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Book Review: Obsessed With Marvel

Written by Peter Sanderson and Marc Sumerak
Published by Titan Books

Full disclaimer: I haven’t read all 2,500 questions in Obsessed With Marvel. I believe in honesty on this blog.

However, with that out of the way, I did read the book, as I hope to prove with this review. The book is split into nine sections: Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Avengers, X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Marvel Knights, Horror Heroes, Cosmic Characters and Marvel Time. The first five sections have 364 questions each; the last four sections have 170 questions each. There is a double-page spread of a selection of various covers (some old classics mixed in with new things like X-Men: The Lost Generation #1, Sensational She-Hulk #1, Squadron Supreme #1, Alpha Flight #1, A-Next #1) but not in the original colours: anything non-white is in a hue of orangey-brown. These colours are used throughout the book: all the comic book art and the backgrounds are the same, which misses the point of comic book covers and panels (they should pop with the vitality of the original primary colours) and is also rather unpleasant as well. It’s the main drawback to the book – the design is a very odd choice and detracts from the experience; when you think of Marvel, you think of bright colours (see the cover above as an example).

The format is straightforward: questions with four possible answers (the answers are upside down at the bottom of the page in smaller text). For variety and for interesting information, each double-page spread has a piece of art with a bit of background to the question. For example, the first one is the cover of Fantastic Four #1 with a small summary of the first issue, with a question about where the FF were originally based (the answer to which surprised me).

The questions range from easy (What country is Doctor Doom’s homeland?) to ridiculously obscure (How tall is Peter Parker? Which issue did the D’Bari first appear? Who first drew the Living Tribunal?). There are a lot of questions of the ‘Who is/was …?’ variety, with either a fairly ordinary name or an obscure superhero/supervillain name. There are also a lot of questions that involve having read a lot of Marvel comics (Which writer did not work on Ultimate X-Men?) but also having a lot of ‘insider’ knowledge of behind-the-scenes stuff (Who was the editor of Marvel comics before Stan Lee?/Who was the first editor-in-chief after Stan Lee? Who were specific creators of certain runs?).

The sections are malleable – Doctor Strange is in the Hulk section because they were in the Defenders, as are other questions about Defenders-related characters; Ka-Zar questions appear in the X-Men section because his first ‘modern’ Marvel appearance was in X-Men #10; Marvel Knights covers mostly everyone else (including the likes of Moon Knight, Iron Fist, Cloak & Dagger); the Cosmic Characters section obviously includes Silver Surfer and Guardians of the Galaxy, but also Power Pack because they got their powers from aliens. But the book does manage to cover just about everything in the Marvel universe, from Millie the Model through to Zombie, so you have to admire the scope.

There are some odd things: it’s written throughout as ‘Super Hero’, two separate words with uppercase initials – I thought that Marvel and DC had registered the term ‘superhero’? I chanced upon a question that I believe that had a wrong answer: Q22: Who wasn’t in both the Fantastic Four and the Avengers? Answer says Invisible Woman, but she joined in Avengers #300 in 1989 (the last issue of Walt Simonson’s run), so that made me a little nervous. Then Q262 has a statement that is definitely incorrect: ‘The first African American Super Hero in comics history to play a leading role … is the Black Panther.’ (T’Challa is African, not African American.)

The other problem is question overlap. In the Fantastic Four section, ‘Who did Black Panther marry?’, then in the X-Men section, ‘Who did Storm marry?’; in The Avengers section, ‘Who is Odin’s wife?’ and ‘Who is Thor’s mother?’; Q1207: ‘Which artist co-created Excalibur and created Clandestine?’ and Q1290: ‘Chris Claremont and British artist Alan Davis created Excalibur …’ The worst example is this triumvirate: Q225 ‘What was Franklin Richard’s Super Hero name when he was a member of Power Pack?’; Q2278 ‘Which character from another Marvel series became a member of Power Pack?’; Q2286 ‘Who is Tattletale?’. It makes me wonder if anybody proofread the book – there are 2,500 questions in the book and there is over 75 years of Marvel history, so why resort to overlapping/duplicate questions?

Apart from this, Obsessed With Marvel is a very enjoyable read. It’s the perfect dip-in book for the Marvel obsessive in your life – it’s a real test of Marvel knowledge and it’s a charming curio of Marvel history and being a fan of the wonderful, organic, interconnected, living fictional universe that is the Marvel universe. As such, I leave you with a treat, the final question in the book: Who is Waffles? (Because I have no idea.)

Disclosure: this book was provided for review purposes.

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