To a 10 year old Jimmy Impossible, Secret Wars was right in his wheel house. For one full year the best heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe would be together every month bashing skulls, having mountains dropped on them and bowing before Doom. Though the tie-ins were subtle, this was really the first huge company wide event at either of the Big Two. (sequart.org has a nice article comparing Secret Wars, Secret Wars II and Crisis on Infinite Earths and which is responsible for the rise of the endless Events that I keep getting suckered into, which seems like every few months.)
One of the biggest parts of Secret Wars, and in fact the reason for it’s existence, was a promotion for a toy line from Mattel.
The figures were perfect. Their superior sculpting and paint jobs put the Marvel Universe right in your grubby little adolescent hands. How many hours were wasted driving Captain America around in his Turbo Cycle only to have him captured and imprisoned in the jail cell of the Tower of Doom play-set?
(A notable aside, though Hobgoblin, Baron Zemo, Daredevil and Falcon figures were released as part of the set, none of them actually appear in the Secret Wars limited Series. Also, though the Iron Man figure could be anyone, the packaging clearly shows him to be Tony Stark, while at the time James Rhodes was filling in for Tony as he was trying to Leaving Las Vegas himself. For more interesting facts on the toy line have a read through The Ultimate Guide to Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.)
While the comic and toy line would prove immensely popular, and story line repercussions would be felt for years to come, there is no doubt about the greatest thing to come out of any of this:
When his costume is destroyed in battle, Spider-Man uses some Beyonder approved alien technology and creates himself a new one. Influenced visually by the new Spider-Woman’s outfit, gone are the familiar red, blue and webs and enter the soon to be infamous black and white. Changing Spider-Man’s iconic costume after 20+ years was a huge gamble for Marvel, but it paid off. The suit was a huge success. Where comic writers and artists like Tom DeFalco, Louise Simonson, David Michelinie and Todd MacFarlane would take the story of this new “shape shifting” suit would become the stuff of Marvel lore and lead to the creation of one of their most popular characters of the last 25 years: Venom.
Oh, and if you are not Tom Kelly and love nostalgia…and also have money to burn, you can pick up a 12” Replica of the Black Costume Secret Wars Spider-Man figure.
Of course, for all great things there must come a sequel. And 400 tie-ins. And a Jheri curl.
There’s no doubt Secret Wars 2 had it’s problems, the least of which was the Beyonder’s choice of humanoid appearance. But for all it’s faults, it still holds a place in my heart as the first crossover event that had you jumping on your bike and going from store to store looking for that next tie-in issue and hoping you had enough allowance left when you did find it.
IGN has recently posted a very good History of Marvel’s Secret Wars including the not related but confusingly titled Secret War. One omission to their timeline is a 1988 story in Fantastic Four #319 titled “Secret Wars 3” that features the FF, Doctor Doom and the Beyonder. I would tell you what it is about but it has probably been since 1988 that I read the issue and when I just tried to read the synopsis at Marvel.com, I think I had an aneurysm.
If you follow comic news at all, or are an avid reader of gabbinggeek.com (and why wouldn’t you be?), you know that later this year Marvel is resurrecting the Secret Wars brand. But this time the scope is huge. This isn’t just the Beyonder showing up, we have a few crossover issues, heroes win, everything goes back to normal. According to Marvel, this is the end of the 1961 Stan Lee created Marvel Universe as we know it. As Secret Wars draws to a close, we will have a new Marvel Universe that is not only an amalgam of the current and Ultimate Marvel universe, but will also contain remnants from alternate timelines and major events from the last 54 years.
In fact, the Marvel Universe as we know it will come to an end as Secret Wars begins. All that will remain is Battleworld. Sound familiar? It shares it’s name with the planet the Beyonder created in the original Secret Wars. However, this one is made up of 44 zones, each representing a previous Marvel alternate timeline, universe-wide event, the current Marvel universe and the Ultimate Universe. Comics Alliance has a copy of the official map of Battleworld and a synopsis of each zone and guesses as to what the as yet revealed zones may be.
In addition to the core series, the remaining Marvel books will come in three flavors:
“Last Days” stories, which will focus on Marvel characters living out their last days before the onset of “Secret Wars.” They’ll answer the age-old question: What would you do if you knew it was your last day on Earth?
“Battleworld” stories deal with the inner-workings of Battleworld — the rules of Battleworld: how it functions, how it’s governed, how the different territories interact. Some stories deal with one territory, some with multiple territories.
“Warzones” stories are set within an individual zone or examine the relationship between two zones that border one another. These are events within the event, stories that tap into some of the biggest stories in Marvel history or completely new concepts, all set here and now in what has become the Marvel Universe. And all of them will bring something new into the Marvel Universe.
If you are looking to spend all your monies, Jonathon Hickman’s entire Avengers run beginning in 2013 can be seen as a precursor to Secret Wars as it sets up the dynamic of the incursions and the multiverse smashing together. For completists, the first official branded Secret Wars issue was last weeks Avengers #40. If you are a bit more conservative and would like a free taste of this event before committing, Marvel has announced two issues to come out on Free Comic Book Day – May 2nd. First is Secret Wars #0, will offer a prologue to, well, Secret Wars. And secondly All-New, All-Different Avengers (a name taking its cue from the 1975 X-Men relaunch that would set the mutants on the path of popularity they still have today) which promises a look into the Marvel Universe post Secret Wars.
Much like two volcano inspired or two asteroid related movies coming out at generally the same time, another interesting aspect of Secret Wars is the timing of its release and the similarities it shares with DC’s big upcoming event Convergence. Both events involve multiverses and events from previous timelines being mashed together in some shape or form. Bleedingcool covers this nicely and at the end of the day the biggest difference is that once Secret Wars is over, the Marvel Universe will be entirely different going forward, but there will be little or no ramifications for DC from Convergence. They will go back to the New 52 with things being status quo. Or so they say…