The DC Comics Encyclopedia (Updated and Expanded)

Kieran Curran

Superhero and supervillains' vital statistics are laid bare in D.C.'s newly updated glossy, hardback encyclopedia of comic book characters.

The DC Comics Encyclopedia, Updated and Expanded

Publisher: DK Publishing
ISBN: 9780756641191
Author: Dan Wallace
Price: $40.00
Display Artist: Scott Beatty, Robert Greenberger, Phil Jiminez, Dan Wallace
Length: 400
Formats: Hardcover
US publication date: 2008-10

Published by Dorling Kindersley, this hardback glossy volume is primarily intended for younger readers of D.C. comics, setting this apart from the continuous cultural shift in people's opinions on what adult themes comics are capable of expressing. Bolstered by the positive critical reaction to recent Hollywood blockbusters like the revived Superman and Batman franchises, critical and public attitudes alike have moved to a position where comic books can give insight into and comment upon societal turmoil, psychological disorders and war. The term graphic novel -- often used to describe compilations of separately written comics -- has emerged as an intellectual euphemism if you will, giving readers a neat term which renders the form more "legitimate". Alan Moore's "Watchmen" was voted one of the 20th century's best novels by Time magazine, dealing with the question of if these vigilantes truly existed.

Written in an accessible style and aimed at a younger audience, the Encyclopedia has no such pretensions about sophistication. A vast array of minor and major comic book characters from the D.C. universe are described, accompanied by one or more drawings. Their vital statistics and superpowers are listed, as well as their first appearance in a D.C. publication. Batman's more illustrious and fantastic adventures are described in a four (large) paged entry; theories of dystopia are dispensed with altogether. There are also large spreads on the big stars of D.C. comics -- Superman, The Justice League Of America, The Green Lantern and Marvel Man. This indeed works very well on its own terms -- it should satisfy comic collectors, fans and the curious alike.

Also, some of the more obscure heroes and villains are exciting to discover. Often they are incredibly quirky -- The Inferior Five, for example, are a “superhero” team comprised of talented but crucially flawed characters (one member is a highly skilled archer who is afraid of open spaces). Others are products of a propagandist mindset -- Captain Nazi is a WWII era German schemer, created after the United States' entry into the war, wearing a conspicuous swastika on his vest (in case you missed the implications of his political allegiance). Reflecting the late 1960s, there are the twins Hawk and Dove, created in the midst of an America wrestling with its feelings on the Vietnam war. The former is right wing, the latter left wing, and they fight together for “the greater good”. There is even a Mossad created group known as the Hayoth who first emerged in the early 1990s; one of their fiercest rivals were a Middle East terror organization known as Jihad -- here comic art predates a contemporary and widespread awareness of these issues.

Those looking for more weighty analysis should Google for journal articles on Alan Moore's deconstruction of pop cultural forms, or the archetypal Jungian madness suggested by Heath Ledger's depiction of the Joker. Indeed, it is a shame that an account of the comic medium couldn't encompass, for example, the anti-authoritarian stance of Grant Morrison's version of the D.C. super-team Doom Patrol. However, this is not the book's purpose -- it succeeds on its own, more fantastical terms, similar to the older Marvel Universe series.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.