Saturday, May 18, 2019

Scott's Take: DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide To The Characters Of The DC Universe All New Edition

Published in 2016 by Penguin Random House, the DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide To The Characters Of The DC Universe All New Edition is edited by Cefn Ridout. Featuring numerous contributors, the 368 page coffee table style book attempts to explain the history of each character a few pages at a time. For the most part, the book fails to accurately reflect character record. I can only recommend this for hardcore DC Universe fans since many pages contradict each other because the book mixes up the Post Crisis, New 52, and Rebirth versions of characters. This results in numerous contradictions regarding various relationships between characters which have been established based on the different versions of each character’s history.  

Three years after publication date, the book is massively out of date. This is especially true with regards to Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman. All three characters have subsequently gone through the “Rebirth” banner and this make a lot of what is in this book no longer the canon for the characters.  Most of the Superman and Wonder Woman New 52 history is now non canon and thus is no longer accurate to their past. These pages are especially confusing for new readers as there are two different Superman characters discussed on the Superman page that are far different and have a very different history or backstory. In the case of Wonder Woman, almost everything that happened in New 52 has now become non-canon because the DC writers thought it was a good idea for her entire story history of the New 52 to be classified as a massive memory lie caused by the Greek Gods to hide her home and the Amazons from her.

Because of the way the book is designed and their effort to cover every character—which is a laudable goal--- most characters get only a page or less to cover their history. Notable exceptions are Batman, Superman, are Wonder Woman who get four pages. For most of the characters in this 368 page book, they have a small piece subtitled “On The Record” that briefly highlights one of the earlier versions of the character.

While the text is frequently out of date and the word choice and sentence structure is often clunky, the artwork in the book is amazing. Colorful with many illustrations, the book is visually interesting. That is especially true of the cover which highlights the major heroes and villains of the massive DC. Universe.

I enjoyed this book, but would imagine any one wishing to dip their toes in to the dc universe would be very confused. This book is also now mostly outdated and massively inaccurate, so it is not a good resource for those wishing to learn about the characters. As it came out in 2016, it does not cover at all well the important new characters such as Jonathan Kent, the young son of Superman and Lois Lane. He plays a huge role in all the new Superman stories over. While the book briefly mentions him as a baby, most stories over the last few years depict him as a ten year old boy who suddenly is seventeen years old thanks to time travel shenanigans. Then there have also been the various DC event crossovers which would further confuse readers looking to understand the backstories that are not accurately covered in this book.

The bottom line is that new readers should just completely ignore DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide To The Characters Of The DC Universe All New Edition. All it will do is confuse them. The only folks this book is good for are those hardcore DC Universe fans who will to see a snapshot of the various previous versions of the major characters.

Scott Tipple ©2019


Rick Robinson said...

Precisely the reason I didn't buy it when it cam out. DC should never have gone through all the change scenarios it did. I know they were trying to freshen up the universe, but instead of modernizing, they made it all confusing.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Scott tried to explain some of this to me and it made my head spin. He said more than once that he was glad he got the book from the library and had not bought it when it came out.