Friday, December 24, 2010


All irregularities will be handled by recapping the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Transuranic, heavy elements may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights are available: Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel. Sapphire and Steel have been assigned, but they decided they had better things to do than recap out of date references for comics, so Kazekage got the job.

Well, we're here at last. After 15 issues, God knows how many wisecracks, personal insults, pro wrestling references, veiled allusions to forgotten TV series, and general surliness, we have reached the finished line. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe's final issue is the "Book of Weapons, Hardware, and Paraphenalia," and lordy is is kinda boring. Really, all this stuff should have been stuck with the regular entries (and would be later) but for now, space was at a premium and there was a lot of stuff they were desperate to fit in the regular book so this was the compromise they reached. And I don't mind telling you, it's damn hard to find witty things to say about Paladin's stupid fucking gun.

ANT-MAN'S HELMET--I would not have guessed so much damn technology was required for someone to communicate with ants--I would have assumed there was more bribing with sugar involved, but of course, I bow before the curious genius of Eliot R. Brown. I don't know what a "piezo-electric speaker is, but it sounds nasty.

BLACKLASH'S WHIP--And now, a word problem for you--if Blacklash can make his whips into nunchaku or spin them around to bullet-deflecting speeds . . .what, if any, effect will this have on Iron Man not being able to beat the shit out of him anyway? Explain your answer in the space provided below.

BLACK WIDOW'S STING/LINE--I am reasonably certain that the Black Widow carries in her wrists two machines that do the same thing as a taser and a bit of string, but as with many things that pull double-duty, shit is far more complicated than it has any right to be, honestly. And where the hell are all these anchor points just off-panel that they swing from, anyways?

BOOK OF THE VISHANTI--Okay, while Eliot R. Brown can fudge the technical details of Iron Man's Armor and shit like that, when you get to mystical artifacts like this, the best you're gonna get is an attractive drawing of a book and a bunch of happy crappy that amounts to "If Doctor Strange ever needs to pull something out of his ass, it might be from this book! Or maybe a crystal ball! Or maybe even Clea's hoochie-cooch!"

CAPTAIN AMERICA'S MOTORCYCLE--"No-Lube Twin Belt Drive?!" Cap, you are one saucy bitch.

CAPTAIN AMERICA'S SHIELD--If ever you wanted to know just how the straps in Captain America's shield hook to the shield itself, well, this is the entry for you! Thrill to such exciting legends as "Molded-In-Place Finger Accommodates Grommet-Held In Place By Spring Steel C-Ring!" I have no idea what any of that means but mother of fuck it sounds boring.

CEREBRO--In the best tradition of 1960s technology, Cerebro used to be the size of a CB Radio, and for all we know, it might have actually been one. You can't know the mirth I feel imagining Chuck in a trucker hat doing the 1970s equivalent of a/s/l checks on the Citizens Band . . .you really can't.

CYCLOPS' VISOR--Given this is some Professor-X technology and given the Prof's tack record with same, it's surprising to me that this hasn't caught on fire or tried to eat Cyclops' face off or something. This is a fascinating entry for me, because Eliot R Brown has come up with the most bewildering Rube Goldberg/Heath Robinson way for the damn thing to work, when he could have cheated and just said "it works by cybernetics. Fuck, what doesn't?" I don't know whether to admire that dedication, or live in terror of what evil it could be used for.

THE DARKHOLD--I have an issue of Darkhold around somewhere--it's the one where someone uses one of the spells on its pages to make himself immortal, but only as a swarm of worms, which was a bit of a shock to read in a mid-list Marvel book (was it Comics Code approved? Do I care enough to look for it? I really don't.) Anyways, the whole thing was played for laughs, if you can imagine that. Then again, if you've seen the movie Squirm, I can't say that you'd have to imagine it all that hard.

DEATHLOK'S GUN--I'm sure Deathlok's gun is deadly and all, but when I look at it, all I see is a water pistol. In fact, I may have had that particular water pistol when I was a kid, and I didn't have the excuse of being a murderous cyborg from the future. No--my only excuse was that I had money to burn and the siren song of Ja-Ru called to me at the right time.

DEATHLOK'S BIONIC SYSTEM--I'm sure that probably Deathlok can do more than my digital camera, but as my digital camera is not implanted in my fucking skull, that means I win. Fuck Deathlok and his "Memory Access Input-Output Digitzer." That's not even science.

DOCTOR DOOM'S ARMOR--OK, over and above the fact that the good Doctor 1) wears fucking nuclear batteries to power this thing 2) has a rocket underneath his cape that will cause his cape and matching skirt to burst into flame apparently the whole thing is fueled by "lox." Yes, I know it means "liquid oxygen," but the idea of Doctor Doom flying through the air powered by smoked salmon is way fucking funnier, frankly.

DOCTOR OCTOPUS' ARMS--The impressive thing about this entry is that Brown actually comes up with a logical "out" for why Doc Ock's arms are miles long in one scene and barely longer than his regular arms in the next--they compress and extend. It sounds a good deal more logical than "arms vary depending on what artist is drawing them. Because shut your fucking mouth, that's why."

DOCTOR SPECTRUM'S POWER PRISM--[Chris Elam: San Daikaijū: Chikyū Saidai no Kessen] To me, this is the most hilari-sad entry in the entire 15 issue series. Dr. Spectrum was the
only member of the Squadron Sinister who didn't get his own entry in the main body of the book. And yet, we have this. HIS WEAPON GETS AN ENTRY, BUT HE DOES NOT. "Yeah, I'm sorry, Doc, we have certain standards we need to meet. Oh, but your talking hunk of crystal can

DOCTOR STRANGE'S AMULET--The equivalent of the Undertaker's urn in that it is either the source of his power or just an accoutrement that helps sell the whole deal (depending on who's writing it), the amulet apparently punctures illusions and does anything else the plot requires be resolved quickly.

DRAGONFANG--The Valkyrie is a Norse demigod or whatever, right? And yet she got a sword from a wizard named Khaji-Dha. There are several things wrong with that sentence, but the real interesting thing about this is: The notion that Valkyrie got her sword from an Egyptian sorcerer who has the same name as one of the Blue Beetles power-up phrase is actually the most logical thing that's ever happened to her.

THE EVIL EYE--[Chris Elam Kaijū Daisensō] Probably the only thing that keeps Dr. Spectrum
from suicidal thoughts is that there is an entry for the Evil Eye on the next page. Though it passed through other hands, it was primarily the weapon of Prester John. And not even Dr. Spectrum knows who the hell Prester John is.

FALCON'S WINGS--Who knew that all you needed to fly was anti-gravitons up the ass and a few fans hidden in mylar wings? Totally brainfucking Da Vinci's notions of the ornithopter, the Falcon's flight harness was designed by T'Challa of Wakanda, who is the guy you usually call when you want to kick science in the balls and take its milk money.

FANTASTIC FOUR SIGNAL DEVICE--Dammit, if they used it in Fantastic Four once, they're gonna use it forever, even if it doesn't make any goddamned sense. In a world where the Avengers can talk to each other through their membership cards and Reed Richards thinks up subdermal communicators using a network established through the Negative Zone during his wank-off sessions, who the fuck is still using a flare gun who hasn't been stranded at sea? Besides, flare guns are dangerous. Did "Smoke on the Water" teach us nothing?

HAWKEYE'S SKYMOBILE--You would be forgiven for wondering why the Avengers needed someone who shot arrows at people when they have a team that generally consists of Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and lately, Spider-Woman and Her Amazing Friends. Marvel understood this would be an issue as well, and decided to give Hawkeye his own flying moped. Because that was really all that was holding him back. "Yeah, now that I can fly, I'm gonna shoot a net arrow at Red Ronin's FACE!"

HAWKEYE'S QUIVER AND BOWS--The saddest bit of this is that we don't get the added thing from the Deluxe Edition that listed all his trick arrowheads, like the Putty arrow, the sonic arrow, the TNT arrow, the shock arrow or even the Hello Kitty Vibrator arrow (Mockingbird loves that one--"lay back and think of the Phantom Rider, dearest! K-TWANG! BZZZZZ! "Try not to chip any teeth, Bobbi--I'm off to the Lionel Ritchie concert!")

HOBGOBLIN'S BAT-GLIDER--I actually think that part of the way the various Goblins sell their crazy to the world at large is by flying around on this thing, because mother of God there is nothing about it that doesn't look like you could fall off and die, so anyone who totters about on it has got to be out of their mind.

IRON MAN'S BRIEFCASE--The thing which launched a million stupid stories in the new millennium, it is apparently not "realistic" for Iron Man to walk around with his armor in a briefcase, but it's totally OK for him to shit it out through his pores or whatever tedious "I skimmed Popular Science one day while waiting for my anal douche and this was the best I could come up with" Our Finest Comic Minds have come up with lately. Is this more or less stupid than "A god that thrives on fear itself. And the more you fear him, the stronger he becomes, and he launches a war on earth, scaring everyone and turning each person into a weapon feeding Fear?" It's a trick question--they're both utterly pathetic.

IRON MAN'S ARMOR--I hate to shatter your illusions, but Iron Man's armour? Not made of iron. It's actually "genetically-engineered metal affinity bacteria which assemble themselves in specific orderly arrays, then expire, leaving behind various metallic deposits which form all the metal shapes and micro-electronic circuits." But Iron's easier to remember and 90% of selling a product is branding, so you see where I'm going with this.

IRON MAN'S HELMET--This may be too much Iron Man even for me. Iron Man actually had stereo sound in his helmet as early as 1983, which was pretty forward-thinking of him, really. He also had something called "relative thickness of logic circuitry," which I think afflicts a number of comic writers these days as well.

KLAW'S BLASTER--Looking like some hideous amalgam of a sex aid, a satellite dish, and a mixer, Klaw's blaster features a "Sonic anti-modal modulator bell," which doesn't really fill in the blanks of why he dresses like a retarded luchador, but what the hell, it's only half a page, can't cover everything.

MACHINE MAN'S ROBOTIC SYSTEMS--Someone at Marvel wanted to make a series about a robot who has long stretchy limbs and all the powers of Steve Austin (the bionic guy, not Stone Cold) and holy shit did Eliot R. Brown write them a god damned epic. There is more text on this page explaining how Machine Man's eyes work than I will write total in this final entry. I'm . . .I'm kinda scared now.

MANDARIN'S RINGS--[Chris Elam Nankai no Daikettō] Look, seriously Marvel, call us about the revamp of the Mandarin as a sentient orange. A power mad fruit wielding 10 alien rings of immense plot convenience is no more ridiculous than many of your current crop of books.

MOCKINGBIRD'S BATTLE-STAVES--Look, while I appreciate that a woman who goes into battle with two sticks that combine to make an even bigger stick is cool and all power to her, but frankly when you look at the interior of them, they look like one big pogo stick, and really, how good is that going to serve you outside of a Toys R Us?

MOON KNIGHT'S CRESCENT DARTS--The funny thing is that when the Deluxe Edition rolls around Moon Knight has like 20 things he can throw at people, all of which are far more interesting than the crescent dart. To the book's credit, however, there's actually a lot of interesting stuff here about how the damn things are supposed to keep level and fly straight that you really didn't need, but I guess it's nice to have.

MOON KNIGHT'S TRUNCHEON--I was unaware that Moon Knight had a truncheon, or that it was basically nunchaku that turned into a grappling hook. That's . . .that's actually pretty rad when you get down to it. I think by the time of the Deluxe Edition he just went around whacking people with an ankh, which is interesting on a symbolic level, but not so much when compared to nunchaku. Now, ankh nunchaku? I'm all for that.

NOMAD'S STUN DISCS--Somewhere around the late 80s early 90's Nomad worked out that throwing peanut butter can lids at people wasn't going to get him anything save the holy fuck beat out of him (seriously, Nomad jobbed all the time back in the day. Even to Porcupine kicked his ass) and finally graduated to guns, although I don't remember him actually shooting anyone with them, which is . . .yeah, pretty in keeping with Nomad's competence on display thus far.

ODIN'S SPEAR--Gugnir is the Spear of Heaven, which sounds hella awesome, except when you read deeper into the text and find out it has no special powers, which is a bit like how kids who bought those first Air Jordans must have felt when it turned out they didn't make you awesome at basketball.

ORB OF AGAMOTTO--As discussed earlier, 90% of selling a product is branding, and who better to demonstrate this than more of Doctor Strange's tchotckes? They're all named after some crazy mystic entity or whatever burbled to the surface of the creator's brain while they were hitting the bong. The Orb allows Doctor Strange to peer into other dimensions, or just watch Clea fucking around at the Continental Congress, a little feature that meant he didn't need cable anymore. Their relationship is fucked up, is all I'm saying.

PALADIN'S GUN--There is so much Star Trek-esque technobabble on the various bits of Paladin's gun I'm shocked it doesn't shoot vaguely scientific blatherskite at people. Between the "phased ultrasonic transducers" and the "waveform shaping cavity" I notice they forgot to include a trigger on the thing, opting instead for a "trigger capacitance micro-switch," which I'm sure was far more user-friendly than JUST PULLING A FUCKING TRIGGER LIKE A NON-ASSHOLE MIGHT DO.

PSYCHO-MAN'S CONTROL BOX--[Chris Elam Kaijū Sōshingeki] Being the means through which this DJ lays down his fresh beats of FEAR, DOUBT, and HATE. Sometimes, he
even plays Vanilla Ice songs on it, when he wants to harness all three.

QUASAR'S WRIST BANDS--[Chris Elam Kaijū Daishingeki] he diagram includes the note "Meridian of Gigahertz Radio Wave Activity". I know the definitions of all of those words, but I'm not sure this phrase actually means anything. Especially when applied to fancy bracelets from Uranus.

RINGMASTER'S HAT--You know, I have an app on my phone that does the same goddamned hypnotic thing as the Ringmaster's Hat. You hear me, y'all? I have the same powers as the leader of the Circus of Crime (and it was free at the app store, which should tell you something right there) and I didn't even have to wear a stupid fucking hat to have them.

ROM'S ARMOR--The funny thing about Rom is, for awhile there it seemed like no one could agree on what kind of feet the dude had. I mean, the toy has those weird chicken-feet, Frank Miller drew them as looking like cabinet handles on the cover of ROM #1, and then here they're kinda . . .well, normal, except for the vent-things on them. That is far more of a consideration of the feet of Rom: Spaceknight than you probably thought you'd get when you read this. Trust me: I was surprised too!

ROM'S ANALYZER--[Chikyū Kogeki Meirei: Chris Elam] You can always tell when something has no connection to reality when Eliot R. Brown just says "Fuck it" and draws it without any annotations or cutaways. Rom's Analyzer is based on a toy, so technically there is a reality to it. It's just not one that will detect Dire Wraiths reliably.

ROM'S NEUTRALIZER--[Chris Elam Nisen: Mireniamu] I wish whoever had typeset those "Designed By" things on the entries had gotten in a mood and included "Designed By P'Akka Brozazz" on all the Rom ones.

ROM'S TRANSLATOR--[Chris Elam Shōmetsu Sakusen] How many times did Rom use this? Once? It looks to me like the bastard child of an accordion and a Casio keyboard. In many ways, I would have enjoyed Rom more if it had been.


SHIELD GUNS--I'm not the biggest fan of the current "write Nick Fury as a manipulative bastard" trend nowadays, but I have to say, anyone who has a gun that fires needles at people and then gives it mother of pear handgrips is just showing you what an utter prick they can be. I don't even know if I intended a pun there or not.

SILVER SURFER'S SURFBOARD--For all we know, Galactus created the Silver Surfer's board out of an old Popsicle stick he had lying around. The entry says the board "apparently taps ambient cosmic energy in the same wa the Surfer does." See, kids? The people writing this damn thing didn't have any more of a fucking clue how this shit worked than you did and they managed to con you into reading it away. You think about that.

SPIDER-MAN'S BELT CAMERA--I have never seen Spider-Man use his belt camera. I have an idea why--given the contorted poses Spider-Man gets into nowadays, I can't imagine that he takes pictures of anything other than his own groin, and the only way JJJ's gonna buy those is for his "private collection." Never mind to use this particular thing (or the spider-flashlight he sometimes has) he has to lift up his shirt, which means that somewhere out there there is a guy in a spider-man suit blazing his nips and "taking pictures" at the same time. Nothing ever came from a flashlight mounted at crotch level that didn't involve an arraignment and years of counseling afterwards.

THE ULTIMATE NULLIFIER--Folks, the Ultimate Nullifer has never nullified one goddamned thing in it's existence, ultimately or otherwise. Not one thing (alternate realities don't count) The few times I've seen it, Reed Richards showed it to Galactus to make him shit his pants and run from Earth ("My favourite Pez dispenser! YOU FUCKS!") and in the Infinity War, when they gave it to Quasar, who totally fucked up using it, as usual. Really, the god damned thing's more trouble than it's worth, when an Infinity Gauntlet is available at every corner store (seriously, the Hood has the Gauntlet now? You're fucking kidding me.)

STILT-MAN'S ARMOR--[Chris Elam Daikaijū Sōkōgeki] Here Eliot Brown puts more thought into Stilt-Man than any person in history, and God bless him for it. It includes the notation "Loud Hailer", which is apparently a real term. I am in awe.


WOLVERINE'S SKELETON--[Chris Elam Daikaijū Sōkōgeki] Somebody somewhere learned the human skeleton from this diagram. I want to know if it was you. (seriously)

WONDER-MAN'S JET-BELT--[Chris Elam Tōkyō Esu Ō Esu] It doesn't say who designed it. I would assume it was Anthony Stark, since if it was Wonder Man himself, it would have crapped out and died in its first appearance. Then again, would that have been bad?

WRECKER'S CROWBAR--[Chris Elam Fainaru Uōzu] There is nothing special about this crowbar, except that it is now MAGIC. The thing that boggles my mind is that it is illustrated with the technical terms for all the portions of the crowbar. That means readers of this entry may know more about crowbars than people who actually use them.

ADAMANTIUM--The fun thing about Adamantium is that they always say it's completely unbreakable and can't be bent, then had to retroactively come up with all the ways to explain how it had been bent and broken in various stories, so they came up with shit like Molecular Rearrangers, Secondary Adamantium and Carbonadium to get around all that. This is exactly what these Handbooks are for, which depending on how you feel about these kinds of workarounds is either glorious or absolutely horrible.

VIBRANIUM--Did they just name two different things the same thing and try to finesse it later? Like penguins, there are several different types of Vibranium--the Vibranium you find in the Antarctic is some kind of metal-destroying compound, while Wakandan Vibranium absorbs sound, which sounds like they just took two things they'd named the same thing and went "uhm . . .different vibrations," put their heads on their desks and hoped no one would call on them for the rest of the period. I'm also entertained by the little paragraph at the bottom which walks you through why Vibranium is not an element, citing the Periodic Table and the radioactivity that comes with the higher atomic weights of the higher elements on the table which is a lot to drop on a reader just to tell them that this fake thing you made up is a different kind of fake thing that would go on the real thing there.

And we're done! What began on a whim however many days ago I started this has come to an end. I hope I have enlightened you, educated you, and perhaps helped you to answer the major questions of out time, such as "Why are we born?" "What happens when we die?" and "In the song 'Batdance,' just what the fuck does Prince mean about 'the sho-nuff get off to make the Devil go go?'" I probably didn't, but all the same . . .some thanks before we roll up out of here: Thanks to Rusty Shackles for letting me borrow his withering hatred for all things Doctor Strange; To Chris Elam for pinch-hitting on a number of these and letting me come up with ever more obscure citations under his entries; To the illustrious Diana Kingston-Gabai and the redoubtable RZM for their continued support; thanks to the surprising number of followers I picked up during the run of this feature. Thank you all!


C. Elam said...

Bravo! Somehow, we conspired to summarize the entire issue! My hat is off to you, because I felt like doing my bits took 14 entries to figure out. This is really quite good, even for such a dead-boring issue (even by the standards of these things).

Yeah, the Cyclops visor absolutely bewildered me. I looked at the schematic and then the picture of it and tried to reconcile the two and my head 'sploded.

I can't decide if I was being nice or sadistic when I decided I'd leave all the Iron Man entries for you to discuss.

The Moon Knight stuff is from the period when the book was a bit of a cult thing, due mainly to the stories that had run in the B&W magazines. Marvel fixed that "Moon Knight popularity" thing soon enough.

I actually quite enjoyed the citations, enough that I want people to figure them out for themselves rather than spilling the beans. Don't be quitters, people - you made it this far.

Thanks for having me! And thanks for doing this, and squeezing even more entertainment out of the OCD urge to collect these Handbooks that bobbed to the surface for me this year.

Kazekage said...

Yeah, it helped immensely to have someone else spot me for some of these--the thing took four hours already--I shudder to think what I would have done had I been left to do it solo.

There is just no way that damn thing works in any way comprehensible by human minds, is there?

You knew I'd make it happen somehow. *L* Besides, it offered me many rich chances to get in my little digs.

This was also during those halcyon days when the comics industry was big enough to have things like cult successes . . .yes, thankfully we've taken care of that, too.

I like to think one day someone will do a long Jess Nevins-esque concordance of all the citations made here. Then I wake up and go "That was a nice dream."

You're welcome, man! Not bad for a whim, yeah?

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

This series was an absolute delight. Informative (Falcon's wings had their own entry? Really?) and hilariously snarky. Kudos! :)

Kazekage said...

Yes, for some reason Falcon's wings got their own entry, although the world champion for "really? Why?" has gotta be the Wrecker's crowbar. God knows why any of that seemed like a good idea.

Glad you enjoyed it!