Tuesday, October 01, 2013

This was my Secret Wars

I like to have a little variety in the subject matters of my postings so instead of the next part about Bob Layton, Warlord or Storm I think it´s time to start with my often postponed love letter to SECRET WARS II.

This all started with a posting by Terry Hooper on ComicBits Online about Secret Wars on which I commented. You do read his blog religiously ?

There are totally awesome posts about all kind of comics, comic related stuff or pop culture things as well as incredible finds on YouTube every day. I am always so tempted to post some of them here but I want you to check them out on Terry´s blog. He really deserves the traffic.

Anyway, writing the comments I realized that while SECRET WARS was the first big thing at Marvel SECRET WARS II was the first big company wide crossover and I really loved that. No, really. I ate it up with a sponge.

You may have noticed that the picture above is not from the regular american edition of SECRET WARS, rather it´s issue 78 of the french magazine SPIDEY that reprints the first issue of Les Guerres Secretes which asks the question " Qui est le Beyonder ? " Now the reason why I included this cover instead of the regular american cover is that this is a comic I actually have in my comic collection and it may well be that this was the first time I read the first issue of Secret Wars II. Although " read " might be exaggerating it a bit since I bought this comic while I was on a student exchange in France and my french was not that good. It was rather knowing a few words, guessing a few others and trying to find out what it all means. It was more like decrypting for beginners.

Now SPIDEY 78 is a 72 page comic magazine and while the cover shows John Byrne´s cover for SECRET WARS II this is not the lead story. That is X - MEN 65 ( which was long before the book was renamed Uncanny X - Men ) written by Dennis O´Neil which was the last issue by Neal Adams.

Strangely enough the page gutters are colored blue so when you hold the book you can see immediatelly which part is the one with Neal Adams art. But issue 1 of SECRET WARS II is still not the next feature. First up comes a page of which the top half is " Le courrier de Spidey " which is a letters page and the bottom half is the checklist of other magazines published by Editions LUG like NOVA, STRANGE, TITAN or OMBRAX - SAGA.

After that there is a three page text piece accompanied by a full page illustration about " Les Grands Explorateurs - John Hanning Speke ". Then - finally - comes SECRET WARS II issue 1, although billed as " GUERRES SECRETES - 13eme Episode ". Apparently Editions LUG just continued the numbering from issue 12 of Secret Wars much like FORUM did when they published it in spanish. The rest of SPIDEY 78 contains an issue of Power Pack ( of all things ) and another text piece, this time one and a half pages long accompanied by a full page illustration about " Le Lake Palace D`Udaipour - Un hotel de reve dans la Venise Orientale ". The bottom of this page and the following two pages are ads for issues of STRANGE SPEZIAL or STRANGE PRESENTS - LA SAGA DU SURFER D´ARGENT.

So there are all kinds of comics in this issue but I didn´t mind because I got SECRET WARS II issue 1 and also some fantastic art by Neal Adams. I was just happy to get the issue at all at that time and I didn´t care if it was the original version, the french version or the spanish version.  

But that´s how I read most of this series. Like I have mentioned in numerous posts when I started to get into reading american comics I still hadn´t figured out where to get them and so some of my Secret Wars II issues came from the newsstand at the international press at the big railway station in Stuttgart, others I found at the Comicbörse in Stuttgart. I bought some much later at one of the International Comic Salons in Erlangen in back issue bins and some issues I have only read in the spanish version. 

Like the comic above, issue 16 of Las Guerras Secretas, published by FORUM which came out in 1985. The series started with the original twelve issue mini series and then included every crossover issue.

Issue 16 includes UNCANNY X - MEN 196 written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Romita Jr and it´s one of my favorite comics ever. In the issue Professor Xavier hears the following thoughts in one of his lectures at Columbia University : " We´ve got no choice .... he knows who we are, he knows what we did ..... we´ve got to kill him ! "

Because he was mugged and nearly killed a few issues earlier ( issue 192 ) Professor Xavier can´t find out which of the students are involved so the X - Men try to find out who are the killers. The various members are occupied with the usual subplots and while the Beyonder makes two appearances no leads turn up. Kitty Pryde goes to check on the next suspects on the list when things take a turn for the worse.

Kitty finds the killers but they get the drop on her and after macing and chloroforming her decide to kill her as well. Rachel Summers, Magneto and Xavier encounter the Beyonder again and this time Rachel mindlinks them so they can see him unadvertingly setting of a mental booby trap Xavier set in an earlier issue. The backlash magnifies Rachel´s psychic energy causing a huge explosion which the killers mistake for their bomb getting off. Now they want to kill Kitty as well and as Rachel finds out she storms the room and knocks out all of them except one who has the bright idea of trying to shoot a telepath from behind. Just brilliant !

It is revealed that the students who want to kill Xavier are the same who attacked him earlier. Since they know that he´s a telepath they think he knows who attacked him and tried to kill him before he snitches.

Rachel wants to kill the guy who tried to shoot her not only because he attacked Xavier and tried to kill Kitty but also because she revealed her hound persona. In the future depicted in DAYS OF FUTURES PAST Rachel was forced to become a mutant hunting slave for the government finding other mutants who were than put into mutant concentration camps and ultimately killed. It´s Rachel´s secret shame, the black spot on her soul that the reader knows but so far her teammates were not aware of this.

Magneto manages to dissuade Rachel from stooping to their level in the end because he´s already been there and knows it´s not worth it ( I don´t want to go into too much detail about the conversation here because there are still readers out there who might not know the issue and I don´t want to take away from that experience unnecessarily ).

The issue has other nice or funny moments like Kitty Pryde trying to smoke one of Wolverine´s notorious stogeys with devastating results

but the main part centers on Rachel and Magneto and questions of morale and proportionality. How can you stop hatred and what can you do with people who are unable or unwilling to learn and accept that people are different ? When is killing justified and what is the price ? Of course the usual topics of racism, bigotry and prejudices also play into the story - as they do in most X - Men or mutant related stories from Marvel at that time - but the center stage is reserved for Rachel and Magneto who shows that there is more to him than most people believed at that time. Which went a big way in showing the X - Men, who were still distrusting him, why Xavier picked him to become headmaster of the school in his stead.

Now while the interaction by the Beyonder is only marginally and he is mostly observing here ( he interacts much more with the X - Men and Rachel in other issues ) it´s still a great story with wonderful art by John Romita Jr and Dan Green, who inked most of the issues of X - Men I read.

Here Magneto started to become the multilayered character he would eventually be known as for a long time - as well as the template that was used to some extent in the movies - even though editorial forces later on kept him constantly flipflopping from good to evil and back ad nausea.

Like I said, this is one of my favorite comics of all time but I´m not sure if I ever read it in the original version. I know I got the spanish FORUM issue but I think I got that long before I even knew what the heck a Secret War is. If memory serves me correctly ( and I´m pretty sure it doesn´t ) I also read one of the BIBLIOTEKA MARVEL volumes that contains the issues but as for the original - it´s a blank state. And that´s one of the reasons why I am one of those guys who would really buy an omnibus hardcover edition of SECRET WARS II. Because while the main story is not that memorable and some of the crossovers are rather unimpressive there are some real gems in there too. Like FANTASTIC FOUR 285 by John Byrne which has one of the most gut - wrenching stories I have ever read.

But that´s a topic for another post as I fear that we have once again reached the end. Before wrapping things up though I wanted to mention that issue 196 of UNCANNY X - MEN was published in the United Kingdom under a different cover with a clearly pasted in head of Rachel Summers.

I want to thank the STARLOGGED blog for providing the cover and you might want to check out their coverage of SECRET WARS II ( part 1 / part 2 ) to learn more about how Secret Wars II was published in the UK.

Also, if you want to read more about Uncanny X - Men issue 196 you can head over to Comics Chronology or read the recap on Rachel Summers com . Pierre Villeneuve at FLASHBACK UNIVERSE has an interesting post about the Omnibus edition of Secret Wars II ( don´t worry, although the name sounds very french - ish it´s written in english ) which you might want to read if you are thinking about buying it. He reveals an extra that alone might be worth the price and makes an interesting point that the books offers a nice overview of what Marvel was publishing at the time from Simonson to John Byrne who really was King of the Hill back then.

If you want to read the giant saga in the single issues format ( good luck with that, mate ) you might want to read this post from Steve Goble at his selftitled blog. Not only because he provides a reading order for those books but also because he lists all the secret cameos by people like Stan Lee or Superman and he has real insight as to why the story might not have worked as good as it could have. Food for thought, my brother.

A bit less favorable about the whole series being collected in a giant omnibus is ONCE UPON A GEEK in a post called SECRET WARS II COLLECTED - THIS IS SO WRONG included for the sake of impartiality.

And - last but not least - I want to thank the guys from Grand Comics Database without whom many of my posts couldn´t be done and who provided the much needed cover gallery for the spanish Secret Wars series as well as for the french Spidey magazine . Kudos to you, guys.

But this doesn´t end our discussion of SECRET WARS II as I´m afraid this is only the beginning. We have still much ground to cover like for example one of the best crossovers ever written by John Byrne on Fantastic Four - which I did mention in this post - as well as some crossovers that are not included in the omnibus. Over 1100 pages and they left stuff out.

My next post will probably be about another topic to keep things interesting which could mean more Warlord, more Storm, more Bob Layton Iron Man or another new and totally surprising topic as is most often the case. But I have to say it really did me a world of good to talk about Marvel like it used to be at the height of their game. Okay, they also did this whole crossover saga only because it was such a big hit and since it was about to be sold to New World Pictures they wanted a sequel. So money grabbing has always been a huge factor in how comics were done. But boy, the comics they DID produce had some real nuggets in them and at least they were done by comic creators instead of studio people who thought they knew how to write comics better than the pros.

Now for the video at the end of the post I couldn´t find a good one about Secret Wars II ( I wonder why that is ) so instead I´m posting one about a cartoon I´m currently watching.It´s the infamous SUPER FRIENDS cartoon.

For someone who did not see the show when it originally aired - or at any other point in time at all - like me it´s really entertaining to watch, especially in the mexican ( argentinian ? ) dubbed version where Batman´s secret identity is Bruno Diaz, Clark Kent´s friends are Luisa Lane, Pedro White and Jaime Olsen and Brainiac is called Cerebro.

I somehow got the seasons mixed up - there are just so many of them - and it´s really hard to watch the Super Friends with the Wonder Twins after seeing Challenge of the Super Friends. Man, compared to Super Friends witht he Wonder Twins Challenge of the Super Friends is really like big opera. There are so many characters - super heroes and villains - and each episode is so grandiose. After watching a documentary about FILMATION founder Lou Scheimer I got really interested in the whole Super Friends thing but I could write a separate post about that.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

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