Tired of being embarrassed every time you take your less-savvy friends or clueless parents out to see the latest action-hero blockbuster adapted from a comic book? Hide your face no more now you can school those newbies in the nicest way possible. The gorgeous new Comic Book Encyclopedia has the lowdown on just about every comic book ever created, as well as the folks who created them. From Archie to X-Men, from R. Crumb to Art Spiegelman, you'll find long-lost histories and little-known details about all the important heroes, villains, artists and writers in the comics world. Open the book to any page, and KAPOW!, you'll find glossy, gorgeously reproduced artwork and a spirited mini-essay on some aspect of comics. The book covers everything from early progenitors like Ned Pines' Thrilling Comics to more recent milestones like DC's infamous Superman #75, containing the much-publicized and of course temporary death of the Man of Steel. There are sections on underground comics (with nods to Mad's Harvey Kurtzman and Basil Wolverton and Zap's Robert Crumb) and graphic novels (including Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' seminal Watchmen and Frank Miller's unparalleled Batman epic The Dark Knight Returns) that whet the reader's appetite and provide a roadmap for further exploration. Goulart's affection for the medium is obvious. A lifelong aficionado and acknowledged expert, he writes with exactly the right combination of authority and irreverence, never looking down at his subject but making it clear that sometimes, certain plot developments cross the perilously thin line between innovative and just plain silly. The book makes an excellent reference work, but most of all, it will make you want more. You'll be tempted to rush to your local comics shop and dig through the back-issue boxes for hours, searching happily for the sources of the magic preserved in its pages. Becky Ohlsen taught the rest of us at BookPage everything we need to know about comics.