Comic Book / Secret Wars (1984)
aka: Secret Wars

Secret Wars is a twelve-issue comic book Crisis Crossover limited series published from May 1984 to April 1985 by Marvel Comics.

Originally envisioned to promote a new line of action figures, the series features a huge war between the greatest heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe. And Bulldozer.

A nearly omnipotent Cosmic Entity by the name of The Beyonder, fascinated by the presence of superheroes on Earth and their potential, chooses groups of both heroes and supervillains and teleports them against their will to "Battleworld", a planet created by him in a distant galaxy, stocked with alien weapons, technology and mismatched parts from different worlds. He tells them to kill each other, and, to the victor, his greatest desire will be granted. His purpose is to understand the (to him) alien concept of "desire".

The heroes include the Fantastic Four (minus Sue Storm, who was pregnant at the time), The Mighty Thor, the Jim Rhodes version of Iron Man, the Monica Rambeau version of Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, Spider-Man, Hulk, Hawkeye, Captain America and The Wasp, with the second Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter) showing up several issues in (in her first appearance). Members of the X-Men (Professor X, Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Rogue, and Lockheed The Dragon) split off from the main heroic team and act as a separate faction for much of the book. Magneto, buffing up his Anti-Villain credentials, also does his own thing for awhile before joining with his fellow mutants.

Villains include Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, Klaw, Ultron, The Lizard, The Wrecking Crew, The Enchantress, Kang The Conqueror, Molecule Man, The Absorbing Man, and new villains Titania and Volcana. Galactus The Planet Eater is also there acting as his own non-allied entity.

So, as you might guess, new friends are made, old alliances are tested, complicated intrigues are formulated, and in the end, everyone gets home without anyone dying, though Spidey gets a shiny new black costume inspired by Spider-Woman's (which would later become the Venom symbiote), She-Hulk replaces The Thing in the Fantastic Four (who stays behind after he finds he can revert to human form on the Battleworld), Volcana hooks up with Molecule Man, and Colossus gets Strangled by the Red String to an alien healer, causing him to break up with Kitty Pryde. The toy line sold poorly, but the comics sold well, and the whole thing was continued the next year in Secret Wars II in which the Beyonder came to Earth and tried becoming human. This series was seen by some as a Self-Insert Fic by Jim Shooter (writer of both series and current Editor in Chief of Marvel at the time), and as a Spiritual Successor of The Korvac Saga, also written by Shooter.

The Beyonder got retconned into a delusional lesser cosmic being in a Fantastic Four story years later, in what was apparently a Take That! at Shooter. Steve Englehart, FF writer at the time, reported that this was editorial interference.

There was a miniseries in the 2000s titled Secret War (singular) but it had nothing to do with the first two. Instead, it was about superspy Nick Fury getting some heroes to help him track the source of supervillain technology (which turned out to be Lucia Von Bardas), and ended with Fury being removed as leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. for acting without permission. Notably, this was one of the stories that helped kick off the Civil War.

There was also a miniseries entitled "Beyond!" in which the events of the first series seemed to be playing all over again, with a reduced cast of heroes and villains. It was finally revealed not to be the Beyonder, but The Stranger pretending for "research purposes".

In 2015, a new Secret Wars storyline was released, coming off of the events being showcased in Jonathan Hickman's Avengers which brought all of the Marvel Multiverse to a close — and after this, a full-scale Continuity Reboot ensued (though characters retained their memories from before the multiversal merging). Amusingly enough, one title involved in the event is in itself a retelling of this story — but with Deadpool involved, Retconning the entire story so that he was there the whole time, but nobody knew about it.

In 2015, Graphic Audio did an adaptation of the novelization of the original mini-series.

A pared down version of the first Secret Wars was adapted for the final season of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, reducing the number of characters involved and making Spider-Man the leader of the forces of good rather than Captain America. It was well-received and is considered one of the greatest episode arcs of the show.

Secret Wars provides example of:

  • The '80s: Oh YES. Most noticeable when Johnny Storm tries to woo Zsaji by singing lyrics to Michael Jackson and Culture Club songs.
  • Adventure-Friendly World: Multiple characters note little things about how the world is ideal for their powers and methods. Spider-Man has plenty of stuff to attach his webs to. Storm notes the air is "thick but easy to control" making it even easier to fly on. The heroes are provided with conveniently humane prison cells. Etc.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: In the first issue, Ultron picks a fight with Galactus. It doesn't go well for him.
  • Anti-Villain / Anti-Hero (Type IV): While this might not be Magneto's most heroic period (he's very conniving in the early issues), it's certainly his most publicly heroic period. To wit:
    • When the heroes and villains are first gathered by the Beyonder, Magneto is sorted with the heroes. The Beyonder classified them due to their desires, and Magneto's goal of mutant supremacy was more noble than the other villains' desires of personal power and wealth.
    • During the last few issues, he accepts Captain America's leadership and fights alongside the heroes without hesitation.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Molecule Man. Up till this point, he made very limited application of his powers and believed he was limited to inorganic matter and was very meek and submissive. Over the course of Secret Wars I and II, he first learns that he is capable of affecting all matter on any scale and slowly overcomes his meekness to the point that he goes toe to toe with the Beyonder in the second book having accepted that he's the second most powerful being in the universe.

    It should be pointed out that early in the series, before he gets starts getting more powerful and confident, he is able to casually drop a mountain on the heroes without so much as breaking a sweat. Followed not too long after that by ripping an even larger chunk of the planet's crust (over 2 billion tons of matter) and sweeping it up into almost the vacuum of space with all the heroes on it because he was angry at Doom who had just gained the Beyonder's powers and wanted to get everyone else out of his way and he did it just as casually as waving a hand. That being just before Doom uses the Beyonder's powers to remove Molecule Man's self-imposed limitations.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Although the characters don't realize it, Battleworld was granting their wishes all along. This is why both Colossus and The Human Torch find "the perfect girlfriend" (Zsaji) and The Thing can change back to human.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Owen Reece is the nicest guy on the villains side. A complete milquetoast and very sensitive. He also drops an entire mountain range on the heroes with the flick of his wrist. Even the Hulk with all his might could only hold open a pocket under the mountain range and Thor, who was hammering with all his might from the surface, could only be heard as a faint tapping by the heroes trapped beneath. As we see later, when he doesn't hold himself back, Owen Reece is potentially more powerful than Galactus. Let's put it another way: Doom, who treats the rest of the villains as his servants, is actually nice to Owen. It has the others scratching their heads until Owen first demonstrates his power.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Wolverine says he doesn't really blame Colossus for following his heart, but that he needs to realize that his love for Zsaji is probably an effect of her powers and that "love" as a concept might not mean the same thing to an alien like her as it does to Peter.
  • Brought Down to Normal: The Thing, twice, involuntarily. Once he figures out he can turn between human and rocky orange at will, he decides to stay behind for a while.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Even after being firsthand witnesses of what Molecule Man can do, the Wrecking Crew still feel the need to push him around when he's with Volcana, because he's just that meek. Doesn't take too long for Owen to remind them, let's just say, why he's in Doom's good graces and they're not.
  • C-List Fodder: Surprisingly averted. The Wasp gets shot through the heart at one point, and Doom offs a couple of minor villains out of pique, but in the end they're Only Mostly Dead.
  • Co-Dragons: Once Doom has firmly established himself as the villains' leader, Ultron and Doctor Octopus share this role. Ultron has been reprogrammed to be Doom's loyal enforcer and bodyguard, while Octopus is pretty much the only one on Doom's intellectual level who can scheme with him. Once Octopus leaves the planet with most of the villains, Doom replaces him with Klaw, who basically just acts as a sounding board.
  • Conflict Ball: Hawkeye and the Torch act suspicious towards the X-Men for much of the series, despite having worked with them before. Anti-mutant bias makes little sense for either of them since Johnny's nephew is a mutant and Clint was in love with one (the Scarlet Witch).
  • Continuity Snarl: Doctor Doom was dead at the time of this series, but was too big a baddie to be left out. The Fantastic Four comic spent much of the next year unraveling how Doom could be present for the Wars while dead.
  • Convection Schmonvection: When the Human Torch uses his "nova flame" to take out Ultron, it burns so hot that it melts clean through the surrounding solid-metal walls and floor. When the smoke clears, Captain America, who was standing a few yards away and protected only by huddling his upper body behind his shield, is perfectly unharmed. Apparently, his body's melting point is a lot higher than that of whatever alien metal was used to build Doombase.
  • Crisis Crossover: Though the whole story was presented in its own mini-series.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Spider-Man using his vastly superior agility, reaction-time, and combat experience to take out Titania. She not only never lands a punch on him, but he takes his time while delivering her beat down, all the while delivering a classic "The Reason You Suck" Speech. It makes her fearful of Spider-Man for years, despite the fact that she is much, much stronger and Nigh Invulnerable.
    • Earlier, She-Hulk breaks into Doombase alone, to take revenge for the Wasp (supposed dead at the time). She briefly holds her own against the Wrecking Crew, but the addition of Titania, Doc Ock, and the Absorbing Man to the fight results in them beating her nearly to death. The pummeling she takes verges on Nightmare Fuel.
    • Even earlier, Spider-Man comes upon the X-Men plotting to join Magneto, he proceeds to wail on them and easily beats down Wolverine, Rogue, Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus before getting mindwiped by Xavier.
    • At the very start Ultron tries to kill the other super-villains because they're alive and he has no interest in working with them. Doom realizes Ultron can curb-stomp almost all of them, so he tells the Molecule Man to toss Ultron at Galactus. This gets Galactus's attention. Ultron makes to fight Galactus, who curb-stomps him by simply drawing all the energy from the nuclear reactor that powers him. Then Galactus approaches the Beyonder to demand that the Beyonder eliminate his hunger, but the Beyonder curb-stomps him.
  • David vs. Goliath: Dr. Doom versus the Beyonder.
    Dr. Doom: True. He is Goliath... and I am David. David had a sling, and knew a weakness of his foe that he may exploit!
  • Disaster Democracy
  • Double Standard: When gathering bad guys, the Beyonder was apparently only able to find one A-list villainess, the Enchantress. Doctor Doom later rectifies this by empowering two civilians into Titania and Volcana. Why the Beyonder didn't consider X-Men villains Mystique, Emma Frost (this was years before her Heel–Face Turn), or Selene is anyone's guess.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Spidey gets a new black costume, later revealed to be alive. Although, at first, the "Black Costume is Evil/Alive" wasn't introduced at the time, and that the black costume was just introduced as a new costume for Spidey.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Doom builds himself a 200-mile high tower made of golden stone as his temporary quarters, and invites the heroes to meet with him.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Colossus once exclaims "Lenin's beard!"
  • I Broke a Nail: Wasp
  • Idiot Ball:
    • After Doctor Doom gains the power of the Beyonder making him capable of anything. However, if he falls asleep and dreams then he is at risk of the power going out of control and granting his subconscious desires, whether it be destroying solar systems or resurrecting dead heroes. He's shown using the power to rejuvenate himself and eliminate the need for him to sleep temporarily. Why would he not just alter his body so as to eliminate the need for sleep permanently, so he wouldn't need to remember to rejuvenate himself every sixteen hours or so?
    • Johnny and Hawkeye are uncharacteristically antagonistic towards the X-Men because they're mutants, even though they've both worked with the X-Men and other mutants multiple times in the past. Hell, Johnny's nephew is a mutant and Clint was in love with one (the Scarlet Witch).
    • The X-Men deciding that they aren't welcome or they are in danger from the other heroes and leaving the heroes under-powered for when the villains attack the next morning. Professor Xavier could have simply read the other heroes' intentions or used his powers to convince them the X-Men were no threat before deciding to leave and take their chances with Magneto.
  • Inspirational Insult: While the Hulk is holding a 150 billion ton mountain up so the rest of the team can survive, when he starts getting fatigued Reed Richards insults him, angering him to increase his strength while also inspiring him to hold the mountain up a while longer. Hulk calls Reed out on this later.
  • Kill 'em All: Doom attempts this with the heroes after achieving omnipotence. It fails because of an unconscious desire of Doom to keep them alive, as much as he may deny it.
  • Load-Bearing Hero: The Hulk holding up a mountain range.
  • Mass Resurrection:
    • Doctor Doom steals the Beyonder's power and kills all the heroes. His lackey Klaw (who secretly is possessed by the Beyonder at the time) talks Doom into thinking about the heroes reviving & attacking, and given that the Beyonder had Reality Warper powers which Doom stole this becomes true.
    • In the second series the Beyonder killed and later resurrected the New Mutants.
  • Merchandise-Driven
    • The whole series was conceived to promote Mattel's line of Marvel action figures. Certain plot points were even influenced by requests from the toy execs, such as Doctor Doom's armor becoming damaged and rebuilt to better resemble his action figure. This was due to the fact that the toy company felt Doom's classic look was too medieval, and wanted to give him a more futuristic suit for the toy line.
    • Oddly, the toy line bore almost no resemblance to the comic. There were only four heroes and four villains (including Kang, who dies early in the series, and Magneto, who's a hero in the comics) in the first set of toys, and each had a shield supposedly used to send secret messages (only Captain America had a shield in the comics, and it was his usual, non-message-sending one). The second set of toys added characters who weren't even in the comic (The Falcon, Daredevil, Baron Zemo, etc.), with the third line (only released outside the U.S.) adding even more toy-exclusive characters like Iceman and Electro.
    • Funnily enough, there's now a current series of toys involving reprints of Secret Wars and Secret Wars II, which has fewer "continuity" problems than the original toy line.
  • Missing Main Character: During the event in Marvel Comics, the main heroes went missing in their own books, usually for one issue, with supporting characters looking for them. One example included Spider-Man disappearing and his then-girlfriend Black Cat going to Doctor Strange for help.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Volcana asks Dr. Octopus to help Molecule Man (who had been gravely injured by Wolverine) because he's a "Doctor". He immediately points out that he has a doctorate in nuclear physics.
  • The Omnipotent:
    • The Beyonder (almost) and Doom once he steals the Beyonder's power. Though his mortal mind can't handle it.
    • Owen Reece is also basically this once Doom reveals to him that he's been holding himself back. In the sequel he goes toe-to-toe with the Beyonder.
  • Original Generation: The Beyonder, Titania and Volcana (the latter of whom would later pull a Heel–Face Turn).
  • Patchwork World: Battleworld itself.
  • Pivotal Wake-up: Galactus.
  • Plot Hole: A retroactive one at least. When Spider-Man gets his new black symbiote costume he celebrates by playfully squirting the Human Torch in the face with the costume's built-in web shooters, and the Human Torch comments that this new stuff is "even harder to burn off than your old webbing!" However, later comics established that A) the "webbing" created by the symbiotes are actually cast off pieces of the symbiotes themselves made to look like webs, and B) symbiotes are weak against fire. Given that, logically Spidey's new webbing should be easier for Torch to burn off, not harder. This is probably because of the "wish field" that the planet turns out to be covered in.
  • Power Parasite: Doctor Doom steals Beyonder's ability here. But he starts with an appetizer consisting of all of Galactus' power.
  • Reality Warping Is Not a Toy: Doom's subconscious is eventually his undoing after acquiring the ability to alter reality. Which is kind of odd, since the Molecule Man, with almost the same power level and abilities doesn't seem to have this problem.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Spider Man verbally eviscerates Titania. It's brutal to read but well deserved, especially since Titania had just delivered an awful beat down of She-Hulk.
    Spider-Man: You ought to be happy, cuddles! You aspired to be a bully, and, man, you're a classic! You talk tough and nasty when you've got the upper hand — but when you're losing — well, that's when the whining little wimp-ette inside comes spilling out!
    [throws Titania through a wall]
  • Red Skies Crossover: Of the Unbuilt Trope variety. The crossover never affected the character's books. At most, the characters just poofed away for a few panels and came back when it was done.
  • Retcon: Deadpool's Secret Secret Wars from the Secret Wars (2015) storyline retells the mini-series but with Deadpool in it. And this is actually canon and explains things that didn't jive well with things in the story or later on in comics. But why doesn't everyone remember Deadpool's involvement (other than him only being created seven years after the event)? The Wasp wished so hard to forget Deadpool existed, either out of disgust after seeing his cancer-ridden body or shame for her reaction, that everyone forgot.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
    • Molecule Man, once his mental blocks are removed by Doom, decides to just take any villain who wants to go back to Earth.
    • Also early on, when most of the heroes (mainly the Avengers) keep throwing Magneto's villainous deeds in his face, he gets fed up with the treatment and leaves them to start an independent front.
  • Spiritual Successor: Secret Wars is considered an expanded version of The Korvac Saga, also written by Shooter.
  • Squishy Wizard: The Molecule Man, at least until he discovers his full potential. For example, he is able to drop an entire mountain range that dwarfs the Appalachians on the heroes with no effort, but is dropped by a single stab from Wolverine who had spent most of the series to this point getting swatted around by lesser villains.
  • The Starscream: Kang, being so similar to Doom, was this at the very beginning. His first action being to attempt to kill Doom by shooting down his craft. Doom repays the favor the next time they meet by ordering Ultron to destroy him. He eventually recovers.
  • Throw-Away Country: The galaxy destroyed by the Beyonder at the beginning of the crossover series. Molecule Man is shown having actually reconstructed all the stars in the galaxy while flying the Denver Suburb back to Earth as practice after Doom uses the Beyonder's power to remove his mental blocks. The revelation causes Dr. Octopus to go nuts and try to kill him.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Magneto, who is thrown in with the heroes.
  • Token Good Teammate: While Galactus is more indifferent to good and evil, the real token good on the villains side is Molecule Man who is trying to reform at the time.
  • Token Minority Couple: Averted. Rhodes!Iron Man tried flirting with Rambeau!Captain Marvel, but she could tell there was someone different under the armor, and wasn't quite as impressed with the new guy.
  • Totally Radical: Some of the dialogue. She-Hulk actually says "TO THE MAX!" at one point.
  • Tournament Arc: Essentially what the mini-series was at first. The Beyonder made a team of the best heroes and villains in the Marvel universe at the time and created Battleworld for them to fight and told them "slay your enemies and all that you desire shall be yours! Nothing you dream of is impossible for me to accomplish!" Some were intrigued by the idea and went along with it, but others like Doom were aware there was more going on or just wanted to go home.
  • What If?:
    • There was a What If? where Doctor Doom kept the Beyonder's power and proceeds to turn the world into a utopia, free his mother's soul, acquire the Infinity Gauntlet, and defeat every major race and god-like entity in the Marvel Universe.
    • What If? v2 #114 told the story of what would have happened had the heroes never gotten home. Notably:
      • Rogue was permanently consumed by the personality she'd absorbed from Carol Danvers.
      • Spidey and the Symbiote are now one, to the point that when the Symbiote is hit by a sonic attack, there's nothing left of Peter underneath but his skeleton.
      • Professor Xavier now wears an upgraded Iron Man suit to protect his health and allow him to walk.
      • Several characters, including Magneto, James Rhodes, and Reed Richards, have died in the twenty-five year interim.
      • The Hulk disappears, becoming something of a bogeyman.
      • There are kids, who have powers based on a combination of both parents'. The good kids are Crusader (Cap and Rogue/Carol), Bravado (Thor and Enchantress), Mustang (Hawkeye and She-Hulk), Firefly (Human Torch and Wasp), and Torrent (Wolverine and Storm). The bad kids are Malefactor (Dr. Doom and Enchantress), Chokehold (Absorbing Man and Titania), Moleculon (Molecule Man and Volcana), Gator (Lizard and... someone), and Raze (Wrecker and an unidentified woman).
  • Wild Card:
    • Magneto throughout, and Galactus to a certain extent.
    • The Lizard was mostly there by accident, and doesn't seem to have any allegiance to anyone, save Wasp, who bandaged up his injuries.
    • Galactus is simply above it all. From his perspective, he's been transported by a superior alien being to a new world alongside some rodents, insects, and a couple of chimps (Reed and Doom) so he spends most of the series ignoring them and trying to engage the alien.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Spider-Man has no qualms about beating the crap out of Titania.
  • X-Ray Sparks: When Galactus begins consuming Battleworld, the effect puts this into play and causes only the skeletons of everyone to be visible. However, he's stopped before he can carry it out and everything returns to normal.

Alternative Title(s): Secret Wars