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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

X-amining Secret Wars #1-12

"The War Begins!/Prisoners of War!/Tempest Without, Crisis Within!/Situation: Hopeless!/The Battle of Four Armies!/A Little Death.../Invasion!/Assault on Galactus!/Death to the Beyonder!/...And Dust to Dust!/...Nothing to Fear..."
May 1984 - April 1985

In a Nutshell 
Heroes and villains are taken by the Beyonder to fight on a far off world, with the winner receiving their heart's desire. 

Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciler: Michael Zeck, Bob Layton (issues #4,5)
Inker: John Beatt, Jack Abel & Mike Espositp (issue #8)
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Christie Scheele, Nelson Yomtov (issue #11) 
Editor: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Issue #1: The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Hulk all find themselves suddenly teleported aboard a massive ship in outer space. Nearby, a group of villains find themselves aboard a similar ship. They watch as a galaxy is destroyed and a planet formed in its place, then a voice from beyond declares that if they slay their enemies, all they desire shall be theirs. Galactus and Doom confront this Beyonder, but both are easily dispatched and sent crashing to the planet below. The two ships land on the planet, and the heroes elect Captain America to lead them, with the villains quickly launching the first salvo.

Issue #2: Captain America's forces rally and send the villains running, securing a few prisoners in the process. Storm locates a high tech alien shelter they claim as a base, while Magneto claims his own fortress. As Dr. Doom asserts leadership over the villains, Magneto attacks the heroes, and escapes with a captive Wasp.

Issue #3: As Magneto proposes a truce with Wasp, the X-Men discuss joining him. Overheard by Spider-Man, they tussle, with Professor X ultimately wiping Spider-Man's memory of the conflict. As the X-Men depart for Magneto's fortress, Dr. Doom leads an attack on the heroes, destroying their base and reclaiming their prisoners.


Issue #4: With the heroes on the run, Molecule Man picks up a mountain range and drops it on them. The X-Men arrive at Magneto's base and propose an alliance, at which point Wasp makes her move and escapes. Meanwhile, the Hulk manages to keep the heroes alive by holding up the mountain range as Mr. Fantastic cobbles together a device to blast through the mountain. Free, Captain Marvel locates an alien village near where Galactus has begun a vigil. One of the aliens, a woman named Zsaji, uses her power to heal various injuries, but Mr. Fantastic is frightened by sudden action by Galactus.

Issue #5: With the arrival of Galactus' worldship, signaling his intent to consume the planet, both Mr. Fantastic and Professor X attempt to communicate with Galactus, triggering an attack on Magneto's base and the release of a powerful robot to attack the heroes. Just as they defeat it, Doom's men attack once more, but the X-Men arrive and turn them back before departing once more. Meanwhile, Dr. Doom takes advantage of the distraction to sneak aboard Galactus' ship.  

Issue #6: The Wasp, fleeing Magneto's base, crashes in a swamp-like area of the planet and comes face to face with the Lizard, while on Galactus' ship, Doom frees Klaw, master of sound. He then dispatches a contingent of his forces to a volcanic region in an attempt to prevent Galactus from destroying the planet, but Professor X sends the X-Men to stop them. Wasp and Lizard are captured by Doom's forces, while a shadowy figure watches the heroes.


Issue #7: A new Spider-Woman, a woman from a Denver suburb which the Beyonder transported to the planet, introduces herself to Captain America's forces. Just then, a group of villains appears and tosses out the dead Wasp. Zsaji attempts to heal her, but fails. Aboard Galactus' ship, Doom is detected and forcibly sent back down to the planet. She-Hulk attacks Doombase in retribution for Wasp's death, but is overwhelmed. Professor X telepathically tells Captain America the X-Men will watch Galactus, allowing the other heroes to attack Doombase.

Issue #8: The heroes attack Doombase, and with Doom recovering from his encounter with Galactus, they are able to overcome the villains, imprisoning them and claiming the base for themselves. Back at the alien village, Colossus finds Zsaji near death, and realizes she has poured her life essence into Wasp, bringing her back to life. Back at Doombase, Spider-Man uses an alien device to seemingly create a new black costume for himself, when Professor X suddenly announces that Galactus has begun to devour the planet.  

Issue #9: The X-Men attack Galactus, and are seemingly killed in the process . The rest of the heroes arrive, but Mr. Fantastic calls off the attack, declaring they should let Galactus devour the planet. Suddenly, Mr. Fantastic and Galactus vanish, reappearing on Galactus' ship, while the X-Men turn up alive. The heroes return to the alien village while a recovered Doom escapes from his cell. When Mr. Fantastic returns, he argues that Galactus should be allowed to destroy the planet. However, the rest of the heroes decide to attack Galactus, but just as they gain the upper hand, he returns to his ship and begins converting it to energy, to make it easier to consume the planet. At that moment, Doom, having converted Klaw into a series of lenses, begins to draw Galactus' power into himself.


Issue #10: Flush with the power of Galactus, Doom attacks the Beyonder. Their battle rains destruction down on the planet, with the heroes working to free the captive villains as Doombase is destroyed. In the end, Doom emerges triumphant and comes before the heroes, declaring that the Beyonder is no more, and that the war is over. 

Issue #11: Leaving the heroes to confront Molecule Man, Doom uses his power to remove a block on Molecule's Man power, enabling him to transport the entire suburb of Denver, along with the remaining villains, back to Earth. At the remains of Doombase, first Hulk and then Spider-Woman are possessed by a strange energy. The next morning, Doom meets with the heroes, telling them he will soon ascend to a higher plane of existence, and offering them anything they desire. The heroes decline, though the strange energy passes from Spider-Woman to Klaw. Later, Captain America gathers everyone and announces his intention to fight Doom, despite the odds, worried what he might do with the power of a god. Each of the heroes agree to stand by him and attack Doom, at which point the entire gathering is suddenly struck by a bolt of energy.  

Issue #12: Having killed all the heroes, Doom continues to grapple with his omnipotence, worried about losing control of his power. Klaw outlines a scenario in which the heroes could have survived Doom's attack, and just as Doom dismisses it as impossible, Captain America's forces attack his stronghold. Unable to control his power, Doom sets an army of monstrous creatures against them, but Captain America is able to reach Doom. As Doom falters in battle, the strange energy which possessed Klaw, the remnant of the Beyonder, emerges and reclaims his power from Doom, disintegrating Doom and Klaw in the process. In the wake of the battle, the heroes relax and recuperate as Mr. Fantastic works on a device to return them home. One by one, the heroes are sent home, the war finally over.

Firsts and Other Notables
The impetus for Secret Wars came about after toy company Mattel (maker of, amongst other things at the time, He-Man toys) acquired the license to create Marvel toys, and asked Marvel to launch a big event comic to support the line, titled "Secret Wars", because those were two words that, according to their market research, drove kids nuts. Marvel Editor in Chief Jim Shooter, seeing it as an opportunity to do the big cosmic story he'd wanted to do for awhile, as well as an opportunity to put into effect some character changes, ran with the idea. 

Often cited as ushering in the age of big event crossovers still in effect today, Secret Wars is actually something of an atypical event series. It is Marvel's first twelve issue limited series, and is entirely self-contained. To get the full story, one only needed to read these twelve issues; the "crossover" happened because Secret Wars unfolded alongside issues of series in which the main characters had already returned to Earth. Which meant, that, for example, in one issue of Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man disappeared, and the next issue featured him returning from Secret Wars with a new costume. To find out where the costume came from and why he changed it, readers would have to read Secret Wars. Not only was the "parallel" crossover unique, it was far less intrusive than many of today's crossover event comics.   

Issue #1 marks the first appearance of the Beyonder, an omnipotent being from another universe who becomes infatuated by the Marvel Universe, specifically the concept of desire, and decides to pit a group of superheroes and villains against each other, with the prize being whatever their heart desires, to more closely study the concept (it's also the first appearance of what the heroes dub "Battleworld", the hodgepodge planet the Beyonder forms to serve as the setting of his experiment). Throughout the series he appears only as a disembodied voice, though the follow up series, Secret Wars II, will have the Beyonder take human form and visit Earth (one issue of Brian Michael Bendis' Illuminati limited series suggests that the Beyonder is actually just a supremely powerful Inhuman, though I believe most readers laughed this idea off and largely ignore it).


Secret Wars remains most notable for introducing Spider-Man's black costume in issue #8, which would eventually be revealed to be an alien symbiote (there are hints of that in this series) that would become the villain Venom. Additionally, Secret Wars led to She-Hulk joining the Fantastic Four, as the Thing stayed behind on Battleword to launch his own solo series, while the absence of the Avengers would lead to Vision taking control of the team, ultimately creating the West Coast Avengers and trying to take over the world, a storyline that would have far reaching consequences.


Issue #3 features the first appearance of Volcana and Titania, a pair of new female super villains created for the series. The former plays a significant role in Secret Wars II, while the second will go on to have a long-standing relationship with Absorbing Man. 

In terms of the X-Men, this series is notable for featuring the first extended team-up between Magneto and the X-Men (following their one-off alliance in God Loves, Man Kills). It also features Professor X leading the X-Men in the field for the first time since he regained the use of his legs, a situation which is left for the regular series to resolve. Colossus falls in love with an alien healer on Battleworld, which will lead to the end of his relationship with Kitty in Uncanny X-Men #183. Finally, a new Spider-Woman, Julia Carpenter, debuts in issue #7. Created at the behest of Mattel (who wanted more female characters), she will go on to join Freedom Force, the government-sponsored version of Mystique's Brotherhood, and eventually join the Avengers.

The heroes involved in the story are the Avengers (Captain America, Captain Marvel, Thor, She-Hulk, Hawkeye, and Wasp), Iron Man, Hulk, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four (sans the pregnant Invisible Girl), the X-Men and Magneto. Notable exclusions include Marvel mainstays Daredevil and Dr. Strange (the series features only the characters to which Mattel acquired the toy license). Secret Wars occurs at a time in which Iron Man is actually Jim Rhodes, the future War Machine, filling in for Tony Stark who, at the time, was in the midst of an extended battle with alcoholism. Similarly, at the time, Hulk is in a state in which he possesses Bruce Banner's intelligence.


The villains included in the series are Dr. Doom, Galactus, Klaw, Absorbing Man, Doctor Octopus, Molecule Man, Lizard, Ultron, Kang, the Enchantress, and the Wrecking Crew.


The series is written by Jim Shooter himself (with Tom DeFalco, who will succeed Shooter as EiC at Marvel, editing him), with art by Captain America penciler Mike Zeck. Zeck reportedly fell behind on the series due to constant requests from Shooter to redraw pages, leading to the Bob Layton fill-ins. When Zeck returned, he largely worked off Shooter's layouts.

Issue #3 features the X-Men facing off against Spider-Man, and losing. At the risk bringing back memories of Iron Man vs. X-Men debates from the Wizard letter columns back in the 90s, allow me to just say that, as an X-Men fan, I find the idea that Spider-Man could defeat the entire team preposterous. :) 


A Work in Progress
In issue #1, Magneto is sorted in with the heroes, much to the consternation of everyone except the X-Men. Issue #12 reveals this was because the Beyonder sorted everyone based on their greatest desires, and Magneto's desires were more compatible with the noble desires of the heroes.

However, it takes awhile for most of the heroes to warm up to the idea of fighting alongside Magneto; his sinking of the Lenigrad in X-Men #150 is specifically referenced.


Throughout the series, Wolverine is openly hostile to Captain America, specifically angry that he isn't taking a more offensive approach to the conflict. This doesn't quite gel with later portrayals of their relationship, which will show Wolverine having something of a begrudging respect for Cap.


Issue #1 depicts Professor X in his wheelchair, without comment, despite having walked into the Beyonder's structure in Central Park in X-Men #180. In issue #2, he's shown walking, and Mr. Fantastic mentions the Beyonder reconstructing various heroes' paraphernalia and musing that perhaps the Beyonder wasn't aware of his ability to walk, suggesting someone pointed out the new status quo to Shooter between issues.

There's a neat bit in issue #2 that shows Galactus getting up after being knocked down by the Beyonder.


Cyclops says that the Beyonder plucked him from his honeymoon, meaning he's been honeymooning since X-Men #176, barring the break to say goodbye to his dad in issue #177.


In issue #7, Cyclops makes it clear to Wolverine that the X-Men still aren't killing their foes.


At one point Mr. Fantastic argues that the heroes should allow Galactus to destroy Battleworld, killing them and allowing him to claim the Beyonder's prize. Since Galactus' greatest desire is to be free of the hunger that forces him to consume planets, this would eliminate the threat of Galactus from the universe. Or, Mr. Fantastic could have just not saved Galactus' life when he came to Earth to die (in Fantastic Four #244, the events of which were referenced in X-Men #167). 


Nightcrawler refers to Kitty as "Katya" in issue #11, a nickname usually reserved for Colossus (since it's, you know, kinda Russian).

As the X-Men prepare to return home in issue #12, they create new costumes, including the new looks for Professor X and Rogue.


Professor X also makes clear his desire to continue to lead the X-Men in the field now that he can walk, something that doesn't sit well with Storm.

Lockheed reunites with the X-Men as they get ready to leave, accompanied by another dragon. Just as the X-Men are teleported back to Earth, the other dragon enters the field, followed by a power surge just as the X-Men disappear; this is setting up the events of X-Men #181.


I Love the 80s
Iron Man references Julius Irving in issue #2.


Later, he whips out his roller skates in issue #3.


When Doom rebuilds his armor using the Beyonder's stolen power, it mirrors the look of his Secret Wars action figure. 


"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
In issue #3, Professor X erases Spider-Man's memory of the X-Men's departure.


By issue #4, however, he regrets that action, comparing to the evil of Hitler.


Throughout the series, Professor X is shown taking a more assertive role in leading the X-Men, behaving more like his Silver Age taskmaster self.


In issue #9, Cyclops realizes this is because Xavier realizes he will likely be sending the X-Men to their deaths while on Battleworld.


Young Love
Magneto attempts to seduce Wasp in issue #3, but she only plays along until she can escape.


Colossus spends most of issue #4 missing Kitty.


But after he meets Zsaji in issue #5, he spends the rest of the series moping about his feelings for her.


Issue #11 reveals that Colossus' feeling for Zsaji are a side effect of her healing powers, something that Colossus never learns.



Human/Mutant Relations
The other heroes generally distrust the X-Men throughout the entire series, admittedly in part because they're more willing to work with Magneto, and the X-Men and Magneto spend most of their time on Battleworld functioning as a third unit apart from Captain America's heroes and Doctor Doom's villains.


In issue #5, Human Torch wonders if Zsaji's healing powers would even work on a mutant, prompting a great retort from the African-American Jim Rhodes.


After holding their own against Galactus in order to allow Cap's forces to take out the villains, in issue #9 Captain American thanks the X-Men and puts aside any bad blood between them.


Wolverine then asks Captain America when the last time he fought for mutants' rights was.
 

Teebore's Take
Full disclosure: I've only ever read this series as an adult, and as a result, lack the ability to use nostalgia to smooth over some of its rough edges. Which isn't to say this is awful (as some readers assert). The art is clean and consistent if unexciting; there are lots of wide shots and basic panel layouts, and it is definitely a step down from what Mike Zeck is capable, likely due to Shooter taking a firm hand in the artistic process (and, arguably, the basic art is exactly what a series like this needs). The story does the job it sets out to do: feature a big mashup of all the prominent heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe. Had I read this as a kid, I would have loved it, and definitely would have begged my parents for the accompanying toy line. So in that regard, mission accomplished.

The plot itself is relatively thin, serving as a sparse framework for superhero slugfests. It sags a bit in the middle, as all the fighting gets repetitive (Shooter and Zeck largely fail to display the kind of inventive action choreography displayed by Claremont and Byrne or Claremont and Smith to keep things interesting, and there's an over-reliance on random alien technology), but the last four issues or so, as the heroes try to stop Galactus from devouring Battleworld and then deal with an omnipotent Dr. Doom, do some interesting things with the setting and raise some intriguing ideas about the responsibilities of being good and the weight of omnipotence that I would have devoured as a kid. There are also some genuinely fun "fuck yeah!" moments sprinkled throughout the series (I have a great deal of affinity for issue #4, in which the Hulk holds up a mountain range on his shoulders while Mr. Fantastic struggles to devise a way to free the heroes). In the end, as with most trendsetting and divisive series, the result lands somewhere in the middle of both extremes: this is not entirely the insanely fun and exciting romp some of its fans claim it to be, nor is it the complete and utter dreck some of its opponents insist it to be.

In terms simply of the X-Men narrative, it is far from essential. It is most notable for depicting the X-Men working alongside Magneto for a protracted period of time for the first time. As a result, they spend most of the series functioning on their own, helping the other heroes but standing apart, something which dulls some of the fun for X-Men fans. The other heroes are distrustful of the X-Men, and while some of this is blamed on their championing of Magneto, there's also an indication of anti-mutant prejudice at work, which occasionally rings false/out of character (many of the Avengers, for example, have served alongside and stood up for mutants like Scarlet Witch and Beast).

Professor X spends most of the series acting more like his authoritative Silver Age self, and while an explanation for that behavior is eventually given, it's still not terribly fun to read. Meanwhile, Colossus spends half the series mooning over a Zsaji, a cipher of a character who, by design, can barely communicate with the heroes and spends most of her time having other characters tell the readers what they think she's trying to say. Even putting aside the effect it will have on his relationship with Kitty, it's difficult to care about Colossus' affections for this character simply because Zsaji is such a non-entity, and in the end, when we learn his feelings for her are a side effect of her healing powers, it just makes Colossus look like even more of a chump.

Nevertheless, this series is a watershed one for Marvel, marking a clear beginning for a new style of storytelling and taking the concept of the Marvel Universe to another level for the first time. It's definitely rough around the edges, but it has its moments of fun and some big ideas. And there's no denying there's a certain charm in seeing heroes and villains in such large numbers interact with each other on such a grand scale. 

Next Issue
In light of the holidays and some upcoming travel for work, we're going to take a brief break next week, but we'll be back on January 9th with Uncanny X-Men #181, as the X-Men return from Secret Wars, followed by the debut of the Hellions in New Mutants #16.

24 comments:

  1. I should find the link, but it has been pointed out that nearly every sentence ends in an exclamation point! When I read the panels now, I always imagine the characters super excited or yelling at each other! It certainly fits the bombastic nature of the tie-in!

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  2. And here is the link! It is the second legend!

    Enjoy!

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  3. http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2007/02/15/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-90/



    Yeah!

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  4. Spider-Man pretty much always beats the X-Men whenever they fight. It's absurd, but as a fan of both, I kind of enjoy it.

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  5. PART ONE IN A 3-PART COMMENT

    As I've said before, Secret Wars is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. It's one of the few comic series I have triple-dipped on (the others being Claremont/Byrne X-Men and Stern/Romita Spider-Man). I had the toys as a kid, before I knew the comic existed. I discovered the comic a few years after its publication, when I was probably about 8 or 9 years old. I begged my mom to buy the series for me, and then one Christmas morning I woke up to find all twelve issues under the tree. She had gone to the local comic shop and purchased the back issues! A few years later I purchased the trade paperback version when I was in middle school, and then more recently, I bought the Omnibus.

    So I guess you could say that Secret Wars made a pretty big impression on me. I knew all about Spider-Man and the Hulk, and a bit about the F.F. and Captain America, but this series was my introduction to most of the Avengers, to Iron Man, and especially to the X-Men -- not to mention most of the non-Spidey villains! To this day, I have trouble with a non-insane Klaw and with an Ultron who can think for himself, because that's not how I encountered them here. On the other hand, I knew that smart Hulk was an abberation, as I was already aware of his usual status quo from the TV series and cartoons.

    In retrospect, knowing the backstory involving Mattel, it's a pretty shameless cash-grab. But it's also pretty good cross-promotion, and -- in my opinion at least -- a decent story. It certainly could've been better, and it does feel like it's treading water in the middle, but it's still a fun read. One thing I've always found odd is that Shooter (and the readers) knew about all the status quo changes the series was going to end with, yet for some reason he held off on implementing practically all of them other than Spider-Man's costume until the very last minute. Seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity there.

    I recall when I was younger, I assumed that Marvel had simply stopped publishing everything except Secret Wars for a year while it ran its course, to avoid spoiling the surprises in store. Obviously that would be suicide for a publisher, but as a kid I didn't know any better. I'm not sure when I figured out that it actually ran alongside all of the changes in the regular titles. Probably around middle school.

    One thing I've always thought was a missed chance though, was for team books to take advantage of the missing characters. If many of the Avengers are missing but some still remain on Earth, why not do a few issues about the reserve Avengers coping with their teammates' disappearance while filling in for them? You wouldn't need to do that storyline for a full year, but what's the point in bringing everyone back the very next month when there's a wealth of other Avengers characters to draw upon for a while? Even the X-Men could've gotten away with this for a while, with the likes of Havok, Polaris, and Banshee (not to mention Moira and Madelyne) trying to deal with the disappearance of the regular team.

    But it's probably because, from what I've gathered, most writers resented Shooter "kidnapping" their characters to begin with, so they wanted to get past the whole thing as soon as possible.

    Random Note #1: As a kid, I was infatuated with the heroes' headquarters building and it really miffed me that it was destroyed so early in the series. That big dome, that waterfall... it just looked so awesome!! I wanted an OHOTMU entry with a full floor plan!

    Random Note #2: Arthur Adams contributed an art assist to issue #12, as detailed here. Even as a kid, I could tell there was something different about that second page, but it wasn't till years later that I learned what.

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  6. PART TWO IN A 3-PART COMMENT

    "Mattel ... acquired the license to create Marvel toys, and asked Marvel to launch a big event comic to support the line..."

    And then for some reason they proceeded to make several figures of characters who didn't appear in Secret Wars. The initial series was all characters from the series, like Cap, Spidey, Wolverine, Doom, Magneto, etc. But soon we received Secret Wars figures of Hobgoblin, Baron Zemo, Daredevil and the Falcon, none of whom appears in the series at all (though Zemo and Hobby were the main antagonists in their enemies' respective comics at the time).

    "Secret Wars remains most notable for introducing Spider-Man's black costume..."

    Which was, if I recall correctly, designed by Rick Leonardi -- though the white parts were originally going to be red!

    I love Spidey's black costume. I don't care much for the symbiote version, but I liked when the Black Cat made him a cloth replica. I would never want it to permanently replace the traditional red-and-blues, but I loved the period follwing Secret Wars for a few years where he would alternate between the two. Red during the day and black at night, or something. I wish that was still the case. Marvel likes to dust off the black costume every so often for special events and occasions, but why not just make it a regular part of the rotation?

    Also, though many people these days like to call it the "Venom costume", it will always be the "black Spider-Man costume" to me.

    "...with art by Captain America penciler Mike Zeck."

    In Zeck's original pencil art for issue number one, Kitty is present with the rest of the heroes. She also appeared on the promotional poster for the series (which I have hanging in my den), but was removed when the poster became the cover for the first issue. So it seems like the exclusion of Kitty was a last-minute decision. I don't know if it was Shooter's choice, or if Claremont somehow forced him to keep her out of the series because of his New Mutants storyline.

    I love Mike Zeck, but I agree with you that his work here, due in all likelihood to Shooter providing the layouts, is somewhat unispired. But even sub-part Zeck is quite impressive to me.

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  7. PART THREE IN A 3-PART COMMENT

    "Issue #3 features the X-Men facing off against Spider-Man, and losing."

    As we've noted before, he doesn't beat them so much as he holds his own and manages to get away. He takes out Professor X first -- with a bitch slap -- then basically just jumps around so much that the X-Men can't draw a bead on him. Storm remarks that if they were outside she could finish the fight in a hurry, but indoors and in tight quarters, she can't do much.

    It's interesting to note that Rogue can't tear Spidey's web here. I'm pretty sure that within a few years' time, such a feat would be simple for her.

    My favorite part of the fight, though, is Spidey's casual dismissal of Wolverine. While idly backhanding him, he jokes that Wolverine's "pig stickers" may scare the guys at the local bar, but they're a joke to him. Try to imagine that exchange even a couple years later!!

    I love Wolverine's line at the end of the skirmish: "He made us look like fools -- like amateurs!" Yup. And he joked about it the entire time!

    "Throughout the series, Wolverine is openly hostile to Captain America..."

    This does go against later depictions of the characters together, but it feels more appropriate for Wolverine; at least the Wolverine Shooter is writing. He seems to have decided this series features the Wolverine of the mid-70's, the belligerent dick who no one liked. It's kind of a throwback. But as a fan of that Wolverine, I like it.

    Though I also like the bit at the end where Wolverine, Cap, and Magneto head back into Doombase to free the captive villains from certain death. In that moment, they seem settle their differences.

    "As the X-Men prepare to return home in issue #12, they create new costumes, including the new looks for Professor X and Rogue."

    I like Xavier's costume. I wish it stuck around longer. And doesn't Rogue's outfit somehow turn orange when they arrive on Earth? It looks a lot better in green.

    "Iron Man references Julius Irving in issue #2."

    One of the most painful things about this series is how Shooter writes Rhodey like a Blaxploitation character (though I do love when he refers to Captain Marvel as "talent"). That was always Luke Cage's shtick. Rhodey was just a guy who happened to be black.

    Also, how come no one has even a passing comment to the fact that this is so totally, obviously a different guy in the Iron Man armor. Even if there's voice modulation going on to make him sound like he always did, he's just not saying things that Iron Man had ever said before! But (in the panel you posted a bit later), the Torch just shrugs off his "Thank God he ain't black" comment, and calls him "Shellhead" as if this is business as usual.

    "Magneto attempts to seduce Wasp in issue #3, but she only plays along until she can escape."

    Jan certainly has a thing for older men, doesn't she? Wasn't she like 18 when she was dating accomplished exobiologist Hank Pym? I don't like her hair in this series, by the way. It's a little too "butch" for a character who is supposed to be super-glamorous.

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  8. MOCK! - I've read all that about the exclamation points before. I never really noticed until it was brought to my attention, though. It just seems logical to me that comic book characters would use lots of exclamation points in comics!

    (I use lots of exclamation points myself in e-mails, texts, etc. I think I picked it up from comics.)

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  9. I didn't read Secret Wars at all until I was an adult. Consequently, I got through maybe two and a half issues before I put it down. Shooter's writing and seeing a good artist like Zeck draw in such a pedestrian style made it difficult to get even that far. I'm sure I would have liked it as a kid, but I fall squarely into the "dislike" category.

    @Matt:

    That's awesome that your mom picked up the entire series for you! My mom is a wonderful person, but stepping into a comic book store would have been a step too far.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  10. @Mock!: t has been pointed out that nearly every sentence ends in an exclamation point!

    What's sad is that even though I've read that legend before and, you know, the whole series again recently, I didn't even notice it until I was typing out the issue titles and thought "man, there are a ton of exclamation points in these".

    @Jeff: Spider-Man pretty much always beats the X-Men whenever they fight. It's absurd, but as a fan of both, I kind of enjoy it.

    Yeah, I don't seriously get too worked up over. It's just that my X-Men fandom trumps by Spidey fandom, so I want to stick up for them. And, as Matt noted, it's not so much that he beats them as it is he evades them.

    I begged my mom to buy the series for me, and then one Christmas morning I woke up to find all twelve issues under the tree.

    That's pretty awesome. There were a few Christmases when I first started reading comics when my grandma would go out and buy stuff for me, so I'd have a handful of random issues under the tree.

    One thing I've always found odd is that Shooter (and the readers) knew about all the status quo changes the series was going to end with, yet for some reason he held off on implementing practically all of them other than Spider-Man's costume until the very last minute.

    That's always seemed odd to me too, especially since the issues "back" from Secret Wars usually made a pretty big deal out of the changes. Even the X-Men issue makes the whole dragon business seem like a bigger deal than it actually was.

    It makes me think that maybe most of the status quo changes other than the black costume came from the individual writers, and not Shooter, so he just shoehorned them in at the absolute last minute since they weren't his ideas.

    I recall when I was younger, I assumed that Marvel had simply stopped publishing everything except Secret Wars for a year while it ran its course

    I thought that too as a kid, and then when I realized how unlikely that would be, I assumed that the series must have been published before the issues where everyone disappeared, with the issues featuring everyone returning synching up with the end of the series (sort of the opposite of how it really happened).

    One thing I've always thought was a missed chance though, was for team books to take advantage of the missing characters.

    Agreed again.

    Arthur Adams contributed an art assist to issue #12

    Ah, that makes sense. That page stood out to me, but I just assumed it was the work of one of the inkers not blending as well. Now that it's been pointed out, it seems more obviously-Adams.

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  11. @Matt (cont)I loved the period following Secret Wars for a few years where he would alternate between the two.

    Ditto.

    Also, though many people these days like to call it the "Venom costume", it will always be the "black Spider-Man costume" to me.

    I tend to think of it as "the alien costume", mainly because my first exposure to it, even before Venom, was a trade paperback collecting the issues of ASM immediately following Secret Wars titled "The Saga of the Alien Costume" or something like that.

    So it seems like the exclusion of Kitty was a last-minute decision.

    I wonder if it was because Claremont told Shooter he'd use Secret Wars as the means to split up Kitty and Colossus (or if Shooter told Claremont that's how they'd split up, then changed his plans to leave her behind to help facilitate it). I know prior to their split-up Shooter lobbied for it pretty strongly.

    It's interesting to note that Rogue can't tear Spidey's web here. I'm pretty sure that within a few years' time, such a feat would be simple for her.

    Indeed. Her strength is surprisingly dialed down around this time, relative to what it would become in the not-too-distant future.

    Though I also like the bit at the end where Wolverine, Cap, and Magneto head back into Doombase to free the captive villains from certain death.

    I do as well. I probably should have highlighted it.

    I like Xavier's costume. I wish it stuck around longer. And doesn't Rogue's outfit somehow turn orange when they arrive on Earth? It looks a lot better in green.

    I too like this look for Xavier and prefer Rogue's green version to the orange one in becomes in Uncanny.

    Rhodey was just a guy who happened to be black.

    Exactly.

    Also, how come no one has even a passing comment to the fact that this is so totally, obviously a different guy in the Iron Man armor.

    I can't remember, but at this point, did some of the heroes know he was a different guy? If I remember my Iron Man correctly, I think there was a period where Rhodey filled in and no one knew, and another period where he did and the Avengers, at least, knew he was a different guy (not to be confused with the time that Tony-as-Iron Man pretended to be someone other than Tony wearing the armor). But I can't remember if this falls during the first period or the second.

    I don't like her hair in this series, by the way. It's a little too "butch" for a character who is supposed to be super-glamorous.

    Totally agreed. That's always bugged me too.

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  12. @Mike: I didn't read Secret Wars at all until I was an adult. Consequently, I got through maybe two and a half issues before I put it down.

    The first time I read it, as an adult, the questions of "what happens next?" and "what's the big deal with this?" were enough to power me through it. This time through was much more of a forced slog, at least until the last couple issues when some of the more pseudo-philosophical stuff comes into play.

    But if I had to read about Colossus moping about Zsaji one more time while the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance, I was going to punch something...

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  13. I read these as they were coming out. Months before that great Neal Adams-y full page promo had my friends and I eagerly anticipating a full-on rock 'em sock 'em comic book throw down. I have to say the final product left a lot to be desired, my enthusiasm dropped after the first issue, still followed it for a year but by then it was just another limited series.
    Read it recently and I can appreciate the bronze-ageness of it, but even then it seemed like a throwback. DC's Crisis (which I think was going on at the same time?) made it look dated and quaint.

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  14. I thought I'd already posted this early on. Sorry!

    Kitty was in ads for Secret Wars that used a version of #1's cover — as I see Matt has pointed out in comments.

    I'm gonna be the Zeck hater here, it appears, in addition to the (or a) JRJr. hater. Zeck's work on Captain America was solid in foundation, but I didn't care much for his peculiarities of style: Why the long face, everybody? Secret Wars was borderline abysmal stuff, not just for the general sketchiness but those tics of his and the feet especially; man, did I hate his feet. I was thrilled when Bob Layton came aboard with #4 and disheartened when he left. Of course this was all the more frustrating on such a major project, especially when you compare it to DC's Crisis (although Super Powers is actually more apt).

    The fanboy fervor over Secret Wars was pretty high and I was not immune. Even though I'd never been as much of a Marvel geek as a DC one, despite having read both my whole life, and even though Crisis on Infinite Earths felt like a way bigger deal all around what with the destruction of the multiverse and continuity being rewritten, Secret Wars was hard to pass up both for its massive teaming of Marvel's biggest characters and the changes it wrought throughout the line. Later events almost always carried lip service from the creators and editors that Secret Wars not just talked but walked, for all its faults as a story on its own terms and perhaps as an imposition from on high to those shepherding the characters involved. Shooter dictated certain things but he really did go to writers and ask them to either dream up changes to the status quo or to hold back and/or move up ones that they were going to implement anyway so that they could be implemented as part of Secret Wars to everyone's benefit. Spider-Man's black costume, Thing staying behind and being replaced by She-Hulk in the Fantastic Four, and even Dr. Doom's supposed death were all genuinely huge deals at the time.

    Secret Wars came during my very brief speculation phase, so I bought a couple of copies of each issue. When #8 came out — even though (or maybe because) The Amazing Spider-Man #252, his first actual published appearance in the black costume, was several months gone — my local comics shop had a two-per-customer maximum on the issue; I had my sister and a friend of hers to each buy a couple for me as well. Does anyone know if #8 goes for much now (and if there's a difference between the covers with redder backgrounds as opposed to the orangey ones)?

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  15. the Thing stayed behind on Battleword to launch his own solo series

    Actually it had already launched, spun right out of Marvel Two-in-One. His post-Wars stint as "Rocky Grimm, Space Ranger" began in Thing #10.

    I'll go at this again soon, but Ouch! The dialogue in that roll-call panel is horrible — and the art don't make up for it none, neither.

    In issue #1, Magneto is sorted in with the heroes, much to the consternation of everyone except the X-Men. Issue #12 reveals this was because the Beyonder sorted everyone based on their greatest desires, and Magneto's desires were more compatible with the noble desires of the heroes.

    Huh. I'd forgotten that.

    Wolverine is openly hostile to Captain America, specifically angry that he isn't taking a more offensive approach to the conflict.

    Whereas this I have never, ever forgotten 'cause it's just wrong. "He's the least of us!" stuck with me from the moment I read it. Not only does it not sound like Wolverine (at least not since, oh, X-Men #98 at the latest) in terms of tone, it doesn't sound like him in terms of content. Just from the panels you've reproduced, a handful out of hundreds upon hundreds in the miniseries, it's clear that Shooter is tone-deaf to any nuance in character voices and is almost actively ham-fisted in terms of attitudes. There's one voice for Rebel, one for Altruistic Hero, one for Streetwise Villain, etc. in the very worst of Silver/Bronze Age cliché.

    Professor X also makes clear his desire to continue to lead the X-Men in the field now that he can walk, something that doesn't sit well with Storm.

    I looove the costume, Prof. And remember: Don't wear a mask! The few people who don't know that your school is the X-Men's "secret" headquarters will be thrilled to discover that an internationally renowned genetics expert is the leader of a feared and hated group of costumed mutants.

    Tough Xavier is my new band name. Our new album, More Skeevy, drops in January. (Yes, I made good on my promise to pay attention to the filenames.)

    Colossus spends most of issue #4 missing Kitty.

    Life has killed the dream he dreamed.

    Issue #11 reveals that Colossus' feeling for Zsaji are a side effect of her healing powers, something that Colossus never learns.

    Wolverine knows this because any time his own mutant healing factor kicks in he falls totally in love with himself.

    The other heroes generally distrust the X-Men throughout the entire series

    Oh well.... At least the Avengers and the X-Men can get this conflict out of their system now rather than fight each other repeatedly down the road.

    I have a great deal of affinity for issue #4, in which the Hulk holds up a mountain range on his shoulders while Mr. Fantastic struggles to devise a way to free the heroes

    I did like that, and it helped that Layton was drawing. As you've said it's not that the whole thing was trash; it had some interesting beats and really was a milestone for both the company and its readers even if there were persistent rumors that Marvel rushed both a 12-issue event and a handbook series into production to beat DC after it got wind of DC scheduling Crisis and Who's Who for its 50th anniversary. Shooter was definitely stuck in an old-fashioned mode of scripting superhero comics, though.

    and taking the concept of the Marvel Universe to another level for the first time

    Well, Contest of Champions kinda got there first.

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  16. @Matt: I begged my mom to buy the series for me, and then one Christmas morning I woke up to find all twelve issues under the tree.

    That is indeed totally great. During the Paul Smith run I was hot to get ahold of X-Men issues I'd missed, either from the Byrne days when I just couldn't buy everything off the spinner racks, or during Second Cockrum when I sorta dropped it. So I took the extraordinary step of putting them on my Christmas/Chanukah list, even though my parents pretty much never got me comics unless I was with them because they didn't know what I had; lo and behold, both my mom and my dad (separately, as they were divorced and not coordinating presents) got me a bunch of stuff, which was awesome except that it was awkward to return the duplicates — which in retrospect I should've held onto and sold off like 10 years later.

    @Matt: Which was, if I recall correctly, designed by Rick Leonardi -- though the white parts were originally going to be red!
    I love Spidey's black costume.


    First, I agree with your second point. Second, I concur with your first point; Marvel Age, I remember, showed Leonardi's sketches, still mostly black with red highlights where the blue or gray was, and I think the white eyes and spider insignia were red too. I like gray relief used sparingly the best, indicating that it's a truly black costume, but I hate the usual substitution of blue and much prefer red to that. I think that eagle-eyed Alex Ross used those designs as the springboard for a version of Spider-Girl or Venom in Universe X, black with red veins running throughout, but I don't feel like looking it all up.

    @Teebore: It makes me think that maybe most of the status quo changes other than the black costume came from the individual writers, and not Shooter, so he just shoehorned them in at the absolute last minute since they weren't his ideas.

    Like I said above, Shooter did incorporate the series' individual writers' changes into the Secret Wars plan, but it's true that waiting until the end to implement them as part of his story was weird — unless he wrote the thing well in advance and didn't want to do any revisions. The changes showed up in other titles the very month that Secret Wars #1 hit, and even if Zeck started penciling with a cushion that pretty obviously evaporated, so it ain't like there wasn't time to finesse the middle of the miniseries.

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  17. @Chris: DC's Crisis (which I think was going on at the same time?) made it look dated and quaint.

    In terms on sale dates, Secret Wars ended a month before Crisis #1 went on sale, so the later followed the former. DC's Super Powers, as Blam suggested, is probably the more accurate analog to Secret Wars, for being on sale at roughly the same time, being a tie-in to a toy line, and featuring a mashup of big name characters fighting a collection of bad guys, but I've never read it so I have no idea how it compares in terms of quality.

    If forced to choose, I'd probably go with Crisis over Secret Wars despite my general favoring of Marvel over DC, but it's not an entirely fair comparison as the goals of each series were wildly different (beyond, you know, the general goal of "sell lots of comics").

    @Blam: I'm gonna be the Zeck hater here

    For what it's worth, I'm not exactly a Zeck lover, though I'm frankly not familiar enough with his work enough to really formulate an opinion. I just know I'm not a huge fan of his work in Secret Wars, and that I liked what little of his Cap work I've seen better (and that his Cap run is generally well regarded).

    When #8 came out — even though (or maybe because) The Amazing Spider-Man #252, his first actual published appearance in the black costume, was several months gone

    I've never really thought of it before I read this, but it's kind of funny that everyone refers to Secret Wars #8 as the first appearance of the black costume even though it's not. It's the first chronological appearance of it, but from a collecting standpoint, nobody cares about that, yet for years and years Secret Wars #8 has been held up as the coveted first appearance, rather than ASM #252.

    Does anyone know if #8 goes for much now (and if there's a difference between the covers with redder backgrounds as opposed to the orangey ones)?

    A quick scan of eBay (which is usually where I check comic values these days, on the rare occasions I do, simply because it shows what people are actually paying for things) shows a handful of ungraded, unslabbed copies receiving bids from around $10-$30, with slabbed copies up in the $100 range.

    Which seems consistent with the listings on a quick Google search of a few comic price guide sites.

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  18. @Blam: His post-Wars stint as "Rocky Grimm, Space Ranger" began in Thing #10.

    Good to know. Obviously, I've never read that series, but for some reason, I always thought it spun out of Secret Wars.

    There's one voice for Rebel, one for Altruistic Hero, one for Streetwise Villain, etc. in the very worst of Silver/Bronze Age cliché.

    More than anything, this is what I noticed on my most recent read through, and what bothered me the most (I should have made a bigger deal out of it in the review). In addition to Wolverine, who, as you say, never really sounds right, Captain America's voice, in the beginning at least, really sounds wrong, which is especially odd, since I more or less enjoyed Shooter's Avengers work and his Cap there never stuck out like it does here.

    There's a line in issue #2 or #3 where Cap tells Mr. Fantastic he's a credit to his name or some much, and it just sounds wrong, especially for two characters who even at this point had teamed-up/hung out before.

    The few people who don't know that your school is the X-Men's "secret" headquarters will be thrilled to discover that an internationally renowned genetics expert is the leader of a feared and hated group of costumed mutants.

    I'm kind of embarassed to admit that for all the times I've read this upcoming "Xavier in action" run of issues, that never occurred to me. But it is pretty ridiculous. Storm not wearing a mask, fine, whatever. But not only is Xavier the public face of the school, he's a world-renowned authority on mutation. Visibly palling around with the X-Men in costume should have blown his cover ages ago.

    Yes, I made good on my promise to pay attention to the filenames.

    Good. I'm trying to sneak at least one or two humorous ones in each post. :)

    Life has killed the dream he dreamed.

    Haha!

    Well, Contest of Champions kinda got there first.

    True, though Contest of Champions didn't function on quite the same scale, in terms of number of issues, impact on regular series, the toy tie-in, etc.

    unless he wrote the thing well in advance and didn't want to do any revisions

    That was my other thought.

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  19. @Teebore: In terms on sale dates, Secret Wars ended a month before Crisis #1 went on sale, so the later followed the former.

    Despite what I said about Super Powers, I really do remember Secret Wars being compared more to Crisis. Jack Kirby plotted and did covers for the first mini, then drew the second, with Carmine Infantino penciling the third, but to most kids they were out of style by then. I suspect that the toy line and the co-opt of Super Friends was more popular than the comics Super Powers themselves.

    And like I said, I remember the scuttlebutt about both Secret Wars and OHOTMU being that Marvel had got wind of Crisis and Who's Who, rushing out their own mega-crossover and handbook first to make DC look like the copycat. How that jibes with the Secret Wars toy line, which I don't remember seeing on the shelves until well after the mini had launched, I don't know; I didn't hear about Mattel or Marvel's marketing dept. being the genesis of Secret Wars until much later.

    @Teebore: Obviously, I've never read that series, but for some reason, I always thought [The Thing] spun out of Secret Wars.

    Which reminds me that you young(er) 'uns didn't know that the heroes returned to Earth in their own titles the same month or the month after Secret Wars #1 appeared. (The Amazing Spider-Man #252 was on sale a week later.) I guess that makes sense in retrospect, as it's weird that all the changes were given away, but the move was intriguing — making the miniseries about the journey rather than the destination and probably a savvy marketing choice. DC's 52, now that I think about it, did the same thing on a much larger scale more recently.

    @Teebore: I should have made a bigger deal out of it in the review

    No, I think it came across, both in your text and in the panels you posted. I haven't read Secret Wars in years upon years now, and I certainly got the point.

    @Teebore: Visibly palling around with the X-Men in costume should have blown his cover ages ago.

    Right? I'm aware that the guy has the power to cloud men's minds, as it were, but there's no reason to rely on that and chance not getting everybody or worrying about video and all that. Then again this is the same guy who was too stupid or too cheap to give Bobby a whole costume, let alone a mask, so that when he powered down (or was forcibly powered down) as Iceman he was basically in a belt, swim trunks, and galoshes. Bobby didn't catch on himself, either. I remember around the Champions days, when he thankfully did at least have a full-body costume, Spider-Man had to make him a domino mask out of webbing in an issue of Marvel Team-Up.

    I'm sorry to say, by the way, that I've moved boxes around a couple of times recently and I totally forgot to look for mags with relevant interviews. I think that at least a couple are now accessible, though, so I'll get on that.

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  20. I should also add that what I said Shooter said about getting the Marvel writers on board was, like the stuff about outmaneuvering DC, based on what I read in the fan press or heard talked about at local cons at the time. All sorts of stories may have come out since then, based on what else I've seen discussed on the Internet (here included). I was 13-14-15 then, from Secret Wars through Crisis, and still mostly took people at their word as quoted — be it creators and editors interviewed or journalists (air quotes possibly needed in some respects) asking or giving opinions. I heard a lot more, much of it off the record, once I joined the ranks of those journalists, but if the real story (or stories) behind certain old news didn't get dredged up then it just sat waiting to be uncovered at another time. Kurt Busiek pitching to John Byrne via Roger Stern, more or less, how Jean Grey could return is fairly common knowledge today, I think, but when Byrne mentioned it to me in 2000 for Comicology and I asked Kurt about it in turn there were plenty of industry folks who told me that they'd never heard that fascinating tidbit before. [And I really mention this by way of example, not to toot my horn.]

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  21. Just a few items to add to the conversation:

    1. I agree that it would've made a lot more sense to "time-delay" all the regular Marvel titles so that the heroes didn't disappear until the month issue 11 or 12 went on sale. Somehow I never thought of this solution, though.

    2. I also never considered how odd it is that Professor X doesn't wear a mask with his costume. Weird. Maybe he keeps one in his back pocket for emergencies.

    3. I recently read the "Rocky Grimm: Space Ranger" storyline for the first time. I had always assumed I would enjoy it. I was wrong. It's rough going. Byrne writes the beginning and end, but all the middle part is just lackluster filler material from Mike Carlin and Bob Harras. Also, since it was being published concurrently with Secret Wars, there are several misconceptions about Battleworld presented, which don't quite fit with what we learn in the mini-series.

    4. I've liked some of Zeck's sequential work, but what really made me a huge fan were his G.I. Joe covers. Please look at those and then try to tell me you're not a fan. It's impossible.

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  22. @Blam: I really do remember Secret Wars being compared more to Crisis.

    Yeah, I definitely have always heard Secret Wars compared to Crisis. It was just interesting to look at the on sale dates and realize they never shared the shelves, and how in everything except impact (both long and short term) Secret Wars actually had a lot in common with Super Powers.

    I suspect that the toy line and the co-opt of Super Friends was more popular than the comics Super Powers themselves.

    That toy line (along wit the Super Hero Dictionary) was pretty much my introduction to the DC Universe.

    I think that at least a couple are now accessible, though, so I'll get on that.

    No worries. Anything you find is always appreciated, and if you find nothing, we'll survive. :)

    Assuming it's not just a lack of resources on my part, it seems we're in the midst of something of a fallow period for critical analysis/outside sources anyways (as you can tell from the lack of quotes), but that'll change once we get nearer to the return of Jean and the accompanying onslaught of remarks on that subject, followed by the launch of X-Factor and "Mutant Massacre".

    [And I really mention this by way of example, not to toot my horn.]

    Or, in the parlance of kids these days, #humblebrag. :)

    @Matt: I've liked some of Zeck's sequential work, but what really made me a huge fan were his G.I. Joe covers.

    Ah, yes, I'd completely forgotten about those. Definitely any affection I have for Zeck's work comes from those covers.

    I actually first saw a lot of those covers thanks to a GI Joe trading card set from around 1991 (back when I was still collecting cards). There was a subset about the Joe's missions, summarizing the comic book stories on the back, with a picture of the cover on the front.

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  23. @Matt: I've liked some of Zeck's sequential work, but what really made me a huge fan were his G.I. Joe covers. Please look at those and then try to tell me you're not a fan. It's impossible.

    Sorry; I do not think that word means what you think it means. 8^) I have zero nostalgia for Marvel's Joe series and ditto for that era of the figures. I'm a '70s kid, early '80s at most, and the early-to-mid '80s is when I finally got discriminating about my comics — at the same time that DC actually switched places with Marvel, to a large extent and after a long time, in terms of which was telling the more mature stories and which felt more like kid stuff. I'll give props (no pun intended) that Zeck knew how to draw hands holding guns, but I don't like his faces, his figures are merely adequate, and the color on all but a couple of those covers is hideous to me in the most pejorative sense of "comic book". I mean no disrespect; let's just agree to disagree.

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