Back in the 1980s, I tended to favor Marvel Comics, and still prefer the format of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe over all other comic book references. That said, I have plenty of affection for DC's answer to it, Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe. Marvel's books were more text based, with a single static image of a character useful as an artist's reference, and licensing friendly uniform inking by Josef Rubinstein. Who's Who was more about showing the variety of character types and artists across the five decades of history they were celebrating mid-decade. While I enjoyed the '80s incarnation, I didn't really immerse myself in DC lore until the Post-Crisis period. I tend to like the early '90s looseleaf editions better, thanks to characters and artists I was into at the time. They were also enhanced by supplements published by Mayfair Games that offered more quantifiable powers/abilities and other pertinent details along the lines of the Marvel Handbook (which became garbage in their own skimpy looseleaf version.)
Anyway, Who's Who is a lot of fun to revisit, and since DC apparently will never get around to a long-promised Showcase Presents collection, WHO’S WHO: The Definitive Podcast of the DC Universe offers the next best thing to eBay/illegally downloaded PDFs. Rob Kelly of Aquaman Shrine and Shag Matthews of Firestorm Fan spend better than an hour discussing each issue of the series from A to Z and back again. Volume I covers Abel through Auron, while Volume II handles Automan through Blackhawk Island (with an emphasis on Batman.) They're well worth your time as you trot down Nostalgia Avenue to a simpler, more innocent time of Earths conquered by the Nazis, guys getting caught in nuclear meltdowns while trying to get laid, toddlers suffocated by maniacs attempting to create an undersea kingdom for black people, and whatever the hell Thriller was supposed to be.
I will warn you though that one of the biggest lies DC ever told was that Who's Who was any kind of "Definitive Directory." They were extremely subjective and not a little random in who they spotlighted, and it should come as no surprise that the Martian Manhunter's expanded universe was literally represented solely by the Martian Manhunter getting his own entry. This blog might not have to exist if DC had bothered to include even 5% of what we handle, but they didn't, so here's some links from the creeping inevitability that is our own Martian Fanhunter encyclopedia, including rationales on why DC should have honored them...
- Alex Dunster: Thieving scientist who stole Professor Erdel's robot brain and used it to teleport before being captured in "Escape To The Stars" from Detective Comics #228 (1956.)
- Aldo Szuzi: A French millionaire who despite being friends with Marco Xavier was targeted by Vulture in "Marco Vs. Manhunter” from House of Mystery #164 (1967.)
- Andy Fletcher: The jewel thief who was foiled in "The Dog With A Martian Master" from Detective Comics #232 (1956.)
- The Beings in the Color Rings: Creatures from another plane that tried to steal all the color from Middletown in "The Beings in the Color Rings" from House of Mystery #148 (1965.)
- B'enn B'urnzz: A Green Martian criminal escaped from the year 2062 who fought J'onn J'onzz to a standstill in "J’onn J’onzz vs. Futureman" Detective Comics #305 (1962.)
- B'rett: The yellow-skinned Martian who revealed J'onn J'onzz's existence on Earth, leading to his joining the Justice League of America. Appeared in "The Unmasking of J’onn J’onzz" from Detective Comics #273 (1959.)
- Baron Voto: A bad guy from the nation of Lavonia who used a magic ring against the Martian Manhunter in "The Day John Jones Vanished" from Detective Comics #308 (1962.)
- Bel Juz: The femme fatale who tried to sell out the survivors of Mars to evil aliens in "...And So My World Begins" from World's Finest Comics #212 (1972.) Initiated "The War of the Worlds: 1984," which caused the destruction of the iconic Justice League Satellite and instigated the disbanding of the associated incarnation of that team. She absolutely should have appeared in Who's Who.