We went through a number of ideas for names for the toy line and series. Mattel’s focus group tests indicated that kids reacted positively to the words “wars” and “secret.” Okay.
Mattel had a number of other requirements. Doctor Doom, they said, looked too medieval. His armor would have to be made more high-tech. So would Iron Man’s, because their focus groups indicated that kids reacted positively…etc. Okay.
They also said there had to be new fortresses, vehicles and weapons because they wanted playsets, higher price point merchandise and additional play value. Okay.
When time came to actually do it, I realized that only I could write it. I was busy enough being Editor in Chief, I didn’t need the additional burden and we didn’t have a shortage of writers, but….
Marvel’s writers at the time, some of the best in the business, were, to a person, very possessive about the characters they were writing. To some extent, that was a good thing, indicating a love for the characters that generally showed in their work. It also led to some intense rivalries and bitter arguments regarding crossovers and guest appearances.
For instance, once, writer “A,” who shall remain nameless, wanted Doctor Doom to “guest-villain” in the series he wrote. I okayed it, over the snarling objections of writer “B,” who wrote the series in which Doom usually appeared. I would not allow the Marvel Universe to be divided into fiefdoms. But then, writer “B” wrote a story “proving” that the Doom seen in writer “A’s” series was a robot, the intimation being that the real Doctor Doom wouldn’t behave so stupidly. Somehow, writer “B’s” editor didn’t realize what he was up to, and let it slip past. Writer “A” was furious…etc.
Allowing any one of the writers to handle pretty much everyone else’s characters in Secret Wars, contemplated to be the biggest, most continuity-intensive crossover ever done, would have led to bloodshed in the hallowed halls.
So, I wrote it. As Editor in Chief, by definition, I was the company’s designated Keeper of the Franchises, and the ordained Absolute Authority on the characters — all part of the job, at least back then. The writers could (and did) argue with me, and on some occasions talked me into their point of view regarding what Thor, Spider-Man or the X-Men would do or say in a given situation. But, ultimately, it was my call. That made things a little easier. And less bloody. And, because I had the best overview of what was going on in all the titles, working closely with the line editors and writers I was able to keep the continuity tight. And, with their help, I think we managed to work in the things Mattel asked for in ways that made sense and enhanced the story.
Secret Wars was the first mega-crossover. It was incredibly successful. Afterward, mega-crossovers became a staple of comic book publishing.
For me, it was one of the most difficult and yet enjoyable things I’ve ever done. To this day, when I go to conventions, I’m asked to sign many, many copies. Lots of people tell me that Secret Wars is what first got them into comics. Makes sense. The idea came from the fans. I’m proud to have been a part of it.