Jul 12, 2011

Back Issue Ben: Secret Wars

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Secret Wars
by Ben Smith

There are several undeniable truths in life and in comic books. In life, it's never a good idea to pet a burning dog. In comics, Jack Kirby is underappreciated. Another truth I happen to believe is that comic books were never as good as they were when you were 8 years old.

The 1984 comic book series MARVEL SUPERHEROES SECRET WARS taught my 8-year-old brain many things. One of them was to always talk in exclamations, no matter how unnecessary. (Every sentence in the comics ends in an exclamation point. It's true, go look. I'll wait here.) It also taught me about all the wondrous characters of the Marvel universe.

As a newer reader only familiar with Spider-Man and his world, a dramatic battle between good and evil on a faraway planet was just the thing to blow my tiny mind. It would go on to influence my opinion on each and every character to this day. Read on ... if you dare. There's candy at the end.

Spider-Man: He cannot be beat. Whether beating down Titania or thrashing the X-Men by himself, he will beat you and mock you while doing it.

Though this series did lead to the eventual creation of Venom, the worst character ever, it also lead to Rick Remender's current run, so it's forgiven. (For now!). Also, as much as I love the Spider-Man vs Wolverine one-shot from 1988, no way can Wolverine challenge Spidey in a fight.

The Wasp: She's kinda easy. After Magneto kidnaps her to his secret lair, she ends up kissing him basically cause he's the only dude around. If there's one thing that will teach a kidnapper a lesson, its making out with them. Of course, this is the Wasp, so maybe that is punishment. She does escape and die, so that's a plus.

Kang: Very easy to kill. Doom makes him look like a bitch. (I actually like Kang a lot currently despite this. He got screwed in Secret Wars, just imagine what the message board posts would have been like). But yeah, he got toasted, quick like.

Ultron: He's also Doom's bitch. Ultron is one of my favorite villains now, but he was basically Doom's butler in this. Looking back, this was a terrible insult to the character and his fans, but at least he looked great. The model for all future Ultron designs in my opinion.

Dr. Doom: If you couldn't tell from the previous two entries, Doom is the ultimate bad-ass. In this series he:
  • makes Ultron his butler
  • kills Kang like it’s an afterthought
  • gives two female bystanders super powers like it’s no big deal

  • steals Galactus' power
  • uses that power to then steal the Beyonder's power
  • becomes a god-like being
  • kills all the heroes with a thought

How he repeatedly loses to a pansy like Reed Richards escapes me.

Captain America: The ultimate leader. If there's a team of heroes fighting evil, he should be leading it. He's also capable of fixing his broken shield using only his mind. I bet he's great at racquetball too.

Tangent #1: Do you think Aquaman eats pellets? Think about it, have you ever seen him eat anything? Does he eat other fish? That might be awkward since he can communicate with them. Their screams echoing in his head as he chomps down, tears streaming down his face.

Johnny Storm: He's a man-whore. He woos an alien chick into the sack with a wink and a smile, then drops her like a sack of hammers. She didn't even know English! (This was also probably my first exposure to the fact that alien chicks are easy).

Colossus: He's a pitiful man-whore. Cheats on his girlfriend Kitty Pryde for Johnny's sloppy seconds. I didn't even know who Kitty was yet, but I knew that was cold-blooded. (I guess he is made of organic steel, so his blood would be cold. Incidentally, Organic Steel is an awesome porn name).

Galactus: Pure unadulterated awesome.

On a side note, Mike Zeck is one of the greatest artists of all-time. His covers on this series are legendary. He really needs to be working on current Marvel books. Why isn't he?

Hulk: I knew enough about him to know he shouldn't have Banner's brain. I also knew it was unlikely that he could hold up a mountain, but it did make a classic cover. (See comments directly above.)


Iron Man: Even as a kid, I knew he probably didn’t need skates for any reason.

Molecule Man: I love the Molecule Man! Refer back to my comments on Dr. Doom and then consider this: in this series, Doom kisses Molecule Man's ass. That's how powerful he is! He needs to be used more these days, but I understand how difficult it is to write a story with a guy that can basically do anything, that's why Superman comics largely suck.

Enchantress: She basically spent the whole series trying to bang Thor. That's about it.

Thor: Gets hit on by the Enchantress a lot. And from the looks of his face in this panel, he enjoys rain a lot more than he should.

Captain Marvel (later known as Photon): Nextwave, read it!

The Thing: When he turns back from The Thing into human Ben Grimm, he kinda looks like my Uncle Bob.

Reed Richards: How I hate him. From the very beginning. It's a true testament to Jonathan Hickman's greatness that I've been reading a Fantastic Four comic the past couple of years.

Tangent #2: This one time, I had a dream I was the Rocketeer.

Storm: It would be a while yet before I would be angst-ridden enough to love the X-Men (pre-teen years), but Mohawk Storm is the only Storm worth caring about. This is solidified by the X-Men comics of that era, which I would go on to read later. Great stuff. I miss that Storm.

Wolverine: Surprisingly low-key contribution from him in this series, but he was not the superstar he is today yet. He cut off Absorbing Man's arm. That's something. Gets smacked away like a flea by Spider-Man. (He cannot hang with Spidey!). I like the Wolverine of the 70s and 80s a lot better, back when he could actually be killed and it took him days to heal sometimes.

Magneto: He's good, he's bad, he's good. He kidnaps chicks and makes out with them in his secret lair. He's on his own, he's on the X-Men, he's on his own. That basically describes this series as well as the last 20 years of X-Men comics. 

Klaw: My love for Klaw continues to this day, and it is based solely on this series. One day, I will read another comic with him in it.

Squirrel Girl: She wasn't in this series, but dammit she should have been! If she was, things with Doom would have never gotten that far. Think about it, Avengers.

It may be a little silly to read now, but SECRET WARS will always hold a special place in my heart. It takes me back to a time when I didn't know every character at Marvel, and except for a few exceptions, influences my perception of most of those characters to this day. It was my personal Golden Age of comics, and I will always treasure it for that. Now that, is an undeniable truth.

In closing: alien chicks are easy. Mike Zeck can draw. Molecule Man is a powerhouse, the Sentry can suck it! So can Superman for that matter!! Organic Steel is a great porn name. Aquaman cries when he eats. Storm should shave her head. You can lift mountains if you get massive radiation poisoning. And Spider-Man kicks ass.

I lied. There is no candy.


MOCK! said...

Great post! I was slightly older when Secret Wars came out but it still holds a warm spot.

As for every sentence ending with an exclamation point, you are right on. Great article...HERE:


RyanParkerMan said...

Nice job Ben!

Harry said...

OK, so it's not a classic of the ages, and perhaps a bit forced in places, but, given that it was designed to help sell a new line of superhero toys, it's a lot better than it had any right to be, and it did shake up the mainstream Marvel Universe, at least momentarily (Spidey's new costume, the Thing staying behind and asking She-Hulk to replace him on the Fantastic Four etc). Admittedly, some writers quickly dumped any gimmicks once their characters returned to Earth (Iron Man's modified armour, Hulk's leg brace), but that was their prerogative.

London Elliott said...

I was 12 when it came out and still buying from spinner racks. Zeck's cover to #1 definitely was the impetus for me getting it, but I didn't collect the series. I thought Iron Man's roller skates were like his faceplate with a nose, something that died off well before the 80's. You have proved me wrong though! Great highlights, Ben, and thanks for making me do a spit take when I read your Aquaman tangent!

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