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Tuesday, June 10, 2014
One of the first, and greatest, of the comics summer blockbuster events
Although I had been an avid reader of Marvel UK’s black and white reprint line as a child of the seventies, I reached my adolescence during the comics industry’s creative renaissance in the mid-80s.
Writers like Alan Moore and Frank Miller were changing the face of the medium with works like Saga of the Swamp Thing and The Dark Knight Returns. The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans were jostling for supremacy as the leading superhero title, while the Crisis on Infinite Earths brought about the end of 50 years of DC history and the birth of a new continuity. Away from the Big Two, smaller independent companies were emerging as the fledgling direct market began to expand its influence, offering a wealth of new characters like Grendel, Cerebus and Nexus.
They were exciting times indeed, and one of the best times to be a comics fan since the birth of Marvel in the early-sixties.
In the midst of these dramatic developments came the very first Marvel maxi-series, a 12-part epic which promised to change characters forever and effectively established the tradition of summer crossover blockbuster which has existed ever since.
In actual fact, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars was the result of a commercial tie-in with a toy company, which wanted an event title to promote their line of action figures, and needed a way of raising the profiles of characters who lacked the mainstream recognition of DC’s Superman and Batman.
The fact that Jim Shooter managed to pull together anything of any merit from a creative brief which was pretty much “all the good guys versus all the bad guys” says a lot for his talent as a writer.
In fact, Secret Wars, as it is generally known, is actually one of the best in Marvel’s long history of epic events, thanks largely to the fact that it is a self-contained story with a beginning, middle and end, that doesn’t require you to pick up various other series to enjoy the whole reading experience.
Did it really change Marvel’s characters forever? Well the Thing temporarily quit the Fantastic Four and was replaced by She-Hulk, a new Spider-Woman was introduced, the romance between X-Men Colossus and Kitty Pryde was torn apart, and oh yeah, Spider-Man picked up a new black costume…
In fact, it is only the latter element which really had any sustained impact on the Marvel Universe, with the costume eventually revealed as an alien symbiote which would go on to become the anti-hero Venom.
But don’t let that put you off picking up this new 30th anniversary edition of the complete Secret Wars saga if you haven’t read it before, because it’s actually pretty damn good.