Auberon in his first appearance, with Puck at his feet
|First appearance||The Sandman #19 (Sept. 1990)|
|Created by||Neil Gaiman (writer)|
Charles Vess (artist)
|Place of origin||Faerie|
|Team affiliations||Seelie Court|
|Abilities||Vast magical abilities|
Auberon, is a character who appears primarily in DC Comics' adult-oriented Vertigo line. He is inspired by (and implied to be the same character as) the faerie king Oberon from William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream.
As part of his comic The Sandman, writer Neil Gaiman planned a small arc involving William Shakespeare entering a deal with the Dream King to write plays that would live on after him. Having introduced Shakespeare, Gaiman then decided to tell the story of the first play that the writer wrote for Dream in payment of the bargain. He turned to his favourite of Shakespeare's plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream creating analogues of the play's main otherworldly characters and inventing the fiction that Shakespeare wrote the play to Dream's instructions to ensure that humans never forgot Faerie and its rulers, Auberon of Dom-Daniel and Lady Titania.
Whilst Gaiman used Titania as a recurring character throughout the series, Auberon never appeared again. However, due to his wife's key role in The Books of Magic, Auberon returned when John Ney Rieber used Gaiman's characters in an ongoing The Books of Magic series. From his first appearance in the ongoing series, Auberon was a major character and remained until the final issues even though his wife was phased out when Peter Gross took over as writer. Such was the importance of Auberon to the ongoing The Books of Magic series that when its spin-off miniseries The Books of Faerie proved popular, a second miniseries was published featuring Auberon as a child ascending to the throne of Faerie.
Fictional character biography
Auberon was born into the Faerie royal family, its only member with a direct line of succession to the throne if the current King Magnus was to die. To protect him from possible assassination and Court intrigues, Auberon's cousin Dymphna and the brownie nursemaid Bridie took him to a far-flung corner of Faerie to raise him, where they used powerful wards and spells to protect him from any harm. However, Auberon could not be protected forever: when King Magnus died, an old admirer of Dymphna called Lord Obrey of Windan came to the child's house to take him back to the Court and the Throne.
As a boy-king, Auberon relied greatly on the counsel of Lord Obrey to secure the throne – who was extremely loyal. Auberon's belief in the righteousness of his claim led him to be too trusting of his subjects: he faced his rebel cousin Duke Hounnor of Grimwar alone on the field of battle and expected his surrender, not even considering that the Duke might take the opportunity to kill his rival for the throne; he took the Amadan's advice to reward Obrey's loyalty only with the thanks of a grateful king, something which drove a wedge between the two that was never repaired. Auberon was considered too naive to perform some of the grimmer duties of a king even by his supporters – when Duke Hounnor did honorably surrender to Auberon, it was Obrey who had him killed against the boy-king's instructions to pardon him – and it was on these grounds that Lord Obrey decided, after prompting from the Amadan, that the boy should be killed and that he should take the throne for the good of the kingdom. Auberon was aware of the dangerous position he was in, and slipped away before any harm came to him ostensibly to find his missing sister. His final note to his subjects appointed Lord Obrey as Regent, to rule in his stead until he returned.
Auberon searched for many years, engaging in a romantic relationship with an elf-lord's daughter, but when he returned to reclaim his throne, Obrey refused to stand aside and the realm was again split by war. Auberon defeated his regent in battle, and to reunite the war-ravaged kingdom married Obrey's widow and attempted to produce an heir with her. However, his new queen – Lady Titania – felt aggrieved at exchanging a doting husband for one who appeared to see her as nothing more than a political pawn, and began a long series of affairs shortly after the wedding. Titania engaged in many such affairs throughout their marriage – even one of his lesser subjects was able to comment on how fitting it was that Auberon wore horns – but all the same, Auberon grew to love her in the face of her cold spite: he disguised himself as a maid named Selwyn so that he could spend time with (and eventually bed) his wife, and when he was trapped in a fantasy of his own making its main feature was that Titania repented her adulterous ways. Despite this, Titania frequently assumed that Auberon was being unfaithful with any woman who was in his presence.
Auberon remained blissfully unaware of Titania's first betrayal with a human falconer called Tamlin, and even when she fell pregnant he thought the child to be his. He sent for his own nursemaid Bridie to look after the expectant mother, who plotted with Titania to convince Auberon that the child was stillborn when it was born fully human: Bridie took the baby to the Mundane World (where it possibly grew into Timothy Hunter), leaving Auberon distraught at the idea he might have somehow caused his child's death by insisting on bringing in the brownie midwife. Auberon discovered the truth when Tim was a teenager, overhearing him refer to Titania as "mother", although he dismissed the idea by stating that Tim had no Faerie blood in him.
Auberon's years ruling an unchanging but feckless kingdom weighed heavy on him, and suffering from ennui he went walking in the Mundane World. Whilst there, he met a young woman named Gwendolyn who convinced him to try a magical device guaranteed to lift his spirits: instead, it stole his soul and left him a slave in an army of similarly tricked gents. When an accident left his fellow captives drowned, Gwen regretted her actions and attempted to save Auberon: as he did not breathe air, he did not drown but Gwen needed to help of Tim Hunter to free Auberon's soul and return it to his body. The experience deeply affected Auberon, and he swore to dedicate himself diligently to his duties and responsibilities in the future.
True to his word, Auberon became a truly responsible ruler of his people, and even those who visited his realm: when Molly O'Reilly was brought to Faerie by the Amadan, Auberon ensured that she had food from Earth, and when the girl was tricked into eating faerie food by Titania, Auberon took it upon himself to find a way of lifting the curse – risking his own safety to try to track down the mystical gemstone Twilight.
- Gaiman, Neil (1 June 1990), "Men of Good Fortune", The Sandman: the Doll's House, DC Comics, ISBN 1-85286-292-0
- Gaiman, Neil (7 May 2004), regaining my marbles, retrieved 9 June 2008
- Gaiman, Neil; Shakespeare, William (1 June 1992), "A Midsummer Night's Dream", The Sandman: Dream Country, DC Comics, ISBN 1-85286-441-9
- Gaiman, Neil (1993), The Books of Magic, DC Comics, ISBN 1-56389-082-8
- Rieber, John Ney (1995), The Books of Magic: Summonings, DC Comics, ISBN 1-56389-265-0
- Gross, Peter (May 2000), The Books of Magic: The Lord of the Hunt (72), DC Comics
- Gross, Peter (August 1998), The Books of Magic: A Thousand Worlds of Tim (51), DC Comics
- Carlton, Bronwyn (1998), "The Books of Faerie", The Books of Faerie, Titan Books, ISBN 1-85286-916-X
- Carlton, Bronwyn (November 1, 1999), "The Books of Faerie: Auberon's Tale", The Books of Faerie: Auberon's Tale, Vertigo, ISBN 1-56389-502-1
- Carlton, Bronwyn (March 1999), "The Books of Faerie: Auberon Finds a Friend", The Books of Magic #58: William's Tale Part 1, DC Comics
- Irvine, Alex (2008), "The Books of Faerie", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The Vertigo Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, pp. 36–37, ISBN 0-7566-4122-5, OCLC 213309015
- Carlton, Bronwyn (July 1999), "The Books of Faerie: Beginnings", The Books of Magic #62: Endings, DC Comics
- Gaiman, Neil (12 July 1999), The Kindly Ones, DC Comics, ISBN 1-56389-205-7
- Gross, Peter (January 2000), The Books of Magic: Pentimento (68), DC Comics
- Rieber, John Ney (July 1, 2000), The Books of Magic: The Burning Girl, DC Comics, ISBN 1-56389-619-2
- Rieber, John Ney (November 1999), The Books of Faerie – Molly's Story Book 3: Tearing Off Their Wings, DC Comics
- Rieber, John Ney (1999), The Books of Magic: Girl in the Box, DC Comics, ISBN 1-84023-102-5
- Rieber, John Ney (December 1999), The Books of Faerie – Molly's Story Book 4: The Importance of Being Evil, DC Comics