Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, Being, and Nothingness
"Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars," or just "Secret Wars" was a comic book series that appeared in 1984, the same year as that kick-ass album by Van Halen. It was one of the first "crossover events" that Marvel ever did, and it was also a thinly disguised marketing ploy, intended to promote a line of Mattel action figures.
I was 9 years old when the series hit newsstands, but I didn't read it until last week. I can remember buying the action figures when I was a kid, and being frustrated by their lack of articulation. Kenner's DC Super Powers action figures came out at the same time, and those toys just seemed a lot cooler to me.
Reading Secret Wars now, I'm struck by how bad most of the art is, the labored nature of the dialogue, and the flimsy attempts to insert vehicles and playsets into the story. The plot might have been interesting if it hadn't been such an obvious grab for Ca$h, but as it is, I think the sequel, 1985's "Secret Wars II," was much better.
In Secret Wars, the Beyonder, an omnipotent being from another universe (or multiverse), abducts a group of super heroes and supervillains, and teleports them to a galaxy far, far away. Once there, the Beyonder displays his immense power by destroying an entire nebula before their very eyes (not sure how they'd be able to "witness" this event, but whatever), and uses some of the fragments of this nebula to create an Earth-like world where the super heroes and super villains must do battle.
The heroes include The Avengers, the X-men, the Fantastic Four, Spider-man, and the Hulk. The villains include Galactus, Doctor Doom, Ultron, Enchantress (What? Loki was busy that day?), Kang the Conqueror, and a bunch of other guys that I'm forgetting. The Beyonder creates a futuristic base for each team (Ca$h!), and each base contains an array of vehicles (more Ca$h!). Along the way Spider-man meets the alien symbiote that later becomes Venom (TWO Spider-man action figures! Ca$h!), and there is a lot of speech-making on both sides.
It's all predictably silly, and nothing far removed from other comic books of the day. DC, after all, was doing the exact same thing with Super Powers. Almost the entire series occurs in the daytime, perhaps because super heroes are much easier to draw in the day.
I couldn't help but wonder, however, what all those super heroes and super villains were doing at night. Were they planning their next move? Were they drawing up escape plans? Or were they just playing video games, engaging in pointless sexual trysts, or drinking themselves into a stupor?
Without meaning to do so, Secret Wars also poses an interesting philosophical dilemma. Since the Beyonder is roughly equivalent to God, how do each of the super heroes and super villains come to grips with their situation? They have, for all intents and purposes, been imprisoned by God on a hostile alien world, and forced to fight one another in order to realize their wildest dreams. How do they rationalize this difficulty? How do they come to terms with the fact that God wants to grant their innermost wish, but only at the cost of slaughtering every member of the other side?
It is a situation that presents interesting theological, moral, and philosophical problems. Not that either the super heroes or super villains are all that preoccupied with theology, morality, or philosophy. If "God" has been proven to exist, does that mean that he (the Beyonder) is the God of whatever theology they espouse? Or does that mean that there is another God - the God, for example, that Captain America worships - that exists alongside him? And if they believe the Beyonder is God (or even a God), is it wrong to kill for him? Is it wrong to fulfill his plan?
I could go on, but I'm sure you can supply other instances in which the traditional morality of the Marvel Universe might find itself inverted on the Beyonder's world. In a much larger sense, would the super villains continue to be villains on such a world? Or would they instead be the super heroes, fulfilling the will of God?
Perhaps only the Beyonder knows the answer to these questions. For as his Bible might tell us: "In the beginning was the Beyonder, and the Beyonder was with God, and the Beyonder was God." Praise be to the Beyonder, for he is a jealous God, who smites his enemies!