Technically this was the first event. A book designed only to sell toys. But, it’s endured nonetheless as a beloved story. Is the love due?
Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars (1984, 12 issues)
Plot: A mysterious being known as The Beyonder summons the greatest heroes and villains of the universe to a mysterious planet with the command to fight to the death. Fighting ensues. Lots of it.
Background: Mattel wanted a hot toy line and asked Marvel to do a big epic event they could tie-in to. This was focus grouped right down to the name, to be clear. Everything from the new fortresses to the new weapons was developed for the toys. I’ve seen worse reasons but…
Story: This is such a transparent toy ad it’s a testament to Jim Shooter’s skill as a writer it’s this beloved. Shooter fills it with strong character beats and makes the story move. If you’re a Doctor Doom fan then this is one of his great stories. It’s also fun studying where the anti-heroes fall. That said, this is almost gratingly a toy ad. The strong writing can’t overcome a toxic purpose I fear. This is not a good book. It’s not awful but it’s not good.
Art: Can’t argue with Mike Zeck and Bob Layton. They’re greats. That said, this is a style of art that’s kind of just before me. It’s very grainy. That makes sense given the paper it was made for but it’s not for me. However, it’s strong. It looks good. Not my taste but not bad.
Does it stand alone? Oh yeah. This is a fully contained story that takes place between issues of the titles it’s drawing from. There are minor crossovers here and there but basically, this is it. And that is rather nice. You only need to know things like who Jim Rhodes is (which if you’re a movie fan you already do.)
Importance and Impact: Ah, things haven’t changed one bit. Really the aftermath of this is pretty similar to most events. There were a few new titles. Spider-Man got his cool black costume, which became the basis for Venom. Kitty Pryde and Colossus separated, a good idea as she was a CHILD in this age more or less… The Thing left the Fantastic Four. There were several sequels too including the future entry from 2015. All that said, it mattered. Not a ton but it definitely put a lot of new toys on the board.
Final Verdict: This is a minor event in my book. It’s certainly vital and you need to read it if you’re a Marvel fan but it feels like a lesser read. It’s more of a time capsule than it is a good story. If you can overlook that it’s written to sell something, you might like it more but it really did feel like what it was.
Bonus Material: The Spider-Man animated series from the 1990s did a modest adaptation that was severely hurt by budget. In 2015, we received a novelization by Alex Irvine and a Graphic Audio take. Both are throughly serviceable.
Next: The Death and Return of Superman (1992)