Imagine, if you will, that there somehow existed a resource which listed the complete game stats, origin and information about the heroes of your childhood. Imagine being able to look up and compare the relative strengths of each, and even somehow actually use that information right in your role-playing games as fully playable characters or NPCs straight off the page. Imagine them all written up and readily available for all with none of that Intellectual Property Rights nonsense that blights the modern age.
Gamers Handbooks of the Marvel Universe are exactly that dream, come true. Published as four hefty tomes then updated yearly from 1989 to 1992, these books contained pretty much the entire Marvel roll call, fully stated out and ready for play. The sheer number of heroes and villains is overwhelming, and it’s a testament to the number of different comics that Marvel turned out in the 70s and 80s. Your average non-comic loving geek might recognise perhaps 5% of these, and even your typical superheroes lover would struggle to know more than a third. Anyone who claims to know more that 50% of them is either lying, or really needs to get out more :D
Granted, a high percentage of them totally suck, but that’s a large part of their charm. It’s comforting to know that no matter how bad a character you create, someone at Marvel probably made one worse – and they were paid to do it too! It vindicates Marvel RPG’s use of random character generation as I suspect some of the characters in the Gamers Handbooks were created in a similarly random (if not intoxicated and/or drug-induced) fashion.
The fun thing though is that it’s the bat-shit crazy ones I love. Give me characters like Angar the Screamer, Arkon or Doctor Sun (look ’em up) and I’m in heaven – and as these books come complete with full gamestats for ’em, they’re immediately droppable into your Marvel RPG game too. Conversion to other systems (*cough* Mutants & Masterminds *cough*) isn’t that difficult either as the heavy lifting has already been done for you.
As with the rest of the Marvel RPG, the Gamers Handbooks are available for free download from Classic Marvel. The first four (covering Abomination to Zzzax – I kid you not) weight in at a total of 136Mb of pdfs, and are well worth the disk space. A word of warning though – the 1989 Character Update is a 91Mb all on it’s own, though 1990-1992 are just 29Mb in total. The scan quality overall isn’t that great but they’re still very readable and usable nonetheless.
Given that these books are close on 25 years old, you’d think that they’re no longer relevant in today’s comicbook age – and you’d be wrong. The more you look through them, the more you realised that fuck-all has happened in the Marvel Universe in the past quarter-century. Around 75% of the characters in these books will never see light of day again in these leaner, meaner times, but the A- and B-list Marvel guys are near-as-dammit exactly the same as they have ever been. Iron Man might be slightly less alcoholic these days, Hulk a little angrier and Captain America…. well ok, he died, but otherwise they’re all the same as they ever have been. I blame the comic-buying public, personally. For all that we love the fantastic, we hate evolution and change, and consistently decry and moan about our precious heroes being messed with. We hated Spider-man‘s One More Day storyline, but we’re all much happier bunnies that he’s back being…. well, exactly the same guy you’ll find in the 20-odd year old Gamers Handbooks.
If you want to try the Marvel RPG yourself head over to Classic Marvel where the entire system and supplements can be downloaded for free. Go to Other Stuff->Downloads->Advanced Game and Modules for the Marvel RPG Advanced Set. Spend some time surfing the site – it’s a terrific resource full of more role-playing goodness than you can possibly imagine.
Make Mine Marvel!