Thursday, August 25, 2005
THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #15, BOOK OF WEAPONS, HARDWARE, AND PARAPHERNALIA AND HOLY CRAP THAT'S A LONG TITLE Marvel Comics, 1984
The Book of Weapons, Hardware, and Paraphernalia was an appendix of sorts to the regular Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe, the nearly-comprehensive catalogue of Marvel heroes and villains. Instead of documenting the various powers and vital statistics of characters like The Purple Man (Height: 5’10, Hair: Purple, Eyes: Purple), The BoWHP entries featured all the cool gadgets and weapons of the mid-eighties Marvel Universe. As a youngster, I ate it up.
Presented in a dry, technical style by writer Eliot R Brown, the BoWHP gave an air of plausibility to wacky shit like Stilt-Man’s armor and The Ringmaster’s hypnotic top hat. It was presented with such a straight face that you would start thinking, “You know, that actually makes sense, the Stilt Man thing! He has microprocessors in his suit which handle flat, inclined, and broken surfaces, and he has foot pad actuator rams which compensate for terrain. I guess it really would work!”
The thing that most appeals to me about the BoWHP are all of Eliot R Brown’s technical drawings and diagrams in the book that show cut-away and cross-section views of say, Doctor Octopus’s arms. All the parts are labeled with convincing-sounding names that adds a thin veneer of authenticity to hardware that would never in a million years work in the real world.
Here, for instance, are The Falcon’s wings:
That looks good to me: I believe he could fly.
Everything is in here: Iron Man’s armor. Hawkeye’s bow and arrows. Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton. The Mandarin’s rings of power. Nomad’s stun discs. I know; you’ve always wondered how Nomad’s stun discs were designed, haven’t you? I’ll give you a hint: the key to effective stun discs is depleted uranium. You’ll have to get your own damn copy of BoWHP if you want to know all of Nomad’s secrets, my friend.
For all the ornate detail and technical verisimilitude the BoWHP invests in describing the more “plausible” hardware of the Marvel Universe, the book is hilariously vague when it comes to the cosmic and magic stuff like the Ultimate Nullifier and Doctor Spectrum’s Power Prism. Case in point: Quasar’s Wrist Bands.
Ahh, I see... The diagram clearly shows the relationship between the meridian of gigahertz radio wave activity and the areas of L-wave flux!
It’s too bad comics don’t have a hit counter on the cover that keeps track of how many times you look at them. I’ve had this particular copy of this particular issue for twenty-one years, and it was on heavy rotation back in the day. Over the years I must have looked through this book hundreds and hundreds of times. Such is my love for the Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe.