-NOTE- Introduction to eleven stories pages 28-113 of same issue See also cover story of same issue

Here’s what we know about It: It takes many shapes and forms. It can be laugh-out-loud hilarious (Larry David). It can be subtly subversive (Philip Pullman). It can be barely legal (Amanda Bynes) or a sprightly 80 (Christopher Lee). It can be understated cool (Wilco, Lauren Ambrose) and It can be five-alarm-Tabasco hot (Sheryl Crow, Antonio Banderas). It can strike with abandon (what up, Eminem?), and you’d better believe It can disappear just as quickly (seen Tom Green lately?). It doesn’t even have to technically be human (witness Chad Kimball’s sad-sack cow from Broadway’s Into the Woods).

In other words, there are innumerable definitions, but only one place where you can find the definitive examples. Entertainment Weekly’s sixth annual IT Issue celebrates the most creative people in the biz — the cutting-edge, on-the-verge, or simply better-than-ever talent behind, in front of, and on top of the scenes. We spent countless grueling hours assembling the cast. The hard part is over. All you have to do is pull up a chair, turn on your iPod, kick off your Pro-Keds, and start perusing.