I was really into comics in the early-to-mid 80s (which was a good time to be into comics according to some afficianados). I had been interested in comic books almost as long as I could read, but around 83-84 I started gravitating toward Marvel Comics. It’s been said that D.C. characters were more like the gods of ancient mythology while Marvel heroes were more like circus freaks. I think that is a fairly accurate assessment. And I guess that I just must like the freaks because my motto very quickly became “Make mine Marvel”.
That being the case, when a line of toys based on Marvel was announced via full-page comic book advertisements in 1984, I didn’t hesitate to put several pieces on my Christmas list. Put them on my list sight unseen. The ad did not provide any pictures of the toys. It just showed a drawing of Doctor Doom talking about them. And I never saw any other advertisments or commercials for these toys. Nonetheless, I picked out the ones that sounded the coolest and on my list they went.
This line of toys was called Secret Wars. It was based on the Marvel Secret War miniseries that brought together the heroes and villians of several Marvel titles in one of the first ever mega-crossovers. Or at least so we were told. The truth is the other way around; the Secret War miniseries was based on the toys, being intentionally engineered to create interest in them (makes you feel a little bad for getting so excited about it, doesn’t it? Also explains why the story line was so awful. Battleworld? Really? Still, it doesn’t kill my love for Secret Wars II). When the toys first launched, there were only eight figures to choose from. Four were heroes: Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Iron Man. The other four were villains: Doctor Doom, Magneto, Doctor Octopus, and Kang. Each figure came with a “secret shield”; heroes had red circular secret shields while villains had gray square ones. These shields had compartments inside which held little pictures, including moving pictures that flashed between the character’s secret identity and heroic identity. The figures were slightly larger and heavier than G. I. Joe figures, though not as large as Sectaurs. They had only hip and shoulder articulation joints and were incredibly smooth, as if they had been power-coated or finely sanded.
Besides these figures, there were also a few vehicles and playsets, including the Doom Roller, a motorized car that ran across the floor inside a circular track kind of like a hamster ball, and the Tower of Doom, Doctor Doom’s fortress that had gun turrets, an elevator, and a booby-trapped entrance.
The figures I asked for that Christmas were Captain America, Spider-Man, Doctor Doom, and Doctor Octopus. I also asked for the Doom Roller and the Tower of Doom. I got everything but Doctor Doom and Doctor Octopus. That’s a pretty good ask-to-receive ratio, I guess, but it left me without any villains. I couldn’t have any battles because Spider-Man and Captain America didn’t have anyone to battle. I quickly adjusted to this lack of villianry, though, by saying that Captain America had been possessed by the spirit of Doctor Doom which was haunting the Tower of Doom. This allowed me to have some pretty decent fights between the webslinger and the winghead. A little later, I did manage to get Doctor Octopus and Kang, giving Spider-Man and Captain America some real villains to fight. I never got Iron Man or Magneto, which is too bad because I had a huge battle planned for them. A little after that, another round of heroes and villains was released, including Daredevil, Hobgoblin, Falcon, and the black costume Spider-Man. But by that time I had moved on to other toys.
Now DC had a similar line of their own characters at that time: the DC Super Powers collection. And I’d have to say that line was superior to the Secret Wars line; the characters looked a little better and had specail features like a punching action. I still saw the Marvel line as better, though (maybe not superior, but better), and I saw whatever deficiencies there were in the line as being merely another example of the problem of bring Marvel characters to real life, a problem that had plagued movies and cartoons for decades. And I wasn’t the least bit tempted to switch over to the DC Super Powers collection. I stayed with the Secret Wars line. I still said, “Make mine Marvel.”