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Secret Wars

Marvel Minimates
by yo go re

In the mid-80s, Kenner had a big hit with their Super Powers toyline. Mattel, always willing to ape other companies' good ideas, scrambled to create a comicbook toyline of their own. They approached Marvel, but would only make toys if Marvel agreed to do a big "event" book that would serve as a theme for the toys to be branded around. Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter had heard requests many times from fans to create "one big story with all the heroes and villains in it," so that's the idea he pitched. Mattel's research showed that kids liked the word "secret," and so the comic and the tie-in toyline both became Secret Wars.

In honor of the 70th anniversary of Marvel Comics, Art Asylum and Diamond Select Toys ran a poll in April, 2009, allowing fans to decide which four figures would be included in the Toys "Я" Us-exclusive Secret Wars Minimate box set. The voting ended in May, and the box set was released in December - that's an impressive turnaround! Who made the cut? Take a look:

After mistaking a strange alien device for a costume-creating machine, Spider-Man is exposed to the creature that will later be known as Venom while it is still in its infancy. After overtaking the hero, only strong sonic waves were able to disrupt the bond.

Yeah, way to go, Spidey. You know, Hulk and Thor both managed to find and use the costume machine, but brilliant scientist Peter Parker muffs it? Hulk and Thor! Not the smartest guys around, by any measure; remember, we're talking about the heroes, not their doctorate-awarded alter egos. That'd be like John Madden providing a proof for quantum gravity, just before Neil deGrasse Tyson walks into the room and accidentally spills hot soup all over himself.

This figure, officially called "Spider-Man (Symbiote Bond)," features Spidey with black goop spreading up his arm and onto his body. The figure's right side is still his old costume, the red-and-blues, but it's clearly been torn up and shredded. The entire left arm is black, and the creeping symbiote covers the left leg to just below the knee and half the torso. The edge between red and black looks like a flowing liquid, which is neat. This isn't something we've had before on a Minimate.

Spidey's head shows the same division: one side red, the other black. The webs on the red side seem slightly misaligned, but not so badly that the figure looks wrong. Besides, if you don't like the way his head looks, the set includes a completely black mask that slips over the existing head, leaving you with just those large white eyes. The interior of the cap seems to hae been slightly redesigned, to help keep it from getting stuck on there as so many others have.

Obsessed with becoming the most powerful being in the universe, Victor Von Doom attempted to steal the Beyonder's powers for his own before being tricked into relinquishing those abilities by a possessed Klaw.

This isn't the first Dr. Doom Minimate, but it's definitely not a repaint, either. He's ditched his cape and skirt, revealing what DST called a "suitably '80s armor." In the story, it borrows some of the technology from the device Galactus used to absorb the energy of planets he devoured, and Doom was planning to use it to steal the Beyonder's powers. His arms and legs are silver, with minimal details to make them look armored, and the pattern printed on his chest cap is vaguely technological. His hood is a separate piece, as are the "cuffs" of his boots and gloves - they provide a visual break without bulking the figure up. There's also some bit of tech on his right thigh.

Doom's got a neat little Easter egg going on here, as well. If you remove his chest cap, you'll see the torso beneath it is fully detailed. There's a rocket pack on his back, and a complex mechanical pattern printed on his chest. Under the dark green waist piece is a different belt, black with a gold buckle. And if you take the thing off his leg, there's some strange band painted there, as well. What does all that add up to? Well, if you know your '80s toys, you'll recognize the "stripped" Doom as an homage to the original Secret Wars figure! Awesome!

Doom's face is new, and much better detailed than the previous verison. He still have rivetsand shadows suggesting the shape of his mask, but there are actual eyes instead of black shapes, and his mouth has that distinctive speaker grill look the comics have so often shown. Since there's no cape, just a hood, the head stull turns freely, meaning it's already got a distinct advantage over every other Minimate Doom.

One of the most powerful beings in all of reality, the creation of Molecule Man led the Beyonder to create Battleworld and populate it with the greatest heroes and villains of the modern age!

The Beyonder has had several origins over the years, most of them contradictory. First he was a sentient but uninhabited universe that became aware of the 616 reality and wanted to come for a visit. Then he was a nascent Cosmic Cube, and eventually a mutant Inhuman who gained ridiculous levels of power when he was exposed to the Terrigen Mists. Of course, since he could rewrite reality in every incarnation, it's possible he was changing his own history every time around.

Beyonder didn't appear physically in Secret Wars, so this figure is based on his most famous look: the white liesure suit he wore for most of Secret Wars II, with the jacket unzipped to show off his chest. Disco fabulous! The set also includes two translucent yellow energy balls that fit over his fists.

Legend has it the Beyonder's design was based on Michael Jackson as Captain Eo, and you can definitely see the resemblance: pure white outfit, curly black hair, pale skin... it's all there. Of course, Secret Wars II came out a year before Captain Eo opened, so that's not actually possible. Still, with those blank eyes, sunken cheeks and jheri curl, he almost looks like a zombie Thriller version of MJ.

Drafted into the Beyonder's games along with several other Earth heroes, Monica Rambeau would later change her superhero moniker to Photon and Pulsar. Her control over the electromagnetic spectrum allows her to control all manners of energy at will.

Cute that they mention she changed her name, but never bother to say what she changed it from. Her original supranym was "Captain Marvel," for no reason other than it was time for Marvel to retain their trademark on the name. She currently just goes by "Monica" - or at least, she did when she showed up in Nextwave, and that seems to have been carried over to other books. And to think, many of her early appearances were all about her proving she deserved to carry on the Captain Marvel name. Oh, and the packaging calls her Photon, although she already passed that name onto someone else.

Monica hails from New Orleans, so of course her superhero suit is made from pieces of discarded Mardi Gras costumes. She also dated a voodoo priest, but that's not important right now. Her costume is white with black leggings, and there's a star on her chest. She gets a new cape, which was originally planned to connect to her wrists, as it does in the comics. Thankfully, someone realized that would be a stupid idea (since it would render her arm joints useless), so it's more of an approximation than a direct port. It still looks good on her, though.

The original plan for the character was that she'd look like Pam Grier, because John Romita Jr. had always been a fan. However, a different model was found, so Monica ended up looking like a generic black woman. Such is comicbook art. The Minimate's face is printed pretty well, with a few lines on the mask to suggest a more human face than a cylinder will allow. She gets a new hair piece, since no previous Minimates have had that sort of floppy afro.

The Secret Wars Minimate box set is a nice piece, with four all-new figures as selected by the fans themselves. Combine these with the Molecule Man/Spider-Woman set and the just-announced Klaw/Mohawk Storm, and you'll have a fairly impressive collection of mid-80s Minimates.

-- 02/01/10

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