Just the Facts

A buddy of mine asked this morning if I was going to promote the forthcoming DC Universe Encyclopedia coming this October from DK Books.

Since it’s in the current Previews catalogue for order (heck, even cheaper through Amazon), now might be a good time to clue you in.

There were two different notions floating through the halls of DC, both trying to come up with a new edition of Who’s Who, still a vital reference source to editors, writers, artists and even Hollywood despite the last edition being over a decade old. Since DK had done such a nice job with their Ultimate Guides to Superman, Batman, Catwoman, the JLA, and a bunch of Marvel heroes, it made sense for them to take a crack at the new edition. Chris Cerasi, the project editor, turned to me and Ivan Cohen to help assemble a list of characters for consideration. Our 1000+ names got whittled down to just under 1000 and then the fun began. We had to organize them into A-D priorities, which had more to do with word counts and page space than whether or not we loved these people.

To my surprise, I was invited, along with Scott Beatty, Phil Jimenez and Dan Wallace, to be one of the writers. So, I spent much of last fall through January, researching and writing my 250 or so entries. Along the way, Chris began researching graphics and as the comics themsevles evolved, we upgraded or downgraded entry sizes, dropped some, added others and so on. I had little say over which 250 I received so for every Lonar I got, I also got a Superman.

Once I stopped being a writer, I returned to consulting in my unofficial role as continuity maven. We all read each other’s entries, good-naturedly nitpicking along the way and Ivan helped read them over as well. I was particularly concerned to make sure status quo changing events in current titles was reflected so the book wasn’t immediately outdated upon publication. We were thrown for the occasional loop such as our discovery that John Byrne’s Doom Patrol was a modern day retcon. I also pleaded with a few editors to share secrets from the War Games storyline in the Bat-titles and even the controversial Identity Crisis to make sure we were current. And keeping me honest was my long-distance buddy John Wells, who puts me, Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid to shame.

The book went to bed last week and I look forward to seeing the final proofs. Is it perfect? I doubt it. Is it 100% accurate? I’ll settle for 98% given the way things change. Are there things in it I would have done differently? Sure. But for a 340 page encyclopedia with 1000 entires plus special features on Classic Battles, Classic Team-Ups, Alien Races, Romances, and so on, it’s a bargain. I’m proud of it and with luck it’ll remain in print long enough to collect gaffes from readers and fix them in subsequent editions.

4 comments

  • Michael

    I saw this in Previews and was wondering if it would be worth picking up. Now I know.

    And with the release of this book, I would imagine that this would now be a propitious time to release the DC CHALLENGE trade paperback compilation… 🙂

  • I was hoping you’d return to the reference fold sooner or later. Who’s Who #13 was the first “comic” I bought that didn’t have G.I. or Joe in the title. Though it was tough tracking down each issue through the local Waldenbooks, I treasured each and every one I had before completing the set many years later.

    Your hard work, as well as the efforts by your colleagues, was well appreciated on this end. Who’s Who was the beginning of my fascination (some would say obsession) of superheroes that continues to this day.

    Before I ramble any further, I just wanted to say thank you for opening up an entire world (dare I say universe) of the fantastic that has provided a temporary escape from the doldrums of life.

  • BobGreenberger

    Thanks for the kind words and years of support. Working on the encyclopedia allowed me to flex muscles that hadn’t been used in too long a time. Hope you like the finished product this fall (finally see the completed page proofs this week!).

  • DavidEdwardMartin

    I’m of mixed emotions concerning the news of a new DC Encyclopedia. I get a lot of use out of my 30-yr-old Fleischer tomes and my 20-year-old Rovin tomes. But I have almost no use for the 10-year-old DC WHOS WHO and I never bought any of the recent DK coffee table art books, as they are too lightweight, sacrificng text for graphics.
    But I will look at this new work once it hits the shop and seriously consider buying it.