Comics : Meet the Marvel Super Heroes (2013)
This review was first published on: 25 Mar 2016.
We've seen a flurry of Spider-Man and Marvel Books since Disney took over the Marvel franchises. There's been a lot of brand new material, along with some re-branded/re-released content.
This "Meet the Marvel Super Heroes" (aka "Marvel Super Hero Character Encyclopedia") is one of the more extreme examples of the "re-released" material.
A small "encyclopedia", this was originally published in February 2013 under the title "Meet the Marvel Super Heroes" with 144 pages.
In November 2013, it was re-released into the Australia/NZ market by Scholastic as "Marvel Super Hero Character Encyclopedia", but same page count and format.
In December 2014, it was expanded further and re-re-released. The page count was jacked up to an incredible 304 pages... nearly double the size... but with an essentially identical line-up of characters. New art was added, with a little extra text.
Then April 2015 it was re-re-re-released with 160pp of ALL-NEW artwork and (extended) text! Back to the original title. New cover. Same characters. Still a little larger than the original, but much smaller than the 304 page monstrosity that preceded it.
This review covers all four books.
All four books are roughly the same size at 8.7" x 11.2" (plus or minus). All contain simplified, kid-friendly profiles of "more than 100" of Marvel's finest Super Heroes.
Let's just re-cap those versions and page counts again:
- 144pp - Meet the Marvel Super Heroes (2013)
- 144pp - Marvel Super Hero Character Encyclopedia (Scholastic, 2013)
- 304pp - Marvel Super Hero Character Encyclopedia (Scholastic, 2014) (Extended Text, Extra Art)
- 160pp - Meet the Marvel Super Heroes (2015) (New Text, New Artwork)
Note the significant jump in page count for the third version. But despite the significant variation in page counts, the selection of entries in the four books is nearly identical, and all give due deference to Disney's latest and greatest movies successes.
The Avengers get heavy coverage, and so also do all of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The third and fourth books push this pretty much to the limits, with Gamora and Groot (who each received single-page entries in the 2013 editions) both getting bumped up to four-pages of content each. That's the same as Spider-Man receives in most versions!
By contrast, the X-Men get played down quite a bit. Wolverine gets a couple of pages (seven in the super-sized third version). Cyclops gets a page (two in the super-sized third version). Squirrel Girl gets a page all to herself as well, so I don't think Cyclops will be bragging too much.
The level of detail in these books is extremely simplistic. Most heroes get a single paragraph description which references their civilian name, their powers, and a greatly simplified version of their super hero origin. The 2013 Scholastic re-release adds a helpful box of basic character attributes. The latest 2015 edition doesn't have the "character details box", but does give some additional informal notes or curious facts in a free-form or "Q & A" format.
The additional page count in the 304pp version is mostly achieved by the insertion of pure artwork pages. Additionally, many of the single-page entries from the original version are spread over two pages by spreading the art more thinly. The text is extended a little but in most case.
All editions are targeted at what I would call "confident independent beginner reader", perhaps in the 7-10 year age range.
We already have access to many, many adult-level Comic Book Encyclopedias. The DK Publishing team have produced many Books (DK Guides & Encyclopedia), and Marvel of course produced their own set of Marvel Encyclopedia. Plus, there are plenty of other similar books filed under our Books (Encyclopedia) section, each with their own particular focus.
However, these four different "Meet The Marvel Super Heroes" books, are something rather less common, with their focus on the pre-teen market.
The 304-page version does feel bigger than it really deserves to be. But all versions carefully avoid getting bogged down in details — they offer the absolute timeless fundamentals of these characters in a clear and appealing format.
I have no idea why this book was re-illustrated and re-written so many times. All the different revisions fill the nearly-identical market niche. Maybe there's a fascinating story behind it all. Perhaps the head honcho at Marvel Kids had a massive argument with one of the typesetters and decided to replace every book they ever touched. Twice. Who knows.
What I do know is that any one of these books (despite their completely different artwork and text, and small-but-important variation in lexile complexity) offer young readers an incredibly accessible introduction to the wider Marvel Universe.
For doing so, which ever one you stumble across, it has our SpiderFan recommended rating of Four Webs.