Barbatos was created by writer John Ney Rieber and artist Peter Snejbjerg in The Books of Magic issue 5 in 1994.
Major Story Arcs
Barbatos is a demon who loves the degraded nature of Earth’s pop culture, especially its snack food. He loves to indulge in it himself, and believes he can use it to debase humanity.
He is wacky with a cruel sense of humor. He is selfish and cowardly.
Barbatos's history unrolls mostly through the main Books of Magic title but also some of its ancillary material. As a regular time-traveler, his life was presented out of chronological order when published; this account tries to make clear both the actual chronology of his life as well as some sense of when and where things were published.
The Books of Magic: In-Universe Mid-1990s/Issues 65-75
According to In-universe chronology, Barbatos (he actually goes by Barhbaetous at this time) is seen for the first time in the outskirts of the lands of the dead, where he and his assistant, Hauptman, have found the maggot-souls that have come out of Brother Hugh. They scoop them up as a snack and to sell on the demon’s market. Within comic publishing, this appearance came a long 45 issues after the end of Barbatos’s first major story arc. That is because the version from that arc (see 2012, below) was from the future and this is the version native to Tim Hunter’s own time.
Barbatos uses the soul-money to buy himself a seat as the Duke of the Ninth Circle of Hell, which includes a membership in the Lords of the Compact (leaders from various mystic realms) as well.
He meets with the other Lords of the Compact as they get ready to talk with the Other, a version of Tim from another universe who is sowing chaos in the real world. Barbatos is already into the idea of human junk food and marketing, as seen by the fact that he shows up to the meeting driving an ice cream truck.
The Other sends most of the Lords packing, but keeps Barbatos to chat. Thinking that the Barbatos he sees now is the one he saw in his own universe, the Other asks if he’s special after all (Barbatos didn’t think so when his future self saw him in the Books of Magic Annual #3, see below). However, the current version of Barbatos has no idea what the Other is talking about, and the Other sends him back to Hell. Having been exposed to his power, Barbatos now gets the idea for the first time of controlling Tim and his power, leading to the meeting the Other referring to later on.
Barbatos and Hauptman return to Earth in their ice cream truck and look for the graveyard where Tim’s mother is buried in an attempt to learn more about him. They run into Cyril, Tim’s estranged step-brother. They make a trade—Barbatos gives Cyril a cauldron that can raise the dead, and Cyril tells him all about Tim, the Other, and where Tim hid his magic. It is during this conversation that Cyril mis-hears the demon’s name as Barbatos instead of Bahrbaetous, and he uses that spelling from now on.
Barbatos digs up Tim’s magic, which has been contained in a bottle that is hidden in his mother’s grave, and also digs up Cyril’s mother’s body for him as well.
Later, in Hell, Barbatos talks with the demon Puzzlestick. Puzzlestick tells him that he saw Tim at the Inn Between Worlds. Meanwhile, Tim leaves the Inn on an errand from Accasbel, manager of the Inn. He runs into Barbatos, who offers him the power it would take to defeat the Other in return for one memory. Tim, however, was warned against this kind of deal by Molly, who had in turn talked with Sir Timothy, a future Tim. As they talk, Tim realizes this is the current Barbatos, who doesn't yet know him, instead of the future Barbatos with whom he had a lengthy antagonistic relationship. He teases the demon with how badly Barbatos screws things up and tells him to take the Other’s memories instead of his. Barbatos drives off, confused.
Back in Hell, Barbatos is enjoying his Dukeship when Hauptman spies the Wild Hunt, an infamously unbeatable mystic team of hunters, approaching the castle. They drive off in the ice cream truck, but the Hunt catches them. They point out that it was the Lords of the Compact, the group that Barbatos bought his way into, that originally imprisoned the Hunt millennia ago, so they're happy to get some revenge. Tim tells Barbatos he wants the power he offered earlier—he is ready to fight the Other--or the Hunt will kill Barbatos. Barbatos says the price must still be a memory, based on magical law. Tim reluctantly agrees, and the demon gives him the bottle of his magic.
Tim tricks the Other into absorbing all the magic from the bottle, and it is too much for him; the Other loses control of himself. Barbatos shows up to make sure his deal with Tim is consummated, and cruelly tells the Other that he’s not the real Tim, which is what the Other had thought. Then Barbatos takes the memory he is owed, which is the memory of when Tim originally created the Other. Without that memory, the Other, as Tim’s creation, can’t exist, and disappears. However, unbeknownst to Barbatos, Tim also attached his soul to that memory, so Barbatos absorbs his soul.
Tim’s body loses much of its sense of self with the memory and soul gone. Barbatos thinks it’s just the memory that’s making him so blank, and takes the husk-Tim under his wing, where he eventually become Sir Timothy Hunter.
Also unbeknownst to Barbatos, at the moment of the transition of the memory, Tim created an alternate reality for Barbatos and husk-Tim to live in. The entire time they are together from now on (other than when they travel to Tim’s past) is an alternate universe.
Books of Magic Annual 3
At some point, Barbatos visits some of the alternate universes that Tim, as a child, created during moments of emotional distress. He is looking for Tims he can manipulate. In one, he finds a version of Tim who has not yet learned magic. This Tim, however, notices Barbatos when he is trying to stay out of sight. The fact that this Tim caught him lets Barbatos know that this Tim would be too much trouble. He tells this Tim that he could have been special, but that he’ll find a Tim that’s easier to manipulate. This is the meeting that the Other referred to above.
Now knowing that there are many versions of himself, this Tim is motivated to learn magic so that he can meet them. He does, but as he visits each other Tim, he realizes that none of them are real--they are all creations of the real Tim Hunter. He destroys them all, taking the power of their universes. In doing so, he becomes the Other.
The time this story takes place is not clear. It says it happens two years before the Other first shows up in the real Tim’s universe (a.k.a. reality), and thus the mid-‘90s, and this Barbatos is still looking for a Tim to be “his master,” which would corroborate the mid-‘90s. But when the Other was dying and asked the Barbatos about their earlier meeting, Barbatos didn’t know what he was talking about, implying that it was a future Barbatos who met him.
The Books of Magic: In-Universe 2012 and Then Back to the Mid-'90s/Issues 5-20
Barbatos now has Sir Timothy Hunter completely under his influence. Sir Timothy thinks he lives in a massive mansion and controls the world while trying to create a doppel-Molly to replace the Molly who loved him as a teen. It never works: he can't quite figure out her personality.
However, Sir Timothy’s beliefs start to waver and he sees chinks in the illusion.
Barbatos tells him that the various Tims of the past that could have ended up as him have been slowly culled down so now there is only one possible Tim out of all the timelines that could become him. He suggests that Sir Timothy kidnap this Tim and then manipulate him so that he’s more likely to become Sir Timothy.
Sir Timothy goes back in time to kidnap Tim but is stopped by Khara and Nikki. He recalls how he has sold many memories to demons, including Barbatos, and that they have led to him no longer really knowing who he is. As we know, this is not quite what happened.
Sir Timothy and Barbatos discover that a sorcerer of the Cold Flame, Martyn, wants to manipulate Tim and gain control of his magic as well. They intimidate and then kill him. Usually Barbatos doesn’t really do anything himself, he just gets Sir Timothy to do it.
They return to the future. It is now clear that Sir Timothy is homeless, not living in a mansion. He lives in a cardboard box, but Barbatos still convinces Sir Timothy that it has a wine cellar and so on.
Sir Timothy continues to slowly wake up, however, and a pawn shop owner says he can have a job at his brother’s Chinese restaurant. Sir Timothy is ecstatic. Barbatos realizes that a job will just lead to self-reliance and healthy social contacts on Sir Timothy's part, so he distracts him from thinking about it.
Barbatos then sets into motion a complicated series of events, with the intent of making sure his main plan, a presentation about junk food to the demons of hell, will go on without distractions. He is starting to get famous among demons for his manipulation of, as he says, “the most powerful and disoriented magician of the age.”
He sends some pink tyrannosaurus demons to kidnap Nikki and Khara in the mid-'90s. They try to hide by turning themselves into trash cans, but Barbatos can see through the spell and brings them back to 2012 and puts the cans in Sir Timothy’s box.
He also sends some of the pink tyrannosaurs to kidnap Molly and bring her to Hell, where Vuall can train her to be docile for Sir Timothy.
Then Barbatos pretends to be Nikki and tricks Nikki’s father, the captive angel Araquel, into breaking free of God’s bonds in order to save her. However, by doing do, Araquel damns himself. Barbatos tells Araquel that he has Khara and Nikki captive, and will release them if he distracts certain people away from Tim Hunter so that they can’t help Tim help Molly.
Now believing that Sir Timothy, Tim, Molly, Khara, Nikki, and Araquel are all busy, Barbatos time travels back to the mid-'90s (well before the Other and the young Barbatos meet Tim) and makes a sales pitch to a group of demons about a special kind of junk food: Happy Crisps. He believes they can debase and damn humanity.
However, not only do Tim and Molly rescue each other, they fall in love, a love which begins to erode Hell’s power. Likewise, Sir Timothy arrives at some self-knowledge, turns into a dragon, and frees Khara and Nikki. Some other allies of Tim’s show up at Barbatos’s sales talk and interrupt his pitch. Between the oncoming wave of love and the Barbatos’s deflated ideas, all the other demons run away.
Araquel now shows up and slices off Barbatos’s hourglass, then prepares to kill him. Sir Timothy shows up as a dragon and tells Araquel where Khara and Nikki are, so Araquel drops Barbatos and leaves.
Barbatos manages to cast a spell via a dropped spellbook of fairy stories, and Tim, Molly, Sir Timothy, and Barbatos are all sent into a fairy tale.
In the story realm, Tim, Molly, and Sir Timothy are made to believe that the fairy tales are real. They each bounce back and forth between believing in the story and not. While there, Sir Timothy explains to Molly who he is, and how he came to be in this situation—by selling memories to demons. He makes Molly promise to stop Tim from ever doing so. Again, since this takes place in in-universe chronology before Tim meets the Other or Young Barbatos, this is what Tim is later keeping in mind when he makes a deal with Young Barbatos for the power to defeat the Other.
Tim finds Sir Timothy and Molly in a giant metal-plated castle. He makes parts of the castle come alive to attack Barbatos, who has just been laying around in the background manipulating the fairly tale scenes.
The metal giant grabs Barbatos in his fist, imprisoning him. However, the rest of the tower collapsed over Molly and Sir Timothy. Sir Timothy keeps them from being killed by his dragon strength, but dies while creating a path for Molly to escape. Tim and Molly exit the storybook world back to their own time and world, but they leave Barbatos stuck, seemingly forever, in the giant’s fist.
Books of Faerie: Molly’s Tale
Much later, Barbatos uses a spell to escape the Metal Giant’s fist, which he has been trapped in, and transports himself to the realm of Faerie. He finds Ibbit, a frog turned into a giant monster by the gem Twilight, which has enormous powers to define Faerie. It later turns out that Briar Rose, who wants revenge on Faerie, was able to use Twilight’s power to call Barbatos there and enable his spell that allowed him to escape the Fist.
Barbatos tricks Ibbit into letting him use Twilight’s powers to create a rebellion among the Flitlings, who then enslave many of the other fairies, including Auberon and Titania. They bring water to where Ibbit sits in the desert, theoretically filling in his missing lake, but the water just sinks back into the sand. Ibbit, however, is too dumb to understand he will never get his lake back.
Barbatos also enjoys incorporating a couple more human fads, which he loves, into his demonic practice. He teaches Bongsquall about self-confidence techniques (along the lines of How to Make Friends and Influence People) that allow him to magically enslave people into always saying Yes to him. He also takes many of the enslaved fairies and turns them into dolls, then sells them on Earth; the toys become a big fad among humans.
Briar Rose finds Barbatos and tells him that she can help him return to hell, which is his main goal, and can get him the soul of Molly, if he helps her become the new Queen of Faerie. He agrees.
However, Briar ends up getting destroyed by Titania, so her plans don’t matter. Molly, Titania, and Auberon get the gem from Ibbit. Once Ibbit loses his power from Twilight, Barbatos is no longer able to stay in Faerie, and he returns to the Fist.
Books of Magic: 40 years after the Mid-'90s/Issue 75
Forty years after Tim originally defeated Barbatos, many workers from the Dreaming are clearing out a parcel of land of Imagination. There Barbatos still sits, held by the giant Fist. They let the demon go, and send him back to Hell. However, he is no longer a Duke, and his past feats are now considered an embarrassment due to Hauptman’s manipulations. Hauptman is now the Duke of the Ninth Circle. Barbatos name is now a joke—screwing up badly is called “pulling a Barbatos.”
Sent away, Barbatos later finds himself carrying out acts of kindness in Hell. The other demons catch him and tell him he has been possessed by Tim and forced to do these things. Barbatos is horrified and goes back in time the MId-'90s when Tim defeated the Other. He wants to stop his past self from taking Tim’s memory.
However, when he arrives at that time, Barbatos can now hear Tim’s voice directly in his mind. Tim explains how he seeded Barbatos with his soul when the demon took his memory, and then created an alternate reality to jail him in until he was ready.
Tim then takes over Barbatos’s body completely, reshaping it into the form of Tim’s normal body. Barbatos’s spirit is destroyed, and from now on, Tim lives in a body created from Barbatos's body.
Barbatos is one of the four antagonists Tim sees in a vision when he is stuck in Leah’s box.
Powers and Abilities
He wears a small hourglass around his neck with time-magic properties. They allow him to time travel and see other times. He can also travel between dimensions.
Barbatos doesn't really show many other powers directly, although he does have various magical objects like the cauldron that can raise the dead that he gave to Cyril. He mostly makes Sir Timothy or Hauptman do everything for him.
His main ability is the capacity to manipulate others into doing what he wants.