Tuesday, June 10, 2014


The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe - Deluxe Edition

Your Humble Editor is a huge fan of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe - so much so that he runs a collaborative art blog dedicated to recreating every single entry in the volume. This is despite the fact that the OHOTMU and all of its ilk are the nadir of comics as an artform - devoid of storytelling, in fact, they're only comics in the sense that we have no other word for a medium represented by stapled newsprint at the peculiar dimensions of comic books.

Handbooks have become a recurring facet of comic fandom, and probably nothing else heralded the synonymous conflation of "super-hero" for "comic book" as early as did the Marvel Universe guide. Just as the movies and the television shows are for fans of "super-heroes" rather than fans of "comic books", although we call them "comic book movies" and their fans insist they're "really into comics", these books were for people who liked looking at super-heroes and memorizing their origins, rather than indulging in the formal qualities of the medium.

But hey, there's nothing wrong with that! Your Humble Editor is evidently one of those people because here he is, happy to discuss his favorite issue of the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe - number three, a volume which contains - moreso than any other volume of this series - some of the most appallingly horrid costume and character designs I've ever seen. Let that sink in; even by comic book standards.

Admittedly, there are some classic designs in there, like the elegance of Daredevil's lines - uncomplicated by an embroidered pleather jacket or metal kneepads, for instance - or the regal imperiousness of Doctor Doom. Likewise, Darkstar of the Soviet Super Soldiers has a downright elegant design reminiscent of military costuming without sacrificing form-hugging lines. Nice stuff.

So what follows are ten of the most outstanding freakshows - not ALL the bad costumes, just the ones which stand out. I left out guys like the Controller, the Collector, and the Corrupter, the last of whom actually looks a lot like Nightcrawler at the Renaissance Fair. I even left out Doctor Demonicus, who is sort of all around - costume, character, gimmick and nemesis (Godzilla) - a total mess, just a glorious mess, bless 'im.

So, to begin...


Just so you know, you are indeed looking at what you think you're looking at here: A naked, underage girl with wisps of tow obscuring her netherparts. If it makes you any more comfortable, though, she later one becomes a naked, underage boy with cloudy protruberences hovering about his twig and berries. Or maybe the other way around, I can't recall. In any case, what's important to remember is that Cloud is actually for realsies an immense nebula of pre-stellar gasses which took human form to fight crime because a magic box told her to do it. Anyway, I showed this design to my wife and she described it as "some serious queefing" which is awful and I love that woman.


The safe word is "Tovarisch"

Colossus is arguably most famous for dating a thirteen year-old girl when he was the ripe old age of nineteen (I'm doing the math, and if we use the formula that stipulates that it's half his age plus seven, he should've been in jail), a relationship his friends only got on his case about because he broke up with her. "How dare you surrender this life of statutory rape - whatever happened to your DREAMS?" they seemed to be asking.

Anyway, it's no wonder then that the big steel-plated pervo ended up in some sort of bright red, bare-limbed gimp suit festooned with dog collars. One, two ... five all told, and I bet those are zip-ties around his wrists. Line up for discipline, young ladies, here comes big daddy Pyotr!


Is it just me, or does calling a black guy "Cottonmouth" just SEEM like a racial epithet? I can't get over it ...

You have to love any costume which picks a theme and sticks with it til it dies or Jesus comes back. Cottonmouth's theme is "snake yaps," which he's got on his little purple beret, repeated in the flares on his gloves and boots, and then he's got a big evil snake face on his torso. I wonder if it looks like it's chewing gum when he does situps?

Cottonmouth's power, by the way, is that he can dislocate his jaw and eat you. Competitor DC Comics may eat a lot of shit for the patently-absurd Matter Eater Lad, but at least Matter Eater Lad only ever ate stuff - not people!

Cottonmouth's OHOTMU-DE page even goes as far as to show a three-panel progressive diagram of his power in full effect. Notice that his little beret is designed to look like a snake with its mouth open. And then he ends up looking like a snake with his mouth open on his own. So what you end up with, at the denouement, is what looks like a big purple snake eating a black guy who's eating Captain America.


This guy's name is Crossfire. His real name is William Cross. I don't know if you can pick up on this really subtle character device, but this guy is really into crosses! It's totally his thing. It's what he does. He loves-a the crosses, this guy. 

Major points to his nickel-chrome crucifix codpiece. "Protect me, o Lord, from all matter of groin injuries and savage Nut Monkeys, amen!"


Looking ... looking good there, Cyke. Very ... very leadership duds you got there. It's nice that your mom sewed in patches to keep your inner thighs from wearing out so fast.

SPECIAL FUN FACT: This is the only place this costume ever appeared - Cyclops was preparing for a run in X-Factor, and they hadn't quite settled on his new garb yet. This was used as an interim piece.

MORE SPECIAL FUN FACTS: As there was an absence of images of Cyclops in this costume to use for his entry, images of Cyke in OTHER costumes were edited to reflect this monstrosity. Except the ones which John Byrne drew. That MEANS something, Gil Kane gets edited but John Byrne don't ...


Can you believe she was headlining her own book in this costume?

I'm no fan of Image Comics, but the one thing they DID do for the industry was put youth-targeted hipster costume and character design into the hands of people who were, y'know, actually young and hip. How many years prior to this were we getting the latest fashions for as perceived by 55-year old suits who had homes in Connecticut? This is why we still occasionally have common street thugs in comics dressed like the Fonz, or Johnny Rotten.

Anyway, nice asymmetry. If there's one thing the kids really like, it's spandex and assymetry. And fingerless gloves. And a headband. Oh, and that red band around her calf, it's not distracting, no-o-o-o-o.

Paul Chadwick didn't design this, did he? I have to punch my copies of Concrete if he did ...


Man, check it out, just when you thought the Circus of Crime had covered all the clown super-villains you can manage ... These guys are jugglers, by the way. Criminal jugglers, and of course the little guy is called "Knick-Knack", like one of Santa's elves or something. The stats say he's five-foot-three but he looks three apples high - also, he's shy some fingers. There's a chance he really is an escaped cartoon character, maybe.

Best costume in the batch is Oddball's, a guy whose name has "ball" in it and his outfit is covered in balls. I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere but it's hard to get a grip on it.

The Scarlet Cameltoe

Haha, okay, she's actually "Diamondback," your 2001 World Series champs. I like how this costume has been specially created to make her hips and shoulders look enormous, while it makes her head and tits look like floating spheres. Also, nice stilettos. And flared gloves. Jesus, all that pink and sharp angles, you look like a gay street sign, honey, hey-yo outdated gay stereotype jo-o-o-o-o-oke ...


A psychiatrist by day,  Michael Jackson impersonator by night.

I feel it's worth mentioning that he doesn't sport short hair here, he has a mullet - there's a Billy Ray flip in the back, embarrassing as hell.

And finally ...


"Feed me the pill, I'm open!"

Only his footed pajames and indigo poncho could take Anthony's mind off of his tragic Male Pattern Baldness ...


Poktori said...

Longest chuckle of the month I have had so far. Thanks, as always!

neofishboy said...

I'm trying to wrap my head around how Colossus' dog collar is interacting with his trapezius muscles. Is it a clip-on?

Calamity Jon said...

Of course it is, you don't think he can fasten a tiny buckle with those big, borscht-eatin' hands of his, right?

Casanova Frankenstein said...

Awesome! I take it you have found some of your classic blogs lurking somewhere?

cup king said...

If I were an assassin, I wouldn't dress in bright red and white. But there again, I'm not an assassin.

Mainly as my name is Barry Cannothitacowsarse-Withabanjo and I didn't want to incorporate that surname into a costume

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