Friday, March 30, 2007

The Marvel Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the Marvel Universe

Comic book characters play a strange role in American culture. As a nation of diverse immigrants, we don’t have a cohesive set of cultural tales as do, say, the Greeks or the Chinese. And many of those characters have been toiling away for decades, time enough to become familiar to generations of Americans.

As one of the two largest comics publishers in America, Marvel has built up a substantial pantheon of heroes and villains. The company earned a reputation in the 1960s and ‘70s for socially aware story arcs, tackling such issues as racism, war, drugs and a host of others. Witness the recent assassination of one of the comics universe’s most venerable characters, Captain America. That event came at the climax of a storyline that was a thinly veiled commentary on post-9/11 America, where those in power so often pit liberty against security. Yes, the image of Captain America’s blood running red in the gutters is perhaps a touch heavy-handed, but then the same could be said of Zeus feasting on his children.

In any event, there’s a huge back story built up over the years of just about any comics character you can think of. This book is a good starting point for those trying to make sense of the ongoing soap opera.


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