Avengers: No Surrender Makes Us Nostalgic For Superhero Handbooks

Marvel’s latest comic book event No Surrender is in full swing, with the second installment of the storyline, Avengers #676, hitting shelves last week. In the new issue, two sinister squads arrive on Earth to do battle: The Black Order, and The Lethal Legion. Most comic fans are familiar with The Black Order because of their prominent role in various big events in the past five years, not to mention the fact that a paired down version of this squad will appear in Marvel Studios’ upcoming blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War.

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However, The Lethal Legion hasn't been around for more than half a decade, so it’s rather perfect that following the chapter's cliffhanger last page, we were treated to an Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe-style profile titled The Assembly.

Although it's only a single page, Marvel manages to cram in basic info about each member of both teams. This got us thinking, whatever happened to the good ol’ Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, not to mention DC Comics' answer to it, Who’s Who?


In 1982 Marvel’s EiC Jim Shooter tasked editor Mark Gruenwald with putting together a guide that would provide readers with the stats and origins of their favorite heroes and villains. Gruenwald took the concept a step further by including important locations, weapons, hardware, and paraphernalia. The format he established was one third of a page for vital statistics and history, and two thirds for an original illustration of the character, which was usually handled by the artist most associated with the hero or villain. This series was christened Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (OHOTMU from here on out) and it started the comic handbook trend.

A page from Marvel's Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe

The first OHOTMU series ran for 15 issues and ended in 1984. From 1985-88 Marvel published a second run that updated and added to the initial A-Z guide. These comics were differentiated from each other by the addition of Deluxe Edition to the OHOTMU title. The popularity of these compendiums saw Marvel create similar handbooks for its high-selling licensed titles like Conan, G.I. Joe and Transformers. OHOTMU continued in one form or another right up until 1993. However, at this point the demand for guidebooks dwindled, and the line was put on hiatus for more than a decade.

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