Project Wonderful

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe

The Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe . . . OHOTMU for short to me is probably one of the greatest and most important parts in the history of comic books and I'm sure it gets overlooked by most fans. I started getting seriously into comics way back in June 1983 with Uncanny X-Men #170 (a story I've told before on this blog . . . somewhere) and at the start I knew the main characters in comics Spider-Man, some of the X-Men, Superman, Batman, Thor, The Hulk, Wonder Woman and anyone who had made an appearance on Saturday morning cartoons.
As I started buying comics anywhere I could as much as I could with little to no money I tried to get some different things to see what other characters were out there. A few months later I remember visiting my cousins house and they had different comics than I was getting but still mostly Marvel, things like Moon Knight and Avengers and one of them had The Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe. This was amazing to me a comic that told history's of characters I did not know with pictures and all the vital info and when they first appeared and when they died and what teams they were on, this was it the thing I needed to have and my twelve year old self was not going to be stopped from getting these comics. Well that turned out to be a total failure for a long while because I couldn't find it anywhere back then. It was mostly due to the fact I could only get comic books at grocery stores, convenience stores and drug stores. It took me many years to get the entire run of Volume 1 and Volume 2 (I still don't have all of the newer releases of everything published).
When Volume 2 came out The Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition it got even better. The issues were bigger and more characters were brought into the series and by this time I was able to find almost every issue on the newsstand or wherever I could find them. As with the first series the covers were wraparound featuring as many characters as could fit all running or flying toward something that you could never get to the end of and I thought then and still do that that was a brilliant idea. With Volume 2 I had knowledge of enough characters that I could pick up just about any Marvel comic book and already know the characters or quickly refer to them in the OHOTMU (I still do this today).

Marvel then released a shorter series called Update '89 which gave entries on new characters and updated some of the major characters. I had often said that they should just come out with a giant book with everyone in it although I had no idea how many characters that would be but I was a kid and I wanted it. Then along comes The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Vol. III (Master Edition) this was kinda what I wanted but weirder. They put out a 35 issue three ring binder edition with character model sheets that was pretty expensive for the time and you had to get the binders. Well I had one binder and most of the issues but for one reason or another I stopped getting them in the 20's. The funny thing about it was I lost all of my Master Edition in Hurricane Katrina and by chance it came up a few months later when at a comic book store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana the guy working there said hey I have a ton of that stuff at home if you want it you can have it. Well he had more than I did to start so that made me feel pretty good even though a few of the character sheets were missing I was only out a few characters.

In the Master Edition the covers were boring one character and a bunch of heads of characters and I didn't like it. The first issue did not have the hole punched cover either which I believe they fixed with issue 2 but I'm not sure at the time of the writing of this. The character sheets were kind of interesting and kind of boring at the same time. On the front of the cards they showed a front, side, and rear view of all the characters but they were all in the same boring pose that did nothing for the characters personality and on the back was the bio and information about the character. As mixed as my feelings are about this series it did give even more characters and information and you did get to see all sides of the costumes and I put it in the "Love It" category still and I refer to it from time to time. Marvel would end the series The Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe after the last issue of this was published in 1993 and it would stay gone for eleven years until 2004. I see that as a good thing because I was away from comics for most of the 1990's and I didn't really miss anything as far as the updates went. 

In 2004 Marvel began releasing many themed one-shots of comics with new characters and updates on old ones. I tried to collect as many of these as I could find but have missed quite a few. Then in 2010 ALL-NEW Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe and was odd in the fact that the issues were A-Z but each issue was A-Z and that didn't make a lot of sense to me but it had more characters and that's what I love to see.

Since the 2004 series of one-shots Marvel has done several different editions, with black and white reprints, hardcover encyclopedias and several updates. In some issues of regular comics a profile page or section will be added featuring characters that are appearing in that title. I don't think that they will ever have a complete edition of The Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe in print but I love that they try and give the readers a source to learn about a lot of characters they might not have known about before.

Check out the wikipedia page for a complete list of all of the series and updates by clicking here: OHOTMU

Thanks for reading,

Kevin P. Johnson

Copyright © 2013 Kevin P. Johnson
Images are copyright © 1982 - 2013 Marvel Comics are used as Fair Use Review images only. Images will be removed upon the request of Marvel Comics.

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