I dug these things out of my garage the other day in yet another display of my turbo nerdness. What prompted this gleeful yet shameful move you ask? Well you see there was really two incidents that occurred recently. The first one was seeing the after credits scene in Thor: The Dark World and —-spoilers—- you get a peek at the Collector, played by Benicio Del Toro, who will feature prominently in the upcoming Guardian’s of the Galaxy movie. The second was reading Marvel’s Infinity #4 in which—spoilers- Thanos beats the shit out of Blackbolt, the Inhuman King. Both of these things sparked much pondering, such as what’s the deal with the Collector? and how tuff is Thanos, like for realsies? So it was, as we used to say in graduate school, “to the stacks” also known as my garage, where I pulled out my complete set of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe to research these very important questions.
I got the complete set as a Christmas gift back in 1988 when I was 16 years-old. I was pretty heavy into gaming, comics, and basketball (I had just made starter on the senior team) at the time so I was pretty pumped at getting these. As I recall, I think I also got Mike Grell’s Longbow Hunter series as well. Despite some bumps along the way my youth was generally an embarrassment of riches. If you have never seen these things before they are pretty cool. I believe they originally printed them as floppies before collecting them into trade paperback form. They are essentially an encyclopedic presentation of every marvel character to that date in alphabetical order. They start off with each characters physical and personal stats, 1st appearance (helpful for collectors), and known team affiliations. They then give a brief history of the character followed by a detailed section on their known super powers or abilities and a separate section on strength level (measured by lift/press in tons for the heavier hitters). They also had “books of the dead” for those heroes or villains that hadn’t been resurrected yet 😉
In terms of gaming, we used to play a lot of Champions (currently known as HERO system) which was kind of a blank canvas generic system geared towards superheroes. We had numerous campaigns over those years ranging from gritty street level to more cosmic level adventures, we even did a Star Trek campaign. One of coolest things was meticulously pouring over the rulebook and crunching the numbers to create a character to match a known superhero you wanted to play. I would often start by looking up a hero in my Marvel Handbooks to see how many points I needed to put into strength and what power sets I needed to craft. Over the years I made Spiderman, Wolverine, The Punisher, Bruce Leroy (catches bullets with his teeth), Adam Warlock, Iron Man, and quite possibly my favorite in Dr. Leonard Samson. Can you tell I was a bit of a Marvel Zombie back in the day?
As I gear up to run a brief 2 or 3 shot with DC Adventures (AKA Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition)the players have the option to use an existing hero or villain since they have stated out pretty much all of them. I have mixed feelings about this as, a part of me is geeked in being able to see them all laid out like that to compare and contrast what they have done, but the other part of me is a little let down at feeling cheated from trying to re-create them myself. I think If I was to play in a DC Adventures game I would probably pull out my old Marvel Handbooks and make myself a 616 hero. As for the Collector I found out that he is an Elder, a group of the oldest known entities in the universe. He is immortal and impervious to conventional harm or disease. He also choose not to develop any superhuman physical or mental abilities like other Elders. Given his obsession around collecting things, he has access to the greatest technology and weapons in the galaxy. A particular favorite of his is a temporal assimilator, a handheld device which allows him to time travel for short temporal distances and durations. As for Thanos vrs Blackbolt, it turns out —SPOILERS—-that Blackbolt’s strength was greatly diminished by fueling the terigen bomb that is the catalyst for the new Inhuman era in the marvel universe (AKA we need some new mutants that we can use in our own movie universe since Fox won’t give us our X-men back). So there you go.