It's no longer a hidden fact that Mattel's 1984 "Secret Wars" toyline sparked the Marvel mega-event of the same name. The twelve issue Secret Wars by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck (as well as all of the related crossover prelude and fallout issues) brought the broad suite of Marvel heroes and villains together in one of the biggest stories ever. In many ways, the superhero and supervillain showdown on Battleworld at the behest of the Beyonder kicked off the era of event comics we know today.
Amazingly, it all started as a promotional vehicle for Mattel's connected toyline, a series of action figures, vehicles and playsets from the Marvel Universe. Sold for $3.99 a pop, or as we know it know, the regular price of a single Marvel comic, the "Secret Wars" action figures are a simple but beloved foray into Marvel toys. There's a lot to love about the "Secret Wars" toyline. Characters came with accessory shields that reflected both their costumed and secret identities. Even better, the "Secret Wars" toyline is a baffling array of Marvel characters who may or may not have had any role at all in the larger Secret Wars narrative. Below you'll find the most sought after "Secret Wars" action figures, ordered by value.
Now over 30 years removed from initial manufacture, the "Secret Wars" toys are valuable and highly desired collector's items. Magneto's one of the easier figures to track down, though, with an estimated packaged value of $20, and a garage sale friendly price estimate of $5 if "loose" and out of the packaging.
Magneto was part of the first wave of "Secret Wars" action figures, joining Doctor Doom, Kang the Conqueror and Doctor Octopus as one of the available villains. Appropriately announced to toy owners as Marvel's "Master of Magnetism," Magneto comes with the hilariously misguided villain's accessory of a pistol. Although in retrospect, the idea of Magneto firing a pistol and then whipping the bullet around to serve his nefarious needs is some uncharted visual territory.
14 KANG THE CONQUEROR
In the actual Secret Wars story, Kang is manipulated and frankly embarrassed by Doctor Doom after attempting a coup to overthrow his timey-wimey relation. In fact, Kang is so easily bested by Doom that he's thrown out of the entire Battleworld experience for the remainder of the story. The toyline offers Kang the Conqueror little escape from this affront to his reputation, as the conquistador of the timestream remains one of the most affordable collectibles you can find.
The longtime Avengers villain does earn the prestige of entering the toyline as the least likely series one villain. While all three of Kang's villainous cohorts have gone on to headline feature films, Kang the Conqueror idles in relative obscurity. You shouldn't have to shell out too much more than $30 for a packaged Kang figure.
13 DOCTOR DOOM
Despite his prominence in Secret Wars -- or perhaps because of it -- Doctor Doom is one of the more easily obtained action figures in the toyline. Even with the appearance of the Beyonder, Secret Wars (both in 1984 and 2015) is a Doctor Doom story through and through. Without Doom's laser focused thirst for power running through the story, there's no telling how discombobulated the action-packed Battleworld would have become.
Appropriately, Doctor Doom joins the wave one villains -- as a whole the most affordable collected figures in the line. Mattel also released packaged "hero and villain" collections during this time period, with Doctor Doom joining Captain America in one such release. Even better, Mattel also named a number of their tie-in vehicles after Victor Von Doom, with the likes of the Doomcopter available to transport your characters across Battleworld.
12 DOCTOR OCTOPUS
Doc Ock joins the wave one figure set as the least overtly powerful villain. Good old Otto's estimated in-package value is approximately equal to Doom's (nobody tell Victor), at around $30 per. Be careful when searching for an original Ock not to confuse the collectible with Marvel's 2015 retro line that mirrored the original.
Children of the '80s may also enjoy the incredulous memory of a commercial that featured Doctor Octopus firing two automated weapons straight into the ether. Mattel's clear lack of research or interest into how the Marvel characters work remains a quirky part of these figures' charm. After all, noted scientist and self-celebrated genius, Doctor Otto Octavius, is hardly the sort of villain to come roaring into battle like a many-armed Tony Montana.
11 BARON ZEMO
Baron Zemo is the least valuable of the "Secret Wars" wave two characters, but if we're being honest, he's lucky to even be here. Zemo makes approximately zero appearances throughout Secret Wars, yet somehow found himself with a fly enough purple PJ set to earn himself a toy. We're going to actually blame Secret Wars for his absence in the book, as Zemo trying to coordinate the all-time biggest Masters of Evil would have been terrific.
Whereas most Marvel characters within the line were given a unique summation of their abilities on packaging (for example, Kang is listed as "Time-Traveling Conqueror"), poor boring Zemo is simply labeled a "Marvel Super Villain." Credit where it's due, though, Zemo's lenticular secret shield does include variations of him beating the pulp out of Captain America, which would make any Zemo happy.
If you're going to have a toyline, it's darn near impossible to pass on Daredevil's horned red costume, even if the blind defender of Hell's Kitchen never stepped foot on Battleworld. Aside from an inherently great look, Daredevil feels like a missed opportunity from Mattel. Ol' horn head doesn't come with a billy club or any unique accessories. The lack of interest is also clear in Mattel's basic advertising of the character as simply a "Marvel Super Hero."
Daredevil's packaging features a particularly fun four panel comic story in which Doctor Doom creates a city-wide blackout. With his radar sense ("far better than ordinary eyesight!") Daredevil is unaffected, and disrupts Doom's evil schemes by throwing his billy club into a computer. If it were only that easy.
9 CAPTAIN AMERICA
To date, Cap remains the best value of the wave one heroes, with an estimated in-package going rate as low as $45. No character in the line highlights Mattel's narrow accessory options more, with Cap's historic mighty shield substituted for the standard linewide "secret shield." On one hand it seems like an honor that every single Marvel character would want to emulate Captain America's use of a shield, but on the other it diminishes the unique value of Cap's weapon of choice.
While he's not the clear cut leader of the heroes on the Secret Wars page (Reed Richards, Professor X and Wasp all compete for the title), Cap is officially designated the "Marvel Super Heroes Leader". As per usual, the Sentinel of Liberty is a must for any collection.
Falcon is easily one of the coolest figures in the short-lived line. Partly this is because Sam Wilson is the only Marvel hero or villain confident enough to crush a shirtless winged vest costume. Perhaps even better, in addition to the standard secret shield, Sam's accessories include Redbird, the only winged sidekick accessory of the entire line.
Like Zemo and Daredevil, Falcon is another confusing choice for wave two action figures, seeing as Falcon also never made it to Battleworld (putting the percentage of series 2 figures who weren't ever seen in Secret Wars comics at 66%). Nonetheless, Falcon goes down as one of our favorite collectibles in the catalog. If wings and Redwing aren't enough of a sell, the four panel packaging comic featuring a battle between Falcon and Hobgoblin is well worth a look.
7 IRON MAN
"Secret Wars" action figures are fun in part because of the wide array of questions they raise about Mattel's decision-making. Iron Man certainly stands out, namely with a pistol included as part of the "Armored Avenger's" arsenal. The hero is encased in the world's most technologically advanced suit of armor (don't tell Doctor Doom we said that), but sure, how about a handgun just in case.
Equally baffling, Iron Man's packaging lists his alias as James Rhodes (true at the time in Iron Man comics and Secret Wars), yet the secret shield includes a clear image of Tony Stark! Best of all, Iron Man's packaging comic pits him against Magneto in an attempt to save Spider-Man. Magneto throws metal at THE MAN OF IRON rather than, you know, tear his armor from his body. Comics!
Hobgoblin definitely ups the ante for series 2 villains by looking insanely haunting and coming with his own totally awesome glider. Apart from joining the crowd of Marvel characters who also never appeared even once in the Secret Wars comic, Hobgoblin also delights with a "secret identity" packaging chart that plays into the villain's mystery at the time. Amazing Spider-Man teased approximately 74,000 true origins for the Hobgoblin in the early '80s, and Mattel took the road less traveled by simply assigning none of them to the character.
An in-package Hobgoblin with all accessories would fetch a pretty penny these days, with even loose full collections running upwards of $100. The "Horrible Hobgoblin" even fights black costume Spidey for the first time on the back of his packaging.
Marvel's Constrictor is without the question the most bewildering character choice across the entire smattering of chosen heroes and villains. The C-List villain is well under the radar of even the most dedicated Merry Marvellites, and to top it off, Constrictor has absolutely no role in Secret Wars. We have as much affinity for tiger-striped costumes as the next comic book lover, but Constrictor is a weird, weird choice.
As a part of the Europe only series three release of toys, Constrictor is both befuddling and valuable. To Mattel's credit, Constrictor does feature an accessory cable-whip, separating him from the redundant pistols across most of the "Secret Wars" villain figures. Perhaps Mattel and Marvel were working behind the scenes for some secret Constrictor projects that are still waiting to the light of day -- but we doubt it.
Electro joins Constrictor as the two Marvel villains only released in Europe. Alias Max Dillon also never appears in Secret Wars issues, making him yet another odd choice for inclusion in the line. Since he and Constrictor are the most sought after villains, it's worth noting that Mattel never released figures for Ultron, any of the Wrecking Crew, Galactus, or Molecule Man, all of whom were actual major villains in the Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck joint.
Electro even managed to bypass fellow Spidey villain The Lizard, who spent the days of Battleworld pining for the affection of Janet Van Dyne. Whereas the secret shield accessory is a tacked-on bit of repetition for many Marvel characters, the protection actually seems like a valid idea for Electro, given the number of times he's been webbed up or hosed down by everyone's favorite wall-crawler.
3 SPIDER-MAN (CLASSIC RED & BLACK SYMBIOTE COSTUMES)
Spidey is one of two iconic Marvel heroes to receive a release in series one and series two of the "Secret Wars" line. Spider-Man's duel release marks the most notable crossover impact between Mattel and Marvel. The toyline's release of a "Black Symbiote Costume" Spider-Man, reflects one of the major lasting outcomes of the comic, and one of the biggest changes in Spidey comics period.
The "black costume," which at the time of release is merely represented as an alien mechanism to "fix" Spider-Man's torn classic costume, would of course go on to spawn the debut of Venom, Carnage, and a whole host of symbiotes in the life of Peter Parker. Naturally, the classic red Spidey figure is a valuable commodity, but it's the "black costume" that will fuel collector's dreams.
When comic book fans think back on 1984 and 1985's Secret Wars, they almost certainly think of Electro, Constrictor, and Iceman, none of whom actually appeared in a single issue of the comic. Ok, obviously that's not true, but nonetheless those are the "Big three" that made up Mattel and Marvel's final release of figures for the European boys and girls.
The rarity and non-US release of Iceman makes him a highly valuable action figure. His release is also a clear slap in the face to all the many X-Men who did make it into the pages of Secret Wars (Wolverine excluded). First a starring role in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and then his very own toy! As if Cyclops needed more of a reason to act like an overbearing big brother to Bobby Drake.
1 WOLVERINE (SILVER CLAWS + BLACK CLAWS)
A scant nine years into the All-New All-Different Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine was already one of two Marvel characters deserving of a second release. Indeed, it's the "Black Claw" accessory variant of Wolverine that makes him the most valuable of the "Secret Wars" collectibles.
Unlike Spider-Man's "Black Costume," the "Wild and Wooly" Wolverine's black claw variant is unrelated to the Secret Wars narrative. Likewise, there are no additional changes to the Wolverine figure or packaging aside from the color of the 8,000 mile long attachable claws. Both packages even gloriously feature the same comic in which Wolverine calls Kang the Conqueror both "slime" and "a turkey." Nonetheless, if you can find a "Black Claw" Wolverine in the wild for less than $200, you've spotted yourself the ultimate deal in "Secret Wars" action figures!
Do you own any of these Secret Wars action figures? Let us know in the comments!