Who's Who in the DC Universe? A Whole Ominibus of Characters!

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Who's Who in the DC Universe (Volume 1)

This may come as something of a shock to readers who have entered the world of DC Comics within the past 20 years, but there are actually more characters in that universe than just the ones appearing in the BATMAN comics. So many, in fact, that at one point in the mid-1980s, DC saw fit to publish a monthly index of each character in alphabetical order. Who's Who in the DC Universe ran for twenty-four issues to run through the DC pantheon from A to Z... and even then, it wasn't complete, because new characters were continually added, origins were being tweaked, universes were collapsing, and -- you get the idea. So update volumes were published, including an innovative production method of printing the pages on 3-hole looseleaf for collecting in two different 3-ring binders (with covers by George Perez and Brian Bolland, and I'm glad to actually possess both of them). 

Yeah, there was a lot to keep up with.

But now, the horizons of your DC world view can be expanded, thanks to this newly published collected edition, the Who's Who Omnibus - Volume I.

Yes, it's Volume I. Despite the fact that this hardcover clocks in at over 1300 pages, there was (and still is) a need to keep track of new addtions and changes. And while the format is straightforward enough -- you simply look up your character based on an alphabetical index -- you may find that you should also check the later updates to see if anything changed (just in case you're preparing to enter a debate on the origins of Blue Beetle's powers, or Jinx's first appearance). 

For the most part, each character would get a full page to himself or herself (or itself, if it were a place or a prominent object, like Justice League Headquarters or the Batmobile). This also applied to teams, which would often get double-page entries. An entry would begin with the name done in their characteristic font and a full figure drawing. The text would then begin with personal data including their alter ego, occupations, height, weight, eye color, and sundry affiliations. This would then give way to the larger section, the history, which would inform the readers of the character's origins, milestone events in the shaping of their careers and, if necessary, how they died. The final block was always a detailing of the powers and weapons used by the character, and how they were created or employed.

I've mentioned before that the listings are in alphabetical order -- but that doesn't always mean you'll find a character if you think traditionally. Particularly with the updates things got a little "fast and loose" (which is a polite way of saying 'sloppy') with the way the entries were recorded. You'll find that deep near the end of this volume, Bumblebee follows Blackhawks just as you'd expect -- with an entry for Clayface inserted between them. Then, when you get into the proper section for the letter "C" you'll find pages for "Cat" Grant and Commissioner Gordon (both of which, for my money, would have belonged in the "G" section. Even further in, we get mini-entries for Isadore O'Toole, Lady Shiva, James Cameron (not the filmmaker) and Speedy -- in that order -- which leads directly into a number of civilian supporting characters with no logos and no discernible grouping. That part could have used a lot of work, and even if that's the way it was originally published that doesn't proclude the publishers from doing it right in this omnibus presentation.

A very nice -- perhaps even indispensible addition to this set, however, is the character index published at the back of the book. While it may be very easy and natural to just flip through the pages until you recognize you're in the right section to find Superman, the index will let you know where there are -- if any -- updates to the character that you may also want to visit.

I do not know what volumes of Who's Who were not included in this set, but titling it as Volume I certainly opens the door to future volumes to be published. This is the definitive volume for those who like to collect things like the DK encyclopedia books about DC superheroes.

5.0 / 5.0