Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars Pack (Budget)

Background

The original four Marvel Secret Wars Color/Activity (including posters and stickers) books were released in the U.S.A. in 1984 as a merchandising tie-in with the toys and action figures. Those original four are all published by "Marvel Books".

Two year later in Australia (i.e. in 1986) there was a re-release of just one of those books – the Marvel Secret Wars "Crime Of Centuries" Coloring Book under the "Budget Book" imprint. At least, I assume it was the only one reprinted. Certainly I have seen this one several times with the Budget Books or "BB" logo, but have never seen any of the others (Tower of Doom, Secret of Spider-Man's Shield, Escape From Doom).

To get technical, there are in in fact two slightly different versions of that "Crime Of Centuries" reprint, with different Printers credited.

First, I believe that the "Crime Of Centuries" was sold as a standalone reprint with a small "BB" logo in the top left corner.

Second, I know that it was sold as part of this plastic-bagged "Pack" along with two smaller top-stapled activity pads. The "bagged" version featured a larger logo "Budget Books: Lots-Of-Fun" in the top left. This review covers all three products in the pack.

Story Details

The largest item in the pack is of course the reprint of the two-years-old Marvel Secret Wars "Crime Of Centuries" Coloring Book. You can check out the separate review for the original release. But all you really need to know is that it had nothing to do with any mainstream continuity, and certainly didn't tie-in to the real Secret Wars mini-series.

Instead, all of those coloring books were shameless and brainless marketing vehicles, existing only to promote the series of Mattel "Secret Wars" toys – including the Doom Roller™, the Doom Chopper™, Doom Cycle™, Time Cycle™, Turbo Cycle™, Doom Turbo™, Tower of Doom™, Doom of Tower™ (et al.) – basically a giant stash of really dumb and pointless plastic toys that I would really, really love to own except that I have to draw the line somewhere and I've just about run out of shelf space.

So let's move on the the first of the "original" content. I'm calling it "original" for now, since I don't recognize the content from anywhere. But given the disparity of the contents, I wouldn't be at all surprised if these were recycled material with a new cover.

Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars "Action Pad"

This is smaller, 5.2" x 8.3" with a generous 48 pages. Top-stapled. Black and white newsprint inside.

The first weird thing about this book is that the cover has nothing to do with the contents. Despite carrying the "Secret Wars" label, there's no tie-in with the toys or the characters from the earlier "Secret Wars" activity books.

What's more weird is that while Spider-Man appears on the front cover, his is entirely absent from the interior. Instead, it is Thor who joins Cap, Hulk, and Iron Man to defeat the "Challenge of Ashius" on the planet "Fireball". The challenge seems to be set by a guy named "Blue Star", but the villains are Loki, Rhino, and Red Skull.

What I do know for sure is that it involves lots of use of a "magic pencil". The most disturbing moment is when the four heroes travel to the planet by... (and I kid you not)... "Touching the tips of their magic pencils together." Yep, that's what the lads do over in the Avengers when things are a bit quiet in the clubhouse. They stand around in a circle and rub the tips of their magic pencils.

Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars "Pocket Puzzles"

This really is "Pocket Sized" at 3.6" x 5.1". It has only 16 pages of black and white newsprint.

Spider-Man really is the only star of this booklet, along with his classic villains. The two unusual additions to the line-up are Mephisto and Red Skull. But generally, it's just Spidey stuff.

Again, there is absolutely no connection whatsoever to either the standard comics continuity "Secret Wars" story-line, nor to the plot-lines specifically created to shill the Mattel toys Doom Blaster™, Doom Boomer™, Doom Doomer™, etc.

The puzzles here feel weirdly clumsy, as if the puzzle creator and the artist was doing this for the first time, and was kind of figuring things out as they went along.

General Comments

This is probably the earliest plastic-bagged "Activity Pack" collection that I have ever seen.

It's also certainly one of the most Quixotic. Let's just summarize:

  1. One dumb book full of infomercials for Mattel toys.
  2. One weird book with lots of inappropriate tip-touching.
  3. One clunky book of odd little puzzles.

Oh, and yeah, a pack of eight crayons made by a Chinese company named "Great Wall". The colors of the crayons don't quite match the box – there is actually a yellow crayon inside, so you can color in Iron Man after all!

Overall Rating

Visually this pack is fantastic. Bright and exciting. From the outside it is a delight to survey, and welcome addition to my collection. It's only on deeper inspection that the many and varied flaws become apparent.

I'm going to have to score this one strictly according to Hoyle, and so it's One Web.

I love this product. Shame it's so wrong on the inside.