Tuesday, January 03, 2006

THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, DELUXE EDITION #1 Marvel Comics, 1985



Now we’re getting into some serious shit. The Official Handbook of the Frickin’ Marvel Universe – DELUXE EDITION. You heard me – deluxe, baby.

But before we start with the Deluxe Edition, can I talk to you about the Yard-o-Beef?

Some kind souls at work gave me two swell presents for Christmas: a kid’s gun safety video hosted by Jason Priestly (who I’m guessing was doing the gig as community service instead of jail time, n'est-ce pas?), and a Yard-o-Beef. A massive Hillshire Farm summer sausage, the Yard-o-Beef is the size of a child’s leg. It is so stout it could be used as a bludgeoning weapon. You laugh, but tell me that it wouldn’t hurt to get brained by a three pound club made of hardwood smoked sausage.

Anyway, really excited about the Yard-o-Beef. When I got it I was so excited I had to play with it. I swung it over my head, roaring like a Viking. I smacked my hand menacingly with the sausage as I stalked through Cubicle Land. It’s empowering, holding that much beef.

In my enthusiasm I may have torn the plastic packaging that keeps the Yard-o-Beef in a timeless sleep. A small tear, true – tiny beyond notice, but deadly nonetheless.

I left the Yard-o-Beef on a shelf in my cubicle and went home for the long holiday weekend. I thought nothing of it.

When I returned to my cubicle today I found mold growing in white circular patterns the size of a quarter on the Yard-o-Beef. The end of the beef shaft was pretty bad, covered with festering discs of mold. The wrinkly, puckered membrane at the end of the sausage was coated with a putrid, fuzzy growth. It was disgusting.

I have nobody to blame but myself for the diseased Yard-o-Beef. The Hillshire Farms folks make a fine product and their packaging is robust. I handled it roughly, like it was a toy, and I paid the price. The warnings signs were there: REFRIGERATE AFTER OPENING. I was just too self-absorbed to read them. It’s all about me, isn’t it? Never the Yard-o-Beef. And now look: my self-absorption has killed it. I’ve killed the Yard-o-Beef.

So naturally I’m going to keep it at my desk and watch the mold kill it, unless the smell gets too bad or the spores go airborne or sentient.

I’ll take pictures.

Right: The Deluxe Edition of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe was a series of thick 64-page compendiums with even more space devoted to the minutiae of second-string comic book characters. The Book of Weapons and Crazy Shit, which was published separately in the original OHMU, has been folded into the regular series, so you would get an entry on Captain America and a diagram of his shield. Much as I liked the Book of Weapons, it makes more sense to put all the maps and diagrams and cross-sections in the main volume.

The first issue of OHMU(DE) covered the letter “A,” as you might imagine – from The Abomination to Batroc’s Brigade.

My one gripe is that Batroc, the French savate master with the pointy moustache who is figured so prominently on the cover, does not get his own entry, he has to share it with his Brigade. That hippy Angar the Screamer gets a full- page entry, while Batroc is crammed in there with Zaran and Machete. That ain’t right.

In the Marvel Universe, “A” stands for Avengers, and this issue of OMHU(DE) is packed full of Avengers goodness. There’s a complete roster of all The Avengers current and past (circa 1985), schematics for the Avengers Mansion, The West Coast Avengers Compound, and a full-page breakdown of that archetypal Avengers ride, The Quinjet, courtesy of Eliot R Brown:

This is a particularly strong issue of OHMU(DE), with a map of Asgard, a diagram of the psychedelic Norse universe, a big entry on Atlantis, a kick-ass Ant-Man entry with cross-sections of his cyber helmet and shit. All that and a full-page devoted to The Aquarian? What more could you ask for?

I bring you grace! I bring you skill! I bring you Aguila!

The Aguila page is pretty typical for OHMU (DE): A description of the characters history, powers, and skills on one side and on the other side, a static reference shot of the character with one or two panels illustrating the character’s powers or history. Behold the Aguila entry:

Now I ask you. El Aguila gets a whole frickin’ page, but Batroc doesn’t? What kind of crazy world do we live in???

Nothing against Aguila. I think he bears a striking resemblance to George Hamilton in Zorro, the Gay Blade:


Now I know who I’m casting in my soon-to-be-released Aguila: The Movie. George Hamilton has a magic that only a few men have.

Some of the images used in OHMU (DE) #1 are a little baffling. Here’s a panel from the entry for the supervillain known as The Armadillo. I believe these images are used to depict the characters’ powers and abilities, but what in the hell is going on in this picture? Is this telling us that Armadillo is strong enough to carry one of the rare South American machine gun trees?


Man, I hope that is his tail.

48 comments:

philip said...

These things are glorious compendia of entirely useless information. I've always been more of a DC . . . um . . . zombie(?) but I bow the the crushing superiority of the OHMU. DE and otherwise. DC's "Who's Who" always seemed like a social register, while OHMU reads like a menacing catalog of ways you can get your ass handed to you. Aguila notwithstanding.

Chris said...

Outstanding. These are some of my favorite comics I had when I was a kid, and I'm getting the Essential version on Thursday. Woo! Hoo!

Didn't Peter Sanderson, the guy who writes the obscenely verbose column over at IGN, do a lot of writing for these?

"George Hamilton has a magic that only a few men have."

You misunderstand! He's a practical joker with a wonderful sense of humor!

Sleestak said...

Does it have the Uri Gellar entry? I know one of the old ones did but I can't find the entry.

Anonymous said...

Ive said it before and Ill say it again, John Bryne is a buggery old god! If the comic market sinks any deeper, Ill be able to afford some of his original art...


(and early George Perez to a lesser extend. What was up with that recent marvel vs. dc?! Everyone had the same mouth and teeth!)


-thebridgeisover

Kurt Onstad said...

You said the magic words...

Angar the Screamer

Mike P said...

I love it when people talk about comic books that talk about other comic books. It's the best thing ever.

Adam said...

The thing that pissed me off the most about these guides was that it took too long for the 'S' volume to come out in the deluxe versions, and I lost interest around H-J or whatever, so I never got to see the Spider-Man entry. I finally managed to get the original run's 'S' volume and eagerly turned to Spidey's entry to see what would be listed. I was expecting a brief rundown of his career and such - the Gwen Stacy episodes, the whole Jackal dealie (don't fuck with the Jackal, Dave), the Jean DeWolff stuff, people he fought a lot, but all it did was reprise his origin story. Ripped off? Hell yeah.

Chris Sims said...

I'm really, really not looking forward to pictures of a moldy yard of beef.

What would Batroc think, Dave?

jonvon said...

yard 'o beef!

LOL

Winterteeth said...

Dear Dave,

I was also given a yard-o-beef for Christmas (stop) I did not properly store it after opening (stop) I left it beside my bed like that sub Homer won't throw away (stop) I am now resting in a private room where the demon monkeys cannot taunt me (stop) Yours in Jesus,
winterteeth (full stop)

Anonymous said...

That moldy yard o' beef would be put to better use decorating a hapless snowman.

CT said...

Damn, lay off Aguila. You got to respect a guy who lists his occupation as "wealthy swashbuckler".

You better believe I'm putting that on my resume.

Anonymous said...

"simiansink Says"
It may be the the Dogfish Head talking but I'm actually touched that you took the blame for Yard-O-Beefs destruction.

You could of blamed it on Corp. America but no, you stood up and said, "I'm at fault, me, dear readers, me."

Oh, yeah, "Comic Books, Blah, Blah-blah-blah-blah."

Tim Buck said...

Dave,

My wife is not pleased. Being quasi-ancient ones (I'm 53, she's 50), I got her Season 2 of The Waltons for Christmas. Tonight, while she was watching the episode where guest-star Ron Howard came to terms with a diagnosis of leukemia, with John-Boy becoming reconciled to his friend's premature death, I lay on the couch, laptop opened to this post.

I disturbed the maudlin ambient with teeterings that grew to gigglings that finally overspilled into maniacal gushings of unrestrained laughter. Man, it was weird -- Opie dying while I cackled with glee.

Reno said...

Yard-O-Beef! Man, that sucker's HUGE! I'm from the Philipines, and I saw a Yard-O-Beef in my mother-in-law's fridge during the holidays. It made my mouth water. I sliced off a few pieces and heated them in the oven toaster. Yummmm...

Good thing nobody caught me stealing...

JR said...

What ever happened to George Hamiltion anyways? Zorro the Gay Blade is hillarious.

bostonpenguincat said...

"What ever happened to George Hamiltion anyways? Zorro the Gay Blade is hillarious."

First a plum, and then a banana?

Heh!

Ken S. said...

I am also more of a DC ZOmbie, and too, I bow to the superiority of the OH.

At the time, I recall hating the precision of the entries. But I see that as an asset now.

One nice touch, I thought, was getting Curt Swan to do the Gladiator illo. That's classy.

Scarlett Drake said...

Even more amazing than the OHMUDE is the Gamers's Handbook of the Marvel Universe they made for the Marvel role-playing game back in the late 80's. They were big giant character catalogs with text lifted straight out of the handbooks, but with crunchy stats that would let you use them as characters in the game. You laugh at El Aguila now, but wait and see how much you laugh at him when your Wolverine-clone with breasts tears him a new one. You laugh a lot.

Arizonateach said...

Two bits, four bits, six bits, a peso.
All for Aguila, stand up and say so!

Yes, despite my love for Who's Who I defended a couple entries ago, the Deluxe Edition rocked AND ruled. Anyone go batshit insane enough to try to lay all the covers down in one giant line?

Bully said...

Yard o' Beef? Sound like my last family reunion picnic! Ha! I slay me!

Wasn't there some kind of rule that a character had to make at least three distinct and distinctive appearances in the MU to appear in the Marvel Universe Handbook? I can just picture the writers of that time feverishly trying to stuff in their favorite forgotten character enough times so they'd get a write-up in the next edition.

Cassino said...

Anyone go batshit insane enough to try to lay all the covers down in one giant line?

I have fond memories of the poster Marvel made of all the covers together. They included it in an issue of Marvel Age, and had a contest to name all of the characters on it, which seemed easy enough, if you had all of the handbooks. I cut that sucker out, and used it to adorn my social studies books in 7th and 8th grade. Chick magnet, let me tell you. They still have the poster up in the entranceway to Midtown, and I wind up staring at it, misty-eyed, whenever I go in.

Outstanding. These are some of my favorite comics I had when I was a kid, and I'm getting the Essential version on Thursday. Woo! Hoo!

I'm with you, and, better yet, Marvel's doing an essential version of the mighty Deluxe edition as well, in, according to Amazon, three separate volumes. Sweeeet.

Jack Potts said...

"Man, I hope that is his tail."

Naw, that's Armadillo's Yard O' Beef!

Chuck T. said...

Dave, you suck: I'm totally starving, and nobody wants to hear about anybody hungry for the yard of beef. Writing about the moldy yard of beef is actually more appealing.
Eliot R. Brown did a lot of the technical stuff for the handbooks, and then the Punisher Armory and Iron Manual books. Fun. Not as fun as Batroc, though. New Avengers needs Batroc something fierce...

Jake said...

I realize Yard-o-Beef stole the show, but for those who want to know more about the Jason Priestly gun safety video, Seanbaby did a review a few years ago.

Word Verification: ukonflp=Yukon Flip or You can flip as pronounced by Rob Schneider in "The Waterboy"?

Bill said...

Know who else has a rotting Yard O' Beef?

(wait for it...)

Your mom!

Chris said...

Who'd win in a fight, Yard O'Beef or Giant-Size Man-Thing?

GeneHa said...

You wildly swung your yard of beef, but its protection broke. Now it's all moldy and diseased.

Sounds like the history of the 1980s, no? We have all learned a valuable lesson, and knowing is half the battle ....(stifling urge to sing "G I Jooooeee").

Stephanie said...

I'll believe the Christmas Yard-o'-Beef photos when I see the Nick Fury photos from Halloween!

Your loyal fans do not forget, Mr. Long Box!

kelvingreen said...

In Britain in the 80's, game manufacturer Waddingtons put out Marvel Super Hero Top Trumps (and a sister pack featuring the villains, including the game-busting Galactus card!). The strange thing was that there were hardly any famous characters in either pack; a full 70% of each featured people like Miracle Man (not that one), American Eagle and Aguila.

That said, in an oddly prescient move, Wolverine is the only X-Man or X-villain included.

Anyway, I've always wondered who Aguila was (beyond an odd attempt to cash in a non-existent Zorro fad). Clearly a candidate for Bendis' Not Avengers. Or Kirkman's Marvel Team-Up.

I'm getting visions of an Aguila/Nightcrawler swashbuckling raod-trip miniseries...

kelvingreen said...

And his real name is Montoya! Even better!

"Hallo. My name is Alejandro Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Max Korn said...

There's a parody of these Marvel handbooks in the current MAD Magazine (#461, Jan. '06, New Orleans flood cover ("20 DUMBEST")). They've been running a semi-regular feature called "The Graphic Novel Review."

Excerpt:
Marvel's rabid, increasingly senile readers are more attentive to the detail in Dr. Strange's boots than they are to their own wardrobe or hygiene. There's not much you can tell the fans about their favorite heroes and villains that they haven't already known for years. And they demand total, absolute accuracy. They want alphabetical handbooks that determine every character's maximum rate of speed, to the precise made-up digit.

Small wonder that
The Thoroughly Updated, All-Inclusive Handbook to the Marvel Universe became the #1 comic in the United States, reportedly selling more than 14,000 copies per month. Now those issues have been compiled into a softcover edition, which will be sold to the same people who already bought the issues.
(...)
For the kids out there who are reading superhero comics for the first time, and are just into the stories, a collection like this will seem dull. But for the other 98% of Marvel's readership, this book is a must-collect! Mastery of trivial factoids help nurture the illusion in one's mind that you have any control over the unfeeling randomness of life. And as your failures mount, and your bitterness boils like magma, at least you know you can name all the original members of trhe Sinister Six.


Plus, the review shows the alleged page for Adrian Toombes, the Vulture, listing all of his personal data. (Did you know he dresses to the left? Or that his health care provider is Aetna?)

philip said...

RE: Max Korn's comment above:

I'm sure it's just coincidence, and not any kind of synergistic axe-grinding that MAD and DC are both Time-Warner companies.
I will believe what I want to believe, thank you very much.

zailo said...

You may have love the OHMU but did anybody do this?
http://www.zailo.com/blog/

Martin Wisse said...

El Aguila comes from the old Powerman and Iron Fist series, which had a lot of weird characters like that.

I love these third raters; they're what makes the Marvel Universe come alive.

bully:

The OHOTMU Master Edition had the goal to showcase every character that had appeared in the Marvel Universe at least twice, or had done "something significant" in their sole appearance. At the time, in 1991/92 Marvel estimated that there were about 2,000 of such characters....

(Deadly dull that version, but it was my introduction to the amazing Man-Ape!)

B2 said...

Wow, this sure brings back memories for me; if only I hadn't left all myu comics in those boxes in my parents' base,ent right before it flooded. Thanks, Dave.

Max Korn said...

Philip--
Considering that previous installments of MAD's "Graphic Novel review" have trashed DC's epic kill-em-all mini-series ("Infinite Secret Crisis on All Earthly Worlds"), their gritty urban revamps ("Frank Miller's 'Cathy' "), their $50 Golden Age reprints ("The Incredi-Man Archives Vol. 1"), and Neil Gaiman's Sandman ("Endless Tripe"), you may need to re-sharpen that axe for grinding purposes. Sometimes a soulless multinational conglomerate is just a cigar.

Pope Impious XXIII said...

Dave,

Sorry that I can't remember if this was in the original or the 'deluxe' version of the Handbook, but do yourself a favor and take a close look at the diagrams of the Baxter Building.

I'm an architect, so I was fascinated by several things.

One, that they were able to get a permit to mount an ICBM in an old retrofitted building in Manhattan (somehow that just doesn't seem.. safe)

Two, that they apparently thought that the proper place to put the children's play room was right next to the ICBM.

Apparently one of the reasons that they need super-heroes in the Marvel Universe is because they don't have little things like building departments or children's services.

God I love the Handbooks..

Cassino said...

Pope Impious XII said...
One, that they were able to get a permit to mount an ICBM in an old retrofitted building in Manhattan (somehow that just doesn't seem.. safe)

Two, that they apparently thought that the proper place to put the children's play room was right next to the ICBM.


I know that it's been noted before, but the complete lack of bathrooms in superhero headquarters would also be a problem. For everyone but Namor, at least.

Scipio said...

"Zorro, the Gay Blade"

Best film ever.

Bully said...

In the upper left hand corner of the cover: that's Alpha Flight's Aurora, right? From the time period in which she wanted to look distinct and different from her brother?

How stupid is a scarf on a superhero? That's as dumb as the Ms. Marvel/Phoenix style sash to give a villain something to grab onto during a fight.

No wait, dumber...because then the villain can grab both ends and choke her with it.

I know she's fast, but sheesh, dumb risk to task for superheroine fashion.

gwalla said...

martin: I agree about the Z-listers. The basic premises of superhero comics are odd enough, but get down into the nooks and crannies and you're wading in weird. I mean, the Time Variance Authority for crying out loud!

Randy said...

I personally want to see the photos of the Yard o' Beef.
Bring on DA BEEF!!

Corman said...

Dave, I don't know if you've ever seen the Venture Bros. (if you haven't, I strongly urge you to check it out), but the some of the artwork for the first season DVD is by BILL EFFIN' SIENKIEWICZ:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/jacksonpublick/11628.html

Eric Qel-Droma said...

Bully:

Phoenix's sash wasn't for a super-villain to grab onto in a fight. It was for Cyclops to grab onto during... you know.

Mister Sinister said...

El Aguila
he is muy magnifico

Why do you think that guy was hanging around Power Man & Iron Fist

Sweet Christmas! Get away from me Zorro rip-off!

I thought that electricity was just his "natural spark"
who'd of thought it'd take three years to explain he's a mutant

verif:
gwjjy-

The retarded "Jiggy"
Gebbin Gwjjy wiv Id
(getting jiggy w/ it)

Anonymous said...

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