I write these Retro Reviews (which I’ve said before, I don’t really see as reviews), because I love the things I talk about. My only real goal is to share my passion and hope you can feel such passion, for the comics I talk about and for the things that matter to you. I was preparing this week’s review, however, I also went to the movies. Avengers: Endgame is in film form why I write these reviews, that above-mentioned passion. It took me back to being about 12 years old reading various epic comic crossovers.
One such crossover that comes to mind is Onslaught. As a kid, I stopped regularly reading comics just after Onslaught. Truth be told, it was another big Marvel story at that same time that did me in, The Spider-Man Clone Saga. However, returning to Onslaught, it was the last story that really touched my heart.
That story ends with the mainstay Marvel heroes, most of the big names, The Avengers and The Fantastic Four entering a sort of black hole created by or because of Onslaught. In the context of the comic, it’s a beautiful and powerful moment of sacrifice. In reality, they were sucking those characters into a pocket dimension so the guys who left a few years earlier to form Image could revamp them. For the record, I didn’t care for most of what they did, with the exception of Jim Lee’s version of The Fantastic Four.
There is a great moment at the end of the story where Iron Man grabs Dr. Doom and drags him into the void with the heroes. I remember how I felt as a kid reading that moment, and I felt it again when I watch Avengers: Endgame. I don’t know if I cried in 1996, but I wept in 2019.
Why I wept is more complex than just how the stories ended. One big factor is that being a parent is so central to the power of Endgame (very mild spoiler alert), in particular being a father to a daughter, which I have the privilege of being myself. I cannot deny that as a factor. However, at least part of those tears are rooted not in my love for my daughter, but my love for my action figures.
The first big comic book crossovers came in the mid-1980s, with Crisis On Infinite Earths at DC (which is amazing by the way) and Secret Wars at Marvel (which is important but honestly isn’t that great). What was great about Secret Wars is that it was all designed to sell toys. To be fair, that is probably also why it’s terrible as it was all designed to sell toys.
Those were the first Marvel toys, the Secret Wars Spider-Man action figure was my FIRST Spider-Man action figure. I still have that Spider-Man action figure today.
A few years later, Toy Biz created a spectacularly extensive line of Marvel action figures. A quick aside, the Marvel Cartoons of the 1990s were similarly all connected, it was awesome being 10 in 1992. I had and I still have a great many of those action figures.
Each year for Christmas I would restock my collection. I loved vehicles and playsets, but I usually preferred the volume of individual action figures over those more expensive accessories. My Mom, always taking care of things way ahead of time, would buy many of our gifts at the end of summer. She’d then take them home and store them in her closet.
I’d say I have no idea how I was so patient to wait 4 months to play with all these awesome toys, but I know exactly how I did. I made it a storyline. As a kid I didn’t just play with toys, I used my action figures to tell my own epic stories. These stories spanned months and usually concluded around Christmas. Part of those stories involved a group of heroes battling against insurmountable odds until on Christmas day they could set their allies free to finally win. Freeing them from being somehow frozen or trapped in their boxes. However, there was always a cost, such as the year I broke Wolverine and his arm fell off. Even the broken toys became part of the story. Even for my toys’ victory came with a cost. Each Christmas was my Avengers: Endgame.