Monday, April 05, 2010

Monday Night Murals: Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come

Last week, you may remember, yours little stuffed truly showed you the first fifteen issues of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Deluxe Edition and how they interlocked to form a really really long mural. But hey! (you're no doubt saying)...the first fifteen issues? How many more were there? Why, just like any good Marvel series, the fun doesn't stop when you reach the last page, because there's issues #16 through 20 to look at now, but this is a little more solemn occasion. Please dress reverently in black and stand quietly to one side as I usher in...

Book of the Dead logo
Book of the Dead

No, no, no, that's not what I meant, man. (Altho' it is groovy.) I mean the 1985 Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Book of the Dead Deluxe other words, this:

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #16-20

Front and back covers of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #16-20 (June 1987-February 1988), art by Keith Pollard and Joe Rubinstein

Click once, then again, to Big Sleep-size

Lined up, the covers of Marvel's classic index and history of all the characters who had bit the bullet, kicked the bucket, and became ex-Marvelites is not quite as long as last week's mural but it's twice as dead! (Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!, in my little stuffed Vincent Price voice.) And like the first 15 issues of the series, #16 through 20 interconnect into one long mural—in fact penciller Keith Pollard has provided a solid wedge of overlap on the right and left of each issue to allow you to piece the rest-in-peaces together. Well, very nearly. There's a very small handful of mismatched images:

...but for the most part most elements on each cover edge line up closely enough that you can make a big long mural o' death. In fact...unlike the first fifteen issues, which had a distinct image break six issues into the series, I believe that Pollard was attempting to make this mural completely circular. Here's the right hand edge of #20 matched up with the beginning of #16:


Although the matchup between 20 and 16 are less perfect that the other issues, look at the position of the tree and how it...well, sorta connects, as shown in this close-up:

20-16 zoom

Sure, there's only half a mausoleum there, but maybe that's where Two-Face is buried. Whoops, wrong universe. Speaking of which, although the Marvel Universe doesn't have its version of DC's Shanghalla, it does seem to have dumped everybody in the same stretch of the Greenwood Cemetery, just off the beltway in Westchester County. Visit the gift shop and pick up lovely souvenirs spoons featuring the face of Uncle Ben, or a Colonel Glenn Talbot beer mug, or the Jean Grey-brand cigarette lighter ("This flame never dies!").

After that you may reverently wander through the soft green hills and thoughtfully examine the gravestones of all those who have passed away, who have shuffled off this mortal coil, who are pushing up daisies, who are dead, dead, dead and can never come back and never return to the Marvel Universe. Characters like


Dead! Dead! Dead!

The Mimic!

Dead! Dead! Dead!

The Dead Skull!

Dead! Dead! Dead!


Dead! Dead! Dead!

My Dad!

Dead! Dead! Dead!

Sharon Carter!

Dead! Dead! Dead!

Yes, none of these characters will ever be seen again because they are finally and truly dead! Characters like

General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross!

Dead! Dead! Dead!

...oh, I guess he came back and died again. You know, as Oscar Wilde (spotlight in issue #17 featuring his battles against Iron Man) once said: "To lose one life may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."

So you see, despite its cool status as a mural, the official Book of the Dead for Earth-616 contains much that is aprocryphal, if not outright incorrect. For example, why oh why, would they list this beloved character as deceased?:

Dead! Dead! Dead!

She ain't dead; I don't believe it.


Isaac said...

Wow, Snowbird and MODOK were dead at one point? Dang!

Brian Smith said...

The only rebirth from these books that genuinely freaked me out at the time was Riptide of the Marauders, just because his death at Colossus's hands was so obviously on-panel (and because Colossus suffered so much after killing him).

And don't forget the return of Jocasta, who's partly covered up in this mural by the...wait, "Squid Edition" UPC? What the heck?

Bill, the Wildcat said...

That caption for Bucky is just classic!