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Inside The X-Men Encyclopedia By Brian Jacks
So who is Eric Moreels? Well, aside from running the popular X-Fan website, he's also the guy Marvel tapped as the lead researcher for the upcoming X-Men Encyclopedia Volume 2, a massive collection of almost 400 profiles from every character worth mentioning in the X-Universe.
The book, due in April, weighs in at 240 pages, and will directly tie in with upcoming sequel to the hit X-Men movie.
In order to put together such a massive undertaking, Marvel went to Moreels, a longtime X-Men fan who has also written about the X-comics for Fandom.com and Cinescape Online.
"Eric's extensive knowledge of the X-Men universe proved to be an essential resource, says Editor Jeff Youngquist. "As our researcher, he was part of a talented team that also included writer Syd Barney-Hawke; myself and co-editor Mark D. Beazley; assistant editor Jen Grünwald; copy editor Sarah Fan; art director Matty Ryan; and designers Patrick McGrath, Tim Smith III and Victor Gonzalez. Tom Marvelli of Marvel's Creative Services Department designed our dust jacket, and the cover underneath the jacket itself was painted by Gabriel Dell'Otto. And major props to Jen Chan, Wing Lee & Erik Ko of UDON, who recolored some vintage artwork for use in the book."
Slush recently conducted an extensive interview with Moreels, digging deep into what exactly fans can look forward to from the X-Men Encyclopedia Volume 2.
Slush: First off, what exactly is the X-Men Encyclopedia?
EM: The X-Men Encyclopedia is a comprehensive guide to the X-Men characters and their universe with information and art on the core team members, their supporting cast and major enemies.
Slush: And how did you become involved with this project?
EM: Short answer: Marvel asked me and I leapt at the chance. Not as short answer: I was contacted by Dave Bogart, Jeff Youngquist and Mark Beazley at Marvel who told me of the project and asked if I'd be interested in working on it as researcher/writer. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, naturally I said yes!
Slush: Did your role grow as the project moved on? Or in other words, did it start out doing smaller chores and increase over time?
EM: My role was fairly constant throughout - research the histories of specific characters as thoroughly as possible. However, I was called upon to assist in other ways, such as recommending art for some characters, or helping with reshuffling the characters' entries in the book to make room for more entries.
Slush: How many characters did you end up researching?
EM: I think at last count it was around 350.
Slush: And how many of those 350 will actually make it into the finished product?
EM: Before I began, there was a list of characters to be researched, so all of the characters I researched will be in the book. Whilst that grew slightly during the course of my research, every character on the list has an entry.
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Slush: How did Marvel decide which characters to include? Was there a process?
EM: Most character choices were fairly obvious - all the current members of the various X-teams and their major enemies, and some members of their supporting cast. Current teams like the Exiles, X-Statix, and X-Corporation are included, as well as classic teams such as the New Mutants, Imperial Guard, and Hellfire Club. Others were based on other factors, such as the X2 movie (for Reverend Stryker's entry), or on the overall goal of presenting as broad a picture of the X-Men universe as possible.
Slush: What type of tools did you use for your research?
EM: Lots of things: the previous series' of the Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe, the old Marvel.com character bios, the first volume of the Marvel Encyclopedia, and lots and lots of reading and re-reading back issues!
Slush: So how long did it take you from start to finish?
EM: Just over two months straight.
Slush: Was there a lot of back and forth activity between you and Marvel?
EM: Absolutely. In fact, if it weren’t for the cooperation of the Marvel editors and numerous freelancers then I'd really have been stuck. Their help was invaluable.
Slush: Which freelancers did you work with?
EM: Just about everyone who was writing an X-title late last year. Among those I worked with were Chuck Austen, Grant Morrison, Chris Claremont, Frank Tieri, and Brian Vaughn, Matt Nixon, and Geoff Johns.
Chuck (writer of Uncanny X-Men) especially was a godsend. The man's passion for the characters rivals my own, and it was an absolute delight and a pleasure to work with him to ensure the best possible entries for those characters he writes.
The book will be as current as possible - by that I mean it will include information on the characters from stories up to and including March 2003.
Slush: So there are new characters coming up in the next couple of months?
EM: Actually I think the newest character debuted already - Lobo in Uncanny. So I don't know if there's any new characters coming up, but it does include recently introduced characters like Lobo.
Slush: How did you decide what should be included in the character bios? I imagine it was difficult to boil it down to the essentials.
EM: Well, my job was to research everything - right down to height/weight and eye/hair color. My work was then passed on to the copy writer, Syd Barney-Hawke, who then crafted the entries as they'll appear in the book. In some cases she quoted what I'd written as is, but in most cases it was rewritten to appeal to both new and long-time fans.
Slush: Is there an average length for the entries?
EM: It depends on the character. Some, like Storm and Wolverine, actually have two pages. Others, like some of the Imperial Guard or the Morlocks, each have 1/4 page entries.
Slush: Was that told to you ahead of time? Did they say, "We want an extended biography on Wolverine with as much info as possible?"
EM: Yes, I knew from the start how much space each character was allocated. However, I still researched the characters to the fullest to give Syd as much opportunity as possible to craft an informative and entertaining entry.
Slush: Which universes will be represented in the book, and will the characters be separated by universe? Such as Marvel Universe Wolverine, Ultimate Wolverine, etc.?
EM: The core universe mostly, but there is a section dedicated to the Ultimate X-Men. All the Ultimate characters are in the Ultimate section.
Slush: Will the television universes be present?
EM: No, unfortunately there just wasn't room to include the Evolution characters, as much as I'd like to have seen them in there.
Slush: Where there any characters you researched that gave you trouble? Such as where contradictory information existed about a character's history?
EM: Yes, some were pretty tricky, such as Snowbird, Cypher/Douglock/Warlock, but it was just a matter of reading and re-reading the source material and then presenting the information in a way that made the most sense. It took me around two hours to write up a bio for Snowbird!
Slush: Were there any items that were so difficult that you just had to go straight to the character's creator?
EM: Really only one – Fantomex. For him, I went straight to Grant [Morrison] for help in sorting out just who/what the character is. But that was mostly due to the fact that what we've seen of the character thus far in the comics has been intentionally vague.
Slush: As a good question to end on, what type of people would want to pick this book up?
EM: I think it will appeal to neophytes to the X-Men's world, casual readers, as well as long-time fans. Something for everyone was the intent and, I think, the final result.