'The Supervillain Handbook' Is a Must-Have for All Aspiring MegalomaniacsA comic review article by: Danny Djeljosevic
It's perfectly natural to be wary of novelty guidebooks about nerd crap. It can be a very hacky thing to do -- latch on to a popular subject (say, robots or pirates), write some rules and guidelines based on cursory knowledge and wait for that sweet, sweet Hollywood option money now that they can be made into movies (read: they can vaguely "inspire" movies). You could probably write an entire book about a genre you only kind of know about just by perusing TV Tropes.
Please do not write an entire book about a genre you only kind of know about just by perusing TV Tropes.
I think the part of the problem is that I don't know much about the people who write them. I assume Max Brooks has watched a bunch of zombie movies, but I don't know that for sure and I'm certainly not going to google that information past verifying that Max Brooks actually wrote a guide to zombies in addition to a fake history of zombies. He did write such a guide, and that information should be enough for you people.
Conversely, I know who Matt Wilson is -- contributor to Comics Alliance and Cracked, fellow podcaster and general internet funnyman. Most importantly, he's a comics guy, and that counts for a lot when you're presented with something called The Supervillain Handbook. Again, you could probably write a book detailing how to become a successful supervillain just by watching a bunch of movies and a couple seasons of The Venture Bros., but personally, I'd rather spend my time on something comic-related if it's from a writer who's been reading comics at least as long as I have (forever).
As such, The Supervillain Handbook shows off a lot of comics knowledge as Wilson (writing as King Oblivion, Ph.D) employs an ongoing section about "Profiles in Lame Supervillainy" featuring actual characters like Ten-Eyed Man and Type Face (I would have bet money that he was from the '70s), and throws in mini-features on topics like supervillains who need new catchphrases and effective comic book supervillains who don't have superpowers. For me it's an unexpected element that further improved the reading, that there was some new comics trivia to learn. Beyond mere trivia, however, it's also that understanding of the genre and its tropes and clichés that make it worthwhile. As a comics reader Wilson has experienced countless hideouts, superpowers and witnessed first-hand the value of being born with a name conducive to supervillainy, and can take that information and create a well thought-out guidebook.
But what ultimately makes The Supervillain Handbook such a fun read isn't just the novelty of reading a thorough guide for a thing that most sane people wouldn't consider a viable pursuit, or even the comics trivia. It's that Wilson's also a comedy writer, and he strives to make his book actually funny beyond its premise, with some legitimately hilarious moments, including a coda that makes the Handbook the ultimate act of supervillainy. It's hard to review comedy, so just trust me when I say it is a funny book that will make laughter happen.
Continuing my assumptions about this subgenre, I imagine these kinds of books are good gift fodder -- "I know you won't shut up about Skynet, so here's a book I thought you might have fun with" -- but The Supervillain Handbook is something an actual fan of superhero comics can enjoy as well as a fun read for regular people who like to enjoy themselves while processing words with their eyes and brain.
Wilson and King Oblivion have a follow-up due soon, so interested parties would do well to pick up The Supervillain Handbook in soon in order to understand the sequel -- I assume.
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions) and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his Tumblr. His webcomic The Ghost Engine (with artist Eric Zawadzki) recently ended, so now you can read it in its entirety.