Tuesday, 20 October 2009

"Slay Your Enemies, And All You Desire Shall Be Yours!"

As mentioned yesterday, in 1985 (and indeed 1984) comic fans were getting all excited over Secret Wars. It was, while by no means the first mini-series published by Marvel, certainly the first one to have line-wide consequences. These days Marvel would call it an "event", publish a line of related titles, and you'd be sick of the thing before it was halfway finished. In the mid-80s though, Marvel just had many of their top heroes whisked away via a mysterious portal to another world, where they were forced to battle villains, with the promise of the ultimate prize for the winners. Jim Shooter took a year to tell the story of what had happened, but whilst these days, we'd face 12 months of comics featuring stand-in heroes in the missing characters' books, in those days, they simply showed the heroes returning the next month, and the radical changes which the as yet untold Secret Wars had wrought.

Spider-Man appeared with a new, black and white costume, which changed between civilian and super-duds depending on what was needed, and which never ran out of webbing. Later he'd discover that the costume was actually an alien symbiote, trying to take him over. Later still, the symbiote would be reborn as the villainous Venom, and later still, we'd all be sick of the sight of the black costume. But at the time, for all that it was just a change of look, we were quite excited by it.

The Incredible Hulk came back from Battleworld with a broken leg and a bad attitude. The broken leg was courtesy of a fight against Ultron, whilst the bad attitude came, at least in part, from the manipulations of old Dr Strange foe, Nightmare, out to get at the Sorcerer Supreme via one of his fellow former Defenders. Of course, a week of fighting the Absorbing Man and having mountains dropped on him probably didn't help the Hulk's disposition either.

The Vision, newly recovered from a near-death experience, took advantage of the disappearance of most of the Avengers to launch a bloodless coup. Naming himself chairman, he cosied up to the government and got them to approve setting up a new West Coast branch of the team. Had anyone realised that he was suffering from the android equivalent of brain damage after his time spent in a coma, he'd probably have encountered slightly more resistance.

Ben Grimm, in contrast to most of the heroes, quite enjoyed his time away from Earth. He discovered that he was able to turn back into his human form at will, and decided that, on the whole, he'd sooner spend his future riding around on pteradons than go home and be a monster again. So he chose to stay on Battleworld, leaving the Fantastic Four a man short.

The FF didn't waste time replacing the Thing, offering his place in the team to the first superstrong person they saw. In this case, the She-Hulk, who, although a member of the Avengers, was happy to cross the street to the Baxter Building. Later, the Human Torch would take advantage of the Thing's absence to shag his girlfriend. Classy. Secret Wars would also tease the readers of the FF with the mystery of how Doctor Doom, killed the previous year, could be alive on Battleworld. A somewhat convoluted explanation would eventually be given, accompanied by a somewhat gratuitous appearance by the Beyonder.

And the X-Men? Well, they stood around a hill in Japan talking a lot. Well, it was the 80s, and it was Chris Claremont, so perhaps we shouldn't have expected anything too revolutionary. In Claremont's defence, he did use Secret Wars to promote his agenda of Magneto as an extreme activist, rather than as an out-and-out supervillain, to break up Kitty Pryde and Colossus as a couple, and to justify Professor X deciding to take a more active role in leading the X-Men, but what we really remember is the constant talking...

No comments: