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 as 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
, The Incredible Hulk
, 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
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, not nearly (still more powerful than Earth's heroes, however) 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
will be released, coming off of the events being showcased in Avengers
and New Avengers
which will bring the original Marvel Universe to a close.
A pared down version of the first Secret Wars
was adapted for 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.
This Work Shows Examples Of The Following Tropes:
- Adventure-Friendly World / Benevolent Architecture: 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.
- Towards the end, when it looks like the world's tearing itself apart, Cap runs into the heroes' HQ to free captured villains from their cells, so they're not crushed to death. He learns this was also Magneto's first impulse.
- 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.
- Actually the Thing was revealed prior to that that he had already gained that ability but his belief that his girlfriend could only love him as the Thing had been the reason Reed's attempts at cures had been failing in recent years. Reed never told him (leading to a What the Hell, Hero? moment for Reed) and only the idea that they likely would never return to Earth broke down those limitations.
- 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 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, if 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.
- Christmas Rushed: Marvel's corporate offices ordered production on this series sped up so they could get it to stores before DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths. It shows in some of the dialogue and the ham-handed (in-story) way in which the various heroes and villains were shoe-horned into it.
- E.g., Doctor Doom was dead at the time, but appears here with no explanation, 'cause he's Marvel's biggest villain, darnit. John Byrne, writer of the Fantastic Four comic at the time, had to whistle up a complicated time-travel story in the following months to explain it.
- 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/Fantastic Racism: 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.
- Well, obviously. Mundane fire, no matter how hot, will never burn bright enough to melt AMERICA.
- 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 landed a punch on him, but he took his time while delivering her beat down, all the while delivering a classic "The Reason You Suck" Speech. It made 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 prepares to tail 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 Versus 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. (Marvel had a lack, at the time.) Doctor Doom later rectifies this by empowering two civilians into Titania and Volcana.
- 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.
- Genre Savvy: Doom seems to immediately realize the deck is stacked against him in the good vs. evil battle, and spends most of his time scheming to steal the Beyonder's power. Which he does, briefly.
- 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).
- 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, inspiring him to hold the mountain up a while longer. Hulk calls Reed out on this later.
- I Shall Taunt You: While the Hulk holds up the mountain to prevent the heroes from being crushed (see Load-Bearing Hero below), Reed Richards insults him so that anger will give him the extra strength to hang on.
- Load-Bearing Hero: The Hulk holding up a mountain range.
- 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.
- Not That Kind of Doctor: A fellow supervillain asks Dr. Octopus to help an injured colleague because he's a "Doctor," he points out that he has a doctorate in nuclear physics.
- Original Generation: The Beyonder
- 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.
- Power Parasite: Doctor Doom steals Beyonders' ability here.
- But he starts with an appertizer 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.
- "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*
- 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 back to Earth.
- 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 Eighties: Oh YES. Most noticeable when Johnny Storm tries to woo Zsaji by singing lyrics to Michael Jackson and Culture Club songs.
- 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.
- 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 Gets Better.
- Throw-Away Country: The galaxy destroyed by the Beyonder at the beginning of the crossover series.
- Token Evil Teammate: Magneto, who was thrown in with the heroes.
- 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
- Tweener: 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.
- 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).
- 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.