I used to pore over copies of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe for hours at a time as a youth. To tell the truth, I still do. However, the new updates are not quite as special to me as the original handbooks. The art featuring the characters in the new books is rarely actually new and if it is, then it is the same artist featuring most of the characters. Older handbooks had some of the best artists selected from Marvel’s Bullpen and often featured the characters the artists were associated with at the time. Comic book panels depicting key scenes or costumes were accompanied by text that detailed at length the history, powers and skill sets of each character. Nowadays, the text has to abbreviate so many years of continuity that the narratives often lose a sense of wonder (becoming mere lists of pivotal moments instead of a soap opera-like story) and the accompanying art in the character’s biography is shrunk to the point of being ridiculous. All that said, I still adore the art from many of the Handbooks back in the day and wanted to share some of my favorites in all of their black and white glory!
First up is the decadent and diabolic Black Queen Selene of the Hellfire Club. Energy vampire, sorceress and manipulator of inorganic matter (she could animate the very floor to wrap itself around a victim), she possessed a wit and cunning only matched by very few (I would count White Queen Emma Frost and the Enchantress among them). Mark Beachum drew this amazing image and my adolescent self will always be indebted to him for the wild places my imagination took me upon its repeated viewing.