Monday, November 24, 2008

"What If?" Stories That Became Reality (Part 1)

During the 70's and early 80's Marvel came up with an interesting twist on the comic story. They would take a look back at pivotal moments in comic plots and give the reader a chance to see just what would have happened if those moments had gone a little differently. The title was "What If?".

At the time, there didn't seem to be a chance any of those stories could come true, but as the House of Ideas started running dry on them, a few of those tales made their way in some form or another into the regular Marvel universe. Here's the first of our two-part look at titles that aren't so unimaginable anymore.

What If The Hulk had the brain of Bruce Banner? (Volume 1, Issue 2)
When it became reality: During the John Byrne years on the Incredible Hulk

It didn't take far into the run to find the first idea that became a reality. In this story, Banner retains his intelligence from the very first time he manifests as the Hulk. The story starts out well enough, but quickly turns weird as Banner, Reed Richards, and Professor X have to become one entity (called "X Man") in order to stop Galactus. Think that's strange? That's not even the "shock ending" the cover promises!

In the real title, it didn't happen until decades later, when John Byrne began drawing it and Peter David was writing. Banner kept his intelligence and was able to help various heroes in the Marvel U time and again. It didn't stick though, and eventually he was back to his savage ways.

What If the world knew Daredevil was blind? (Volume 1 Issue 8)

When it became reality: Just last year, as Daredevil's secret identity was blown and Matt Murdock was sent to prison.

Six issues later, we find the next offender. Daredevil's greatest secret is discovered, and suddenly the villains he fights come up with incredibly creative ways to capitalize on his weakness. Eventually, DD is able to come up with a way to fix the problem in a rather tame story (nobody dies, which is rare for a "What If").

In the real title, Murdock's secret was exposed and the world put it all together. However, rather than it being the end of the hero's career, it just served to give them a few issues of fun with Murdock in prison and a new mystery man wearing the red tights (it was Iron Fist).

What If Rick Jones had become the Hulk? (Volume 1, Issue 12)

When it became reality: for a brief, but memorable, run in the title where we got our first long-haired Hulk.

For all his importance in the Marvel Universe, you'd think Rick Jones would have gotten super powers much earlier. In this story, he's the one who becomes the green goliath instead of Banner. A lot of smashing ensues, and eventually Banner is able to stop the rampaging monster.

In the real title, Jones gets exposed to gamma radiation and becomes a long-haired version of the Hulk. He was actually in the title for several issues before finally getting cured. When the Hulk title was rebooted earlier this year, it looked like Rick was taking over again but this time as the Red Hulk. Instead, Rick got stuck with "A-Bomb" as his unfortunate new moniker.

What If the Hulk had become a barbarian? (Volume 1, Issue 23)

When it became a reality: Planet Hulk

I swear I'm not picking on the Hulk, but it would appear the writers on the title weren't afraid to go to the "What If" well when the ideas weren't flowing as they should. In this story, Hulk returns with Jarella to her homeworld and fights to help her protect her world from an evil dictator. Eventually he decides to stay on the molecule planet with her.

In our world, it was the Illuminati who sent him off into outer space and eventually forced him to fight for his life in various contests. He even faced the Silver Surfer (dubbed "The Silver Savage" by that planet's inhabitants). Hulk finally made his way off the planet and back to Earth with a grudge to settle. He dealt much smashing to most of the heroes before finally being de-powered (or so they thought) just in time for the Skrull's Secret Invasion so he couldn't help out.

This Thursday, we're going to look at the rest of those stories that have found their way into the real world. No more Hulk entries, but we do have the only What If story that managed to launch a spin-off title that's still running today! All that, and I'll show you the What If story I believe to be the next one to become reality! Be here!


The Groovy Agent said...

What an awesome post! Keep up the great work!

Rick said...

I remember when they all happened. I thought they must be running out of ideas because "What if?" suddenly became "Why Not?"

Anonymous said...

Your usage of "reality" is, um, rather loose. (You do know these are comic books, right? Much as I love 'em, I don't think of the current storylines as reality.)

Brian said...

"Reality" as in "part of the actual title story lines"...not literal reality. Sorry to have confused you.

james said...

It's interesting how the "What If?" series foreshadowed many plot ideas that came later. Part of that may be that some of the most interesting stories start out by asking "What if?" and daring to explore ideas that at first seemed like they could only happen in an alternate reality.

Michael Bailey said...

This was a truly awesome post. Good job, sir.

Alex said...

Hey, great blog! I like the "what if" series, it made me think... which I rarely do ;)

I also do webcomics and did a couple of parody of Hulk and Daredevil. "what if Hulk played the Operation game?" "What if Daredevil went on a blind date?" check them out at

Hey, seriously, great blogging. I'll swing by more often. good day!

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