The Marvel Encyclopedia, Updated and Expanded

Review by KC Carlson

It’s Marvel’s 70th Anniversary, and DK is helping celebrate by publishing a bright, shiny, new Marvel Encyclopedia!

The 2009 hardcover update for the Marvel Encyclopedia adds about 50 new pages (to make a total of almost 400) to the previous 2006 edition, plus a new wraparound cover by Brandon Peterson. Most of the new pages have been added to the original entries of most of Marvel’s major characters (Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine, Avengers, Thor and, most obviously, Captain America, among others). There are also full-scale entries for recent major events: Annihilation, Civil War, Fifty State Initiative, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, and the Multiverse (only 2 pages, not nearly enough), as well as a reworked “Marvel in the 2000s”. Plus, many other entries have been updated with either new artwork (usually costume upgrades) or minor text changes.

The Marvel Encyclopedia cover
The Marvel Encyclopedia
Buy this book

In all, there are at least 60 new entries. Many cover the members of the Young Avengers, Avengers: The Initiative, Young X-Men, and Agents of Atlas, as well as new teams, such as the Illuminati, Nextwave, The Order, and Omega Flight. Also added are breakout characters, including X-23, Daken, Skaar, Ares, and Anti-Venom. Some older characters like Doctor Faustus, Sin, Ultragirl, and Slapstick finally get entries due to recent important roles.

Some entries have only been slightly updated or not been updated at all, most notably Emma Frost, Speedball, Moonstone, Magik, Rick Jones, and Pepper Potts, who really needs an art update, as this shot is a bizarre 1960s swimsuit pose (although it is by Don Heck, and it’s always great to see some Heck art in a Marvel history project, as he is usually underrepresented). Nick Fury is back in action in a big way since Secret Invasion, but not much love for him here, nor any for his new team of Secret Warriors. Marvel made a pretty big deal about Loki now being a babe, but no mention of that anywhere here (or pictures either!). No entry for Norman Osborn, besides a mention about Secret Invasion in the Green Goblin entry? Plus, I’m curious about why a guy that stars in three current books — Deadpool — only rates a less than quarter-page entry.

Some characters now appear under new names. Bucky is now Winter Soldier; Warbird is now Ms. Marvel; and (sigh) Mary Jane Parker is now Mary Jane Watson. But my favorite — Tana Nile is now Nile, Tana. Who knew? The biggest mystery of all in this new volume (at least for me) is this: Why is Ultraforce (the former Malibu comics characters, bought by Marvel in 1994) just now getting an entry? Or at all, for that matter?

The text is mostly intact from the 2006 book, written by a team of writers including some current and past Marvel staffers, such as Tom Brevoort, Tom DeFalco, and Peter Sanderson. All of the updated material is written by Matt Forbeck. The introduction by Stan Lee is reprinted from the earlier edition.

As updates 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 lot of entries about characters who haven’t been seen — or been important — in a long time here. I’m more of a text guy, so I found it frustrating that a lot of the additional pages were given over to full-page poster artwork, rather than updating the text or adding more characters. The big art pages also kind go against the grain of the original design of the Encyclopedia, which was not changed from the 2006 version. But then, DK books are best known for their oft-bombastic art and visuals, so in some ways this makes perfect sense for them.

The Marvel Encyclopedia Limited Edition cover
The Marvel Encyclopedia
Limited Edition
Buy this book

With the strides made in the last few years with Marvel’s own Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe project, I find myself less interested in this DK book, as it has far less detail than the OHotMU. But the latter is primarily designed for hard-core Marvel comic book fans — and has the obsessive (some might say annoying) detail to prove it — which means the DK book is actually the best deal for a more general Marvel fan, one that’s just starting out or maybe be getting into the comics by way of the Marvel films.

Finally, I love DK’s press release for the book, which describes Ego the Living Planet as “bizarre and obscure”. I don’t think “obscure” is quite the right word for a being as big as a planet — especially if Ego himself snuck up behind you and tapped you on the shoulder to indicate his annoyance for being called
“obscure”.

There’s also a limited edition with slipcase available, printed on high-quality art paper and including two prints, one of which is signed by artist Brandon (“Brando”) Peterson. Both of the prints are of the cover to the book — one is of the full wraparound cover (including flaps) and the other is a detailed close-up of the front cover artwork. (The publisher provided a review copy of the standard edition.)

Similar Posts: The DC Comics Encyclopedia, Updated and Expanded § The Muppets Character Encyclopedia § The Essential Batman Encyclopedia § The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia § The Vertigo Encyclopedia

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