Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

43 – It’s Not a Secret If It’s in the Title


Art by David Wynne. Prints, cards, and travel mugs available until 2/15/2015 in the shop, or contact David for the original.
Art by David Wynne. Prints, cards, and travel mugs available until 2/15/2015 in the shop, or contact David for the original.

In which we cover 21 issues in one episode; Secret Wars is a toy commercial; Jim Shooter’s X-Men are not the X-Men to which we are accustomed; Doctor Doom makes a surprisingly benevolent god; Secret Wars II is neither secret nor a war; The Beyonder learns to poop; and Boom-Boom is the best thing to come out of Secret Wars.


  • Secret Wars
  • The not-particularly-secret origin of Secret Wars
  • Binary morality
  • Battleworld
  • The Wrecking Crew
  • Klaw
  • The Beyonder
  • Molecule Man
  • Doki-Doki Universe
  • Titania and Volcana
  • Zsaji
  • Secret Wars II
  • The Passion of Jim Shooter
  • Stewart Cadwall
  • What people do
  • Tie-ins
  • Pooping
  • What it means to be Spider-Man
  • Boom-Boom (Tabitha Smith)
  • The time a bunch of superheroes saved the universe by killing a baby

NEXT WEEK: Legion, with Si Spurrier!

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  1. It’s not super X-relevant and doesn’t belong on this show (Firebird is the only mutant in the story IIRC), but I have to heartily recommend BEYOND! by Dwayne McDuffie and Scott Kolins. It builds on Secret Wars on a much smaller scale, and has some great moments with Gravity, the Hood and others.

  2. I have to hand it to you both — you guys are total champs for taking this on. I’ve been trying to read along as the episodes come out, and maybe even read ahead a bit in anticipation of how you might choose to structure future episodes. And when I got to the issues of Uncanny and New Mutants around this time, where things have inexplicably changed between issues due to SWII nonsense (Why is Magneto with the X-Men investigating Xaiver’s students in New York? Why are the New Mutants fighting Illyana in Limbo before infiltrating the Dazzler arena in LA? How is Kitty prominent in *both* arcs?), I knew you were in for a challenge. Never mind the Asgard annuals also thrown in the mix around this time combined with the giant sized Uncanny #200. This was as dense a period for crossover entanglements as there’s been in these books to date. Well met.

    For SW, I thought you might have called out to a few X-Men specific panels or silly/amusing plot points (Magneto makes a comb out of thin air for The Wasp! Storm delightfully chews out Xavier for trying to lead in the field! Cyclops stops Wolverine from killing Molecule Man, only to carry out the *exact* same planet destabilization nonsense Molecule Man was there for!), but other than some of that minor stuff there really isn’t much more relevant X-Men stuff in the whole series.

    With regards to SWII, in the podcast you wondered about how deliberate and orchestrated this event was to sell books with the tie-ins and crossovers to the limited series. I can tell you from being a collector at the time that it was very deliberately planned and solicited as such. Marvel very unabashedly promoted in Marvel Age that you *needed* to buy all the tie-ins to get the full story, and very deliberately picked series beyond it’s front and center titles (Alpha Flight! Dazzler! Rom! Thing! Cloak and Dagger! Micronauts! Power Man and Iron Fist! Heck, even the final issue of New Defenders had to have SWII crammed into it, *even though* it was already being wrapped up to lead into X-Factor!) at the time. This event, along with the hyped New Universe for Marvels 25th anniversary in ’86, really soured teenaged me on collecting. So much so that when the Mutant Massacre subsequently got advertised as tying in through Power Pack and Thor in addition to the X-books, it was enough to convince me to have my first lapse in collecting. I stopped right around Uncanny 209 / New Mutants 44 / X-Factor 9, and didn’t get back into it (and subsequently fill the gaps in my collection) until I was in University with the Muir Island saga and when the Lee/Liefeld books were about to explode onto the scene. Choices, man. Choices. But as a silver lining, this lapse has got me very looking forward to the podcast episodes that will eventually cover this era, as the issues never feel as immediate and near to me as the early Claremont issues do.

    Thanks so much for answering my question, and for continuing to make such a great podcast that I genuinely anticipate and look forward to each and every week!

    1. For my money, stopping at #209 was the right call. The next few years of X-men were pretty useless. Except for the Grant Morrison period, I don’t think I’ve ever reliably read the book since.

  3. Good episode! However, I’m guessing you haven’t read Jim Shooter’s blog? He tells a lot of comics history through his eyes, and comes off as somewhat old fashioned and more sinned against than sinning. Worth a read.

    http://www.jimshooter.com/ , and he talks about Secret Wars here. http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/04/secrets-of-secret-wars.html .

    Also interesting is his messed up early career. http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/03/regrets.html

    Is there an easier way to do links on this thing?

  4. So, it actually looks like there’s going to be some Beyonder stuff in the new Secret War.

    One of the groups taking part in the current Incursion storyline in the Avengers books is the Ivory King. In one of the most recent books, Hank Pym returns from a mutliversal excursion and announces “I found the Ivory Kings. I found… THE BEYONDERS!”

    1. I feel like if you ever find the Beyonder(s), the appropriate thing to do is to very quietly close whatever door you just opened and never speak of it again.

      1. That would be the smart thing to do, but we are talking about Hank Pym. He brought them back to 616’s Earth to meet his Illuminati buddies.

  5. Did they ever explicitly address why Beyonder chose to go to Spider-Man’s apartment, specifically? Because my head-canon is that he remembered Spidey’s famous costume change during Secret Wars and decided that Peter Parker would therefore be the perfect person to ask “why clothes,” since he’s the only superhero that the Beyonder knows for sure has more than one set of them.

    1. When the befuddled retailer suggested the Beyonder talk to someone he knows about eating and cloting, the Beyonder used his omniscient omnipresent senses to locate the closest person he “knew” (from the previous Secret Wars abduction and observation.) That fortunate soul happened to be Peter Parker.

  6. Okay.

    There are plenty of times I’ve cracked the fuck up listening to your episodes.

    This is the one where you broke me.

    I was TRYING to do the dishes while I listened to the Secret Wars II part. But I ended up laughing so hard it was hurting.

    And then I was laughing so hard, I was on my knees on the floor, clutching onto the edge of the sink to keep from falling over.

    And THEN you hit “NOCENTI! WHY IS CLOTHING?” and I managed to turn my bluetooth off before you got much farther.

    I’m lying in bed, trying to recover. Before I tackle any more dishes, or any more of the episode.

    I hope you two are happy with yourselves.

    Because you really honestly should be.

    1. Also? The way you summarized the plot for the first Secret Wars? Made it honestly sound really awesome. (Doom accidentally brings the heroes back to life by imagining it? Mr. Fantastic realizes if they just let Galactus win, they’ll save trillions of lives over the course of millions of years? HUH.)

    2. OKAY. I… think I’m ready to get back to dishes. And to listen to the rest of the episode.


  7. Wow, I had heard bits and pieces of Secret Wars II, but I never knew just how weird and off the rails that story gets. I have one correction for you.

    Circuit Breaker, was actually a human supporting character from the Transformers comic, not a Transformer herself. The distinction is important, because it explains why she’s even in this story to begin with.

    As part of Marvel’s licensing deal with Hasbro, any original characters that appeared in the Transformers comic belonged to Hasbro. Bob Bundiansky, thought the character had potential and didn’t want her to belong to Hasbro. So he talked to Jim Shooter and got him to introduce her into Secret Wars II (granted she actually appeared in the Transformers comics as Josie Beller earlier, but I won’t claim to understand comic book copyrights).

    Ironically, doing so doomed her to being her to being a footnote in comic book history. Her whole deal is she hates all robots due to an attack by the Decepticons. This creates conflicts in the Transformers comics because to her, there is no difference between the Autobots and Decepticons.

    Once you take her out of the Transformer universe, she doesn’t really work. In the main Marvel universe a hatred of robots isn’t that unusual, or even that unhealthy considering the sheer number of Sentinels, Doombots, and Ultrons running around. You’d have to keep her on teams with the Vision or something to get some drama. Towards the end of the comic another Transformers writer planned to spin-off Circuit Breaker and some other human characters into their own book, but it never got greenlit.

    As a coda to all this, a few years back Botcon, the main TF convention, created a mirror universe called Shattered Glass. One of the human characters they introduced was a technology loving goth named Sephie Beller.

  8. S/O to Polygon for bringing me here to listen. Very much appreciate the break down of the ’80s Secret Wars. I’ve been out of comics for awhile, but I love me some chaos… I’ll be looking forward to reading/listening to your take on the new SW. As for myself, I’m super stoked for Xmen92. Watched the cartoon, had the action figures, played the SNES & arcade games (so many quarters)…. Pretty much a portion of my childhood.

  9. I finally got around to reading Secret Wars, and I gotta say, Klaw and Lizard playing patty-cake is my favorite part.

  10. Secret Wars, in my mind, marks the point when Marvel stopped being “The House of Ideas,” as they like to call themselves, and became “The House of Valuable IP that We Don’t Want to Alter Too Much.”

  11. As much as I dislike SW and SWII, I do have to say that it resulted in one of my favorite arcs of comics, being “If I should Die” and the following few New Mutants issues. The Beyonder is poorly written and not particularly compelling, but I think Claremont and Sienkiewicz did the best with what they were most likely demanded by Shooter. In that issue, the Beyonder is not really important, he is simply an unstoppable force. The important point is the way that the New Mutants deal with mortality and I really loved it, especially with Sienkiewicz’s art.

    Also, the following issues really drew out much of what I really loved about Magneto as Headmaster of the New Mutants, and reinforced a lot of what I view as the great tragedy of his character is that he is frequently put into situations where there is no “right answer” and he has to make the best of two bad options, which I see echoed superbly when he ends up leaving the New Mutants, which bookends his appearance in that book really well, in my opinion.

  12. I know I’ve already pestered you about your thoughts on Harbinger on Twitter. But here we are we’re talking about Jim Shooter again and his love sprawling universe wide sagas. So some random thoughts on the subject.

    First is that there is a certain irony to it all. I just finished the 90’s Valiant universe this spring, an in the “from the bullpen” sections, Shooter frequently talks about holding the integrity of the story above editorial whims and the crash commercial concerns of the company. Is Shooter just trying to make up for his own sins as EIC at Marvel here? Secret Wars 1 & 2 being prime examples. At the same time that he tries to prove that the universe wide mega story can work. I actually think in this one specific example, it does pay off. It was a rather athletic and time consuming project. (I spent a year and a half reading constantly and only reading the 90’s Valiant universe in chronological order) I actually say that the pay off was there. Every single time I thought to write off a character as dumb or skipable, they forced me to spent time with them anyway, and without fail, they all proved to be really loveable in the end. It was an epic read, but very worth it. Still it may be the exception that proves the rule.

    Anyway, more X-Men specifically, Harada seems to a great example of the asshole Xavier Rachel E is always talking about. There is a kernel of goodness and altruism to what hes up to. However, he’s mostly selfish, impatient, and willing to sacrifice anyone around him without stopping for consent. He works hard for the greater good, but only his specific version of it.

    I guess Harbinger is kind of like visiting a world where there was only the Massachusetts Academy. Scott, Jean, and Colossus are drops out trying to keep other kids from going there.

    Anyway. I am so down to discuss this until the heat death of the universe with whoever may care.

  13. Molecule Man was the lead of Secret Wars

    Er…no. If there was one singular character who was the lead of Secret Wars it was very clearly Doom. Also Molecule Man was actually rather funny in that he was very powerful but a softie.

    It’s just terrible

    With so many people who disagree who are you to just candidly throw out such an opinion as though it were fact

    You have to have someone state their motivation in EVERY issue


    It’s simplistic and obnoxious

    Explain how it is obnoxious and it’s simplistic because it’s FUN you pretentious so and so. Also simplistic isn’t bad dumbass, simplistic is simplistic. A lack of complexity doesn’t make something shit.

    Also obnoxious is a personal value judgement. Whether something is obnoxious or not depends upon your personal tolerance, the same way one romance scene can be sweet and endearing to one person but vomit inducing to another.

    It’s boring

    Yeah, that’s a personal value judgement, that’s not an objective statement. You are someone who doesn’t like fight scenes. Therefore it is boring. What if someone did though?

    But you don’t play action figure fight scenes for 12 hours!

    You do when the action figure fight scenes are THAT good and when you are having THAT much fun and you are doing it across months so you don’t do it continuously and get bored of it.

    The premise cannot sustain 12 issues

    Except it did and got acclaim so you are talking shit

    Everyone is wildly out of character?

    Yeah…like who? And how? That’s a very big statement to make without any effing proof. Yeah, okay the X-Men in terms of their personality are a perhaps overly paranoid, I’ll give them that. but the X-Men aren’t eh be all and end all of the characters in this series.

    Everyone in this crossover is a complete jerk

    You mean like how Thor backed up Captain America and tried to make Enchantress good? How Professor X wiped Spider-Man’s mind to safeguard the X-Men? How Spider-Man very reasonably didn’t respond well to the X-Men going off with Magneto. How Cap tried to help Doom more than once? How Reed Richards was considering sacrificing himself and everyone to safeguard the whole universe from Galactus. How Molecule Man was a softie and how Volcana doted on him?

    The Colossus/Zsaji relationship makes no sense

    Actually Wolverine specifically mentions that Zsaji’s healing powers have made Peter fall for her

    It’s confusing

    Wasn’t confusing to me whatsoever. Oh look I guess for all your metatextual BS I must be smarter than you then

    It’s big and sprawling

    Yeah, so is Star Wars, that isn’t a criticism

    The Beyonder is underdeveloped

    The Beyonder is Uncle Ben in Secret Wars, he gets the plot moving. The premise is flimsy except no it’s not really. It’s there to get the plot moving but…so? It’s not like when presented with that premise the idea that the characters go along with it makes no sense. The heroes fight to survive the villains fight out of selfish desire as they always have. It’s standard frankly. There was never, ever any requirement for it to be something deeper or more meaningful. In fact it makes LESS sense than when heroes fight in Civil War since they needed to rewrite their characterisations to justify it.

    There is no character development

    Why does a storyline NEED character development to be entertaining or good? It doesn’t this, was taking a bunch of characters we like, throwing them together and having some fun action with them. Also surely character development should happen in the characters’ OWN books NOT in an event which isn’t specifically about any of them.

    The characters don’t change or develop from this event but they just act in character during the course of the story. There is nothing wrong with that unless you think EVERY effing story that ever transpires is required to advance the characters in some way, which across decades of comics is asinine

    All the heroes for no good reason decide they’re going to take Doom out after he says he’s going to be a benevolent God

    Actually Cap and Reed make it clear that Doom only THINKS he’s better and above the petty fallacies of human emotions except his desire to restore his face and save his mother clearly shows us he’s not. He’s a dictator when he ISN’T empowered by a God, and no man should have that power anyway. Furthermore it’s Doctor Doom. Why the Hell would you TRUST him?

    It was a toy commercial

    Yeah…and? Is doing something to sell a product creatively bankrupt now? Heads up, it isn’t it’s only creatively bankrupt if it is bad or poorly executed. Secret Wars wasn’t but what it set out to be as a story succeeded.

    It’s just 12 issues of them fighting

    You mean apart from when Doctor Doom grapples with omnipotence, Cyclops and Reed Richards pine for home, Xavier and Storm grapple over who should lead, consternation over Magneto’s presence amongst the heroes flares up, when Enchantress’ feelings for Thor create a bit of tension, when Captain America showcases how heroic he is in spite of having the least super powers, how Colossus and Zsaji have a romance, how Molecule Man grow more confidant, etc


    The super hero genre is primarily DRIVEN by the conflicts between heroes and villains. It’s part of their inherent appeal unless you are a pretentious elitist who thinks fight scenes shouldn’t happen and are merely filler. Guess what, they aren’t you don’t HAVE to like them but that’s your own personal taste, it’s not that they are inherently bad. You know, that’s kind of why there is an entire GENRE just for fighting stories in Japan and it does megabucks every year.

    Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut said NOTHING new about who Spider-Man was and didn’t change who he is. And it was 2 issues of a fight. And it was acclaimed and still is to this day.

    Basically when you say “It’s terrible” what you are actually saying is “I don’t like fun fight scenes or epic feats of super powers or will power I like other stuff so I’m going to hate on this because I am up my own ass and must inject and see metatextual narrative and social commentary in everything and if I can’t then it must suck”

    And by God those fights and feats were well done. The Hulk lifted a MOUNTAIN. Doctor Doom defeated Galactus and THEN defeated someone even more powerful. Spider-Man defeated the X-Men by himself and Captain America lead the charge.

    At the same time part of it’s appeal at the time was how it showcased waaaaaaaaay more heroes and villains all together than ever before in Marvel. Seeing so many characters together, holds the same appeal as the Avengers or JLA but on a grander scale, especially considering the villains are involved.

    1. Dude, I’m literally embarrassed for you for this response. The amount of venom you spill at Jay for not like Secret Wars is uncalled for. And here’s the thing: I honestly don’t care whether or not you like Secret Wars. I’m personally not a fan, but I can definitely listen to arguments for it. Somewhere among the insults are some, I’m sure. But A) the insults are a big turn-off to you and your argument and B) your argument has some basic flaws.

      It hinges on saying that criticism is not valid if:
      A) the work was commercially successful (or even initially critically successful)
      B) there is any degree of relativity

      Well then, why not jettison most criticism then other than that which replicates the blandest of status quos? Criticism is meant to reinvestigate works and cause people to think more about them (again, a better critic than you could use Jay’s dislike – and Miles’s tempered liking – of SW to articulate what they like about it).

      But moreover, your criticism can turn against itself so quickly.

      Firstly, Jay and Miles are successful critics. People like what they say. Therefore your criticism of their criticism is worthless since clearly they’re successful in their field.

      Secondly, yes, everything is relative. Therefore, IMO the everything is relative argument is absolutely lazy. And that’s my point of view. So how dare you go espousing the “everything is someone’s opinion” argument in response to Jay disliking something since you’re clearly not taking my opinion into account? (apologies to all other listeners and J&M for rushing a “turning relativity upon itself” move, but I’m waiting for a plane to board and know I’d be PO’d if I thought about this the whole flight).

      Anyway, that’s all. Again, you’re allowed to disagree with Jay and Miles. Most fans will at some point. But again, don’t be a poop about it. You only make yourself look bad.

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