Marvel Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded
DK Publishing, 2014
The massive Marvel Encyclopedia was first published in 2006 and revised in 2009. This latest revision hit the market earlier this year and now includes over 1200 character biographies. Ralph Macchio—not of The Karate Kid fame—wrote a new foreword for this edition, having served various capacities at Marvel since the mid-1970s, followed by an introduction by the legendary Stan Lee before the character profiles begin. And once you get lost in the back stories of the heroes and villains of the Marvel world, you will know more about them than you ever thought possible.
From first appearances to powers to primary allies and foes, both major and minor characters are chronicled in Marvel Encyclopedia. Of course, the major names are present: Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man. But lesser-known Marvel personalities such as Whizzer, Moon Boy, Doctor Bong, and Zaran are also given ink. There are also several entries on major storylines, such as “Annihilation” and “Civil War.” Artwork abounds throughout this volume, showing the evolution of some of the world’s greatest heroes and including newly commissioned cover art by Mike Deodato Jr.
Comic book fans, especially those who gravitate towards the Marvel universe, will love Marvel Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded.
Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel
by Daniel Wallace
The most enduring figure in American mythology has been, without a doubt, Superman. Regardless of the quality of the past few theatrical releases telling the Man of Steel’s story, his legacy is firmly entrenched through his comic book appearances. Author Daniel Wallace takes readers on a journey that begins with the superhero’s first appearance in Action Comics in 1938 on through the more recent adventures in DC’s The New 52 series. Superman’s friends and foes are spotlighted, as well as his collaborations with other heroes and his human friends.
Wallace does not bore the reader with details from every comic book published, but highlights the most important in Superman’s 75-year history, filling in the blanks between those issues with other key events that made him who he is today. Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel is a must-have volume for fans of the hero who is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Celebrating 50 Years of Web-Slinging
by Alan Cowsill and Matthew K. Manning
DK Books, 2012
In the five decades since a radioactive spider bit Peter Parker, Spider-Man has gone through many evolutions in the comics. Alan Cowsill and Matthew K. Manning do an excellent job of documenting those changes in Spider-Man Chronicle, a massive full-color volume that is essential reading to any serious Spidey fan. Highlighting the best stories and covers dating back to the 1960s, the authors leave no web unspun, documenting characters from the comics, writers that put words in their mouths, and artists that put their mark on the wall-crawler and his friends.
In addition to Spider-Man’s various titles, the artists also examine several of his guest appearances in other Marvel franchises such as X-Men, Avengers, and Fantastic Four. Even the one-off Spider-Ham makes an appearance in this book, proving that Spider-Man Chronicle is certainly the most comprehensive history of the hero available in print.
Two fantastic lithographs are included with the book, drawn by John Tyler Christopher, who also lent his talents for the cover artwork. There is not a Spider-Man fan alive that would not appreciate this book. It is simply amazing, spectacular, and sensational.
Star Wars Character Encyclopedia
Jo Casey, editor
DK Publishing, 2011
It doesn’t matter if you are eight or eighty, if you love Star Wars, you’ll love Star Wars Character Encyclopedia. This book is full of facts about your favorite creatures in the universe…and a few you forgot about. In addition to Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and Padmé Amidala, the book offers information about J’Quille, a member of Jabba the Hutt’s entourage; lesser-known Jedi Masters such as Oppo Rancisis; and Padmé’s successor to the throne of Naboo, Queen Apailana.
Each entry includes color photos, general information about the subject, tidbits about the character’s clothing or body, and a “data file” including affiliation, homeworld, and Star Wars appearances. There are also interesting bits of trivia about the characters. For instance, in the entry concerning one of Max Rebo’s band members, we learn that Rappertunie’s real name is Rapotwanalantonee Tivtotolon. Now that’s a fact that can impress even the most die-hard Star Wars fan.
The index for the book is a nice feature as well. One might question the need for an index, since the characters are featured alphabetically, but if you can’t remember the name of a specific Ewok, you can simply look up “Ewok” and see that there are four profiled in the book (Chief Chirpa, Logray, Teebo, and Wicket W. Warrick).
With Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace being released in 3D this weekend, there is no better time to get a book like this to brush up on those minor characters that appear throughout.
Monsters in the Movies
by John Landis
DK Publishing, 2011
There is no shortage of books about movies, but the best often come from those on the inside. Such is the case with John Landis’ Monsters in the Movies, a fascinating look at the most famous creatures in cinema and the men behind them. Landis is well-known for his outstanding 1981 horror film, An American Werewolf in London, the groundbreaking music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and the comedy classics National Lampoon’s Animal House and The Blues Brothers. He gives an interesting look into the history of the horror genre and the beasts that give so many of us nightmares, yet we cannot resist inviting them into our imaginations again and again.
Large sections of the book are devoted to the classic monsters made famous by Universal, such as vampires, werewolves, and mummies, but Landis also spends a fair amount of time with apes, machines, aliens, even myths and fairy tales. Each section is accompanied by a couple of pages of explanation, followed by a host of images from the beginning of moving pictures to today. Not only are we treated with photographs of Max Schreck and Bela Lugosi, but also Gary Oldman and Paul Reubens and Lina Leandersson.
The highlights of this book, however, are the conversations between Landis and some of horror’s heaviest hitters. Christopher Lee, a regular in Hammer features, spoke of his refusal to speak in one of his many Dracula films. Landis discusses the definition of the word “monster” with David Cronenberg, Rick Baker, and Guillermo Del Toro. He examines George A. Romero’s impact on horror and zombies with another legend, John Carpenter. Reading these conversations is like eavesdropping on the most brilliant minds in the industry, and they just happen to be fans like us!
Monsters in the Movies, while “not meant to be an encyclopedia,” “nor…an exhaustive history of horror,” is nonetheless a spectacular resource for fans of the genre. While I didn’t sit down and count every movie referenced in the index, there has to be close to a thousand titles listed throughout the book. Landis does not recommend every film he mentions; in fact he admits that there are some he has not watched himself, and some that he wishes he hadn’t.
This book is absolutely a must-own for horror buffs, if not for the photos from The Kobal Collection, then for Landis’ insights; if not for his insights, then for his conversations with the giants of the genre; if not for those conversations, then for the sheer volume of movies referenced that you somehow overlooked during your own education in monster movies.