Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Omitted material: What If? Classic volume 6

Time for another look at relevant issues from the original What If? series.

#34: "What If?", reprinted in What If? Classic volume 6

This was a special issue made up of many single page stories, or even less, of a humorous bent. Amongst them were the following featuring some aspects relating to Spider-Man:
  • "The Difference!!", written and drawn by Fred Hembeck
  • "What If Everyone Who'd Ever Been an Avenger Remained an Avenger?", written by Jim Shooter and drawn by Bob Hall
  • "What If Marvel Comics and the National Endowment for the Arts Presented Spidey Intellectual Stories", written by Roger Stern and drawn by Al Milgrom
  • "What If All the Super Heroes Who Now Live in New York City Moved to Toledo, Ohio?", written and drawn by Bob Budiansky
  • "What If Aunt May Became a Super Hero?", written and drawn by Mark Gruenwald
  • "What If Obnoxio the Clown Fought Crime?", written and drawn by Alan Kupperberg
  • "What If Spider-Man Had Married the Black Widow?", written by Mike Carlin and drawn by Ron Zalme
Some of these were tiny cameos - for instance Spider-Man shows up as part of the hordes of Avengers responding to a summons and crushing Ant-Man in a stampede, and no, I can't remember when Spider-Man had become an Avenger by this point. Everyone in Toledo is a one-panel joke about there being nothing for super-heroes to do there while super-villains destroy Manhattan, and marriage to the Black Widow is another single panel in which she lives up to her name. The Aunt May strip presents single images of three possible identities - Golden Oldie (a name used before her Marvel Team-Up appearance; this one is based on Iron Man), Ant-Aunt (based on Ant-Man) and Auntie Freeze (based on Ice-Man). The Obnoxio strip shows him trying multiple familiar costumes - his Spider-Man attempt fails because he has vertigo.

Fred Hembeck's "The Difference!" explores the distinction between imaginary stories and alternate reality stories - basically the latter take an established event, vary one factor and show the consequences whilst imaginary stories can present a totally absurd scenario with no thought for how it came about. Amongst the examples of imaginary stories are "What If Odin were Peter Parker's Uncle?", "What If Aunt May were Ant-Man?" and "What If Spider-Man married Spider-Woman?" (It's interesting how some concepts keep popping up.) "Spidey Intellectual Stories" is the most substantial story and sees Spidey take out the Mad Thinker who predicted 99.9999999% success but overlooked something. Spider-Man shows up and converse with the Thinker who eventually gets defeated by the logic of love over fear... and the story ends with the Watcher getting bored.

Some of the other stories present glimpses of scenarios that were later either used in the regular comics or in other What If?s including "What If Captain Marvel hadn't died?", "What If Phoenix still lived?" or "What If Elektra had survived?". Readers of the later Alpha Flight Assistant Editors' Month issue may recognise the concept behind "What If the Silver Surfer, White Tiger, Night Rider, Iceman and Moon Knight fought Wendigo in a snowstorm?" and "What If the Black Panther fought the Shroud Master of Darkness in a Coalmine?". The art is a very rare piece by Tom DeFalco. "What If Howard the Duck formed his own super-team?" with other members including Devil Dinosaur, Redwing, Zabu, Emma (a flying ant), Lockjaw, Aragorn and Dragon Man - it's a forerunner of the Pet Avengers. And there's plenty of fun. "What If Alpha Flight talked like T.V. Canadians?" is a reminder that it's not just the British who get hideously misrepresented by US television. And the very last story is "What If will happen when Stan Lee reads this issue?" "'Nuff said!"

This was very much a forerunner to Assistant Editors' Month and a reminder that Marvel can do good comedy. At the time the book was on a bimonthly schedule so it may have annoyed some readers at the time who had to wait another two months for a serious tale. But as one issue in a volume of six it's a fun distraction. The other stories in the volume are:
  • #33: "What If Dazzler Had Become the Herald of Galactus?" & "What If Iron Man Was Trapped in the Time of King Arthur?"
  • #35: "What If Elektra Had Lived?", ""Untold Tales of the Marvel Universe: And Thus Are Born The Cat People!" & "What If Yellowjacket Had Died?"
  • #36: "What If the Fantastic Four Had Not Gained Their Super-Powers?" & "What If Nova Had Not Given Up His Powers?"
  • #37: "What If the Beast And The Thing Continued To Mutate?" (separate stories) & "What If The Silver Surfer Lost The Power Cosmic?"
  • #38: "What If Featuring Daredevil And Captain America Plus The Vision And The Scarlet Witch"
The cover to #38 doesn't actually pose any questions this time. The common theme of the issue is alternate futures in which ageing heroes carry on. The Daredevil story is set in 2013 but there aren't grand predictions of the world of the future beyond the Soviet Union being replaced by a Russian democracy. Concorde may still be flying and now able to fly over the continental US, and the UN may have relocated to Atlanta but otherwise the world hasn't changed much.

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