Secret Wars (Mattel)

In 1984, Marvel Comics began its legendary Secret Wars limited series. Destined to stretch across the entire year in 12 monthly installments, this limited series was to set the stage for several future "crossovers" and special events. The series drew together heroes and villains from the far reaches of the Marvel Universe. Most fans either loved or hated this new experiment; few were ambivalent.

Secret Wars was not Marvel's first effort in the realm of the limited series crossover. In 1982, Marvel introduced Marvel Super Heroes Contest of Champions. While the relative merits of the two series are certainly debatable, the release of Secret Wars in May of 1984 was extremely well-received by comic buyers. Each issue sold nearly three quarters of a million copies. Written by then Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter, Secret Wars was an event that helped to define the direction of the Marvel Universe for years to come.

Action figures were certainly the most prominent promotional items that sprung from the Secret Wars franchise. When people think of Secret Wars merchandise, this is most often what they think of. Interestingly, it was the toys that inspired everything else. According to former Marvel Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter, Mattel came to Marvel with the title "Secret Wars." Thus, comic series was born. And with it came these memorable Marvel figures.

The figures were Marvel's answer to Kenner's DC Super Powers line also launched in 1984. The Secret Wars figures were articulated only at the shoulders, hips and neck and had no special "action feature" (Super Powers figures had both knee joints and built in action features).

All figures came with "Secret Shields." The Heroes came with round shields and the Villains came with square shields. These shields came with a series of two-sided inserts that changed the scene when tilted. With a few notable exceptions, the most figures came with few other accessories and the accessories that were present (e.g., guns) were reused frequently.

Not Shown - Marvel Super Heroes 3-Pack with Captain America, Spider-Man and Iron Man, and Marvel Super Villains 3-Pack with Doctor Doom, Magneto and Kang

Many action figure lines are accompanied by vehicles, playsets and other accessories for use with the figures themselves. The Secret Wars line was no exception. However, there is one aspect that set these accessories apart: Some of them actually came with figures included! Not all of them, mind you. But in these days of increasing marketing pressure, the absence of the "Figures Not Included" caveat on the package is truly unique.

Despite the series shortcomings, Secret Wars remains a fan favorite, and in 1984, they were the only game in town for Marvel Comic fanatics. While many of these figures were destined for better versions in later lines, the Secret Wars figures represent a nostalgic era for Marvel toys. It was the first real marriage of Marvel comics and toys. Not too shabby.

While the series didn't last too long, Marvel would once again use the "Secret Wars" banner for a follow up story arch the following year. Though, many fans agree that it is not as impressive as the initial mini-series, and didn't pack as hard a punch - Mainly due to the poor writing.

***SIDE NOTE*** Secret Wars (the original mini-series) number 8 was the first issue that Spider-Man received his black "symbiote" costume.

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