For the first time collected in one volume, the one that started it all, every hero, every villain, every landmark location of the Marvel Universe as it was chronicled in the early 80s.
Imagine if you will, what it was like for me in 1982 — I was then a still emerging comic book fanatic — to gaze upon a singular volume of published books from Marvel Comics that would give me details about every single one of the major heroes and villains in the Mighty Marvel pantheon. I suddenly had an insider’s view of my favorite character’s alter egos, the major locations they operated out, and how many of them got their superpowers. Not to mention, every alphabetized entry featured my favorite Marvel hero in a super “superhero” pose!
Marvel was only beginning to celebrate a landmark publishing milestone in 1982 when The Official Handbook of the MARVEL UNIVERSE was first released, but many of imprint’s titles were rapidly marking their pace as best-selling books leaving significant marks on popular culture. Suddenly to hold in my hands, a book that immediately validated the role models I had accepted into my most impressionable adolescence, to learn that Captain America was 6’ 2” and weighed 240 and that by comparison Spider-Man was 5’ 10” and his eyes were Hazel — my heroes were real!
I was also infamously obsessed with written mythologies and historically intricate narratives, and Mark Gruenwald and many of the creative staff in the Mighty Marvel Bullpen had gone to incredible depths of detail to realize the world for me. The OHOTMU (as it had become popularly known among devotees) put it all together for me, and among my most favorite entries were the ones that listed everyone on the roster of the most popular superhero teams like the Avengers and the Defenders, and especially who were the founding members and where they were based.
The OHOTMU changed the way I looked at comics. It made them tangible and relevant to my world; especially as a native New Yorker, I felt I could just walk on over to the famed headquarters of the Fantastic Four, the Baxter Building and head on uptown to the Fifth Avenue location of the Avengers Mansion. Over the course of the original volume’s publication, the initial 12-issue release was followed by two additional tomes chronicling the “Book of the Dead and Inactive” as well as a technical volume detailing “Weapons and Paraphernalia” there would be many changes…
From A to Z
Once Marvel got its groove, it wasn’t long before a “Deluxe Edition” of the Handbook replaced the original, elaborating on some of the entires popularized by the first. An entires “Origin” would be replaced by “History and in many cases would guarantee that most of the major character entries would have greater relevancy, as a hero like Black Panther would have their legacy chronicled over the course of multiple pages — and not limited to a single page. This would also provide an opportunity to detail a hero and villain’s look during the span of their career!
And speaking of legacy, as in the case of one’s like Hank Pym, the “Original” Ant-Man for example that passed on their identity to a new individual, a roman numeral would differentiate between the two. Scott Lang would be known as “Ant-Man II”, while Hank Pym would be referred to as “Ant-Man I”, etc. Future volumes would also more readily define a character’s “Strength Level” for easy comparison and individuals that had been gone inactive or deceased would be incorporated into the natural mix of things, more accurately defining the entirety of the Marvel Universe.
But it all started with the first series of books, and now those iconic 15-issues have been faithfully reprinted and collected in the latest Marvel Omnibus and featuring many of the original artwork and interlocking covers from the 80s issues that have become iconic. This is not just a nostalgic trip down memory lane, this is the classic Marvel Universe in its purest form, even as it prepares to mark its 80th Anniversary redefining popular culture as one of the narrators of the leading modern mythologies dictating legends of heroics and inspiring the impossible in our imaginations.
Marvel Omnibus | The Official Handbook of the MARVEL UNIVERSE | $75.00 available from Marvel collecting The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (1983) #1 — #15. Check it out here.