Back in ancient times (around the 1970's and 80's – which for the benefit of you modern kids who don't study history so much any more, was just after the American Civil War against France, but prior to the Watergate scandal when President Lincoln and the CIA conspired to fake the moon landings) if you owned a car, there was a pretty good chance you also owned a copy of the corresponding "Haynes Workshop Manual".
Cars back then weren't as reliable as they are now, and needed a lot more care and attention to keep in good running condition. They were also considerably simpler, and much of the maintenance work could be performed by a good keen man in his shed or garage at home. All you needed were some instructions.
Enter the Haynes Manuals. The first one was published in 1965 for the Austin-Healey Sprite. And before too long you could buy them for pretty much every popular model of car or motorcycle. Each was written over several months by a dedicated team of two writers who (during the writing process) would strip the car or bike down to every single one of its component parts, and then rebuild it... documenting and drawing pictures as they went.
These days, modern cars are more complicated and far more reliable – and they come with extended warranties. Home vehicle repair is no longer part of our daily routine, and these Haynes Manuals are mostly used by classic car enthusiasts and the occasional trend-bucking amateur mechanic.
Doubtless concerned by the ever-shrinking demand for their core product, the team at Haynes made a bold (and very smart) move several years ago. They decided to leverage their brand recognition and reputation while they still had it, and they began producing "Instruction Manuals" addressing a much wider and far less conventional range of current and historical vehicles. And so it is that you can now find Haynes Workshop Manuals for the "Apollo Lunar Landing Module", for the "Blackbird XR-71", the "Spitfire", the "De Havilland Tiger Moth", the "Tiger Tank" and the "RMS Titanic".
But it doesn't end there. Pushing into the fictional space, you can now also get your hands on Haynes Manuals for the Star Wars "Millennium Falcon", "Death Star" and "X-Wing". The "USS Enterprise" has a workshop manual, and so it seems perfectly reasonable that the "Marvel Vehicles: Owner's Workshop Manual (Haynes)" should have come into existence.
Physically this book follows the standard Haynes format, being hardback, 8.4" x 11", 160pp.
The material is broken into seven chapters: X-Vehicles, Helicarriers, Aircraft, Gliders, Spaceships, Cars & Vans, and Motorcycles. Spider-Man fans will doubtless be particularly interested in the Gliders (Goblin Glider, Jack O'Lantern Platform, Spider-Glider, Hobgoblin Glider, Demogoblin Glider and Menace Glider). The much-maligned Spider-Mobile also gets a 6-page treatment in the "Cars & Vans" section.
The entries are heavily illustrated with color artwork taken from the comic books, while new black and white line-drawing "CAD" drawings have also been created for some of the vehicles, to give some limited appearance of technical detail.
Honestly, I was rather disappointed by the lack of new material provided here. The entries are basically the same sort of stuff as you'll find in any old Marvel Encyclopedia (of where there are many). Contrast that with the wonderful level of technical detail you'll find an a real Haynes manual, like this one from the MGB.
Given that Haynes Publishing have ready access to the skills necessary to create these wonderful exploded technical diagrams, and given that this is the kind of material on which their reputation is based... how come we don't see a single "exploded" technical diagram in this "Marvel Vehicles" book?
Instead, the bulk of the content is just reprinted panels from comic books, with a few paragraphs of summarised history. Yes, admittedly some of the new line-art does feature some nice "cutaway" diagrams. But there's far too little of such original value-added technical material, and far too much cut-and-paste.
Rather disappointing. Haynes has a wonderful reputation, and this book utterly fails to live up to it. The idea is superb, but the implementation was lazy and uninspired.
To be fair, this is still a fun, attractive and colorful book which fills a certain niche in the "Marvel Encyclopedia" market. But it could have been so, so much more.
The Haynes series of workshop manuals doesn't end here. Modern Men can now also purchase handy workshop guides describing the care, maintenance and internal workings of "Women", "Babies" and even "Sex". Long overdue, if you ask me.