Posted by: Mark | March 2, 2015

My Favorite 11 Issues of Marvel’s What If?

Looking back, What If was a crazy idea for a comic book. No regular cast of characters, stories hinging on minor to huge changes, completely inconsistent. That’s what I loved about it. It was the only mainstream comic book where anything could happen, the only comic where the main character could actually die.

And they died like crazy. Before the movies, I hated Iron Man and it seemed every alternate universe killed off its version of Tony Stark within a couple of pages. In terms of literary criticism, that’s not a very good standard. I don’t claim that these issues are the best of What If?, just my personal favorites.

11.  Issue 11, vol. 2 (1990) What if the Fantastic Four all had the same power? Looking back, everything in this issue could have been better but at the time I liked the concept and variations.

10. Issue 41, vol. 2 (1992)  What if the Avengers had fought Galactus? Cosmic destruction and mayhem? Check? Dead Iron Man? Check. It makes the list.

9.  Issue 43 (1984) What if Conan the Barbarian were stranded in the 20th Century? (Shouldn’t that be “was”? If this story really happened, the title shouldn’t take the subjunctive.) What would happen? He’d become a pimp, that’s what would happen. Seriously. The sight of Conan decked out in a Superfly pimp daddy wardrobe was worth the cost of the issue.

I also liked the backup story which expanded the ending of issue 32.

8.  Issue 37 (1983) What if the Beast and the Thing Continued to Mutate? The first story with the Beast was iffy but I loved the second one with the Thing. The change from this story and the mainstream Marvel universe was that Black Goliath acted selflessly in the mainstream but selfishly in the other. So instead of curing an even more hideous mutating Thing, Goliath shrugged and looked out for number one. Normally, this would kill off half the case, but as much as What If? loved bloodshed, it actually worked out for the best. Everyone ended better off because Goliath was a selfish jerk. Maybe it was an homage to number one Ayn Rand fan, Steve Ditko.

7  Issue 34 (1982) Many silly stories. I’m not sure if I would find any of these funny anymore but I remember laughing at them in the 80s.

6. Issue 32 (1982) What if the Avengers had become pawns of Korvac? One of the deadliest issues ever, killing everyone in the universe except for Dr. Strange, the Silver Surfer, and Phoenix. It was well enough received that it got a sequel in issue 43.

5.  Issue 29 (1981) What if the Avengers defeated everybody? Backup story “What if Namor had never regained his memories?” Another bloody issue with the Avengers, as it says on the tin, defeating everyone. Not just defeated but killed permanently, something not easy in the Marvel multiverse. Looking back, the Avengers were pretty stupid to fall for the main villain’s trick but I enjoyed it at the time.

4. Issue 26 (1981) What if Captain America had been elected president? This is another that I’m afraid to reread. I enjoyed it back in the 80s but I wonder how well it would hold up.

3.  Issue 52, vol 2 What if Doom became Sorcerer Supreme? I loved this story because it hit on an idea that I first thought of as a kid:  Doctor Strange got his powers by finding a weird cabal of monks in a hidden cave in Tibet. Doctor Doom got his armor by finding a weird cabal of monks in a hidden cave in Tibet.

In What If #52, Doom found the Ancient One and became a dangerously efficient Sorcerer Supreme. I would have liked to have seen a switch with Stephen Strange getting armor but the ending of the story tied the plot points together well.

2.  Issue 24 (1980) What if Spider-Man had rescued Gwen Stacy? I remember hating J.Jonah Jameson for the crap he pulled in this issue. Despite the fact that Earth 616 Jameson was never this bad, this issue poisoned the character for me until J.K. Simmons rescued him.

1.  Issue 22 (1980) What if Doctor Doom had become a hero? This was one of my favorite comics as a kid and I plotted out stories in this parallel universe (I’m glad Deviant Art wasn’t a thing back then). Doctor Doom was Marvel’s best villain before the 90s made him dark and grittier. I’m hoping that Marvel’s upcoming changes to their universe turns him into something less stupid, but, if not, I’ll have the memories.



  1. I always liked the Marvel What If stories. They were fun.

  2. The trouble was when they did a story you never heard of. I think some writers got out their frustrations by killing characters they didn’t like.

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