Wonder Woman has the most convoluted history of any comics superhero, with more than a dozen variations since the character was created 1942. Small wonder, then, that this oversized tome from DC/Del Rey contains more than eleven hundred entries over its four hundred and eighty-eight pages.
No matter how much you know about Wonder Woman, you will find things here you’ve never heard of before – unless you’ve been reading her since her first appearance in All-Star Comics #8 [December, 1941-January, 1942]; never missed an issue and have an eidetic memory. Thanks to veteran Wonder Woman writer/artist Phil Jimenez and comics historian John Wells, the rest of us now have The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia.
The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia may be set out in alphabetical order, but because of the characters multiple incarnations, it would be folly to just start reading at A and carry on straight through to Z. Fortunately, once you get past the indicia page, the first thing you read is an essay called How to Use This Book, which provides an easy to follow guide to getting the basic information you will need to use the rest of the book.
Current Wonder Woman writer Gail Simone contributes a preface entitled Wonder Woman’s Tough! It’s a look at the changes the character has undergone over the years and how that plays into her reasons for taking the assignment to write the book. It’s fair to say that her title has a double meaning.
How thorough is The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia? Well, it has entries that include the likes of Joe Bamko [a gangster who appeared in Sensation comics #38, February, 1945] and Randall Thomas [a crook who used sedative-filled balloons in an attempt to rob fans watching a parade for Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman (first series) #64, February, 1964] – as well as more prominent characters like the various incarnations of Steve Trevor, the pilot with whom various incarnations of her fell in love.
Complex? Sure – but also entertaining. The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia also includes tons of art – from the thumbnails that illustrate many of the entries to thirty-two pages of full-color art, to fill-page black & white recreations of some of the most interesting covers from the various Wonder Woman series.
Artists included range from George Perez to Mike Sekowsky to Adam Hughes to Gil Kane to Jill Thompson. In all one hundred and eighty-sex artists have work in the book. The dazzling cover is by Adam Hughes.
The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia is a valuable reference work that is also a lot of fun to pore over. It’s definitely worth the thirty bucks [thirty-five in hardcover].
Final Grade: A