The DC Comics Encyclopedia
By Scott Beatty, Robert Greenberger, Phil Jimenez and Dan Wallace, with updated text by Dan Wallace. DK. $40
For the serious DC Comics fanboy whose collection includes the all-time greats -- "Watchmen," "The Killing Joke," "Kingdom Come" -- The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe is a must. It's an expanded guide to the comics publishing giant that brought us the Man of Steel, the Dark Knight and Wonder Woman.
The cover and first page are enough to reel in any enthusiast. For the cover, Alex Ross has painted DC's aforementioned "Big Three" battling it out with some of their archfoes. On the first page, Jim Lee's drawing of Batman and Robin shows the Dynamic Duo in a vintage superhero pose. And then your voyage through the DC Universe begins.
From "Abra Kadabra" to "Zoom," every hero, bad guy and milestone event is explained by one of the authors (some of whom have written and drawn comics themselves) and given an illustration (many of these lifted from the pages of the actual comics). Where else can you learn such tidbits as how Lex Luthor lost all his hair? (Answer: in an early explosion in Smallville.)
-- David Betancourt