Marvel educates comic fans with the 'Encyclopedia'

[Marvel Encyclopedia cover by Alex Ross]Comic fans love facts. They like to know the first appearance of their favorite characters and when major moments in their history took place. They even like to know their height, weight, eye color, alias, all that good stuff. Marvel Comics recognizes that need for information and is looking to help satiate that desire this October.

On October 9th Marvel Comics will release the Marvel Encyclopedia, a 240-page hardcover costing $29.99. This new volume will be a full color-guide to the Marvel Universe with over 100 entries covering the most prominent characters in the Marvel Universe. While the book won't be nearly as extensive as the "Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe" released in the '80s, it will provide readers with a bevy of information concerning their favorite Marvel Comics characters. The "Marvel Encyclopedia" features an all-new cover by Alex Ross with art inside by the likes of Joe Quesada, Frank Quitely, John Romita Jr., Leinil Francis Yu and many others. The book is edited by Jeff Youngquist and Mark Beazley with lead designer Matty Ryan who's assisted by John Roberts and Tim Smith.

"It all started when I was seven and bought my first issue of 'Amazing Spider-Man,'" joked editor Jeff Youngquist when asked how long they've been working on the 'Marvel Encyclopedia.' "Seriously, though, the 'Encyclopedia' has been in process for more than a year now."

"The 'Encyclopedia' is geared toward the mass market, but it should also appeal to longtime fans," continued Youngquist. "We've attempted to explore the essence of these great, iconic characters to show people why they've been popular for more than 40 years and how they're still relevant today."

While this new "Encyclopedia" won't be as detailed as those "Handbook's," there's still plenty of information to learn from the entries and will focus on the personality of each character.

"The 'Encyclopedia' isn't meant to be as exhaustive as the 'Handbook,'" editor Mark Beazley told CBR News, "but at the same time, it's not entirely dissimilar. If you compare the Spider-Man entries in both, they're fairly equivalent in terms of length. The Handbook went into greater detail about powers and weapons, but didn't include power rankings -- and to be frank, the artwork wasn't always top-notch. For the Encyclopedia, we searched through the last several years worth of Marvel comics, graphic novels, trade paperbacks and pin-ups to find the best possible artwork. It's really the cream of the crop."

"And the Encyclopedia includes entries on new characters such as Cassandra Nova, Morlun, Ezekial, the X-Statix, etc," said Youngquist.

"Some fans seem to think we're attempting to rewrite history, which couldn't be farther from the truth," continued Beazley. "Just because we don't mention a particular story line in a bio doesn't mean it never happened. It would be impossible to include every event that's occurred in a character's life. We've tried to focus on character over continuity. We use history to illustrate personality, but never history for history's sake: The entries aren't simply chronologies of events. They're character studies."

Marvel's success with the hard-cover format on books like "Ultimate Spider-Man" and others has prompted them to move forward and expand its hardcover program and for the publisher the "Marvel Encyclopedia" seemed like a natural fit. For those of you thinking you'll wait for a less expensive, soft-cover version, you'd be wise not to wait. There are no plans for a cheaper, trade paperback version at this time. As for whether or not fans will see a "Marvel Encyclopedia, Volume 2," it will entirely depend on sales of the first volume.

"We'll have to wait and see how this one does before we decide whether to do a second volume," said Youngquist. "But early indications have been positive -- and we know we're happy with the way the book is turning out."

For a six page preview from the Marvel Encyclopedia, click here. You must have the Adobe Acrobat reader to view this file.

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