I’ve already mentioned the new Vertigo Encyclopedia by Alex Irvine which Dorling Kindersley published recently. As you might infer from the title its an A-Z reference guide to the darker and more fantastical realms of the DC Universe, charting the major series, the one-offs and the mini-series of the Vertigo world, from the cigarette reek of John Constantine’s world to the Dreaming of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, the violent and blasphemous world of Preacher to the upwardly mobile vampires of Bite Club to the eco-tinged magic of Swamp Thing and political allegory of Pride of Baghdad. The major series like Lucifer and Sandman get larger, multiple-page entries as you might expect, with notes on the creation of the series, the writers, the artists, the major chapters and dates, plus a synopsis of the major plot lines, guides to the characters and more.
The mini-series and one-off specials get less room, but again that’s to be expected – I mean let’s face it, Irvine could have filled a book this size and more just on Preacher or Transmetropolitan alone, but this is an Encyclopedia not a guide to a single series, a handy quick reference of important facts and while you might find yourself thinking “I want more on this particular entry” space limitations obviously have to apply. But given those limitations, as someone who has devoured more than my share of Vertigo titles over the last few years, I’d say Irvine does very well; he knows this kind of book can’t be exhaustive on each and every single series, but he has assembled plenty of information so that if you are familiar already with a series it is a handy place to check facts and dates (and sometimes be reminded of something you had forgotten), while if you are new to a series you can learn more about it, a perfect primer before investing in purchasing several volumes of the graphic novels.
As always with a Dorling Kindersley reference work this hardback edition is lavishly illustrated, from large examples of art to small character thumbnails to accompany their bios. The A-Z format means that the book is perfect for dipping into – I started by, predictably, looking up my favourite series (yes, yes, I did go right to the Sandman pages, I can’t help it, I’m an addict), but now I find myself quite often opening it at random to read a couple of entries. Even among the limited series so far I have been quite (pleasantly) surprised to be reminded of some I read several years ago but hadn’t though of for ages, like Ted McKeever’s Industrial Gothic (remember that?) or DeMatteis and Muth’s gorgeous-looking Moonshadow. Its also good to see this volume because the Vertigo imprint has been pretty important in terms of pushing mature audience comics to a more mainstream audience (and I was pleased to see Karen Berger in her foreword paying tribute to Alan Moore, especially with his Swamp Thing stories, laying the foundations for the Vertigo style). Its worth remembering that Vertigo series like Preacher, Transmet and Sandman all reached out to an adult audience outside of the specialist comics stores and into libraries and mainstream, high street bookstores too; arguably that’s a part of what has made the medium more acceptable to the mainstream today and as such it deserves a book dedicated to it.
It’s got ‘Christmas gift’ written all over it (not literally of course, we haven’t taken our Sharpies to it), but for five readers Christmas might come a little earlier this year – the very nice people at Dorling Kindersley have very kindly offered us five copies of the Vertigo Encyclopedia to give out as prizes. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning one of these fine hardbacks is go over to our main webstore, log-in and answer one very, very simple question. You have until the end of Sunday 16th of November, so get those answers in and good luck!