6 Jan 2011

The Secret Wars Project

By Matt C
Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars (to give it its full title) has its detractors and Secret Wars II appears to be generally frowned upon by all and sundry, but if you want a reason why my enjoyment of comics developed into a full blown passion, it can be found within the pages of these two series.

Like many Brits of my generation, my first exposure to American superheroes came from reprints of US comic books - Spider-Man Comics Weekly, which ran throughout the 1970s up to the mid-'80s, was something I picked up sporadically, no doubt pestering my parents for a copy every time we entered a newsagents. This introduced me to a bunch of Marvel characters beyond Spider-Man and Hulk (who also headlined when the series became Spider-Man & Hulk Weekly), and along with various other annuals and comics I found up here, there and everywhere I gained a familiarity with the majority of the big hitters in the Marvel Universe. Those rare instances when various characters met up were always a high point as I loved the notion of them all existing in the same world.

So, perhaps you can imagine my excitement when I spotted Secret Wars #8 (the UK version!) in a newsagent one summer holiday in 1985. Not only did it have the likes of Spider-Man and the Hulk, it also featured members of the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and the X-Men, all facing off against villains such as Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, the Wrecking Crew and some big chap in a funny helmet called Galactus. It was already partway through the story but as the UK reprints featured roughly a quarter to a third of the original content from the US issues(with an additional features in the back including Alpha Flight reprints and the Ice Man miniseries from the '80s) it wasn't too difficult to pick up what was going on - these heroes and villains had been transported to a faraway planet by some sort of omnipotent being to battle each other, the winners being granted their uttermost desires. It was like nothing I'd read before, and it was awesome.

I convinced my folks into allowing me to set up a standing order to get the comic on a weekly basis, and as such never missed an issue from there on in. When the Secret Wars storyline wrapped up in the UK, the series transformed into Secret Wars II, and I kept on picking it up week in, week out. As the US version of Secret Wars II was a massive crossover that encompassed a plethora of other titles, the bods at Marvel UK wisely thought to reprint any tie-ins or relevant stories. The whole thing expanded outwards (this time entire issues were reprinted) and I got to meet the likes of Cloak & Dagger, Power Pack, the New Mutants, as well as getting a full arcs of Fantastic Four and Avengers (which may give you an indication why I picked certain titles for my previous two projects), and it was thanks to this that a was submerged in the Marvel Universe in a way I had never been before. The more characters I discovered (from Mephisto to the Skrulls to the Living Tribunal), and the more I became aware of their rich history, the more I was drawn into this vast, fascinating, thrilling world. Soon after I discovered places I could pick up bona fide, original American comics, and at that point there was no turning back.

I've since acquired both series in the original US editions via various back issue boxes over the years (as well as many of the Secret Wars II tie-ins) so now’s as good a time as any to read through them again (I’ll skip the tie-ins this time round!) to confirm a) if I'm right in holding the first series in such high esteem, and b) whether the second series really does warrant the kind of criticism that I was completely oblivious to at when I originally read it. My Secret Wars Project will commence this Sunday, so stay tuned…


Stewart R said...

Looking forward to it Matt! I only know Secret Wars from my daliance with the Secret Wars Panini stickers from the 1980's and the rather poor sojurn by the Spiderman Animated Series of the 1990's so getting to know this series better through your reviewing eyes will be a nice way to start the comic reading year!

Ian said...

Great idea Matt. This was one of my 1st tastes of american comics too. Looking forward to it!

Justin Giampaoli said...

Very cool, looking forward to this! I actually had a friend as a kid who had the toys, which led me to the comics.

Matt Clark said...

I had a couple of the toys too. It always bugged me that Doom never had a cloak. He just didn't look, er, Doomish enough! And they all had shields too - only Cap should have a shield! These were the things that used to keep my pre-teen self awake at night!