Spoilers ahead Defenders of Beyond #2!
Marvel slyly named the original’s long-lost goal Secret Wars: sell toys. 1984s Secret Wars rightfully remembered as a landmark event in superhero comics, a major event that brought together the strongest fighters of Marvel and united them against the incredibly powerful Beyonder. At the same time, the publisher commissioned a toy line to commemorate the event, and these toys were recognized in Defenders of Beyond #2Available now in print and digital format.
Written by Jim Shooter and illustrated by Mike Zeck, original Secret Wars was a twelve-issue maxi-series that pitted Marvel’s greatest heroes against their most nefarious villains in a mysterious Battleworld, all at the behest of an Other-Dimensional Beyonder. The series was a commercial success, and the effects of the book, such as Spider-Man’s alien black suit (who became Venom), are still felt to this day. However, the series also had another purpose: to sell toys. In the early 1980s, Kenner produced super powers line with characters published by DC Comics. Kenner’s main competitor, Mattel, then signed a contract with Marvel Comics to produce a toy line with one request: that the publisher create a spin-off comic using the words “secret” and “war” in the title; it turns out that these words are well tested in focus groups. In the mid-1980s, three lines of action figures, play sets, and vehicles were produced for the line. The figures have a premium value in the secondary market and are fondly remembered by longtime fans – and now writer Al Ewing and artist Javier Rodriguez are paying homage to this beloved toy line.
The new team of Defenders, including Blue Marvel, America Chavez and the returned female Loki, are opposed by not one, but a whole team of Beyonders. These Beyonders tell not only their story, but the entire history of the Marvel Multiverse, going back to the First Firmament. The otherworldly in charge Secret Wars recounts the events of that series, telling the Defenders that he came to the real universe as a baby and was “corrupted straight away”. The Beyonder goes on to say, “Imagine an endless child who only learns from action figure TV commercials.” In the scene below, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, and Wolverine fight Magneto, Kang, and Doctor Octopus, with Dr. Doom, without a cape, directing the fight from an ominous tower.
The character designs seen in the story of the Beyonder, including Doctor Doom without his cape, reflect those used in Secret Wars toy line. The large tower Doom stands on is a perfect replica of the Tower of Doom playset, which made its comic book debut almost 40 years after it first appeared as a toy. Figures based on comic book characters were nothing new when Secret Wars debuted toy line – In the 1970s, Mego launched a popular toy line based on comics. Once Secret Wars Raising the stakes for superhero comics in the 1980s, the toy line helped determine the fate of superhero action figures. Secret Wars ushered in the modern era of comic book events and its associated toy line set the standard by which others are judged, and now Marvel is recognizing that toy line’s place in its history.
Original by Ewing and Rodriguez Defenders the miniseries was a joyful, at times metatextual thrilling journey through the publisher’s history, and Defenders Beyond continues it. The whole question relies heavily on metatextual comments, and this is perhaps the most poignant of them all; it’s Al Ewing and Javier Rodiges subtly hinting at the hidden purpose of the original Secret Wars: sell toys.
Defenders of Beyond #2 Available now in Marvel Comics!