Category Archives: Comic Books

iReview | The Official Handbook of the MARVEL UNIVERSE

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…

The new omnibus repurposes John Byrne’s classic art from the final issue of the series featuring many of the Marvel Universe’s major players.

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.

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iGear | DC’s Jim Lee Teams-Up with HEX® for Collectors Backpack

The award-winning fashion line of tech-driven accessory backpacks has launched a unique collector backpack collaborated upon by none other than DC’s own Jim Lee!

We’ve all been there! Deciding upon the perfect backpack can be a real hassle especially for the upwardly mobile among us who traverse the most densely populated urban jungles or the tightly huddled cosplay aisles of Comic-Cons coast to coast! Keeping your gear safe and accessible and all in one place is a priority, certainly, if you want to make sure those particularly priceless collector items are protected from the elements — and in style!

HEX® the high-end innovators in fashion accessories including all-weather backpacks and cases inspired by fashion, music and art and empowering creators to explore the outer limits of their potential have collaborated with DC’s own Jim Lee for innovation in urban travel cases with the uniquely cool HEX x Jim Lee Collectors Backpack. Retailing for a modest $139.95 the limited edition case is aptly sized at 16”H x 12”W x 6”D with a padded laptop sleeve that fits a 15” computer and iPad inside a water-resistant exterior PU coating.

The case is multi-functional but it’s designed with the comic-collector/designer in mind and features fleece-lined comic carrying pockets to keep your collection safe and intact, with pockets for organization and room for your Overstreet Price Guide and side pockets for your smartphone, sunglasses and poster tube holder. Designed with Jim Lee the interiors feature custom-designed lining starring Batman and sports the HEX® promise of durability and styling. HEX® believes in “equip the creators” and this bag is ideal for anyone in the comic industry.

This HEX Is For You

HEX® prides itself on quality products and teaming up with Jim Lee to give collectors this one-of-kind carry all experience is the perfect way to validate and celebrate the comic enthusiast in a unique and exciting way.

HEX x Jim Lee Collectors Backpack | retails for $139.95 | Goto the HEX® website and get yours.

Trailer | The CW’s BATWOMAN

Gotham City’s newest caped avenger is already leaving an impression on her fans! In the latest trailer released to promote the inaugural season of The CW’s new BATWOMAN everyone wants to wear her mark.

The anticipation surrounding the launch of the newest DC superhero joining The CW’s primetime line-up hit a fever pitch at San Diego Comic-Con last weekend with the sneak peek at the pilot of Batwoman drawing much praise from the audience. The series will star Ruby Rose who will be reprising her role first introduced in last season’s “Elseworlds” crossover event. Rose plays Kate Kane, the cousin of billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne who stalks the shadows of Gotham City as the Caped Crusader, Batman.

But when the series opens up, the Dark Knight has been missing in action for 3 years, leaving the crime and corruption that plague his city to overrun the status quo. Kate has no other option but to put her military special ops training to the test to protect the innocent, especially when the notorious criminal Alice (played by Rachel Skartsten) threatens to take over the underworld. Batwoman is produced by Greg Berlanti and its show-runner Caroline Dries is promising that will be faithful to the comics, giving a cinematic platform to DC’s first out LGBTQ heroine headliner.

Bat…Looks Good On You

When she first meets with her contemporaries including the Green Arrow (Stephen Amell), The Flash (Grant Gustin) and Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) in the “Elseworlds” 3-part storyline, although she’s at first a bit apprehensive to lend the heroes a hand, when their mission runs afoul and the inmates at Arkham Asylum all nearly escape, Batwoman has no choice but to join the fight! One of the prisoners incarcerated within Arkham’s “special” unit will have a very distinct role to play in this year’s 5-part crossover “Crisis on Infinite Earths”.

Even without superpowers, Kate Kane’s alter ego is already racking up a fan base of followers as seen in the latest trailer promoting the new series making it’s debut in the fall…

Batwoman starring Rudy Rose premieres Sunday, Oct 6 on The CW Network

ICYMI | DC’s WHO’S WHO Arrives on Digital

The classic encyclopedic compendium gets the digital treatment and helps to save countless amount of shelf space by providing fans with a directory to comic’s biggest players!

Feeling nostalgic yet? You will be once you deep dive into Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe released on DC’s and digital comics reader app. The full 26-issue initial run released in 1984 of the encyclopedic tome coincided with the publishing giant’s 50th Anniversary and was a invaluable companion piece to the world-changing Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-seres which would ultimately redefine and arguably alter many of the guide’s inaugural entires.

Imagine the task set upon by creatives to catalog and chronicle the various histories and power sets of an immeasurable cast of characters that had been accumulating for more than 50 years. That was the mission faced by the editors, writers and illustrators of the Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe. In 1982 Marvel Comics had led the way with their itemization of their cast of characters with the 15-issue Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. With a much more profound publishing history, DC had a Golden Age as well as a Silver Age to invest in.

Over the course of its 26-issue releases Who’s Who alphabetically detailed both major and minor characters from the DC multiverse, including Golden Age characters like the Superman of Earth-2 and the full roster of the All-Star Squadron, alongside their Silver Age counterparts including The Flash and more contemporary heroes like Nightwing the original Silver Age Robin. Who’s Who ran consecutively as Marv Wolfman and George Pérez begun the huge undertaking of redefining and streamlining the DC Universe in the now classic Crisis on Infinite Earths event.

Many of the heroes and villains populating the DC multiverse would inevitably become affected by the outcome of the earths-shattering event which resulted in a single DC Comics universe with a more historically fertile landscape. Some of the larger characters in the pantheon including Superman and especially Wonder Woman would be significantly affected and were among the first “revised” entries within the original volume to reflect the conclusion of the Crisis. Future installments of Who’s Who would more accurately define major arcs and changes to the timeline.

Superman as he appeared in the first release of “Who’s Who” which followed the hero’s reboot following “Crisis”.

From A to Z

An answer to the competitors massively indexed and popular Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe the two editions differed dramatically in their presentation of the material. Who’s Who attempted to incapsulate the individual entry to one page, even for its biggest players, while also elegantly adorning the entry with pin-up style artwork by the industries biggest names. It wasn’t uncommon for the most devoted fans to single out their favorite entries and pin them to their wall. Later installments of Who’s Who followed the same format.

Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe (1985 – 1987) all 26-issues are available for digital download via the DC comics reader app at $1.99 per issue from DC Comics.

Although he would ascend to assume the role of the Scarlet Speedster eventually, Wally West began his career as the superhero sidekick KID FLASH a founding member of the Teen Titans.
The most controversial of all the entries ever featured in the initial release, Wonder Girl would soon find her entire background upended by the introduction of the Modern Era’s Wonder Woman, though Wonder Girl remains a fan favorite.

iEditorial | JUSTICE LEAGUE Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey

Unsung tales and missed opportunities deeply diving into the JUSTICE LEAGUE archives reveals insight into narratives that might have been — or may yet — be brought to light from the case files!

For many, DC Comics “The New 52” relaunch was the publishing imprint’s most elaborate failed experiment. In 2011 the entire line of comics were relaunched and rebooted after the near-cataclysmic events captured in the FlashPoint story arc. Geoff Johns the author behind  the revelatory “crisis” event which centered arrived The Flash’s irrational decision to prevent his nemesis the Reverse-Flash from murdering his mother, the result of which has a drastic effect all-across the DC Universe.

The result was “The New 52” reboot which was an effort by the publisher’s to rewrite company-wide mythology and “clean slate” much of the major storylines especially among DC Comics greatest icons which included the membership among the World’s Greatest Heroes the Justice League, in fact when the Justice League #1 launched it inaugurated the arrival of “The New 52”. Johns and one of DC’s Finest Jim Lee teamed up for their revisionist view of many of the imprint’s long-standing characters including Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

This week DC celebrated Lee by offering many of the artist’s most prolific works, among them the collected volumes of several series runs including Justice League Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey which reprinted for the first time “The New 52” run of the title’s issues #7-12. It featured the Justice League’s confrontation with a new adversary who has been following their rise to fame, in a new world that heralds them as heroes, but are they really worthy of that title? The complex story arc actually features two additional prologues that reveal some interesting motives.

Unexplored, Not Pursued

Leading up to the league’s battle with Graves, there is an engaging story by Johns and drawn by Carlos D’anda, not Jim Lee, a Justice League team-up featuring Green Arrow. It’s the “first time” in the new continuity that the Emerald Archer crosses paths with the team, as he petitions for a position among their ranks. The League don’t appear all too impressed by the archer, who insists he helped them take down Amazo the Android, helped prevent an attack from the Court of Owls’ Talons, but is rejected by most of the current roster, especially Aquaman and Green Lantern.

The Aquaman snub is interesting because it reveals a dangling plot line that appears to have not been explored: one that placed Arthur Curry and Oliver Queen in directly opposing paths before they assumed their superhero identities. That Green Lantern isn’t impressed by Green Arrow is also of note considering that the pair have often shared adventures together, especially during the Bronze Age of Comics and into the Modern Era. Green Arrow isn’t brought into the inner circle but is approached by the League’s liaison agent Steve Trevor for another mission all-together.

At the conclusion of their adventure and after the Green Arrow pleads his final case, their part ways, but consider the possibility of opening their ranks. It’s then the Batman protests that it wouldn’t be a good idea, and insists how badly it went the last time that the League let someone in…leading to a dramatic double splash page with the Justice League locked in combat with the Martian Manhunter! Readers of the current volume of the Justice League will note that not only is J’onn J’onzz a member of the team, he’s the group’s current chairperson.

Cut To…

Without further integrating that bit of backstory, the Justice League would soon find themselves in a series of big scale brawls beginning with “The Trinity War” and leading into “Forever Evil”. These events brought them in direct conflict with a government sanctioned “Justice League of America” that included amidst its roster the Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter, and inducting several “rookie” members. Firestorm and an Element Woman were invited to train with the team, while the duplicitous Atomica was uncovered as a psychopath from an alternate-Earth.

The Justice League’s core members have pretty much stayed intact and only recently, after entering into the cross-publishing “Rebirth” and facing the dangers of the Dark Multiverse in “Metal” took a major step to reexamine their roster. The latest team includes many of the recent founding members including Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, but have now recruited John Stewart, the Green Lantern, Kendra Saunders, the Hawkgirl and brought Martian Manhunter back.

Still there is the dangling participle of what exactly transpired — in full detail — between J’onn J’onzz and the original seven members, and though perhaps the beef between Aquaman and Green Arrow may have played into some one-shot story in either one of their respective titles, they’ve never crossed paths since the apparent proclamation of disdain between the two heroes. In fact, the long-term history of the current era Justice League is in much flux, as recent events in the Batman/The Flash team-up arc “The Button” revealed a great deal of missing history.

As the current mythology attempts to restructure itself and open up the possibility that an eventual explanation will be laid out for diehard fans of the Justice League’s illustrious history, in the meantime devoted readers can dive into Justice League: The 100 Greatest Moments by Robert Greenberger and published Book Sales Chartwell. The hardback is available now from various retailers including Barnes and Noble.

DC Comics | WONDER WOMAN by John Byrne Book Two

Before the Amazing Amazon’s return to 1984 take a nostalgic look at her adventures from 1996 in the DC Comics legendary collected works of Wonder Woman by John Byrne Book Two!

When the legendary comic book writer/artist John Byrne took over the helm of creatively driving the adventures of the Amazing Amazon, the man that had redefined the DC Comics modern era of the Man of Steel, after Superman’s world was rocked following the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths the imprint decided to turn Byrne loose on one of the other premiere properties leading to a comparatively new direction for Wonder Woman. It was more than just a cosmetic reimagining, Byrne dove deep into the heroes mythology.

Though George Pérez had initially given Diana her most dramatic reimagining and reintroduction into the Modern Era after the heroine had been theoretically erased during the aforementioned Crisis, Byrne assumed the lead on the title after the landmark centennial issue, and navigated Diana into all-new territory. After a stint where the heroine had abandoned her familiar star-spangled attire and tiara, Byrne brought the Amazon princess back in her traditional warrior garb, though highlighted particular innovations in her design.

Celebrating the iconic creators run in the collected volume Wonder Woman by John Byrne Book Two several elements of DC Comics third most iconic pillar harken to her cinematic interpretation and even hint at the storyline that is speculated will be unraveling when Diana returns to the big screen in next year’s highly anticipated blockbuster sequel Wonder Woman 1984. Byrne simplified the lines across her suit, but also gave Wonder Woman the now established standard length and look of her ceremonial bracelets.

During his tenure on Wonder Woman Byrne elaborated on much of the mythology that Pérez had worked into Diana’s origins, cementing her legend in Greek myths and lore. John Byrne was also extremely diligent about her placement in DC Comics pantheon; even though she had served a term as a member of the Justice League International, Wonder Woman had been much of an outsider among her contemporaries, and it wouldn’t be until much later that aspects of her story would be retconned in order to more significantly place her at the cornerstone of the universe.

Wonder Woman by John Byrne Book Two examines her place in myth as Diana is a vessel of faith, hope and love — and her theology, much based in myth is peeled back like an onion. At the center of it all is Byrne’s interpretation of the Amazon’s most relentless and dangerous adversary. The artist introduces the most feral and ferocious Cheetah, perhaps the version that may be the inspiration behind the villain’s upcoming cinematic appearance in the next film. With all the excitement building this is the perfect opportunity to get caught up before 1984 hits theaters.

Wonder Woman by John Byrne Book Two collected volume is on sale now from DC Comics.