Monday, February 2, 2009

The Very First "What If?" Story

In the past I've covered the "What If?" storylines that Marvel did back in the 70's and 80's, but would you believe the very first "What If?" story actually came a decade earlier--and it was from DC! The year was 1966, and the comic was Detective Comics # 341...

The story opens with a new Batman villain, and typical of the Silver Age he's a little strange and over-the-top as far as powers go. He actually coats himself with this elastic stuff that lets him bounce everywhere like a Super Ball, and he's named "The Bouncer".After unsuccessfully trying to put him away through the fists and kicks that have worked so well in the past, Batman decides to try and get creative...Our elastic villain still manages to get away, however, and it's only after a careful observation of the properties of elasticity (and I'm not making that up) that Batman and Robin figure out the villain can only bounce stuff so many times before it breaks. That leads to this final confrontation...
Think the story's over? Not quite. Here's where DC takes things a little off the beaten path by bringing in the writer of the story himself, Gardner Fox. In the page that follows, Fox uses the "What If?" phrase 8 times, and leads us perfectly into his "What If?" world for a new ending on the story...thus making himself the DC version of the Watcher.
"My 'What If' room..." I love that! I've got to have one of those!

So here you have it...the first official "What If?" story in comic history--starring Batman! Notice how it starts out and perfectly fits the format and wording that Marvel would use in their own series...
As you can see from that last panel, DC was actually considering more of the "What If?" stories (using that title too!) based on reader response. Apparently the response wasn't enough to launch a new title for DC though. DC did a few more "fantasy" stories throughout the Silver Age, but they wouldn't get serious about playing with the alternate reality scheme until decades later with their "Elseworlds" line.

So there you have it. Marvel may have fully run with the idea first, but DC came up with the concept (and title!) a decade before the first Marvel What If? saw print.

2 comments:

jehingr said...

That may be the most awesome Batman story of all time! I love it, and the historical context makes it even more awesome. That beats throwing a car battery at a villain!

Jim

Fabulastic said...

does anyone actually pays attention to comics? oh dear...

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