Thursday, November 27, 2008

"What If?" Stories That Became Reality (Part 2)

On Monday, we looked at several of the stories in the "What If" line that found their way into reality. Well, most of those dealt with the Hulk, but the good news is that there's no Hulk story to be found this time around.

This time, we focus more on Spider-Man than any other hero. Amazing enough (pun intended) some of Spidey's strange moments in the What If universe found their way into the regular storylines.

And not only that, but one of those What If stories actually created a spin-off series that's still running today. So to finish off our two-part look at What If Stories That Became Reality, we go to...

What If Spider-Man's Clone Lived? (Volume 1, Issue 30)

When it became reality: The infamous "Clone Saga" of the 1990's that almost sank the title.

In this story, it's not Spider-Man who puts the clone in the smoke stack. Instead, the clone defeats Spidey and puts him in a status tube thing, then goes off to live Peter's life. Of course, he eventually realizes he's not the real thing and sets Peter free. Together, they defeat the Kingpin and prove to the world that they aren't the same person after all (though they are). There's even a happy ending to it, as they learn to live and coexist as the same person on different days.

In the regular title, it became known as the "Clone Saga". The clone came back as Ben Reilly, but it turned out Peter was the clone and not Ben. So then Peter and Mary Jane go off together to live a happy life and we are left with Ben as the new Spider-Man. He updates the costume a tad and fights crime for a while. The fans complained, sales tanked, and Peter came back. Suddenly, Peter's not the clone anymore, and rather than face a potential problem with two Parkers running around, Ben is killed saving Peter. His death proves once and for all that Peter is the real deal. Yep, it's as difficult to follow as it sounds and was considered for years to be the lowest point in the Spider-Man title's run. But eventually Marvel topped even that low point (more on that later).

What If Elektra Had Lived? (Volume 1, Issue 35)

When it became reality: Soon after her death.

In this story, Bullseye never meets Elektra (he is killed during his prison escape), so Elektra and Daredevil can continue their relationship. Eventually, Kingpin puts out a contract on her and the only way they can be sure to live in peace is to disappear to some exotic beach location and live happily ever after. No idea why she wouldn't just kill Kingpin since she's an assassin and all, but I didn't write the story. This marks one of the few "What If" stories to really have a happy ending.

In the regular title, Daredevil gets to grieve for less than a dozen issues before he somehow mysteriously brings her back to life in a ceremony the Hand begins. For a while she disappears, and then returns full-time in the Marvel U.

What If Spider-Man Had Not Married Mary Jane? (Volume 2, Issue 20)

When it became reality:
Brand New Day.

This was the first part of a two-part story (followed with "What If Spider-Man Had Married the Black Cat"), but this pretty much sums it up: thinking it's just too dangerous to be married to a superhero, MJ says no and it's all down hill from there.

In the regular title, the marriage worked out great. MJ was a support to Peter in time of trouble, and they were always there for each other. The geek finally got the beauty. Then the big "Q" stepped in and said let's pretend like none of that ever happened, and we got stuck with "Brand New Day", wherein all Spider-Man fans are told the past 20 years of stories don't actually count. Thanks for buying the comics and reading them, now throw them away because it didn't happen. Sometimes Marvel is so awesome.

What If Phoenix Rose Again? (Volume 2, Issue 33)

When it became a reality:
About every 5 years since X-Factor #1 came out.

Ah yes, death in comics. When is it ever permanent? The fact is that it isn't. In this story (the second of a two-parter, preceded by "What If Phoenix Had Not Died?"), Jean eventually loses control of the Phoenix power and has to leave the Earth forever so everyone will be safe.

In the regular Marvel U, she came back in X-Factor #1, died again, came back again, died again, came back again, and just recently died fighting Magneto. Will she be back again? You can bet your sweet bippy she will! It's just a matter of time.

What If the Punisher Became Captain America? (Volume 2, Issue 51)

When it became reality: At the end of Marvel's Civil War and in Punisher: War Journal 6-12.

In this story, Steve Rogers is injured to the point he cannot continue as Captain America. Five others are given the suit (folks like Doc Samson, Kyle Richmond, John Jameson, and others), but they all fail for one reason or another. Then Frank Castle is given his shot at the suit. Given Frank's unstable mental condition, he soon turns the non-lethal Captain America into a killing machine, and finds himself fighting for the title against a familiar face.

In the real title, Frank picked up Cap's mask at the end of Civil War and folks knew something was coming. When Cap was killed, it seemed Frank would become his successor.

Unfortunately, Marvel fell victim once again to its sometimes-convoluted writing style. Rather than take things in a logical direction and let Frank try his hand at being Cap, we ended up with this really weird Captain America/Punisher hybrid thing that was never given a clear chance to win. The 6-part storyline was told in a flashback/flash-forward/present-time style that made it nearly impossible to follow in single-issue portions. Hate-monger was there, but Frank spent most of the issues tied to a pole, and only wore the CaPunisher suit for a few panels before even the bad guys were laughing at him and beating him up. Fortunately, Winter Soldier showed up the next issue to get the mask back. Sorry, Frank, I guess black and white will remain your colors from now on.

What If...Spider-Girl (Volume 2, Issue 105)

When it became reality: Spider-Girl #1

In this story, we find an alternate reality where Peter and MJ Parker managed to have a daughter named May (or Mayday) Parker. She soon finds out about her father's heroic past and the tragic end to it (Peter lost a leg while fighting Green Goblin). She soon suits up and the rest is history.

This remains the only "What If" story to actually get its own ongoing title. Spider-Girl has never experienced ground-breaking sales, but the two times it has faced cancellation has caused such an outpouring of reader response that Marvel has kept it going. The title actually spawned an entire new universe with a new version of the Avengers and others, and even led into a Last Planet Standing miniseries. Though she's been around for a while, it would appear Marvel is definitely pulling the plug on her.

And my vote for the next "What If" story that will become reality goes to...

What If Iron Man Had Been a Traitor? (Volume 1, Special one-shot)

When this becomes reality: Soon.

In this story, Iron Man turns out to be a Russian spy who turns against the U.S. and its heroes. Pain, death, and mayhem soon follow (go figure).

In our reality, it hasn't happened yet, and who knows exactly when it will--but after Civil War, World War Hulk, and Secret Invasion, it's safe to say Iron Man has been instrumental in some of the biggest disasters in the Marvel Universe in recent years. Coincidence? Or evil plot to weaken the world's heroes for some reason?

Of course, he wouldn't stay a bad guy (if he's ever turned into one), but it'll make for some interesting stories while it lasts.

So that's it for the What If universe! Happy Thanksgiving everyone! See you next week!


Rick said...

It would be interesting to see that happen to Iron Man. I was also one of the few people who liked the Spider-Man Clone Saga. I hoped they would keep Ben Reilly would get his own series as the Scarlet Spider and have annual team-ups with the real Spider-man.

Brian said...

I loved the Scarlet Spider too. I wish they'd let him stick around for a bit. I'll bet they'd have come up with some interesting storylines for him. If nothing else, he could have been Marvel's answer to an unmarried Peter Parker and they could have channeled stories into him rather than the reboot they did to the real Spidey title.

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