Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Oldies: Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe

A few months ago, I picked up my first Marvels Essentials: The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. This series, originally published in 1982, is probably what pulled me into comics for the long haul. It formally introduced me to the universe of Marvel comics.

I had read comics for years before, but not in any kind of conscious or organized way. Comics, as far as I can remember, had always been around the house. For the most part, they came from the 7-11 as kind of an impulse buy. It was a passive form of reading, but it grew more active as time went on.

Around the time OHOTMU was released, I had hit that magic age where I was starting to actively seek out comics. A little Spider-Man, a little Uncanny X-Men, even some Swamp Thing. I was starting to see differences in artwork and story, and I was starting to sort out my preferences and seek them out.

OHOTMU (I love that acronym) came at exactly the right moment. It was filled with the "hard facts" about a fictional universe, just as I was starting to develop some sense of mastery, some sense of control over my world. Better writers than me have written about the appeal of comics to a specific kind of kid, a kid who feels that the world is far too choatic, and how comics (or sports, even) provide an armature to build confidence on. I may not be able to understand or influence my world around me, but I know who would win in a fight between the Hulk and the Thing.

In an historical context, OHOTMU may be a kind of pinnacle in Marvel's history. There was a kind of legitimacy it conveyed. Marvel beat its Distinguished Competitor to the punch (Who's Who wasn't published until 1985), even though DC had been around for far longer, had a far more complex history. It was a coup, in a sense, proving that Marvel cared more about the fan, about giving the fan much needed clarification.

Looking back, I can see what a gift it was. Sure, it was a promotional tool, but it was also a labor of love. Mark Gruenwald clearly loved what he was doing by putting this together. Subsequent Handbooks without his guiding hand have lacked that enthusiasm, that care (I picked up the recent 70's Handbook, and the text often felt perfunctory, the product of a lot of cut-and-paste).

Tags: , , ,


At 5:35 AM, Blogger cIndyCenter.com said...

I love your blog!

You are so right, this was a great series.

I do hope that you will check-out my podcast... I am interviewing Mark Millar on Nov. 1st. But you can listen to other comic creators...


Post a Comment

<< Home