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Make Mine Marvel 3

By: NLogan

MAKE MINE MARVEL III



Welcome back to another Make Mine Marvel. In 1983 when I was 6 years old I was heavily into Mattel's HE-MAN and the Masters of the Universe action figure line. Mattel wanted another figure line to start as kind of a backup or hedging their bets as far as figure lines for boys. The main competitor was Kenner who had also had huge success with Star Wars action figures and had just picked up a license for DC comic's superheroes and villains in the Super Powers Collection that would have a comic book tie in for their Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and other characters. Mattel approached Marvel Comics with a plan. They wanted to get in on the superhero action in case that became the next big thing for boys toys after space fantasy and sci-fi. They approached Marvel with a plan to produce several superheroes and super-villains with a request to do a tie-in story-line in the comic books to gather all of the players together in one huge battle. Marvel and DC both had licensed with Mego to make Superhero toys previously but now they would compete against each other. This wasn't going to be the doll-like Mego figures or the small inarticulate pocket heroes, these were action figures baby!



1984 Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars Action Figures by Mattel



Series 1: Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus, Dr. Doom, Kang, and Magneto



Series 2: Falcon, Hobgoblin, Baron Zemo, Black Costume Spider-Man, and Daredevil



Foreign release only: Constrictor, Electro, and Iceman



Unreleased/Cancelled: Incredible Hulk, Mystique, Mr. Fantastic, the Abomination, Annihilus, Thunderball, and Dazzler



Mattel continued their traditions of reusing body and limb molds for multiple characters with unique head sculpts, and of using bright colors and durable plastics for their figures. Although they did not have as many points of articulation as Kenner's Super Powers collection they felt solid in your hand and rarely broke. Many may show a tooth mark or two from a toddler sibling that got a hold of one or have the paint applications rubbed off from many hours of play, but the toys themselves may last for decades. That however was not how I was introduced into the world of collecting.

In 1984, at seven years old with divorced parents, I attended a summer camp/day care. While my mom worked, we got dropped off during the summer break from school. We swam in the pool and went on field trips to museums and parks. We played on playgrounds, watched movies, and played video games. A snack was provided and we brought our own lunch in metal lunch boxes. Now being a superhero aficionado I was envious of those lucky kids that sported a superhero one. My introduction to Mattel and Marvel's Secret Wars was looking at the pictures on the sides of an Aladdin lunchbox.

Now I was familiar with the Marvel Superheroes lunchbox from 1976. It was older than me and I had seen it on store shelves and at school.



It featured Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America on the lid and the Fantastic Four: Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, the Human Torch, and the ever lovin' Thing on the bottom. Around the sides it had Hawkeye, Vision, and the Wasp under the handle. On the other sides were a transforming Hulk, Iron Man, Falcon, Daredevil, the Scarlet Witch, and Yellow Jacket.



But this was something different. It also wasn't the Spider-Man and Hulk lunchbox from 1980.



That one had Captain America on the other side with all three of the aforementioned heroes in different poses on the sides.



It wasn't my favorite one, the one I wanted the most, the Incredible Hulk lunchbox from 1978.




That one featured the Hulk smashing through walls and transforming, along with the Leader, the Rhino, Doc Sampson, Moonstone, Betty Ross, and her old man General Thunderbolt Ross. No, this was different, something new... during lunch after I had drained my HI-C Ecto Cooler juice box and finished my Hostess cherry filled fruit pie, I sidled over to the kid who had it for a better look. I offered to show him the pictures on my Dark Crystal lunchbox and my twin brother's Secret of Nimh lunchbox to seal the deal if we could look at his...

Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars lunchbox 1984



See I was confused because at first I thought it was just another Spider-Man and Incredible Hulk lunchbox because all of the side pictures were identical, but no there was something strange. It was different after all. It had familiar faces... or, er, masks I mean. On one side Captain America, Spider-Man, and Iron Man. But on the other they were in a battle with Dr. Doom and Doctor Octopus!



Dr. Doom was in an outfit I had never seen before with mechanical looking armor instead of his standard tunic and cape. What were these Secret Wars? Apparently they were so secret I had yet to be exposed to them. There was no mention on my Marvel cartoons on T.V. and I had yet to start reading the comic books so I never saw the pages advertising the figures inside.

My next glimpse at the Secret Wars was through one of the camp counselors/adult supervision at the day camp/daycare. He knew my brother and I liked superheroes and we had had many a conversation debating the possibilities of who could beat whom and which powers were better. That day he brought a sealed Wolverine figure still on the card and showed my brother and I. I had a vague concept of who Wolverine was from episodes of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends and a coloring book I had. The figure looked different but pretty cool, and we asked him why he didn't open it so he could look at it. He looked shocked, "Never!" he exclaimed; he then went on to explain that this was the first time Wolverine had ever been made into a toy and it was the first Uncanny X-Men toy. Plus it would only grow in value over the years. My brother and I exchanged glances and raised an eyebrow at him. He wasn't convincing us. Toys were made to be played with. He came with claws and a shield that were meant to be used. Besides why would an adult want a toy anyways? We had never heard of collecting.



Looking on the back I could see Spider-Man and decided then and there I would own as many of them as I could get. There was also Captain America and I had seen a couple of the live action movies where he drove around in a van and had a motorcycle, and wore a motorcycle helmet, plus he showed up in the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends cartoon. I recognized Magneto (sans cape) and Doctor Octopus as villains from the show. There was that strange Dr. Doom again but he looked pretty cool and he had guns with him. I had no clue who Kang the Conqueror was but was sorta familiar with Iron Man having seen him before. Where was the Incredible Hulk?



As I ran off to play I quickly forgot about the new Secret Wars and whatever it had to do with my favorite superheroes. It all came rushing back however as I went to the store with my mom and begged/dragged her to the toy aisle. There they were nestled in among the Star Wars, GI*JOE, and Masters of the Universe. Not sure how I had missed them before. And whoa there was a new guy I had never seen before! Well let me rephrase that. There was a Spider-Man in a new costume I had never seen before. Not in the live action T.V. series, the cartoons, lunchboxes, posters, and whatever else I had been exposed to by this time; Spider-Man had always, I mean always worn his standard red and blue suit with a web design on it. But this was black with a cool white spider on it, was this ninja Spider-Man? I did not know. I took a quick look through the stacks, which were all series one guys, to see if there was an Incredible Hulk and I had made my choice, black Spider-Man would be mine.



Looking on the back I could see a few other new guys from the second series, some unknowns like Daredevil (wait-a-minute wasn't he one of those guys on a lunchbox, dunno), Baron Zemo, whoever that was... probably a baddie, the Falcon with wings (yeah another lunchbox guy, pretty sure), and Hobgoblin who was obviously some relative or a new costume for the Green Goblin. Still no Hulk.



My brother was busy eyeballing that new Dr. Doom outfit.




We begged our mom with promises of good behavior and chores galore to recompense if she could just see it in her heart to buy us these superheroes. I think she was also a little intrigued not knowing beforehand that they made superhero toys, but knowing what made her little boys tick. She was also a secret toy purchasing professional knowing how to scan the backs of the Star Wars and HE-MAN figures for ones we didn't yet have to be stored away for future Christmases and birthdays. With enough pleading, begging, hugs, kisses, and puppy dog eyes she finally relented and we were on our way home with our prizes. Ripping them open we discovered the lenticular lenses on the shields that showed different images as you tilted them back and forth. Hmm since when did Spider-Man need a shield, maybe it had something to do with the new black costume. Although it would be many years later before I saw Spider-Man in a black costume again. In the early to mid eighties Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars meant only the figures and the associated lunchbox and cheap toys that we saw. It would be about five more years before I finally found out what the Secret Wars were and about the Beyonder who transported our favorite heroes and villains to Battleworld in the Marvel Comic books through back issues. In the mean time I collected nearly all of Mattel's Super Heroes Secret Wars action figures growing up. My mom was on board and just as enthusiastic about the short lived line because they quickly landed in the discount bins and she got them all very cheaply. I still have them or have replaced the ones that were lost to time.



1984-1985 Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars Comic Books




Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars comic books told a story of a cosmic being, the Beyonder, kidnapping several superheroes and villains in hopes that they would fight each other on a distant world he created called Battleworld. Like a kid with two bugs caught in a jar shaking it in the hopes that one will devour the other. The superheroes included the Incredible Hulk and the Amazing Spider-Man, and some of the Avengers: Captain America, Captain Marvel II, Hawkeye, Iron Man (but not Tony Stark who at the time was battling with alcoholism - instead it was James Rhodes), She-Hulk, Thor, and the Wasp. Some of the Fantastic Four: Mr. Fantastic, Human Torch, and the Thing were transported as well. Several of the Uncanny X-Men Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Rogue, Storm, Professor X, and the cosmic dragon Lockheed were present. So was Magneto, he was placed with the heroes and later (off Battleworld) becomes part of the X-Men as a reformed villain. Although since many of the other heroes had battled him in the past they didn't trust him and he became a neutral outcast because he didn't join the villains. There was also a brand new heroine - Spider-Woman.



The villains that were brought to Battleworld were the Absorbing Man, Dr. Doom, Doctor Octopus, the Enchantress, Kang the Conqueror, Klaw, the Lizard, Molecule Man, Ultron, Bulldozer, Piledriver, Thunderball, and the Wrecker. Plus two new villainesses - Titania and Volcana. Galactus also appears but does not align with the villains. He is, however, attacked by all because he tries to eat the planet.




Finally at around the age of twelve I had my answers to where and why Spider-Man changed his costume (damaged in battle) and where he got a replacement (from a cosmic vending machine?!).




If you look closely at the comic panel from Secret Wars 8 when he gets his suit he places his head in a inverted salad bowl device and the machine gives him what he is thinking of. He wonders aloud why his suit (which is what he wanted repaired) didn't come out like his red and blue original as he claims that is what he was thinking of. Clearly he was thinking of Spider-Woman II the new blonde super heroine introduced in Secret Wars 1. Busted!



I also found out why Dr. Doom had armor (he absorbed Galactus' power and the armor helped contain it). What I didn't find out was why in the world didn't Mattel make several more characters into figures, and why did they choose to make figures that weren't even featured in the storyline (Falcon, Hobgoblin, Baron Zemo, Daredevil, Ice Man, Constrictor, and Electro).

The villains attack the heroes trying to win the Beyonder's promise to give them whatever they want with his power to grant any request, and the heroes defend themselves. Except Dr. Doom. He plans to take the Beyonder's power.

Being under someone's power and being kidnapped to a place you don't want to be can be relatable to a 7 year old who is forced to go shopping in several boring stores with mom. It is debatable about which twin was brought as the villain and which was the hero between us but we were both there, although we didn't have to battle. Among the myriad stops my mother chose to make, one did catch our interest, Pic 'N' Save. Pic 'N' Save had cheap toys and candy to distract us from our boredom. It was there that I had another encounter with Secret Wars. In the form of puffy Stickers. You know regular stickers that were puffy pieces of plastic that eventually tore off leaving only a white silhouette of whatever it was.



They were actually just repurposed Marvel Comics Super Heroes puffy stickers.



There were also coloring/activity books and sticker books that had stories set on Battleworld but not told in the Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars comic series. They were published by Marvel Books.




Now I was familiar with Marvel superheroes in coloring books having colored in Whitman coloring books since as early as I could remember.




But these were produced in-house by Marvel. That 1983 Uncanny X-Men one was one of the first introductions I had to the team (I got it in 1984). They fight Magneto and his word pet and use their puzzle solving skills to defeat him.




This is Wolvie's intro from the book. Slightly better than the way he is described on the Secret Wars figure cardback, "THE WILD AND WOOLLY WOLVERINE".



I also managed to find some pretty cool Dragon's Lair coloring books also by Marvel Books.




Marvel Books also produced Big Looker Storybooks that were pretty doggone cool with painted instead of illustrated pages. Some were even done by Earl Norem that painted some of the best HE-MAN and the Masters of the Universe artwork.






Marvel Books Big Looker Storybooks had several different titles and covered everything from Transformers, GI*JOE, Heathcliff, Sectaurs, the Puffalumps, Chuck Norris and the Karate Kommandos, and of course some more Dragon's Lair with art straight from Don Bluth Studios.



Later in 1986, Pic 'N' Save hadn't yet changed into MacFrugals or been bought out by Big Lots and they still carried the same merchandise. I picked up a few more coloring books. I was disappointed when I found out that the Uncanny X-Men was just a reprint of the previous one featuring Magneto and his Alphabet Pet vs the mutants with a different cover. I suspect that the others probably were as well but since I didn't have any of the first ones I wasn't fazed.




In 1987 I was 10 years old, a little old for coloring maybe but I bought the book anyways, maybe for the nostalgia factor. Needless to say, I was still being dragged to stores and this was one of the things I could find to distract myself for a few minutes. I was pretty ticked when I got home to find out it was again a reprint of the four books above. My spider-sense didn't even tingle.



I was intrigued by the cover that showed multiple X-Men (Sunfire, Phoenix II, Ice Man, Psylocke, Banshee, Beast, Polaris, Havok, Dazzler, Angel, Marvel Girl, and Longshot) to go along with all the X-Men on the front with Spider-Man (Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus, and Shadowcat). By this time I was getting into the regular comic books and recognized several of them. Imagine my disappointment to find that most were not even in the book. Marvel had slowly but surely wormed its way into my consciousness through television shows, coloring books, cartoons, lunch boxes, and action figures. By the time I picked up my first comic book I was already a fan. But that is another story.

If you want to find out more about Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars action figures by Mattel check out these awesome websites that I borrowed some of these pictures from.

Brian's awesome nostalgia site Plaid Stallions, mostly 70s but some 80s:

http://www.plaidstallions.com/mattel/secretwars.html

Chip's informative AFI Secret Wars Archive

http://www.actionfigureinsider.com/archives/secretwars/

The Ultimate Guide to Secret Wars

http://www.toymania.com/archives/secretwars/swfigs.shtml

Jason's jaw dropping (I almost had a Hulk) article about the figures we missed out on when the series was cancelled

http://toyotter.com/2010/11/the-best-kept-secret/

Until next time true believers!


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