The Completist's Guide to Secret Wars Crossovers
In 1984, Marvel began publishing their first 12-issue limited series. It was also the forerunner of the line-wide crossovers that would become popular in the ensuing years. But because it was a new concept at the time, tie-in issues lacked any cover logos to bring them attention as such. This page will help you figure out which issues you need to track down. (And if you're the impatient type, you can skip to the list.)
But first, a bit of history. The concept of a comic book series designed to be pubilished for only a limited number of issues had been pioneered by DC Comics in 1979 with World of Krypton. The rise of direct sales outlets for comic books made the concept more feasible, and Marvel began producing it's own limited series in 1982, one of which was Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions.
The series saw Earth put in stasis as every superhero on the planet was gathered as pawns in a contest between the Collector and Death. While not the first time Marvel gathered virtually all its heroes together in one story (e.g. Fantastic Four Annual #3), it was the first time it was done outside a regular, ongoing Marvel universe title. But, to the best of my knowledge, despite the fact it was considered "in continuity," it was not referred to in any of Marvel's regular titles at the time. Thus, there were no tie-ins.
Then came Secret Wars. It started as a simple toy tie-in for Mattel's new line of Marvel action figures, but it turned into an event. It was featured on the cover of many, if not most, of the various magazines dedicated to the comic book industry at the time. If Jim Shooter is to be believed, it also served as the inspiration of DC's own maxi-series celebrating their 50th anniversary, Crisis on Infinte Earths. Although Secret Wars didn't wipe away 50 years of continuity like that series, it will always be remembered for introducing Spider-Man's black costume, which – over the years and through a series of writers – would become Spider-Man's nemesis, Venom.
One interesting aspect of this series is lost when reading it in reprints today. In most cases, readers of the heroe's regular title saw the heroe leave at the end of one issue and then, a month later, return at the beginning of the next. It was obvious interesting things had happened, as the Hulk was now walking with a crutch, Iron Man had odd additions to his armor, Spider-Man had a new, black costume, and the Thing hadn't returned at all. While the first two changes were ditched in another month, Spider-Man's costume and the She-Hulk taking the Thing's place in the Fantastic Four remained. But readers had to wait for an entire year's worth of Secret Wars issues to come out to find out exactly what happened during that week the heroes were missing.
As the Secret Wars series approached, it became obvious much prepartion had been done to coordinate with the titles of the various involved heroes. Peter Parker started experiencing spider-sense buzzes like he'd never had before and Professor X was the victim of psychic attacks. Meanwhile, Bruce Banner (the Hulk), Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), and the Vision caught off-the-chart energy readings with various equipment. All foreshadowed the appearance of the Beyonder, a being intended to be more powerful than any the heroes had encountered before.
Then, primarily in Marvel's books cover dated April 1984, most of Marvel's major heroes found themselves drawn to New York's Central Park, where a strange, alien arena had appeared in Sheep Meadow. Most felt compelled to enter and disappeared shortly thereafter. They were gone for an entire week (Marvel time) before reappearing back in Sheep Meadow in May's titles.
Despite the coordination on the event, there were some inconsistencies in the heroes departure. The arena featured four "entrances," but in some comics they didn't actually open into the center of the arena while in others they did. It is possible, however, that not all the entrances were the same in this respect. (The Fantastic Four and Avengers investigated at approximately the same time, so we know they were at separate entrances.) Also, all of the heroes disappear shortly after entering except the FF, who actually made it to the center of the arena before being beamed away.
There was also an inconsistency in their return. In some books the arena reappeared just before the heroes returned. In others (like FF), the heroes materialized out of thin air. But to be fair, Secret Wars would hardly be the last cross-over with continuity issues.
This list began as a submission to Mitchell Brown's Unofficial Comics Crossover Index. (See links below.) With the death of that page, I decided to put it up myself. The main list encompasses the comics dealing with the heroes' departure, return, the week they were gone, or the Beyonder's behind the scenes appearances beforehand. (Or, in one case, an officially billed tie-in dealing with the consequences.) Alternate realities and parodies are listed separately below. Highlighted entries (or asterisked (*), if you don't have stylesheets enabled/available) have been collected in the Secret Wars Omnibus, published by Marvel at the end of 2008, along with Secret Wars #1-12.
- Amazing Spider-Man #249 & #250 (February & March 1984)
- Spider-Man experiences "monster buzzes" from his spider-sense due the Beyonder's unseen presence.
- Amazing Spider-Man #251 (April 1984)
- Another monster spider-sense buzz leads Spider-Man to the arena in Central Park where he's urged to enter it.
- Amazing Spider-Man #252 (May 1984)
- Spider-Man returns with a new costume and Dr. Conners (the Lizard). The Avengers are shown materializing shortly thereafter.
- Avengers #240 & #241 (February & March 1984)
- The Vision sees off-the-chart energy readings on equipment in Avengers Mansion.
- Avengers #242 (April 1984)
- The Vision finally gets a lock on the energy readings and leads the team to the arena at Central Park. There She-Hulk, Wasp, Captain Marvel, Captain America, Thor, & Hawkeye enter and disappear, followed by the arena itself, as the rest of the Avengers look on.
- Avengers #243 (May 1984)
- The above Avengers return, but Iron Man (James Rhodes) appears in place of She-Hulk. He then flies off on his own.
- Captain America #292
- A one-page epilog – completely unrelated to the issue's main story – shows Captain America disappearing with the Avengers.
- Captain America #293
- Captain America's return. I still need to confirm this one.
- Fantastic Four #265 (April 1984)
- Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch, and the Thing's departure is shown as a flashback from Sue's perspective. She met the remaining Avengers at the spot where the heroes vanished and has been staying with them at Avengers Mansion since. Mr. Fantastic & the Human Torch return with the She-Hulk, who's taken the Thing's place at his request.
- Fantastic Four #277 (April 1985)
- After an extended stay on Battleworld and direct from his departure in The Thing #22, the Thing finally returns to Earth. And just in time for the Dire Wraiths last gambit to take over Earth.
- Hulk #292 (February 1984)
- In a flashback to shortly before the story in the issue starts, Bruce Banner observes a gamma ray event in space that quickly dissipates.
- Hulk #293 (March 1984)
- Bruce Banner and Mr. Fantastic observe an energy surge in space which reacts to their probes and destroys a lab at the Baxter Building.
- Hulk #294 (April 1984)
- Bruce Banner observes another energy surge in space, but doesn't have time to investigate it. Then, on his way to rescue Kate Wanesboro from Boomerang in an apartment conveniently near Central Park, the Hulk encounters the Beyonder's arena and is compelled to enter.
- Hulk #295 (May 1984)
- The Hulk returns using a crutch, which he dicards by mid-#296. The Secret Wars crossover was really just an inconvenience for writer Bill Mantlo, as he's in the middle of the countdown to #300. Boomerang has been holding Kate Waynesboro hostage for a week now, but it hardly seems like it from the story.
- Iron Man #181
- Iron Man departs.
- Iron Man #182-183
- Iron Man returns with the Avengers, but then goes his separate way. He has new additions to his armor, but on Earth they're too powerful, so he ditches them in #183.
- Marvel Team-Up #140 (April 1984)
- Apparently just doing it in Amazing wasn't good enough. Spider-Man's departure is repeated here (and in Spectacular), albeit drawn by different artists.
- Marvel Team-Up #141 (May 1984)
- Spider-Man's return. I still need to confirm this one.
- Marvels: Eye of the Camera #4 (2009)
- This sequel to the acclaimed Marvels limited series covers events in the Marvel Universe published in the '70s and '80s. This issue includes the heroes' disappearance during the Secret Wars.
- New Mutants #13
- Professor X experiences a massive "psychic attack" due to the Beyonder's unseen presence.
- Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #89 (April 1984)
- Apparently just doing it in Amazing and Marvel Team-Up wasn't good enough. Spider-Man's departure is repeated here.
- Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #9 (May 1984)
- The Black Cat spends the issue searching for her beau, Spider-Man, not knowing he's a long, long, long way from New York City. After a week of searching, he finally returns in a new, black costume.
- Quasar #8 (March 1990)
- The cover bills it as "absolutely the last Secret Wars tie-in" in the same style as the Secret Wars II cross-over issues had been marked. The issue reveals that the component Iron Man ditched after the Secret Wars were, similar to Spider-Man's black costume, actually an alien entity which attacks Project: Pegasus.
- Rom #53 (April 1984)
- This issue takes place during the week the heroes were gone. President Reagan makes reference to this in a speech, but artist Sal Buscema mistakenly drew (possibly at the direction of writer Bill Mantlo or editor Ralph Macchio) the Defenders amongst those missing.
- * She-Hulk (2004) #10
- After almost 20 years, this issue finally reveals the pre-superpowered life and expanded origin of Titania. Some scenes repeat Secret Wars #3, her first appearance, word for word.
- Thing #10 (April 1984)
- Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch, and the Thing's departure.
- Thing #11-22 (May 1984–April 1985)
- The Thing spends an extended time on Battleworld, as he's able to change back to his human form there. As he prepares to return to Earth, all features and beings on Battleworld fade away. After he leaves, the planet explodes.
- Thor #341 (March 1984)
- At the beginning of the issue, Thor enters Avengers Mansion. As this comic came out a month before the rest of the Secret Wars crossovers, readers then get three blank panels, saying it's a tale to be revealed. The issue then skips ahead a couple weeks to after Thor has returned.
- Thor #342 (April 1984)
- At the bottom of this issue's letter page, the missing panels from the previous issue are provided, showing the Avengers, including Thor, going to Central Park and disappearing. The adjacent page just happens to be a full-page ad for Secret Wars.
- * Thor #383 (September 1987)
- Billed as "an untold tale from the Secret Wars" on the cover, this issue reveals Thor and the Enchantress' private conversation that took place behind the scenes between Secret Wars #3 and #4.
- Uncanny X-Men #178 & 179
- Professor X experiences massive "psychic attacks" due to the Beyonder's unseen presence.
- Uncanny X-Men #180
- The X-Men disappear.
- Uncanny X-Men #181
- The X-Men return, but in Japan. The dragon friend Lockheed met on Battleworld messed up the group's return beam. The dragon is also gigantic now, so what better place to be than Japan? The X-Men spend the rest of the issue saving people and trying to get rid of the huge dragon.
- * What If...? (1989) #4
- Not much of a Secret Wars tie-in, but it answers the question, "what if the alien costume had possessed Spider-Man?" I mention it primarily because it's included in the Omnibus.
- * What If...? (1989) #114
- This issue answers the question, "what if the Heroes never returned from the Secret Wars?" In this reality, the heroes never got back to Earth, but settled on Battleworld and had children with each other. This is the story of those children and how they decided to "return" to the world their parents abandoned.
- What If? Secret Wars #1 (February 2009, one-shot)
- This issue answers the question, "what if Doctor Doom kept the Beyonder's power?" This is a reality in which Doctor Doom eliminates Klaw before the Beyonder can use him to regain his power. He then returns to Earth, making it a better, if totalitarian place. Doom goes on to take over the Universe, but that's not the end, which I won't spoil. It was part of Marvel's What If specials from December 2008 (although it shipped just after New Year's Day 2009).
- Secret Doors #1 (1985)
- This one-shot parody from the "black and white explosion" was written and drawn by Marcus Lusk and was the first comic published by Dimension Comics. A fun romp, but as Lusk himself admits, he could have used a professional letterer.
Sorry, but this page is only dedicated to the original limited series. The quick follow-up, Secret Wars II (#1-9), had too many crossover issues to think about, although this time Marvel conveniently listed them in each issue of SW2. Then we have "Secret Wars 3" in Fantastic Four #319 (October 1988). After that, the Beyonder's story starts to get hoplessly confusing, and that's not even counting New Avengers: Illuminati #3, which is not to be mentioned under any circumstances! (Got it?)
- The Unofficial Comics Crossover Index
- The site is gone, but thanks to Archive.org, the information lives on.
- Secret Wars at Wikipedia
- A bit of basic info.
- Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars at the Grand Comics Database Project
- Features a cover scan, creator credits, and plot summary for each issue.
- Marvel's Secret Wars I & II at ShootersWork.com
- Features it's own checklist and information. I must admit I'd seen this page before creating my own, but had completely forgotten about it by the time I did.
- Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #90
- Answering the question, just how many sentences in Secret Wars ended in periods?
- Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #117
- Explains why Kitty Pryde was on the original Secret Wars #1 cover drawing, but not in the series.
- Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #123
- Reveals that, according to Jim Shooter, Marvel did not launch Secret Wars in an attempt to beat DC to the punch with a company-wide crossover.
- Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #170
- Did ghost pencilers help Mike Zeck with the art? (No, but several inkers helped out Beatty.)
- Secret Wars II
- A great source for SW2 crossover reviews, original art, and trivia.