MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS: an epic conflagration that pitched Marvel's greatest heroes and villains in an epic slam-jam. Or tawdry toy-shifting tie-in. Discuss.
Actually, the twelve-part epic (spread across 31 issues of the UK edition) was both. Mattel wanted something to help cross-promote their new toys and merchandise and Marvel, under Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter (who also scripted the book... funny that), played a blinder by elevating what could have been an inconsequential bit of merchandising fluff into a publishing event which delivered some of the company's best sales figures in ages.
Critics, of which there were many (both inside and outside Marvel's hallowed halls), claimed it was STILL an inconsequential bit of fluff. But Star Warriors like me lapped-up the ultimate Marvel team-up.
Marvel didn't seem to do much to hype the toys themselves, perhaps they thought the mere existence of the limited series was good enough. Maybe they were slightly embarrassed by the whole deal. Or maybe they still lacked marketing savvy.
Here's a relatively rare advert for Mattel's wares, published in US Marvel comics dated December 1984. Note how it bigs-up the (frankly lacklustre) action feature of the "secret decoder shields", a plot device which - thankfully - never reached Shooter's scripts.