Readers want more Marvel more of the time! With their What If? cartoon series off to a widely-panned start (I didn’t watch it) let’s take a look at some of the best What If? stories from its original run.
WHAT IF? Vol 1 #1 (February 1977)
Title: WHAT IF SPIDER-MAN HAD JOINED THE FANTASTIC FOUR?
Pivotal Event: In Spider-Man #1 the web-slinger tried to join the Fantastic Four but was turned down. But what if they had let him join the team?
Synopsis: Uatu the Watcher, from his headquarters in the ancient city in the Blue Area of Earth’s moon, ponders the multitude of alternate time-lines which branched off from the main (Earth 616) Marvel Universe.
With Spider-Man a member of the popular Fantastic Four/ Five, he never becomes an enemy of J Jonah Jameson and is therefore never deceptively painted as a villain to the public at large.
Having a powerful and capable new member like Spider-Man on the team makes Reed Richards (Mr Fantastic) comfortable enough to act on his overly-protective attitude toward Sue Storm (Invisible Girl). In their next mission (Fantastic 4 #13), against the Soviet supervillains the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes on the moon, Reed makes Sue stay behind on the Earth to “monitor” the group’s lunar expedition.
In this divergent reality, since Invisible Girl did not go to the moon with her teammates, she is lured away from the Baxter Building by the Sub-Mariner, whom she was infatuated with after the team’s first few battles with him. In the original reality, this could not happen until the Fantastic 4 got back from the moon. Here it happens earlier since she is by herself and is resentful that Mr Fantastic made her stay behind.
In the Fantastic 4’s new clash with the Sub-Mariner (Fantastic 4 #14), Sue chooses Prince Namor (Sub-Mariner) over Reed Richards and stays with him, having her physiology altered for life underwater amid the fish poop. (I’m kidding, but actually …)
The rest of the team members sadly acccept Sue’s decision and leave, changing their name back to the Fantastic 4 instead of 5. Peter Parker (Spidey) neurotically obsesses over feelings of guilt that he may have somehow caused all this. Same ol’ same ol’ in other words.
WHAT IF? Vol 1 #5 (October 1977)
Title: WHAT IF CAPTAIN AMERICA HADN’T VANISHED AFTER WORLD WAR TWO?
Pivotal Event: What if Captain America had made the right decisions in trying to disarm Baron Zemo’s explosives-laden plane?
Synopsis: Uatu shows readers another alternate timeline. In this one Captain America successfully disarmed Zemo’s plane, meaning Bucky did not die and he himself did not wind up in suspended animation for decades. The Red Skull immediately punishes Baron Zemo by putting him in stasis. (Not a very severe punishment.)
With the original Captain America and Bucky still on hand, the U.S. government has no reason to recruit replacements like Jeff Mace and others to assume the mantles of Captain America and Bucky. The original Cap and Bucky battle criminals and Communist supervillains into the 1950s like their replacements did.
In 1965, unable to ignore the way his age is finally catching up to him despite the super-soldier serum, Cap accepts an offer from the president to become the head of the newly-formed S.H.I.E.L.D. (In this timeline Nick Fury wound up getting killed during the Korean War in the early 50s.)
Bucky becomes the new Captain America while the original Cap, Steve Rogers, runs S.H.I.E.L.D. In the field the new Cap meets S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter and the two fall in love, I guess proving that Sharon would get the hots for whoever was wearing the Captain America costume when she met him.
Baron Zemo, awakened from his stasis years earlier, turns out to be the Supreme Hydra in this timeline. Steve Rogers sends Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D. to strike a decisive blow against Hydra. During that clash, both Zemo and the new Captain America are killed.
Sharon Carter blames Steve Rogers for Cap/ Bucky Barnes’ death and turns her back on him forever. Meanwhile, the Hulk’s former sidekick Rick Jones plans to become the new Captain America, just like he aspired to become the new Bucky in our timeline.
WHAT IF? Vol 1 #6 (December 1977)
Title: WHAT IF THE FANTASTIC FOUR HAD DIFFERENT POWERS?
Pivotal Event: In Fantastic 4 #1 (November 1961), cosmic rays endowed superpowers upon the four adventurers with aspects of their personalities serving to shape those powers. But what if other aspects of their personalities had shaped those powers instead?
Synopsis: Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Sue Storm and Johnny Storm crash-land after a shower of cosmic rays thwarted their attempt to beat the Soviet Union to the moon. In this alternate timeline Ben’s love of flying as a fighter pilot in wartime and a test pilot in peace time led to his power manifesting itself in the form of wings springing from his back, making him Dragonfly. Sue’s pliable, eager to please personality led to her power manifesting itself in the form of her body becoming pliable and stretchable, making her Ultra-Woman.
By the same token, Johnny’s love of tinkering with automobiles and other motor-driven mechanical vehicles made him the part man, part machine technopath called Mandroid. And Reed’s emphasis on intellect and theoretical physics made him a disembodied brain with assorted psychic powers, the Big Brain.
(“And Ben, you’ve always been made of rocks” for my fellow RLM fans.)
From there the quartet start out along the same path the original FF took. They battle the Mole Man and his subterranean Kaiju monsters when they attack the surface world. They save the Earth from an alien Skrull invasion. Next they defeat the supervillain called Miracle Man and thwart the Sub-Mariner’s amphibious attack on New York City.
Next comes their first encounter with Doctor Doom, but in this timeline Doom defeats Mandroid, Ultra-Woman and Dragonfly, leaving the lone Big Brain opposing him. Big Brain/ Reed is forced to use his psychic powers to the utmost, destroying Dr Doom’s mind and transferring his own consciousness into the armored body.
With his mind now in Doom’s body with a horrifically scarred face, Reed continues to lead the Fantastic 4. However, since he is still in love with Sue, this establishes a potential love triangle between him, Ultra-Woman and Dragonfly since Sue and Ben had become a couple, what with Reed in his disembodied brain state.
WHAT IF? Vol 1 #7 (February 1978)
Title: WHAT IF SOMEONE BESIDES SPIDER-MAN HAD BEEN BITTEN BY THE RADIOACTIVE SPIDER?
Pivotal Event: In Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962), a high school student named Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, turning him into Spider-Man. But what if the spider had bitten someone else?
Synopsis: This issue presents 3 separate stories, following 3 different people gaining spider-powers. First up, Flash Thompson is bitten by the radioactive spider. Peter Parker notices the dying spider and takes it home to study it. Flash realizes he has super-powers and becomes the masked superhero Captain Spider.
He fights Spider-Man’s supervillains in the same order he did in our timeline, but when he gets to the Vulture, he winds up getting killed. Since Flash does not have Peter Parker’s scientific genius he never invented web-shooters and thus falls to his death when the Vulture drops him from high in the air.
In the second tale the spider bites Betty Brant. Peter Parker notices the dying spider which bit her and takes it home to study it. He befriends Betty and she confides in him about her new superpowers. Peter designs a costume for her and devises web-shooters so she can become the superheroine Spider-Girl.
Instead of becoming a wrestler, Spider-Girl fights crime. When a burglar kills Peter’s Uncle Ben, the enraged Betty/ Spider-Girl tracks him down and, not fully used to her own strength, accidentally kills him with one blow. Horrified at what happened, Betty hangs up her costume and forever after gives up being Spider-Girl.
The third and final story presents John Jameson, the astronaut son of J Jonah Jameson, being bitten by the radioactive spider. When his superpowers manifest themselves, his father designs a costume for him and insists he becomes a superhero called Spider-Jameson.
John fights crime as Spider-Jameson, with his father’s newspaper the Daily Bugle hyping his heroic deeds heavily. John doesn’t develop web-shooters but, given his astronaut skills, devised a jet pack that lets him fly around. When his space capsule malfunctions, as happened in our timeline (but with Peter Parker/ Spider-Man on hand to rescue him), Spider-Jameson dies by getting crushed underneath the space capsule.
WHAT IF? Vol 1 #9 (June 1978)
Title: WHAT IF THE AVENGERS HAD BEEN FORMED IN THE 1950s?
Pivotal Event: In 1963, an evil plan by Loki wound up causing Thor, the Wasp, Iron Man, the Hulk and Ant-Man to form the Avengers. But what if events had caused the team to be formed years earlier?
NOTE: Marvel, like DC, constantly retcons their own fictional universe’s past, and in real life Marvel has since retconned events so that the Avengers really DID form in the 1950s, with other Marvel (then called Atlas) superheroes as the members.
Synopsis: There’s no way to avoid going “meta” with this story. In the 1950s, Marvel Comics was called Atlas Comics. One of their 1950s characters was the villainous Yellow Claw (now the Golden Claw), an obvious pastiche of Fu Manchu. The hero who opposed him was FBI Agent Jimmy Woo, so despite the Yellow Claw being a stereotypical Yellow Peril villain, the stories at least featured a positive Chinese American figure as balance.
In this timeline, Jimmy’s archfoe the Yellow Claw kidnaps President Dwight Eisenhower, so Jimmy rounds up a team of superheroes to rescue him, since the Claw has hired a group of supervillains to serve him. Woo recruits Timely/ Atlas/ Marvel’s 1950s characters Marvel Boy, Venus, Gorilla-Man, 3-D Man and M-11 the Human Robot. The team dubs themselves the Avengers.
The heroes defeat the Yellow Claw’s team (Skull-Face, Cold Warrior, the Great Video and Electro III), succeed in rescuing the president but the Yellow Claw, of course, escapes, Fu Manchu style. To show what a complete waste of time this story has been, Eisenhower feels that human beings won’t trust superbeings. As Commander in Chief he orders the Avengers to disband and they do so.
Thus the answer to the question “What if the Avengers had been formed in the 1950s?” is “It would have made no damn difference whatsoever!”
Comment: In the 1950s Yellow Claw stories, Jimmy Woo was working for the FBI because Marvel would not create S.H.I.E.L.D. until 1965. When his stories were reprinted in various Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. issues they substituted S.H.I.E.L.D. for all references to the FBI.
Not only did Marvel decide, decades after this story, to make it so that a different set of superheroes had formed the Avengers in the 1950s, but they also decided to still say Jimmy Woo assembled this What If? story’s heroes as a group called the G-Men and later, Agents of A.T.L.A.S.
At any rate, the alternate timeline of this tale was later destroyed by Immortus (Kang’s future self) when HE was the one eliminating alternate timelines, not the Time Twisters/ Time Keepers/ Time Variance Authority.
WHAT IF? Vol 1 #17 (October 1979)
Title: WHAT IF GHOST RIDER, SPIDER-WOMAN AND CAPTAIN MARVEL HAD REMAINED VILLAINS?
Pivotal Events: Three separate stories looking at alternate timelines in which Ghost Rider, Spider-Woman and the original Captain Marvel had not become heroes.
The Ghost Rider story presents Satan letting Crash Simpson survive both his cancer AND his stunt-riding accident, only to turn Johnny Blaze into the Ghost Rider anyway. This altered sequence of events causes Johnny to give in to despair and, unable to control his monstrous alter ego, he winds up killing Roxanne Simpson.
Ultimately, Ghost Rider runs afoul of Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, as he did in our timeline, but in this new timeline the cursed Johnny Blaze has become beyond saving and the Son of Satan destroys him, sending him to Hell with nothing left of him on Earth but Johnny Blaze’s skeleton.
The Spider-Woman tale shows Spider-Woman, still going by Arachne, carrying out her first mission for Hydra, but in this alternate timeline she goes through with killing Nick Fury. She flees back to Hydra HQ but is pursued by gung-ho S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents, including Contessa Valentina, all of them intent on avenging their leader.
Spider-Woman/ Arachne is among the Hydra operatives captured, but during her trial she manages to escape and goes on the run as a fugitive.
The Captain Marvel story presents an alternate timeline which plays out like this: When the despicable Yon-Rogg wants to use Sentry Number 459 against Kree Captain Mar-Vell during his Earth mission, Yon-Rogg suffers disciplinary action.
Ronan the Accuser strips Yon-Rogg of command but the villain is so determined to destroy Mar-Vell that he goes down to the Earth to kill him, but instead he dies during the battle. Ronan promotes Captain Mar-Vell to Colonel and places him in charge of the Earth mission to replace Yon-Rogg.
This turn of events serves to reaffirm Mar-Vell’s commitment to the Kree Empire and, as his mission proceeds, he remains hostile toward the Earth, rather than feeling pity for us and turning against the Kree. And let’s face it, Colonel Marvel just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
WHAT IF? Vol 1 #20 (April 1980)
Title: WHAT IF THE AVENGERS HAD FOUGHT THE KREE-SKRULL WAR WITHOUT RICK JONES?
Pivotal Event: In the conclusion of the Kree-Skrull War storyline (Avengers #97 May 1972) the Supreme Intelligence, deposed ruler of the Kree Empire, accelerated Rick Jones’ evolution to the point of virtual godhood. Wielding incredible power, Rick deus ex machina’ed the battles to an end all across the universe.
Synopsis: Like in our timeline, Rick Jones was captured by Kree forces while fighting beside the Avengers in Attilan. In this alternate timeline, however, Ronan the Accuser decided to just kill Rick rather than keep him alive as a slave. With no human being on hand on the Kree homeworld Hala for the Supreme Intelligence to experiment on, events play out with no intervention from a godlike Rick Jones.
On the Skrull homeworld, the kind-hearted Princess Annelle gives in to her better nature and rebels against her evil father, Emperor Dorrek VII. She and her army save the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and the original Captain Marvel from her father’s forces and install Annelle as the new leader of the Skrull Empire.
The Skrull fleet that the other Avengers were battling in space near the planet Earth breaks through and reaches our planet. Once it’s clear that the Skrulls may succeed in conquering the Earth, Professor X telepathically summons every superhero on Earth to help battle the invading starfleet.
The newly installed Empress Annelle orders the Skrull starfleet to call off its invasion and leave Earth. Back on Hala, the Supreme Intelligence fuses his atoms with the atoms of Rick Jones’ corpse the same way he had once fused Captain Marvel’s atoms to the living Rick’s atoms. The result is a new, more powerful version of the Supreme Intelligence called the Supremor.
The Supremor defeats Ronan the Accuser and his men, then strips him of the throne. The Supremor, now that he has a physical body, longs to explore the universe and places Captain Marvel on the Kree throne. This allows a happy ending in which Annelle and Mar-Vell can get married, thus pursuing their forbidden romance, combining their separate empires into one and bringing the millenia-long Kree-Skrull War to an eternal end via their marriage.
Comment: Too bad that pesky Rick Jones lived, amirite?
WHAT IF? Vol 1 #21 (June 1980)
Title: WHAT IF INVISIBLE GIRL MARRIED THE SUB-MARINER?
Pivotal Event: This story cheats a little, in that rather than have a new alternate timeline branch off from some other point in Fantastic 4 history, it instead revisits the alternate Earth timeline in which Spider-Man had joined the FF and Sue wound up choosing Prince Namor (Sub-Mariner) over Reed Richards (Mr Fantastic).
In the aftermath of Invisible Girl’s departure to live happily in Atlantis as Namor’s wife, Spider-Man, the Thing, the Human Torch and Mr Fantastic carry on as the Fantastic 4. As in our timeline, they next battle the Mad Thinker and his Awesome Android (FF #15), then Dr Doom (FF #16-17).
Next they face the Super-Skrull (FF #18), a Skrull with all the powers of the original Fantastic 4 that the Skrulls previously battled (FF #2). Spider-Man, with his webbing enhanced by Reed’s science to be flame-proof and strong enough to temporarily hold someone with the strength of the Thing, proves crucial in defeating the Super-Skrull.
Rather than make with any end-of-battle good words like Reed usually does in our timeline, this Mr Fantastic chews out Spider-Man instead, unflatteringly comparing him to Invisible Girl. An argument breaks out and the changes in the team dynamic are exposed.
With no Sue Storm around, Reed Richards has become bitter and full of self-pity. The Thing (Ben Grimm) weighs in on Spider-Man’s side in the argument, pointing out that Reed has resented Spidey ever since Sue left to marry Namor. He accuses Reed of being overly critical with web-head during every battle since then.
Spider-Man has had enough. He quits the team, vowing to work solo from now on. Days later, at the Baxter Building HQ of the now-Fantastic THREE, we readers see more ways in which the team changed without Sue.
In our timeline, Ben Grimm wallowed in bitterness and self-pity (not without reason, of course) over being stuck in his monstrous stone form and Reed obsessively devoted himself to trying to cure Ben and keep his spirits up. In this timeline we see that, with Reed wallowing in bitterness and self-pity over losing the woman he loves, Ben devotes himself to trying to comfort Reed and keep his spirits up. But with little success.
In another example of how well written this issue is, it presents some events which also happened in OUR timeline, but with different outcomes, of course. After fighting the Super-Skrull the Fantastic 4 next battled the Sub-Mariner again as Namor declared war on the surface world at the U.N. (Fantastic 4 Annual #1)
In this alternate timeline version of events, Johnny (Human Torch), without Sue around to gentle his behavior, has become cold and cruel toward Ben, rather than just playing harmless practical jokes on him like in our timeline. Their most recent clash escalates to the point where the Thing, too, is getting ready to quit.
In Atlantis, Namor and Sue are happily married and are ruling over their sub-aquatic kingdom. Since in this timeline Sub-Mariner successfully wooed Sue Storm, that means he does NOT become involved with Lady Dorma. And THAT enables a romance between her and Warlord Krang. Therefore, in this timeline, Krang is a good guy since he gets to have Lady Dorma and he never becomes an enemy of Namor.
Sue is near to having a baby and sentimentally wants to patch up things between the Sub-Mariner and her former teammates. Namor agrees and travels to the Baxter Building, where he gets attacked by Reed and Johnny, who refuse to consider any truce with him or Atlantis. Sub-Mariner at last gives up and leaves.
So thoroughly hate-filled and embittered by this point, Reed doctors the Baxter Building security camera and microphone footage of Namor’s visit, making it seem like he was the aggressor and changing his words into a declaration of war on the surface world. Reed airs this at the U.N. (just like Namor had really declared war there in our timeline.)
The U.N. prepares to form an international force to invade Atlantis with Reed and Johnny leading it. The Thing shows up and exposes Reed’s deception to the U.N. Assembly by playing the actual tapes. Reed is disgraced and Ben feels terrible about having to do that to his old friend but U.N. personnel assure him he had no choice. He couldn’t let an all-out war break out based on Reed’s hatred and dishonesty.
Ben quits the Fantastic Four and marries his girlfriend Alicia Masters. Johnny stokes Reed’s anger and winds up convincing him that Namor must have used some kind of mind control device on Sue, the kind that some of their other foes have used against them.
Reed doesn’t take much convincing, and he and Johnny launch a private raid on Atlantis, equipped with a bunch of Reed’s technology intended as a bio-weapon against the Atlanteans. During their 2-man invasion, Warlord Krang gives his life trying to shut off Reed’s bio-weapon.
When Mr Fantastic finally fights his way through to Sue’s chambers, she is in labor. She uses as much of her force-field power against him as she can in her condition and, forced to realize that he really has lost Sue forever, Reed deactivates his own bio-weapon, saving Atlantis.
The Human Torch remains hate-filled however, and sets out on his own, abandoning Reed. Reed sorrowfully watches Namor and Sue share the birth of their child, a moment he has dreamed of sharing with Sue for years, then returns to the surface.
Comment: This tale or issue #24 may be the best story ever in What If? It perfectly explored a LOT of the little butterfly effect ramifications that other stories didn’t delve into.
I’d have added an epilogue in which we learn that with the Fantastic 4 finished, Reed divides the assets of Fantastic 4 Incorporated between himself, Ben and Johnny. We can assume Sue would refuse to take her share. The Thing would join the Avengers. Mr Fantastic would do what he promised and work for the surface world to pursue peace with Atlantis.
The Human Torch, in this continuity in which his selfish, prickish nature got full reign, would become a frequent foe of Spider-Man, even joining an incarnation of the Sinister Six. That would stand in stark contrast to our timeline, in which Spidey and Johnny had their years-long bromance.
WHAT IF? Vol 1 #23 (October 1980)
Title: WHAT IF HULK’S GIRLFRIEND JARELLA HADN’T DIED?
Pivotal Event: Jarella, the Queen of Kai, a planet in the Microverse/ Quantum Realm, had over the years fallen in love with both the Hulk and Bruce Banner. By Incredible Hulk #205 (November 1976) she was stranded on Earth and she & Bruce/ Hulk had been living happily in Santa Fe for awhile. Unfortunately she was killed in this issue during Hulk’s battle with Thor’s old foe Crypto-Man.
Synopsis: In this alternate timeline, Jarella hesitates long enough to realize that the child she tries to save is really just an illusion conjured up by the Dark Gods of Kai to lead her to her death during the Hulk vs Crypto-Man fight.
Bruce Banner later gets help from Hank Pym, Phd (aka Ant-Man, Giant Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket) who comes up with a way of permanently returning Hulk/ Bruce and Jarella back to her subatomic homeworld. He reveals that the Microverse/ Quantum Realm isn’t so much subatomic as it is an alternate dimension that can be accessed by shrinking beyond the Planck Constant.
On their way back to Kai, Hulk and Jarella pass the Psycho-Man’s planet, the fragmentary remains of Hyperion’s homeworld, some of the planets featured in Micronauts stories and others. Finally they reach Kai, where Jarella and the Hulk/ Bruce Banner at long last marry.
As usual, Queen Jarella enjoys scintillating conversations with Bruce Banner and the simple loyalty and affection (don’t go there) of the Hulk. The Dark Gods realize they failed to assassinate Jarella back on Earth and launch new attacks.
When Bruce turns into the Hulk during battles against the Dark Gods and their armies, Jarella has him wear a helmet and wield weapons to reflect his royal nature as her Prince Consort. The two lead her armies in Conan the Barbarian style warfare against the forces of evil on Kai from then on.
WHAT IF? Vol 1 #24 (December 1980)
Title: WHAT IF GWEN STACY HAD LIVED?
Pivotal Event: The Amazing Spider-Man #s 121 and 122 (June and July 1973) dealt with the death of Gwen Stacy at the hands of the Norman Osborn Green Goblin, who threw her from the Brooklyn Bridge. This alternate timeline finds Spider-Man choosing to refrain from shooting his webbing to catch Gwen (which caused her neck to break, killing her in our timeline) and instead leaping to catch her.
Synopsis: Spider-Man winds up carried into the Hudson River along with Gwen. He at last gets them both back to the surface, but since Gwen had swallowed a lot of water he has to perform mouth-to-mouth on her for awhile to revive her.
Naturally, he has his mask off doing that, and when Gwen has recovered she at first recoils in horror from realizing that her beloved Peter Parker is really the wanted criminal Spider-Man, the person implicated in the death of her father, Captain John Stacy. (It was really Doctor Octopus who caused his death.)
Peter is forced to explain everything to Gwen, from how he gained his powers, to the bizarre media campaign launched against him by J Jonah Jameson and finally the way her father died in Peter’s costumed arms. And while dying admitted to him that he had long ago figured out that Peter was Spider-Man but respected his obvious desire to keep it a secret.
At length, after hearing all the explanations which Peter Parker SHOULD have given her years earlier, Gwen is reconciled to her true love’s dual identity. In the emotion of the moment Peter asks Gwen to marry him and she says yes.
Shuddering, she recalls that the Green Goblin is still on the loose and knows that Peter is really Spider-Man (which is why he targeted Gwen in the first place).
Spider-Man sends Gwen to her house for safety and sets out to scour the city for any sign of Norman Osborn or his costumed alter ego. He encounters him again and they battle but he eludes Spidey. Crucially, anticipating that he may die in Final Battle with the object of his obsession the Goblin pauses to remove from his pouch documentary evidence he has that proves Spidey is Peter Parker. He slips the huge envelope addressed to J Jonah Jameson in a mailbox, then resumes fleeing Spider-Man.
NOTE: Again, this is solid writing and adherence to continuity. In our timeline the Norman Osborn version of the Green Goblin died accidentally during his final encounter with Spider-Man BEFORE he could mail those documents. Peter Parker, his anger spent at seeing Osborn dead, simply dragged himself home to begin painfully mourning Gwen.
Harry Osborn came across the Goblin’s dead body before anyone else could, so he read the pouch’s contents which proved who Spider-Man really is. Believing his father had been murdered by Pete/ Spidey, he removed the Green Goblin costume from his father’s corpse and hid the evidence, planning to eventually assume the Green Goblin’s identity himself and kill Spider-Man for revenge.
In this alternate timeline, the Goblin mails the documents and later is caught up to by our hero as Norman is confiding in his son that he is the Green Goblin. Harry is freaking out and refuses to join his father’s villainous plans, so Norman smacks him around.
This allows the arriving Spider-Man to sardonically quip “Is it everyone you hate, Norman, or just the people who love you?” Harry, fearful that, even though Peter is his friend, he might harm his father, stands between the two of them and tries to resolve the situation. Norman, seeing the son he always condemned as weak standing between him and Spider-Man, has a Comic Book Cure and abandons his Green Goblin personality for good.
Spidey, since he doesn’t know that the Goblin mailed incriminating evidence to J Jonah Jameson of all people, agrees to let Harry get his father hospitalized to receive mental treatment. He then goes to Gwen for what they think is their happy ending.
Several weeks later, at their wedding, J Jonah Jameson interrupts the ceremony accompanied by police as he reveals the EXTRA that his newspaper has just put out, exposing Peter as Spider-Man. Aunt May suffers a heart attack since she still believes Spider-Man is a criminal, and Peter, in civilian clothing, is forced to flee.
Robbie Robertson, whom fans had long suspected had guessed Peter’s identity anyway, doesn’t seem surprised at the revelation. He tells off Jonah in front of all the cops and wedding guests and reporters, asking him how he could have done something as cruel as this.
Robbie further proves his friendship with Peter by comforting Gwen and telling her they’ll go to all the other news outlets, promising that after they together show the world what kind of man Peter Parker really is, he’ll be vindicated and “people won’t even be using the Daily Bugle to wrap dead fish in.”
The disgusted onlookers all regard Jameson with contempt and leave him there alone.
Elsewhere, with police surrounding his apartment, Peter watches from a nearby rooftop and braces himself for a necessary hit and run raid against the cops stationed inside his apartment so he can grab his web-shooters, since he’ll be living like a fugitive now. He worries that, just to survive, he’ll be forced to become the kind of menace that Jameson’s Fake News had always painted him as.
Comment: Despite Peter’s typical gloom and doom, I guess it’s possible that Robbie Robertson and Gwen might succeed at clearing Peter’s name once all the facts are made public, but with his identity exposed he and Gwen would always have to worry about Spider-Man’s many foes coming after them. He’d probably have to join the Avengers years earlier than he really did.
WHAT IF? Vol 1 #29 (October 1981)
Title: WHAT IF THE AVENGERS DEFEATED EVERYBODY?
Pivotal Event: In Avengers Annual #2 (September 1968) some time-traveling Avengers wound up in an alternate timeline in which the Scarlet Centurion, one of Kang’s other selves, had manipulated the original five Avengers into defeating all of the world’s other super-powered beings, heroes and villains alike. He secretly did so to make it easier to conquer 20th Century Earth, but the time-traveling Avengers foiled his plans.
Synopsis: In this alternate timeline, no one showed up to disrupt Kang/ the Scarlet Centurion’s plans. With Thor, the Wasp, Iron Man, Giant Man and the Hulk left as the only super-powered beings still at large, the Hulk grew antsy for action. His volatility led him into a conflict with the other four original Avengers, who defeated him and turned him over to the supposedly benevolent Scarlet Centurion/ Kang like they did with all the others.
Now that all “threats” were eliminated, the Scarlet Centurion encouraged the four heroes to retire after a job well done. They did so, at which point the Centurion/ Kang showed his true nature by opening up a war of conquest on 20th Century Earth.
Thor, the Wasp, Iron Man and Giant Man came out of retirement, banded together and managed to defeat the Scarlet Centurion. Realizing they had been used as pawns by the defeated villain, they returned to retirement, disillusioned and weary.
WHAT IF? Vol 1 #31 (February 1982)
Title: WHAT IF WOLVERINE HAD KILLED THE HULK?
Pivotal Event: In The Incredible Hulk #s 180-182 (Oct-Dec 1974), Wolverine’s first appearances ever, a three-way battle between him, the Hulk and the Wendigo ended indecisively. In this alternate timeline Wolverine kills the Hulk during the battle.
Synopsis: While celebrating his victory at a bar, Wolverine gets caught up in a brawl, loses control and uses his claws to kill a civilian. Wolverine flees to James M Hudson at Canada’s Department H only to be told that he will have to be tried for the murder at the bar. Logan rejects that idea and escapes.
While on the run, Wolverine is found and recruited by Magneto to join his Mutant Brotherhood. Magneto decides that with Wolverine an unknown quantity to the X-Men he could infiltrate the original team.
Wolverine does so, joining the X-Men as a replacement for the Beast, who was off on his own at the time, trying to cope with his recent mutation into a blue-furred, more animal-like version of himself. Logan becomes attracted to Jean Grey/ Marvel Girl while serving with the team, but remains true to his mission.
Ultimately, Wolverine gets the opportunity to sabotage the X-Men’s Cerebro system, deactivating its alarms and allowing Magneto and his Brotherhood (Blob, Lorelei, Mastermind and Unus the Untouchable) to attack X-Men headquarters.
During the battle, Magneto injures Marvel Girl, prompting Wolverine to turn against the Brotherhood and help the X-Men defeat the villains. When Magneto is the last evil mutant still standing, he and Wolverine wind up killing each other during the final battle.
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