And if magic doesn't do the trick, he just might shoot you. Yeah, Dresden packs heat alongside his staff and other magical accessories. He may be magic, but he's also practical.
When your best friend is a vampire slayer, it's kind of helpful to find your own channels of power. Fortunately for Willow, she took to magic in a big way. Not only was the smart and computer-savvy Willow able to assist Buffy from the sidelines, she was an extremely crucial piece of nearly all of Buffy's significant plans. <p>Whether she was working to restore Angel's soul or using the Slayer scythe to awaken all the potential slayers to power, Willow proved time and again that her magic skills transcended the ordinary conception of what a witch could do. Of course, that power came with a price, and Willow did almost destroy the world, but hey, we all make mistakes. <p><b>SPOILER ALERT!</b> After the events of the 8th season comic series, Willow has been left powerless. We're not sure how permanent that will be.
If there's one thing that we learned from seven Harry Potter books, it's that Hermione was the best of all the kids. She knew more, studied more, and learned more. If she didn't have an answer, she'd find it. <p>Sure, one could make an argument on behalf of a certain Albus Dumbledore, but he also has a rather significant problem with his being dead and all. And as for You-Know-Who . . . are you serious? Harry bested him the first time <i>as an infant</i> (with a little help from a mother's love) and pretty much spent the next 17 years handing his ass back to him. So, if Harry trumps Voldemort, and Hermione is more skilled than Harry . . . welcome to #6, Miss Granger.
Do the magic doctors of comics count? We say they do! Clocking in at #5 is DC's resident servant of the Lords of Order, Dr. Fate. The most well-known incarnation of Dr. Fate is probably the original, Kent Nelson, he of the full-face-plate helmet, JSA membership, and a Super Powers action figure. <p>In the pre-Crisis '80s, Dr. Fate briefly had a back-up run in <b>Flash</b> as well. Later that decade, Dr. Fate went through a series of hosts, including the pairing of Kent and Inza, Eric Strauss, Eric and Linda Strauss, and Linda Strauss. When Dr. Fate was destroyed in Zero Hour, the Fate legacy was carried on by Jared Stevens. <p>He died at the outset of the late '90s JSA relaunch, and Hector Hall became the new Dr. Fate. Hector had his run until <b>Infinite Crisis</b>; soon after, the current Fate, Kent's grand-nephew Kent V. Nelson, became the keeper of the helmet.
Earth's Sorcerer Supreme in the 616, Dr. Strange may have had others take his title, but never his place. The driving force behind the Defenders and a current member of the Avengers (New flavor), Strange has long been the magical go-to guy for the Marvel Heroes. <p>Though he's never had an animated series of his own, he did get a direct-to-DVD animated feature and has guest-starred on most of Marvel's cartoon series over the years. There was even a Dr. Strange TV movie in the '70s. While he's never quite broken through to Marvel's A-List, Dr. Strange remains a rock solid piece of the MU, remaining popular enough to merit series and mini-series in every decade of his existence.
Enough with the fiction. How about a real wizard? The influence of Crowley on pop culture is huge, even if you've never heard of him, but his influence on music in particular is enormous. <p>Born in 1875, the British Crowley founded the Thelemite philosophy and has been both celebrated and scorned for his views on everything from spirituality, sexuality, drugs and politics. Honestly, we can't really encapsulate everything that he said and did in this space, but you've probably heard the phrase Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law; that was him. You should look him up; you'll either be fascinated or appalled. <p>As for the music, a sampling: Ozzy Osbourne's Mr. Crowley is about him, he's on the cover of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper (next to Mae West) and Jimmy Page loved him so much that he bought his house. And clothes. For real.
Gandalf the Grey, later Gandalf the White, has certainly informed the modern view of wizards for decades now. With his height, beard, hat, staff and sword Glamdring, Gandalf cut an imposing figure in Middle Earth. <p>Part of what makes Gandalf so powerful is the fact that even when he isn't using magic, he's still like a force of nature. His wit and wisdom get to the heart of many debates in the Tolkien books, and he can be both gentle and enraged when the need arises. <p>Though given a terrific reading by legendary director John Huston in the Rankin-Bass animated films, the pop culture version of Gandalf that everyone will always remember shall be the interpretation of Sir Ian McKellan from the Peter Jackson films. Did anyone NOT think they were watching a classic performance? So, if Gandalf is number two, that can only leave . . .
Really, there is no other wizard in pop culture without Merlin. All roads in this wood lead back to the Arthurian cycle, of which Merlin has frequently been the most interesting part. <p>A focus of the current television series and memorably essayed in countless films and novels extrapolated from the legends (themselves codified by the likes of Malory and Tennyson), Merlin stands out for both his immense power and his conflicts as a man. The guiding theme of the fall of Camelot seems to be that lust pretty much ruins everything, and Merlin turned out to be guilty of that in more than one interpretation. Though the Merlin versions from the books of T.H. White and Mary Stewart are pretty great, one of our favorite takes is Nicol Williamson's turn in John Boorman's film Excalibur. <p>Check him out <a href=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J38RDLhE20w&feature=related>here at 6:00</a>, as he tries to teach the celebrating knights a lesson. THAT is Merlin, and that's your Number One wizard.