As you get ready for Marvel comics' mega-event this summer, it's worth remembering this isn't the first time Secret Wars has been waged. Back in 1984, a similarly "covert conflict" enveloped these heroes and villains. How much do you know about the first event that changed Marvel universe forever?
It wasn't Marvel's idea.
Seeing how successful rival toymaker Kenner was with its DC Super Powers action figures, Mattel approached Marvel about doing a similar toyline with their heroes, but only if Marvel would publish an accompanying comic book tie-in. It needed to be some big event that would draw Marvel's biggest heroes and villains together.
The name wasn't Marvel's idea either.
According to then-editor-in-chief and Secret Wars writer Jim Shooter, Mattel told Marvel that the words "secret" and "wars" tested well with focus groups of children, and nobody bothered to try to think of anything more. So when the new Secret Wars comes out in April and May and sells a hundreds of thousands of issues and potentially millions in merchandise, remember it's only named that because of a bunch of kids in the '80s.
In fact, even Spider-Man's new black costume wasn't Marvel's idea.
Secret Wars was Marvel's first massive event that happened in continuity, with things that happened to the characters reflected in their individual titles. Perhaps the most famous change was Spider-Man's new, all-black outfit, which he got from a mysterious alien machine on Battleworld and wore on Earth for a long while until he realized it was an evil alien symbiote. Anyways, according to Wikipedia, the idea for the costume came from "22-year-old fan named Randy Schueller, after Marvel in 1982 had asked its readers for ideas for new Spider-Man stories. Schueller's idea was purchased by Jim Shooter for the sum of $220." I'd say Marvel came out on the better end of that deal.
It was the first time Magneto was recognized as a good guy.
In the comic, the all-powerful Beyonder summons Marvel's greatest heroes and villains — and a few wild cards, like the Lizard — and stick them on a planet he's assembled of bits and pieces of other worlds throughout the galaxy specifically for the event (it's called Battleworld, as it will be in the new Secret Wars event). One of the comic series' most interesting decision is that it placed longtime X-Men foe Magneto on the good guys' side. In the story, the Beyonder announced it was because Magneto's selfless goal to further the cause of mutants made him closer to a hero than the villains, who were mostly just greedy and/or violent. Magneto has wavered between anti-hero and noble bad guy ever since. I'm pretty sure this was Marvel's idea, for the record.
It featured the most powerful being in the Marvel universe… for a while.
For all intents and purposes, the Beyonder was a god when he was first introduced in Secret Wars. He tore apart an entire galaxy just to clear out room to make Battleworld (he left one star as a sun, for good measure). Galactus, who is himself one of Marvel's most powerful entities, was one of the villains summoned by the Beyonder; when he arrived, Galactus tried to attack his kidnapper, and was smacked down instantly. In Secret Wars II, the Beyonder actually killed Death, until the Molecule Man asked him to bring it back. Since then, the Beyonder has been retconned a lot (see below).
Iron Man wasn't a part of Secret Wars.
Well, his armor was, but Tony Stark wasn't At the time Iron Man was pulled to Battleworld, Jim Rhodes was wearing the suit after Stark had asked him to following his relapse into alcoholism. It should be noted that both Tony Stark and many Marvel writers have forgotten it wasn't actually him on Battleworld. Although in his defense, Stark was probably super-drunk at the time. He actually has a reason for not remembering he wasn't a part of the event.
DC's Crisis On Infinite Earths exists because of Secret Wars.
Although some places say that Marvel rushed Secret Wars into production in 1984 in order to beat DC's 1985 mega-event Crisis on Infinite Earths, this isn't true, at least according to Shooter:
We began work on Secret Wars well more than a year before DC began Crisis, and in fact DC was NOT planning a "big, company-wide crossover" till after they found out about [Secret Wars]. Back in those days, comics folks from all companies hung out together, played volleyball together, played poker, etc. You couldn't keep secrets if you tried–and we didn't really care if DC knew what we were doing. We didn't think it would make any difference. Crisis was a response to the huge success of Secret Wars.
Since Crisis is what cleaned up the giant mess that was DC continuity at the time, they probably should have sent Marvel a thank you card for forcing them to get their house in order.
Mattel didn't pay any attention to the comic.
Although Mattel was the one who demanded the comic tie-in, and forced Marvel to add certain bases and vehicles so that they could be incorporated into the Secret Wars toyline, Mattel seems to have not actually paid much attention to what actually happens in the comic. After the first eight figures were released, Mattel basically stopped caring, and released whatever Marvel characters they wanted, The second wave featured Daredevil, the Falcon and Hobgoblin, none of whom appeared in the comic. Wave 3 of the figures was never produced, but it would have included only three characters from Secret Wars — Hulk, Thunderball and Mr. Fantastic — and for characters who didn't, including Dazzler, Mystique, Annihilus, and Abomination. Figures of Iceman, Constrictor and Electro were released overseas, and they weren't in Secret Wars either.
Secret Wars stopped a child predator.
The X-Men comics of the time were written by Chris Claremont and were Marvel's biggest seller. They also happened to include the character of Piotr "Colossus" Rasputin dating Kitty "Shadowcat" Pryde, even though Kitty was a too-young 14-year-old and Piotr had been established as a minimum of 18 or 19, if not older. This was weird and gross. Supposedly, the aforementioned Jim Shooter felt it was time to knock this shit off, and created an alien healer named Zsaji for Colossus to fall in love with on Battleworld. Zsaji conveniently died, but Colossus conveniently didn't stop mourning her when he returned to earth, and Kitty was free to… uh… become a ninja for a while.
Secret Wars II was neither secret, nor a war, nor any good.
The Secret Wars miniseries was such a phenomenal seller that of course Marvel churned out a sequel, even though the toyline was already pretty much over. Shooter took on writing duties, and basically managed to capture none of the things fans loved about the first series. Instead of featuring Marvel's greatest heroes and villains engaged in an epic brawl, it featured the Beyonder coming to Earth and wandering around and doing stupid shit like 1) trying to date Dazzler, 2) turning a building into solid gold and wrecking Earth's entire economy, 3) joining the mafia for a bit, and 4) choosing to look like David Hasslehoff with greasier hair.
In fact, Secret Wars II was so terrible it never happened.
In New Avengers: The Illuminati #3, writer Brian Michael Bendis just flat-out says Secret Wars II was actually a big fake event that happened on a replica Earth the Beyonder made out of an asteroid with imaginary heroes and people and so forth. Basically, the Beyonder Truman Show'ed himself until Black Bolt told him to get lost, which he did, because he was the Inhuman mutant at the time and Black Bolt was his king. So that worked out.
No one really knows what the Beyonder's deal is anymore.
The Beyonder was so terrible and dumb in Secret Wars II that he's had the hell retconned out of him. He's gone from omnipotent god to shockingly dumb omnipotent god to space baby to an evolve Cosmic Cube to half of a cosmic entity named Cosmos to a human villain called the Maker to the first Inhuman mutant, and so on. I'll bet you anything he shows up in Jonathan Hickman's upcoming Secret Wars, though, even though the new Battleworld is supposedly being formed by universes crashing together.
The Human Torch has no game.
A lot of Marvel heroes have the hots for the alien Zsaji besides Colossus; it's supposed that her healing powers make its recipients fall for her. Anyways, Johnny Storm, the Human Torch is one of the good guys who falls for Zsaji's charms. His attempt to woo her consists solely of singing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" at her. Despite what you see in these two panels, it does not work. I assume Zsaji kisses him to get him to stop singing.