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.
Posted by David Campbell at 7:40 AM
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I LOVED these handbooks. It's why the 80's truly were the golden age - completely daffy science and murky cosmic explanations without any sense of self-loathing so inherent in today's comics. They took joy in explaining the pseudo-science of Spidey's web shooters and the Fantasti-Car. Ya know - feeding kids' imaginations and stuff...
I love the arrow that points to Falcon's wing at rest with a big WING IN RELAXED POSITION. Is it? Really?
My favourite of these cutaway diagrams has always been the one of Avengers Mansion. No toilets!
"Iron Man! Thor! You two stand guard while the rest of us sneak into McDonald's for a whizz!"
"Aye Captain America, I consider it an honour. FOR ASGARD!"
Dave!! This is SO COOL! I had forgotten about this . . . although it was, in many ways, my favorite comic book growing up.
I remembered delighting in knowing that Spidey's triggers for his web-shooters are off the center of the palm and sorta on the base of the thumbs, so he doesn't accidentally trigger them when he makes a fist. That little gem just fascinated me.
And Eliot R. Brown--what a genius. He later did similarly detailed stuff for the Punisher, which I gobbled up as well.
The Punisher ones were like Guns and Ammo for kids. Loved them, loved the Handbook more. There was a one-shot Iron Manual one too from Brown. Thank God I'm not handy, or I'd still be trying to build a suit...
I love how the Falcon's wing diagram clearly labels "First Elbow Joint" and "Second Elbow Joint". I bet when he first unpacked and assembled the wings he got the damn things backward and had to start all over again.
"Damn, why did the instructions for these have to come in Wakandan?"
Holy hell, another book I actually own! Like you, I remember looking at the schematics and thinking, yeah, that could work, of course it could!
I love the thing with Quasar's wristbands, too. (How do they work? Hello! L-wave flux! Duh!) Wasn't there a similar entry about Doctor Strange's Eye of Amaretto?
Okay, so it's the Eye of Agamatto. Same diff.
I bought two copies of this book: One to keep and one so I could have my own Avengers Priority Card (inside back cover). I still have it somewhere.
I understand they're putting out an "ESSENTIAL" of this series sometime next year, according to the Marvel Masterworks Message Boards folk. I wonder if it'll include this one and the book of the dead. Awesome stuff.
Here's the confirmation info on the "Handbook" Essentials, in case anyone thinks I'm blowing smoke:
This was my favorite issue of the first series, followed closely by the two issue "Book of the Dead and Inactive" that preceded it, which was a very funny title when you think about ("Look, I'm not dead, alright? I'm just inactive. I, White Tiger, will rise again, dammit!")
Bill: of course, the irony there is that White Tiger I really is dead now...
Only under Shooter could something this cool as OHOTMU! be produced. The guy just had to explain everything!
The fan-written OHOTMUs that are coming out are really well done for what they are.
I thought these things were the bee's knees when I was a kid, too. Did anybody else see something in these books that made them go, "Oooh, I wanna see that character/thing in a comic!"
I think the difference between these things and, say, John Byrne feeling the need to explain how Superman shaves or the average Star Trek "matter/anti-matter flux capacitance magento-resonance frequency hopping" technobabble is that these things were entirely separate from the comic books that were telling stories.
And superheroes don't go to the bathroom. That's why so many of them have clenched teeth on the covers.
The entries in the Handbooks often made the characters seem cooler than they were. For example, I thought White Tiger looked hella-cool just based on his tiny little entry in the Book of The Dead and Inactive. Those handbooks almost made Diablo and Mandrill cool.
Dude, White Tiger is cool. Perez created him and any Perez creation is automatically cool.
And I like both Diablo and the Mandrill. Granted, neither are winners, but you need loser villians too.
shit like Stilt-Man’s armor
When I first read over that line, I saw shit like Shit-Man's armor and had myself a nice chuckle. Had another one as I typed it, because, y'know if I were Darevdevil, or especially Wolverine, I don't think I'd want to fight Shit-man
That looks good to me: I believe he could fly.
Another great entry, Dave, but now that hideous R. Kelly song is in my head.
"When I first read over that line, I saw shit like Shit-Man's armor and had myself a nice chuckle. Had another one as I typed it, because, y'know if I were Darevdevil, or especially Wolverine, I don't think I'd want to fight Shit-man."
If I ever write Wolverine, he's fighting Stilt-Man and Shitman for at least 12 issues.
Savage Dragon already fought Shit-Man.
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This was one of those books seriously underappreciated by the readership of the day at large. But those who loved that book, loved it a lot because, Hells yes, comic-book super-science.
There ought to be a new and expanded edition of this thing for so many reasons...
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