The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe 1983
This month I am going to do something a little different. Since Thanksgiving is the month for us here in the US, I thought that this month each Throwback Thursday will be a character, book, or story I am thankful for. This week “The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe” takes the stage.
In 1983, Marvel decided to take on the daunting task of cataloging almost every Marvel character. Mark Gruenwald had the daunting task of creating an encyclopedia of the Marvel Universe. From the Abomination to Zzzax the “The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe” gives an excellent overview of nearly every Marvel character. With illustrations by some of Marvel's best talent at the time. Delving back into these issues were a treat. There really isn't a lot to say about the OHotMU, it's a resource tool. If you ever need to figure out what exactly Thundra's powers are, or lean Ursa Major's origin you are in luck. These books are full of that, along with technical drawings of buildings, vehicles, and weapons. What more could you want from a book like this? It makes me smile just thinking about it.
When I was a kid I couldn't afford a lot of comics, but what I could buy were issues of the OHotMU. I would devour them, read every single entry, learn all I could about characters who I knew well, and others who were a complete mystery to me. These books turned me into a knowledge hungry Marvel fan. I had to know who each character was, who their opposite number was, who would win in a fight. I would invent stories with characters who I had never read a comic from, yet I knew their history. This book sparked my imagination. I would think about how awesome a team up between Stingray and Spider-Man would go. Or Stingray and Wolverine, or Stingray and Doctor Strange. Can you tell I had a slight obsession with Stingray? I don't have a real good reason why I like him. It may be that I had an obsession with the ocean and scuba diving, or it could be I just thought he looked really cool. Regardless, this was the first minor character I fell in love with, I still get giddy when I see him in a comic now a days.
One thing I noticed going over these issues, I only had a handful of these as a kid. I never had much of the first half of the alphabet, I had a lot of the later half. Looking at the “S” issues in particular brought back some great memories. So many C and D list characters became my favorites because a whole page was devoted to them. I always though that if a full page was devoted to a character they must be important. Sadly Red Wolf was not a lynch pin in the Marvel Universe.
The OHotMU changed my life. I liked comics as a kid, but these books made me love them. Made me want to devour every scrap of knowledge I could find. It made me discover what kinds of characters I wanted to follow. It was the stepping stone I needed to climb that impenetrable wall that is comics. While there may not be a story to the OHotMU, it is one of my favorite comics of all time. It made me the fan I am today.