The Hidden S in Encyclopedic

The very fine and versatile author Daniel Wallace is a kind of Walter Cronkite of Geek Mythology, turning out book after book containing exhaustive and authoratative detail and analysis of the Star Wars Universe (Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Charactrs), The DC Universe (The DC Comics Encyclopedia) and, recently, The Marvel Universe. Wallace -a great guy- was nice enough to answer some of the Hidden S' questions (the Mike Wallace of Geek Mythology) about the recently updated and re-released version of the Marvel Comics Encyclopedia from DK Publishing. Omnicomic: In doing this book did you get the sense of there being any great, undiscovered Marvel characters? Wallace: It's hard to come up with a list of "undiscovered" Marvel characters, for while not every character has the name recognition of Spider-Man, most of them are familiar among at least a sub-segment of hardcore Marvel fans. That being said, I definitely have some obscure favorites, including the Taskmaster, Batroc the Leaper, and Stilt-Man. Villains lend themselves well to small-scale cult followings. Omnicomic: Are there any characters in the Marvel Universe that you consider overrated? Wallace: Dare I answer with Wolverine for overrated? I like him as much as anybody, but think he could stand to be dialed back from an 11 to an 8 on the exposure meter. Wolverine works best in opposition to another character -- say, Cyclops -- than as a central point-of-view character. Omnicomic: Are there characters in the Marvel Universe that align with characters in the DC Universe? Wallace: This is an interesting question. Certainly I think you can equate Captain America in the Marvel universe with Superman in the DC universe. Both are universally regarded as the best, bravest, purest, and most inspiring characters within those universes and fill an important role. Superficially there are similarities between Iron Man and Batman -- both are billionaire industrialists who fight crime using high-tech tools, but their personal demeanors couldn't be more different. I'm not sure who the Wonder Woman analogue is in the Marvel Universe, nor who is the Hulk analogue in the DC universe. Sure, you have your Ms. Marvels and your Solomon Grundys, but the relative importance of certain character types varies between the universes. " Omnicomic: Were there differences in the minor players in the DC and Marvel Universes? Wallace: When you mention minor players I always think "villains," and I think DC has a slight edge here. Their minor gimmick villains, including the Sportsmaster, the Gambler, and the Fiddler, date back to the Golden Age. And Batman's rogues' gallery is colorfully demented, from the Riddler to Tweedledee and Tweedledum. But Spider-Man can give Batman a run for his money when it comes to recurring villains. I love seeing some Stilt-Man, or Red Ghost, or Paste-Pot Pete. Omnicomic: What sets Marvel's history apart from DC's History? Wallace: I often think of them as Legacy vs. Drama. DC has always been conscious of its ties to the Golden Age and characters regularly step into the costumes of their mentors. In Marvel, the Golden Age elements are largely confined to Captain America. Interpersonal drama takes on a heightened role. Pound for pound, there is more angst and soap-opera emotion in a Marvel comic. DC is more likely to spend time exploring its own continuity, with events devoted to unraveling the knots. S For more about Dan's work and life see