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Unraveling Marvel’s Secret Wars

A look back at Marvel’s Super Heroes Secret Wars toy line from Mattel

By Carlos Mejia     January 22, 2007

Marvel's Secretwars
© N/A

Last week we took a look back at the legendary DC toy line Super Powers by Kenner and in an effort to be fair, this week we’ll be looking back at Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars line from Mattel. Consider this the yin to last week’s yang. 

In 1984 Mattel had acquired the Marvel license. Although Mattel was sitting on the cash cow that was He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, they acquired a superhero license in hopes that they would get another cash cow. However Mattel wanted the series to run with a comic book series—thus the well know series Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars was created because of the toy line. The comic book proved to be popular with its very simple story. The biggest heroes and villains of Marvel formed two teams. Good and evil. From there they all kick each other’s respective butts. The series ran for 12 issues and even spawned a sequel. Even though the toy line launched the comic series, the comic became historic as it debuted Black Costume Spider-Man and a new Spider-Woman. Unfortunately the toy line did not see as much success as the comic book. 

The toy line only launched three full waves and an assortment of vehicles and play sets. Unlike DC’s Super Heroes, the Secret Wars figures were extremely basic and simple in style. There were no “power action” features and the most of the figures did not come with any accessories (no shield with Captain America? WTF?) with the exception of Wolverine and his claws, and a few villains with blaster guns. The A roster of heroes and villains of the Marvel universe were made into this series. Captain America, Iron Man, Daredevil, Dr. Doom and others were in the series. One of the most impressive figures of the series was Dr. Octopus who came with 4 tentacles attached to his body. Although the tentacles were limited to movement, it was an awesome figure and an accurate representation of the character at the time.  

Secretwars' Captain America

Each figure in the line had five points of articulation and the same exact body mold, much like Mattel’s MOTU line. Every figure did have a different and fairly accurate head sculpt, but the same body mold and lack of accessories probably ended up hurting the line more than anything else. To make matters worse, the paint on the figures easily wore off, which was a disappointment. You can’t have a Captain America with washed out stripes! Since the toys were targeted towards children—the figures did not really offer kids anything new or exciting that other action figures were doing at the time. However the series did provide fans with action figures of Marvel superheroes, which was something that had not been done in years prior to that. Not to mention the series did provide some really cool vehicles and play sets.  

Even though some of the vehicles were never in the comic, what would a 80s toy line be without vehicles? There was a ridiculous amount of vehicles, most of them belonging to Dr. Doom. There was the Doom Copter, Doom Roller (which looked like a hamster wheel) and the Doom Cycle. The play sets were just as good as any other toy line’s play set. First up was the heroes Freedom Fighter, which came equipped with a helicopter landing pad, gun turrets and lots of red, white and blue thanks to Captain America. The villains had the Tower of Doom. Yet another Doom named accessory, this play set was rather small when it came to play sets, but it did come with guns turrets and more evil trickery.  

Despite the simplicity of the series, it was historic as it was the first action figure of Black Costume Spider-Man and it was the only Black Costume Spidey figure for years to come. In comparison to other toy series Secret Wars was mediocre at best, which was unfortunate as the characters deserved better. It’s easy to take a look back at these figures and say they sucked, especially in comparison to DC’s Super Powers, but when I was a little columnist I had an equal amount of figures from both series and they each filled me with joy and countless super hero adventures. Secret Wars was the first attempt at putting Marvel characters in action figure form, and even though this attempt was a bit lackluster it did spawn the figures that came afterwards including the very popular Marvel Super Heroes and The Uncanny X-Men figures both from Toy Biz and of course we have now the very awesome Marvel Legends.


Showing items 1 - 5 of 5
marc0702 1/22/2007 10:10:42 AM
way to have an action figure article with no pictures of teh action figures... lol
themovielord 1/22/2007 2:11:09 PM
Yeah guys old news... at least Wizard's Toy Fair included a list of figures and vehicles and had pictures... hell I have the list and could have given it to you. Maybe you should have scanned ebay for a few pictures as well.
Dodgyb2002 1/23/2007 11:19:02 AM
Hate to correct you, but the figures did have different body sculpts, if only slightly. Spider-man had a slightly slimmer build than the others, Doc Doom, and Iron man had different sculpts, Doc Ock was fairly muscular for someone who was overweight in the comics though. I liked the figures' shape compared with other toy lines, as they felt more heroic to me.
spacekicker 1/23/2007 3:48:40 PM
Yeah there were variations, but these had those holographic shields remember? I loved those. This just seemed to be the golden age of action figures, between those and the superpowers I had wayyyyy too much fun. And I liked Secret Wars the comic. I know people bash it, but it was just awesome in my eyes and still is. What other comic still has residual effects from things that have happened in it? (ala black spidey/venom/carnage)
Dazzler 1/24/2007 7:01:05 AM
I should put up a pic of my Secret Wars figs. I got most of them when they first came out.


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