Saturday, 19 January 2013

Omitted material: What If? Classic volume 1

And so to begin my irregular look at the Spider-Man issues in the original What If? series.

#1: "What If Spider-Man Joined the Fantastic Four?", written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Jim Craig, reprinted in What If? Classic volume 1

At the time the idea of adding Spider-Man to the Fantastic Four - or indeed to any team - was seen as impossible. How times have changed. But in his very first issue Spider-Man had tried to join the Fantastic Four, only to back off when he discovered there was no salary. But what if instead they'd offered him one and he stayed?

The first What If? set out to answer that question. Spider-Man actually does quite well out of the arrangement, with Mr Fantastic getting all outstanding accusations and charges against him ditched, leading to Jonah publicly endorsing him. Now a fully fledged part of the renamed Fantastic Five, Spidey gets on quite well with his team-mates, but really the focus of this issue is on the Fantastic Four in different circumstances. The Invisible Girl was often treated as the weak link in the original stories anyway, but now she finds herself ever more marginalised. Events come to their resolution when the Sub-Mariner kidnaps her under the influence of the Puppet Master. The rest of the Fantastic Five follow and defeat the real foe, but when they confront Namor the Invisible Girl finally chooses him over Mr Fantastic and is subjected to a transformation that gives her the ability to breathe underwater. Her former team-mates leave, with Spidey wondering what might have been had he never joined the team.

As the very first What If?, some leeway can be given, but a sizeable chunk of the issue is taken up with introducing first the format and then the original saga. Then too much of the story is told as fast paced narration of successive events, leaving not very much time to actually show the Fantastic Five in action as a team. And with most of the emphasis on the Fantastic Four side of things, Spider-Man doesn't get a great deal to do or show us just what potential he could have as a team member. This is, however, a good alternate take on the Fantastic Four.

Spidey isn't in any of the other issues in the first volume. The other tales told are:
  • #2: "What If the Hulk Had the Brain of Bruce Banner?"
  • #3: "What If the Avengers Had Never Been?"
  • #4: "What If the Invaders Had Stayed Together After World War Two?"
  • #5: "What If Captain America Hadn't Vanished During World War Two?"
  • #6: "What If the Fantastic Four Had Different Super-Powers?"
The letters page for issue #4 states that it could have taken place in the regular continuity (it successfully fuses the Invaders, a 1970s retroactive creation, with the All-Winners Squad, a team that briefly existed in the immediate post-war years) and according to Comic Book Resource: Comics Should Be Good: Comic Book Legends Revealed #341 & Comic Book Resource: Comics Should Be Good: Comic Book Legends Addendum - Roy Thomas on What If...? #4 this was in fact the case, all part of Roy Thomas's work at incorporating the Golden Age Timely characters fully into regular Marvel continuity. It did finally resolve the question of the Captain America stories published from 1945 until 1950. Issue #5 is also interesting because as far as readers at the time were concerned Captain America didn't vanish during World War II but instead continuing in action until 1950 - it was only in the 1960s that this continuity was changed. However this story focuses more on how an older Captain America and Bucky operate in the 1960s, having lived all the way up to them.

1 comment:

  1. Some of those What If stories are really fun. You do have a point, times have changed and now Spidey can be on every team.

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