Marvel Art Books
Marvel Encyclopedia – Updated and Expanded (2014)
Marvel Comics – 75 Years of Cover Art
DK Publishing puts together a beautiful package together with their Marvel books. The latest example of that are Marvel Encyclopedia – Updated and Expanded (2014) and Marvel Comics – 75 Years of Cover Art.
The Encyclopedia has been updated several times over the last decade, most recently in 2009. So given that this book came out in March 2014, the character information is pretty accurate to how things stand currently in the Marvel Universe.
So let’s talk about the positives first. The book is a beautiful package. It is oversized 12.2 x 10.3 x 1.5 inches, packs in at a whopping 440 pages, and features an incredible wraparound cover by Mike Deodato, Jr. And it is a very clever cover too. It features heroes on the top, then a title banner and book information in the center, and then villains at the bottom.
Deodato draws the characters in their iconic states, and what makes it really clever is that there are instances when the hero interacts with the villain. For instance, on the front cover Mr. Fantastic is shown with his long arms punching Dr. Doom. A and on the back of the book, Doctor Octopus’ long “arms” reach up to the heroes, only to fall in the grasp of the Hulk’s gigantic fist.
The information in the book is also very concise. It features characters that I have never heard of before. For instance, did you know that Marvel has a villain called Egghead? I knew that Adam West went toe-to-toe with Egghead before, but it is always fun reading about characters that you couldn’t possibly believe exist.
The Marvel Encyclopedia also focuses on the events of the last decade; Civil War, Fear Itself, Planet Hulk, etc. But of course, most of the book focuses on Marvel’s long history of characters. And while each page features three or four characters, for characters as prominent as Spider-Man or Wolverine, the book devote six solid pages to them. So every character that is listed in the book gets its due. The Marvel Encyclopedia lists characters in alphabetical order, with an index in the back. And for a book of this size, an index is a necessity. I plan to use this book as reference for years to come, as it is the most current and concise book available to Marvel fans everywhere. (Whereas, I would never buy a DC Encyclopedia; due to their constant continuity changes, a DC Encyclopedia would become antiquated upon its release.)
The only negatives of Marvel Encyclopedia – Updated and Expanded (2014) are due to personal bias, and is not necessarily reflected in the quality of the product. I don’t think that a Marvel Encyclopedia needs to look like an art book, having the dimensions as it does, and especially weighing a hefty 5.8 lbs. The way I imagine a book such as this to be done is a black and white book with dimensions slightly bigger than an Archie Digest. But this book would be a monster in that format — over 1000 pages.
You could take this hypothetical book and read away about the history of Marvel, and then put it on your nightstand before you go to bed. There’s been encyclopedias that I have had in this format before, with The History of Television Shows in the forefront of my mind, and I simply devoured those books. With Marvel Encyclopedia – Updated and Expanded (2014), I know that I am going to have to lug this giant book with me wherever I go, and it really seems inconvenient. It’s a shame that this book is not available digitally, because that would alleviate the books weight issue.
And the other personal bias are the characters that DK decided to put in the book. They were aiming to include as many obscure characters possible, but they missed out on some of the classics.
For instance, Sleepwalker was nowhere to be found. He’s a cult hero that is rarely seen in comics and is made for Encyclopedias such as this. I found that particular absence very troubling.
Doop, the ever-lovable, cucumber-shaped X-Man doesn’t get his own section, but rather is only mentioned in the X-Statix listing. Doop is a character that has come far in prominence since X-Statix (he just had his own limited series!), and it is a shame to see him slighted in this book.
Also barely referenced are the alternate reality characters, especially those from the Ultimate Universe. With such a focus on characters coming from different universes and time-travel being so prevalent in existing Marvel comics, this is yet another group of characters that should have had space devoted to them.
All being said, the book is beautiful and I really can’t wait to delve deep into it. But as great as it is, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the quality of another DK book, Marvel Comics – 75 Years of Cover Art. This book is slightly bigger in dimensions than the Marvel Encyclopedia, with a better presentation as well. While Marvel Comics – 75 Years of Cover Art just has a dust jacket, Marvel Comics – 75 Years of Cover Art comes with a slipcase and two amazing prints for your enjoyment.
Marvel Comics – 75 Years of Cover Art is a book that deserves that presentation, because they’re a necessity for a celebration of something so incredible. Look at Marvel now, they rule Hollywood (at least until the Star Wars movies start coming out next year), being used so well in the Disney machine throughout all facets of entertainment. Yet this is a company that survived bankruptcy, filing Chapter 11; all of this excitement has happened relatively recently. And also 75 years is a long time. The fact that Marvel has been around this long and has overcome so many obstacles, to become the behemoth that it has now become is very impressive.
The cover art is broken into sections by chronological order. It mostly focuses on comics that are known for classic cover art, but there are anecdotes to every image talking about the artist, the story inside, and other interesting tidbits that would entice the reader. As a matter of fact, I learned a lot more in Marvel Comics – 75 Years of Cover Art than I did with the Marvel Encyclopedia. The book also focuses on some of the most legendary Marvel artists of all time.
I have no gripes with this book whatsoever, and it is a pleasant surprise that this book sis such a wonderful collectable. Truth be told, I am not typically drawn to art books and I really wanted to get a look at the new Marvel Encyclopedia. But I am glad I picked up 75 Years of Cover Art, because its lavish display, high-quality images, and engaging information makes this book an absolute treasure.