Comics : Marvel Encyclopedia (DK)

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Book of the Month Club

This review was first published on: Jul 2010.

Background...

This is DK's answer to the official set of Marvel Encyclopedia. It's an attractive hardback offering measuring 10" x 12.25".

The original 2006 edition contained 352 glossy pages and formed an attractive slab just about an inch thick. The 2009 re-release extended the page count to over 400 and bulked up to over 1.25" thick.

In Detail...

Marvel Encyclopedia (DK)
Oct 2006 : SM Guest
Find ISBN 0756623588
Summary: Marvel Character Profiles (Spider-Man Appears)
Publisher:  DK Publishing, Inc.
Editor:  Julia March
Contributor:  Andrew Darling, Daniel Wallace, Michael Teitelbaum, Peter Sanderson, Tom Brevoort, Tom DeFalco
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Marvel Encyclopedia (DK, Revised 2009)
Oct 2009 : SM Guest
Find ISBN 0756655307
Summary: Marvel Character Profiles (Spider-Man Appears)
Publisher:  DK Publishing, Inc.
Editor:  Alastair Dougall, Julia March
Contributor:  Andrew Darling, Daniel Wallace, Matt Forbeck, Michael Teitelbaum, Peter Sanderson, Tom Brevoort, Tom DeFalco
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While this isn't an "official" Marvel book, the contributors include Tom Brevoort and Tom DeFalco - both former Marvel editors which a particular interesting in continuity. Peter Sanderson is also a long-time Marvel stalwart on the OHMU, while Michael Teitelbaum, Daniel Wallace and Andrew Darling all have excellent pedigrees in the field. The 2009 re-release added Matt Forbeck to the staff.

With such a heavyweight team of researchers and writers, it would be easy to focus on content over style, but this book makes no such mistake. First and foremost this is an attractive and richly-presented book. Naturally, the text content is accurate. But with over 1,000 entries there's a limit to how many words can be allocated per character.

All the major Marvel villains and heroes get a look in. Packed around the edges are a representative sprinkling of the "others", including naturally a fair few Spider-Man friends and foes. Again, there's no way that more than a few percent of Spidey's cast is going to get included, so don't expect this to be an authoritative reference for our web-slinger's history. Consider it a sampler.

Even with a cut-down cast, space is still at a premium. Daredevil gets a page to himself. Spider-Man is given the deluxe treatment and gets two whole pages (expanded to four pages in 2009). But with over 6,000 literary appearances, you can imagine the wallcrawler's summary still needs to be rather condensed.

So there's a quick summary of the basics (radioactive spider, burglar, Uncle Ben, power and responsibility, yadda-yadda). Then there's a nod to the college years, followed by a sudden leap to the modern day - the return of Norman Osborn (no mention of clones), and the arrival of Ezekiel. The 2009 edition expands this to quickly summarise the events of Civil War, One More Day and Brand New Day.

In General...

The entries in this DK 'pedia are light on technical details. Characters get a name, occupation, base, height, weight, hair and eyes, first appearance, and a sentence or two summarizing their powers. Then we get some artwork and a free-form biography of anywhere from one to twenty paragraphs.

Given that, I'm not really sure what this book is really for. It's too chewy to sit down and read cover to cover. But then again, there's not enough detail on each character act as any kind of reference material. You'll be wanting the official handbook series for that purpose.

And of course, no book can keep up-to-date for very long in the Marvel Universe. According to the 2006 book, Norman's identity is secret and Peter is married to Mary-Jane. The 2009 expanded and updated release brings us up to date with Civil War, World War Hulk and Secret Invasion. But if you relied upon that for your research, it would tell you that Captain America is currently dead. Which of course he isn't.

I suppose that's a perfect excuse to keep releasing new editions. The Marvel Encyclopedia (DK, Revised 2014) version has just been published. I'll let you know how it looks, as soon as my copy turns up.

Overall Rating...

In the end, I guess this is a very attractive and reasonably-priced coffee-table book, and a stunningly hefty gift for grandmothers to give to a young Spider-Fan.

In terms of scope and detail, it pales in comparison to the Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe A To Z (Hardcover). But as a "one volume, introductory version to the Cast of the Marvel Universe", it's an impressive effort both physically and textually.

I'll give a solid 4 webs to both the 2006 and 2009 editions.