I’m a sucker for comic-book encyclopedia-type projects. Always have been. Goes all the way back to when I was a kid and would pore over the enormous two-volume World Encyclopedia of Comics by Maurice Horn in my local library, which were permanently ensconced in the reference section and couldn’t be checked out, so whenever I had free time, you’d find L’il Scott methodically reading through these reference books bigger than my torso, starting with A and working his way all the way through (even though so many of the entries involved European and Japanese comics I’d never heard of.)
So when a new encyclopedia comes along, I’m always to eager to give it a look. And I’m pleased to reveal that DK’s newest offering, The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe, is an absolute winner.
Written a staff of contributors that includes Alex Irvine and frequent DC reference-book writer Matthew K. Manning, this newest edition of The DC Comics Encyclopedia satisfactorily threads the needle between explaining what’s going on in the contemporary DC Universe of the modern comic-book continuity and remembering to cast an eye back to history, to beloved incarnations of these characters in the past, and what makes them significant. How so, you ask? Let’s look at a couple of examples.
For instance, the entry for the Justice League naturally focuses on the current lineup from the comics, featuring Lex Luthor, Power Ring and Shazam, and sums up the team’s current history since the series was rebooted in 2012.
But also to be found are historical features like “At a Glance,” which step out of current continuity to look at classic moments from the series’ publishing history.
And in “On the Record,” the authors look at what’s important about the characters from a historical perspective, not just what happened last week.
I really like that there wasn’t an editorial edict to keep everything looking contemporary; in fact, that’s part of the book’s charm. For example, in the entry for the Royal Flush Gang, sure, the main illustration is a modern one:
But just below it in “On the Record,” there’s a great piece of Mike Sekwosky Silver Age Justice League of America art, in all its thick-waisted glory.
It warms my heart that there’s enough respect for the history of DC to devote entire pages to historically significant characters like Starman Jack Knight, who’s yet to appear in the currant revamped DC Universe, and in all likelihood never will.
I also really liked the “Roll Call” in the back that spotlights just a few of the notable characters that populate the DCU, but just haven’t had a big enough profile lately to warrant a full entry. (Although, considering how much screen time he’s getting on Arrow this season, they’re probably regretting not giving a little more space to Wild Dog… )
This is a thick, substantial hardcover, beautifully produced, and a steal at only forty bucks. If there are any DC fans on your Christmas list this year, this one’s a no-brainer. Snap it up.