31-years ago, Marvel released Secret Wars. A 12-issue mini-series that brought all their major super heroes to a planet called Battleworld that was crafted by a powerful and mysterious being called The Beyonder using parts from different planets. With heroes on one side and villains on the other, The Beyonder declared:
“I am from beyond. Slay your enemies and all that you desire shall be yours! Nothing you dream is impossible to accomplish!”
It’s nice to know that right before you are forced to kill to survive that your impossible dreams can be obtained. Unless your dream is to escape Battleworld before all the carnage and chaos begins. If that’s the case, time to conjure up a new dream because The Beyonder is a jerk. He would kill it on the motivational speaker circuit. I really think that he is the villain Arcade with supped up supernatural powers, which would be kind of cool. I mean Arcade has Murderworld and The Beyonder has Battleworld. Could be, right? At the very least, cross dimensional cousins?
And did I mention that this story was totally written to sell action figures?
That’s right. Marvel enlisted writer Jim Shooter and artist Mike Zeck, two of the very best the company had at the time, to basically write one big toy ad for Mattel. Not to mention all the stuff that Shooter had to jump through in order to get the story to match Mattel’s vision for the line. Shooter wasn’t even supposed write until he realized that he was the only one who could make sure all the demands of Mattel would be met.
You would think that this would have been a disaster from the onset. A toy company telling a publisher what and how to write a story in order to sell toys doesn’t exactly sound like a great way to craft a comic book tale. And for some, it wouldn’t be, except Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck made the series work by crafting a sprawling crossover that was entertaining and interesting. I’m not saying it was the smartest or most innovative story, but with Shooter and Zeck staring down the barrel of Mattel’s smoking toy gun, it was impressive that Shooter declined to just make everyone fight for 12-issues. Instead he built a story that had it’s fair share of true super hero moments mixed defining character moments. With Zeck’s pencils bringing the heroes and the world around them to life, the series would become a Marvel classic.
With Marvel announcing a new Jonathan Hickman penned Secret Wars event starting in May, I wanted to touch on some of the key moments of the original series. Though the new series looks to have major changes in store for the current Marvel U, some of the same concepts, like Battleworld, are still being used and gives me opportunity to look back on some of my favorite moments of Marvel’s first 12-issue mega event.
[Editor’s Note: Though not Marvel’s first “event” book, that distinction belongs to 1982’s 3-issue series Contest of Champions, it could be said it was the fist major comic book event as it predated DC’s massive crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths which was published in 1985, while Secret Wars was sent to stands in 1984]
One of my favorite parts of Secret Wars had to be the covers. They told the story before you ever opened the book. They were gorgeous to look at and were well organized. The duo of Zeck and Bob Layton Sr. used a combination of fighting, character concentration, and story moments to craft 12 unique covers that made the event pop off the spinner rack. They are truly great to look at and embodied the excitement that a big comic book event should have. In a day and age that covers don’t necessarily tell you what to expect from the story inside, Secret Wars’ covers told you what to expect on the inside and made you want to find out how the actions on the cover transpired. Below are some of my favorite covers from the series:
How to Use Science to Remove a Mountain…Sitting on Top of You
One of the most iconic moments during Secret Wars is when the Molecule Man, after a sneak attack by Doom and the villains, dumps in an entire mountain on our heroes. You know? Cool comic book stuff.
[Editor’s Note: Iron Man is not Tony Stark in Secret Wars. James Rhodes, our favorite War Machine, had taken over for Stark after he relapsed back into alcoholism. James pretty much hit on Ms. Marvel the whole series to the point where you just wanted to scream, “James…she just isn’t in to you. Quit being such a creeper!”]
So how does our heroes survive? The Hulk holding up the mountain while Reed Richards used science to blast them out.
With the Hulk struggling to hold this massive landmass up in order to save his comrades, Richards takes Spider-Man’s web shooters, some of Hawkeye’s trick areas, Iron Man’s armor, and the powers of Captain Marvel (now Monica Rambeau) and the Human Torch to make a weapon powerful enough to bust through the mountain.
Not to mention he busts out some psychological genius by basically calling The Hulk a complaining whiner and making him angry, thus increasing his strength.
Great job, Stretch!
Spider-Man Whipping the X-Men
The X-Men was treated like outcasts during the first half of the series which drives them to defect to Magneto’s fortress and to create an all-mutant force. Spider-Man overhears their plans and goes on the attack. Spider-Man uses all his enhanced abilities to defeat the Merry Mutants all by his lonesome. And then Professor Xavier wipes his memory before he can tell Reed Richards of their plan to join Mags. Kitty Pryde was right, Professor X is a jerk.
Some comic book fans have problems with Spidey winning this battle, but I thought it was pretty cool to show how awesome Spider-Man is and give him his moment in the spotlight.
The Wasp Playing Old Mags
During all the fighting, Magneto decides he doesn’t want to team with a bunch of heroes that look at him only as a villain (shocker) and takes off with a captured Wasp in tow. He ends up being quite the gentlemen and seems to strike up a romance with the Avenger.
He even goes so far as to pull the metal out of the air to create an accessory to hold her hair in to place. Such a sweet psychotic mutant Magneto is.
But Wasp was playing him the entire time so she could find out what he was truly up to. And once she finds out that Magneto and his former foes the X-Men was joining forces, she whips the X-Men (Wait…AGAIN!? I mean Spider-Man is one thing, but the WASP?! Ouch.) and escapes to warn her fellow heroes of the alliance.
Magneto must have fell for her magnetic personality (Yep. I went there.)
Thor Playing In a Massive Thunderstorm
One of the cool character moments in the series is Thor having fun playing around in a violent storm. It’s just one of those moments that stuck with me from the first read through. Part of it is the wild-eyed enthusiasm that Zeck drew him while he is crushing massive boulders and standing in defiance against the storm.
Spider-Man, Meet Your Symbiotic Frienemy!
One of the major character changes coming out of the series was Spider-Man getting a new costume of alien origin. After all this battling the bad guys stuff, Spider-Man’s classic red and blues are a bit tattered. He finds Thor and Hulk walking out of a room and Thor sporting a new cap and helmet, his originals both lost during the intense battles being waged. He informs Spidey that there is a machine that will make new threads for him. He finds it basically makes items by just thinking into it. He puts his head under the apparatus and a small black ball pops up. Spider-Man looking perplexed and defeated by the machine not providing him a new costume, is seemingly attacked by the black glob. He is quickly covered by the mysterious substance and discovers that he has been covered head to toe in a black and white costume. After questioning why the suit came out in that color scheme, he is quickly called off to battle next battle and goes with the new look.
Of course, this new “costume” is alive and would ultimately try and take over our hero to do it’s bidding. After an extended run with the costume back on Earth, Peter rids himself of the costume after it changes upbeat attitude to a more dangerous and violent one in an attempt to get Peter to do it’s bidding. This leads to the symbiotic being latching itself to Eddie Brock and becoming one of Spider-Man’s most dangerous foes, the blood-thirsty Venom!
Colossus Betraying Fan Favorite Kitty Pryde
When the X-Men was taken from Earth to Battleworld, Kitty Pryde was not there to be transported with the rest of her teammates. One of the X-Men that was included was her boyfriend, Colossus. The big lovable Russian was head-over-heels in love with Kitty, or at least we thought he was.
After escaping the from underneath the mountain, the heroes venture upon a small village that was taken to help build Battleworld. This s where we meet the cat-eyed alien temptress, Zsaji. Having healing powers, she uses them to take care of the injured heroes and later using them on Colossus after he is struck by The Wreckers’s crowbar in the ribs. After then healing, Colossus finds himself attracted to the Zsaji and finds himself at odds: Do I go for Zsaji or stay true to Kitty? We later find out from Wolverine that her healing powers make men go doe eyed over her, which explains her make out session with Johnny Storm after he was healed earlier in the series.
Colossus decides he will journey down the path to becoming a cheating jerk. We hate you Colossus. We hate you so much.
Doom Becoming All Powerful…And Then Losing His Mind.
After defeating Galactus by syphoning his power right when he was about to devour Battleworld, Doom becomes powerful enough to take on the Beyonder. After a back and forth battle, Doom comes out victorious. He grows to be a giant to show the heroes he has indeed won (of course he does), then shrinks down and takes his mask off to reveal that his face is unscarred once again. He tells the heroes he is a changed man (of course he does) and then destroys them without as much as having them over for tea in his new castle.
Of course, everything unravels due to Doom not being able to control his new found power. He has achieved an almost god-like status and when you are that powerful even a stray thought can be devastating. After pushing the execute button on our heroes, he falls to sleep and accidentally brings them back to life. Which spells doom for, well, Doom (Sorry. Couldn’t help myself on that one).
He gives a bit of power to Klaw, which may be the best henchman ever, to help fight off the heroes’ last ditch effort to defeat him. Captain America is vaporized by Doom after he reaches the throne room, comes back to life, vaporized again, and, you guessed it, returns again.
This is all caused by Doom completely losing his grip on the Beyonder’s power, and he eventually collapses without Captain America even touching him. Doom then attempts to relinquish the power to Cap after he implores Doom to let him help, only to see the Beyonder take his power back after it’s revealed he has been hanging out in Klaw this whole time.
In short, Jim Shooter is awesome.
Captain America Having a Captain America Moment
When Doom thought he destroyed the heroes, he also cracked Cap’s shield. After he defeated Doom, Cap was left without his trusty weapon of choice. Then he hits you right in the feels when he does this:
And that is why we love you dear Captain.
If you want to read more about Marvel’s Secret Wars, you can check this really cool article out. I will be doing some articles concentrating on the events that may have led to Marvel’s new Secret Wars event by trying to read two years worth of comics in ONE MONTH! If you can’t tell, I’m pretty stoked for this event!
Until next time True Believers!
[All images in this post are property of Marvel Comics]