Friday, December 08, 2006

COMICS - The Official Handbook of the Invincible Universe

Okay, so I thought I'd be the first or at least among the first to rant about the absolute triumph that is THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE INVINCIBLE UNIVERSE.

As it turns out, though, that's been covered by multiple sources. Just ask Google.

CBR's write-up looks particularly interesting (and familiar), so I'll probably (re-?)read that one after I'm done typing this post.

I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with briefly joining the choir to sing this book's (and its creators') praises.

Those of you already familiar with comic books have probably heard of "The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe" (tOHotMU) that, I believe, was first released some time in the 1980's. It catalogs the characters, creatures, and other creations that made up Marvel Comics' fictional realm.

DC Comics had their version, too, which they called "Who's Who...," but I never understood what other fans saw in it. Maybe I never gave it enough of a chance, but DC's attempt seemed to lack the nerdy minutae that satisfied my curiosity and captured my imagination.

Marvel's Handbook featured their characters in alphabetical order, listing their aliases, bases of operations, relatives, hair and eye color, origin stories, historical outlines, powers and abilities, distinctive physical traits, equipment, and strength levels. No doubt, I've left something out, but that's the point.

They didn't just cover the bases. They buried them $#!+s.

Not only did Marvel explore every nook and cranny of these characters, but they got very specific, doing what super-hero comics seem to do best - offering pseudo-science that ALMOST convinces you that these super-powered characters could actually exist.

We don't just find out that the Hulk is really strong. They divide their characters' strength levels into classes and let us know that Hulk is in the 100-class - able to lift/press 100 tons or more under these or those conditions.

Yeah. It's stuff like that and stuff like telling us how Cyclops' optic beams work, how Captain Marvel flies, and what Captain America's shield is made out of, that captured and powerfully stimulated my young imagination... and continues to do so, to this day.

Besides, the more pseudo-sense Marvel made of these worlds of science-fantasy, the greater my ability to easily suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy these tales.

Click image to enlarge.
Sure, I don't HAVE to know how strong a single thread of Superman's hair might be, but it can add a layer of depth and dimension that amplifies the books' entertainment value, for me.

Obviously, there are screw-ups and fake science that rise to the surface, but, for me, the pro's BY-FAR out-weighed the con's.

Later, Marvel revived the Handbook series, but they lacked some the elements (including specificity) that made the original series so great. In some ways, it was better than nothing and I'm sure there are younger readers who appreciate the new batch as much as old fogeys like myself dig the previous ones.

Still, something was missing.

I hope that, somewhere in this love-filled rant/ode to geekdom, I have given you a glimpse into what made Marvel's Handbook so much fun, for me.

Well, the best elements of those Handbooks have been inserted into this rip-off/homage (I don't care which it is) from Image Comics and have been done so well that, once again, I had a spontaneous dorkgasm right there, in the middle of the comic book shop.

I think a little might've splashed on someone. My bad.

Invincible was already a fantastic series, combining the best elements of classic and contemporary comicdom. Now, it has cemented its status as a classic on its own.

I don't know whose idea it was to make this book, but I almost feel indebted to him/her/them.

Thank you, nameless, faceless person and thanks to the creators of the Invincible universe for giving this comic fan something he's longed for for about twenty years.

Thank you, very much.

HELL, yes!


Luke Cage said...

Mannnnn, I LOVED the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. I've got the entire first volume including the handbook of deceased or inactive heroes.

Its like a treasure trove of who's who and how their powers function. I found many discrepancies in the handbook and how some writers and artists utilized some of the characters' powers... I think some of them should have read the handbook too..

DC's version was the pits and not as detailed oriented. They made the individual pictures flashier and more colorful, but no meat in the description of their powers.

Ever heard the argument that Iron Man could defeat the entire X-Men team? (this is Dave Cockrum's new X-Men by the way... go figure) Nice job on this West...

West said...

Thanks, man.

Nope. I'm not sure I recall such an argument... although it sounds vaguely familiar.