Classic Comic Series: What If?

Lately I've been on an old comic book kick, reading a lot of old issues from the 60s, as well as some from the 70s and 80s. I don't care at all for the current state of comic books, but I love the old stuff.

Recently I read the 2nd issue of Marvel's What If? series. This series would take an alternate history approach by proposing what would happen if certain key moments in the Marvel Universe had occurred differently, or if a character had been different in some way. They brought the series back a few times, but it's the original issues from the late 70s to mid 80s that I enjoy the most.

What strikes me as I read these old issues is how much attention was given to accurately portraying the original histories of the characters. For example, in the issue pictured above, elements from the first Hulk comic are incorporated. It's not that they modified the Hulk's origin in general terms: they actually used specific dialog and characters from his first issue. Having just read the very first issue of The Incredible Hulk a few weeks ago, I was surprised (and impressed) by this level of detail: that first issue had been written 15 years before the issue of What If?.

They would also recognize that later events that unfolded in the original stories would be different had the alternate history occurred. For example, in What If? issue 2, because The Hulk is not a rampaging beast, The Avengers are never formed to stop him. And because Bruce Banner becomes a public figure, with a very public condition, Professor X teams up with Banner and Reed Richards of The Fantastic Four to try and find a cure for Banner -- causing The X-Men to never exist either.

I have to admit a geeky love for all of this. These characters are classic, and I've always been fascinated by the whole alternate history/alternate universe take on things ever since hearing of the old "Mirror, Mirror" episode of the original Star Trek. The thought of what could've been if things had happened differently has always been an intriguing one.


Rob said…
This was a fun series and they did think of some clever variations (as well as some very lame ones, like Rob Liefeld's version of Wolverine as an agent of SHIELD. No, that didn't work for me...)

I got a laugh from the letter column, which featured a banner with a frustrated-looking Watcher, responding the a mailman, saying, "What now...?"
Ed said…
I thought I remembered one with the cast from Saturday Night Live.

Turns out it was "Marvel Team Up" another series I used to read back then.

I also have this one where the Avengers and David Letterman.

Notice the "assistant editors month" stamp on the cover. I forgot about AEM issues until I looked this one up. You remember them? Marvel would pretend the assistant editor took over the comic and made it a parody issue instead of the normal serious story.
Ed said…
Here's a good article on Assistant Editors month.
MyLifeAndCode said…
@Rob: From what I hear, they eventually made Wolverine (and Spider-Man) members of "The New Avengers". Ugh.

@Ed: I love Marvel Team Up, and it's funny you should mention that, because that was next on my list of comics to look for. I'd never heard of the SNL or Letterman issues -- wow, that's very, very weird, LOL!

I'd never heard of Assistant Editor's Month -- that's funny! I need to check some of them out.
Ed said…
off topic,
Thought you might get a kick out of this.

"Avoid Death" was my favorite.
MyLifeAndCode said…
Hey! Things have been CRAZY lately! Keep meaning to write, but things have been so hectic.

That link is hysterical. "Avoid Death" was my favorite too. I try to avoid death as much as I can. Good advice.

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