Marvel announced the next two Avengers films at the San Diego Comic-Con in July, including Avengers: Secret Wars. The film will be the final movie of Phase 6 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Over the past 38 years Marvel Comics has released three different crossover events with the title Secret Wars. The first series released in 1984 titled Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, followed by Secret Wars II in 1985, and Secret Wars in 2015. These three crossover events have been some of the most popular comics in Marvel history.
The Beginning of Secret Wars
The first 12-issue crossover limited series was published by Marvel Comics from May 1984 to April 1985. The series was created by writer Jim Shooter and artists Mike Zeck and Bob Layton. The limited series was tied-in with a toy line of the same name from Mattel.
The toy line was the main basis for the name of the series. “We went through a number of ideas for names for the toy line and series. Mattel’s focus group tests indicated that kids reacted positively to the words ‘wars’ and ‘secret’,” said Shooter.
A cosmic entity called the Beyonder observes the Marvel universe. Fascinated by the presence of superheroes on Earth and their potential, this entity chooses a group of both heroes and supervillains. The cosmic entity teleports characters against their will to “Battleworld”, a planet created by the Beyonder in a distant galaxy. The world is stocked with alien weapons and technology. The Beyonder then declares: “I am from beyond! Slay your enemies and all that you desire shall be yours! Nothing you dream of is impossible for me to accomplish!”
The original series heroes included the Captain America, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, Iron Man, the She-Hulk, Thor, the Wasp, and the Hulk (all members of the Avengers); Human Torch, Mister Fantastic and the Thing (Fantastic Four); Colossus, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Professor X, Rogue, Storm, Wolverine, and Lockheed the Dragon (X-Men); Spider-Man, and Spider-Woman. Magneto is featured as a hero, but immediately becomes non-aligned when the Avengers question his presence.
As for villains: Absorbing Man, Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, the Enchantress, Kang the Conqueror, Klaw, Lizard, Molecule Man, Titania, Ultron, Volcana, and Wrecking Crew. Galactus also appears as a villain who immediately becomes a non-aligned entity.
Some say Spider-Man wearing the black suit for the first time happens in issue eight of the series, but the issue actually was released months after Amazing Spider-Man #252 where is seen wearing the costume on the cover. The cover of issue eight is still one of the most famous and sought-after covers featuring Spider-Man.
To not spoil the 12-issue series the ending will not be explained here and we encourage you to read the series.
Due to the success of the original series, a nine-issue limited series and crossover event was published from 1985 to 1986 by Marvel. Shooter returned to write the issues with artist Al Milgrom on board. Secret Wars II was a sequel to the first series with multiple other titles tying-in to the series. Each tie-in featured a Secret Wars II logo in the top right hand corner to indicate that it was a part of the overall story. This marked the first time Marvel published a story where the reader would have to purchase multiple titles in order to read the entire story. Something they are known for now.
The sequel features the return of the Beyonder, who visits Earth in search of enlightenment. He inevitably comes into conflict with Earth’s superhumans. At first, the Beyonder tries to figure out the meaning of everyday tasks humans do, such as: eating, sleeping, using the bathroom, then he works for a mobster and becomes a powerful being who is obsessed with gadgets. The Beyonder attempts to start relationships with multiple superhuman women and features appearances of Doctor Doom, Mephisto and many more.
Secret Wars II was the best selling comic book of 1985, but many call it one of the most despised comics of the year. It does seem like the first limited-series did extremely well, so the money people at Marvel and Mattel forced a sequel into the mix and it didn’t go as planned.
Returning To The Well
The return of the name Secret Wars came in 2015 by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribić in a nine-issue limited series. The outstanding artwork of Alex Ross was present on all regular covers. The event also served as a conclusion to the Fantastic Four after Marvel decided to cancel the title due to a film rights dispute with 20th Century Fox. This is different now with the Disney purchase of Fox for $71.3 billion in 2019.
Marvel wanted to streamline their multiverses in 2015 and used this version of Secret Wars to combine the main Earth-616 Marvel Universe with the Earth-1610 Ultimate Universe, along with other storylines such as Marvel 2099, the Age of Apocalypse storyline, the Marvel 1602 universe, and the House of M storyline. This was to allow readers to understand bit more of Marvel Comics stories.
The use of Battleworld is also seen in the 2015 limited series. Each universe’s respective Earth combined with each other into Battleworld, a planet that exhibits the aspects of the various universes. The planet itself is divided in many territories that are mostly self-contained and where a pocket universe composed of a specific storyline or universe reside and evolve. Various versions of individual Marvel characters can be present multiple times on the Battleworld.
Like most of Marvel’s crossover events, Secret Wars had many tie-in comics which had categories such as Battleworld, Warzones, and Lost Days. This crossover event is one of the most well received storylines in recent years with positive reviews, critics praising the storyline, characters, action, and art styles.
Must read for any current Marvel Comics reader.
Which Will Be The Source Material For The MCU?
Like most of what Kevin Feige puts together in the MCU, Avengers: Secret Wars will be a combination of the three crossover events. We expect most of the story to come from the Hickman / Ribić run of 2015, as the purpose seems to be combining the current Multiverse Saga back into one universe.
The MCU will have the ability to use Doctor Doom, someone who is very present in all three limited series now that Marvel will be introducing the Fantastic Four to kick-off the sixth phase. Like Captain America: Civil War, expect Marvel to avoid using certain characters for varying reasons. Such as Iron Man no longer a part of the MCU and other characters that might not be popular enough to use in the MCU like Molecule Man.
Avengers: Secret Wars will be its own story with pieces taken from the 38 years of Secret Wars source material to source. The film is two-plus years away and a lot is going to happen in the MCU for this film to make it’s mark.