The DC Comics Encyclopedia, Updated and Expanded

Review by KC Carlson

Did you know that Adam Strange’s real name is Jean-Paul Valley? I didn’t — last time I checked that was actually the alter ego of Azrael, the would-be Batman. But it’s apparently now the real name of Adam Strange. Why? Because it says so on page 330 of the updated and expanded edition of The DC Comics Encyclopedia. (Oh, and to make this whole point just that much more ludicrous, Adam Strange’s real name is actually — Adam Strange!)

The DC Comics Encyclopedia, Updated and Expanded cover
The DC Comics Encyclopedia
Updated and Expanded
Buy this book

Of course, in a book this big, I’d expect a mistake or two, but sadly, there are many more. Here’s a few: The Key Storylines box for the Blue Beetle entry lists stories about Dr. Fate. Text in the Superman entry was slightly rewritten and duplicated within the entry. Commander Steel is misspelled as Steele. And a caption in the Elongated Man entry erroneously states that Sue Dibny was killed by Dr. Light (she wasn’t), in a mistake held over from the previous edition of the book. Plus, there are countless typos and text problems throughout.

I had really high hopes for this version of the Encyclopedia, being a big fan of the previous edition. My original intent, when reviewing this book, was to index, in detail, all of the changes and updates in this book from the previous edition, but as I got deeper and deeper into the book, the overwhelming number of text errors, missing text, proofreading errors, and the seemingly arbitrary decisions over what got updated or didn’t just simply overwhelmed — and ultimately — defeated me.

In general, it appears to me that great amounts of text for this volume were reset (whether needed or not), and following that, no one bothered to reformat the text with any level of consistency. It also appears that either no one proofread the new text in its final layout (lots of final lines of text have “dropped out”) or that the book was rushed to press without all of the changes. Also, I was working with a list of “errors” from the first edition of the Encyclopedia (admittedly mostly minor and/or having to do with inconsistencies in presenting information) and discovered that only a handful of the most egregious errors were fixed in this new edition.

This should have been a great book. There was a tremendous amount of effort put forward to update it. There are at least 50 new pages of material spread throughout the book, including at least 60 new entries. Most of the major characters have one or two pages added to their entries, and the Encyclopedia now includes new two-page entries for recent events like Infinite Crisis and 52. Well over a hundred individual entries were updated with a new sentence or two, albeit most of them to indicate character deaths in either Infinite Crisis or the Death of the New Gods event.

And, in something that I feel somewhat personally responsible for in the first place, a great effort was made to try to explain the various versions — at least three — of the Legion of Super-Heroes, but the attempt was doomed to failure without completely restructuring the book. As it is, some of the LSH members have multiple listings for different versions, some attempt to explain the different versions in a single entry, some there was no attempt to update at all, and in others, the text describes the latest “threeboot” version of the character, but uses artwork from one of the previous versions. At least they tried…

If I had to choose one word to describe the updated DC Encyclopedia, it would have to be inconsistent. Cat Man’s entry has updated artwork showing his new costume, but no mention of him being the leader of the new Secret Six (nor any mention of the SS at all). In Troia’s entry, her name has been changed to Troy, but the entry itself has not been updated to reflect changes to her in the last four years — most notably, her return from the dead!

There’s still a lot of good, solid information in the updated and expanded edition of The DC Comics Encyclopedia, but if you’re a major fan of DC Comics and know better, these inconsistencies will drive you nuts! And what good is an encyclopedia if you cannot trust its facts to be accurate? With a price tag of $40, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)

Similar Posts: The Marvel Encyclopedia, Updated and Expanded § The Essential Batman Encyclopedia § The Muppets Character Encyclopedia § The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia § DC Comics Super Heroes and Villains Fandex


8 Responses to “The DC Comics Encyclopedia, Updated and Expanded”

  1. Ed Sizemore Says:

    KC,

    Sorry to hear they did such a poor job on this book. The fact that no one proofed the final copy before it went to the printer is amazing. I’m really disappointed in DC and DK.

  2. Brian Hughes Says:

    I don’t know what’s going on at DK. The first edition of the DC Encyclopedia from several years back was fantastic, but when the Marvel version came out a few years later, it was riddled with the exact same sort of errors you mention above. It also had a weird tendency to list female supporting characters by last name only, for no apparent reason. Now it seems that they went out of their way to screw up the DC edition as well ?!? Good grief.

  3. Daniel Wallace Says:

    Hi KC — as the writer for this new edition of the DC Comics Encyclopedia I feel your pain. I wrote an expanded entry for Cat-Man and Donna Troy and others, but the updated text didn’t make it into the final, and the pages got out of my hands before I could make my own proofing pass (I definitely would have caught Jean-Paul Valley). I’m sorry for this, wish I had a better explanation for you, and hope that you enjoyed the updated material. At the start of the project I pushed for the inclusion of characters that had gone neglected in the original edition, many of whom were Legionnaires (e.g. Bouncing Boy), and admittedly this got complicated working within the confines of a set layout — Lightning Lad, Live Wire, or both? I usually did my best to write around it.

    Again, sorry about the errors; I’ve asked DC to fix them if such a thing is permitted via a second printing.

    Here’s some of my thoughts on the final book:

    http://geekosity.blogspot.com/2008/10/dc-comics-encyclopedia-revised-and.html

  4. KC Says:

    Hi Daniel — now I’ve made contact with all four DC Encyclopedia writers!

    Thanks for your comments about the book. Between your thoughts and those of Brian Hughes above, I’ve gotta wonder about DK’s quality control for their updated volumes.

    I did enjoy the updated text and your blog post about your favorites. Besides, I gotta thank you for getting the Inferior Five in there. I know they don’t mean diddly to the current DCU (Giffen notwithstanding), but they are a part of its history and that oddball stuff is a major reason why I’m such a big DC fan.

    And thanks for trying with the Legionnaires! Sorry I messed them up in the first place!

    Please keep us posted on upcoming projects.

  5. Pedro Passaporte Says:

    First thing I went to check on the Encyclopedia was Fearsome Five’s roster. They have an image of the group, drawn by Tom Raney, as it appeared in an Outsiders comic.

    The names under each figure are wrong. They call Jinx Gizmo,and so on.

  6. Dan Wallace Says:

    Hi — just wanted to put it out there again that if there are any errors you’ve noticed in the DC Comics Encyclopedia that you want to see fixed, please let me know at danwall88 [at] gmail.com. I’m really trying to get as many as possible fixed for future printings.

  7. The Marvel Encyclopedia, Updated and Expanded » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] go, it’s kinda of a mixed bag. It’s certainly not the missed opportunity that the revised DC Encyclopedia was earlier this year, but there’s still the occasional typo or head-scratcher. There are a [...]

  8. DC Comics Super Heroes and Villains Fandex » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] is a fascinating and unique look at the DCU. While it doesn’t substitute for the more detailed DC Encyclopedia, Who’s Who, and Secret Files projects (nor is it designed to), it’s a great overview of DC’s [...]

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