- Posted by Johanna on June 22, 2008 at 2:42 pm
- Category: Books and Prose
- CREDITS: edited by Gina Misiroglu and Michael Eury
- PUBLISHER: Visible Ink Press; $29.95 US
Our friend Michael Eury co-edited this encyclopedia-style reference book, subtitled “The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood”. I’d never heard of it before, although it came out in 2006. (There’s also a companion Superhero Book from 2004.)
The foreword by Stan Lee is exactly what you’d expect — excited praise without much content — but the introduction by the editors lays out some key basics: supervillain archetypes, the importance of the role in stories and popular culture, and what makes a supervillain. Individual entries were written by Eury and a well-known list of contributors, including Mike W. Barr, Peter Coogan, Andy Mangels, Peter Sanderson, and others.
The majority of entries come from comics (including, beyond DC and Marvel, manga, Image, Archie, strips, and many more publishers), but there’s also coverage of key cartoon (Space Ghost, Dragon Ball, and Transformers, among others) and movie villains, such as Agent Smith (from the Matrix movies), Bond baddies, both Dr. Evils, and the biggest bad guy of them all, Darth Vader. Cross-media appearances (such as a comic villain appearing in a cartoon or movie version) are noted.
Unfortunately, not every entry has an illustration (maybe 30% have pictures?), which is a detriment when reading about an unfamiliar bad guy. Of particular interest are the group entries, overviews of “Batman TV Villains” or “Bug-Based Bad Guys” or “Evil Twins” or “Prisons” or even “Hostess Supervillains” (from the 70s comic-format ads). There are also essays on various ages and eras (Cold War, Silver Age, etc.). They even mention (very briefly) the villain with the best bad guy name of all, Casanova Frankenstein.
A big plus is the index. Even though the content is alphabetically ordered, the index is a help in finding where lesser-known characters without their own entries may be mentioned. The hardcore fan is going to know much of this material already (or know where to find more), but for the casually interested, it’s a nice overview. I would have loved this when I was younger. It’s a neat introduction to a lot of different characters, and I learned about some bad guys I’d never heard of.