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I’ve just read Marvel’s Secret Wars series from 1984/5. (Fun!)

In it, a bunch of heroes and villains are transported to the far reaches of the universe, and (in a surprising turn of events for a comic book) fight each other a lot.

My question is: how was this tied in with the continuity of the comic series in which these heroes were regularly appearing at the time?

Secret Wars was published between May 1984 and April 1985. I’m pretty sure that, for example, Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four didn’t stop publishing for a year while we saw what the heroes got up to on Battleworld. But the events of Secret Wars certainly had lasting consequences for the characters:

Spider-Man got a mysterious alien suit, and the Thing even left the Fantastic Four and stayed on the planet.

So how were these events integrated? Were the Secret Wars not referred to in the participants’ regular titles until they were over, and was there then a break in storylines in the regular titles to allow for Secret Wars to have happened? Or was Secret Wars pre-planned, meaning regular series could show post-Secret Wars events even though Secret Wars hadn’t finished publishing yet?

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God bless the internet: here’s a fantastic guide that details all of the regular series issues that tie in to Secret Wars:

As mentioned in other answers, the degree of integration varied between titles. Here’s some indicative examples of how it worked:

 Spider-Man

At the end of Amazing Spider-Man #251 (April 1984), Spider-Man is drawn to Central Park in New York, from where he is transported to the galaxy where Battleworld will soon be formed. He returns in the next issue of Amazing Spider-Man (#252, May 1984) along with Curt Connors (the Lizard, who was also on Battleworld for the duration of Secret Wars) and his new black suit.

Readers didn’t see Spidey acquire the black suit until Secret Wars #8 (Dec 1984), but at least some of its abilities were shown before that, for example in Amazing Spider-Man #255 (Aug 1984).

Fantastic Four

Mr Fantastic, the Human Torch and the Thing are transported from earth at the end of The Thing #10 (Apr 1984).

The Thing #11–22 (May 1984–Apr 1985) then chronicles the Thing’s time spent on Battleworld after the end of Secret Wars, despite being released at the same time as the Secret Wars issues.

The departure of (three of) the Fantastic Four is also shown as a flashback from the Invisible Woman’s perspective in Fantastic Four #265 (April 1984), as is their return from Battleworld with the She-Hulk in place of the Thing.

The Avengers

The Avengers are transported in Avengers #242 (Apr 1984), and return in the next month’s issue.

This must have somewhat undermined the tension when the Wasp “died” in Secret Wars #7 (Nov 1984).

  • Didn't realize you wanted an issue by issue breakdown. Normally when I do that, I get the TMI complaint so I kept it general. Everyone gives me the "look-at-the-old-guy-spouting-off-about-comics" look. Sorry about that. – Thaddeus Howze Aug 20 '14 at 15:41
  • @Thaddeus: naw no need to apologise, and there is lots of good and helpful stuff in your answer — I hadn’t spotted the list of crossover books in the Wikipedia article until I saw it in your answer, and that helped me find the piece I linked to that lists all the tie-ins in detail. My main criticism is TMI, but TMI about Secret Wars in general (e.g. the list of characters in it, which isn’t really necessary even to support the point about the characters being able to disappear for a while in-continuity). – Paul D. Waite Aug 20 '14 at 16:06
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In the canon Marvel Universe

It was integrated, sometimes clumsily, sometimes haphazardly. Some comics mentioned it more than others. Spider-Man did because Spidey came away with his cool, black symbiotic costume. Others barely mention it at all. It was much better integrated with Secret Wars II.

  • Considering the character lineup, most of the heroes and villains of the Secret Wars lead fairly private lives. No one was going to miss them if they vanished for a month, per se. Check out the lineup, not one of them has a day job except Iron Man.

enter image description here

  • The heroes include the Avengers (Captain America, Captain Marvel II, Hawkeye, Iron Man II, She-Hulk, Thor, the Wasp); three members of the Fantastic Four (Human Torch, Mister Fantastic and Thing);

  • Solo heroes Spider-Man, Spider-Woman II and the Hulk; and the mutant team X-Men (Colossus, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Professor X, Rogue, Storm, Wolverine and Lockheed the Dragon). Magneto is featured as a hero, but immediately becomes non-aligned when the Avengers question his presence.

  • The villains include the Absorbing Man, Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, the Enchantress, Kang the Conqueror, Klaw, the Lizard, Molecule Man, Titania, Ultron, Volcana, and the Wrecking Crew. The cosmic entity Galactus also appears as a villain who immediately becomes a non-aligned entity.

  • There were plenty of crossover books, so it wasn't like it happened outside of the Marvel Universe proper. Crossover titles include The Amazing Spider-Man; Avengers; Captain America; The Incredible Hulk; Iron Man; The Thing; Fantastic Four; Marvel Team-Up; Thor, and Uncanny X-Men.

  • Lastly and most unfortunately, whenever the Beyonder was involved, the ability to pluck adventurers out of time and space and then put them back only hours (or even seconds) after they left is not out of the realm of possibility.

Out of Universe

  • Originally, the Secret Wars was conceived of as a marketing event (for Mattel toys) and would have probably been consigned to a random Marvel continuum, except that Marvel executives sensed an opportunity for a major mega-crossover event and decided to take the plunge.

enter image description here

  • The accepted norm among comic companies and major crossover events is to accept that no matter how long has passed, whenever you are reading a particular book, that special event happened off-stage.

  • Unless it has long-term ramifications, it will have taken place between issues of whatever cross-over event has taken place and the actual comic. If changes take place during a run of the crossover and the company wants to show those changes, it will thread the story between the two books (hoping the overlap will increase sales of one or both books).

  • Back in the day, Marvel used to denote such things by saying in tiny captions in early panels: *This issue happened between Spider-Man #357 and Secret Wars #7.

enter image description here

  • Finally, I’ve asked a question that attracted a long, well-illustrated @Thaddeus answer! There’s some great explanatory detail in there, but it is (in my very humble opinion) a bit buried by other, more general descriptions of Secret Wars and crossovers in general that don’t do anything to answer the question as posed. I was looking for more specific descriptions, like those in my own answer. (Great to see the toy shot though — I still have that Spider-Man figure.) – Paul D. Waite Aug 20 '14 at 12:11
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I don't know about other series, but from what I recall (it was 20 years ago) the Spider-Man comic did stop during the run of Secret Wars, and was replaced with an out-out-continuity comic called "Spidey" aimed at younger readers. It was even mentioned in a letters page in an issue of Secret Wars

Caveat: I lived in Britain at the time, which had it's own print runs of Marvel comics, in a different (larger) format. Your mileage may vary for other countries.

  • Good to know, although in America, it turns out the situation was somewhat more complex. – Paul D. Waite Aug 20 '14 at 12:23
  • One would assume these stories were from the American run of Spidey Super Stories, which was connected to the deal that let The Electric Company (a children's educational show - sort of the next stpe for those who outgrew Sesame Street) use Spider-Man on their show. It ran in the US from 1974 through 1982. – RDFozz Jan 4 at 16:29

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