Marvel’s “What If?” is a new animated series on Disney+ but it actually began more than 40 years ago in the comics. I have been reading What If? since its inception in 1977 and, to be honest, the writers were way ahead of their time. In fact, they foretold the future of Marvel Comics in more ways than one.
What If? is a comic book anthology series published by Marvel Comics whose stories explore how the Marvel Universe might have unfolded if key moments in its history had not occurred as they did in mainstream continuity. Since What If? debuted in 1977, the comics have been published in 13 series as well as occasional stand-alone issues. As in the Disney+ animated series, the stories of the inaugural series (1977–1984) feature the alien Uatu, the Watcher as a narrator. From his base on the Moon, Uatu observes both Earth and alternate realities.
These early alternate realities, for the most part, actually came true in the Marvel Universe. In What If? #1, they wondered what would have happened if Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four (an offer made in Amazing Spider-Man #1 in 1963). Years later, Spider-Man (and Wolverine) joined a new Fantastic Four team in Fantastic Four #347, while Spider-Man also joined the roster as part of the Future Foundation in The Amazing-Spider-Man #657. Prophecy becomes reality . . .
In What If? #10, the question was asked about Jane Foster picking up the hammer of Thor, something she did 30 years later and will be portrayed in the upcoming Marvel movie “Thor: Love and Thunder” as well. The early What If? comics were way ahead of their time. What If? #2 wondered if the Hulk still had Bruce Banner’s brain, something we’ve seen both in the comics and in the movies. You can find the complete list of original What If? comics on Wikipedia, and most of them have come to pass in today’s comics or movies.
Now, we have a new What If? on Disney+, and I am a fan. Having Jeffery Wright voice the Watcher was a brilliant choice as his stoic voice lends to the character. And, we’re only three episodes in and the changes have been remarkable. We’ve already seen evidence of that as cosplayers are donning the suit and shield of Captain Carter. That’s always a sign of a successful introduction of a character, whether it be anime, comics, television, or movie. I’m waiting patiently for T’Challa (Black Panther) as Star Lord in cosplay, but I know its coming soon. That was a great final scene and tribute to Chadwick Boseman. Every episode seems to have a great sense of both the Marvel Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They honor the legacy of these comics while bringing new life to the MCU.
That’s the great thing about the concept of the multiverse. It brings us a variety of characters that we know and love but in the many different forms and representations. If you thought “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was brilliant, this series keeps getting better and better. I really think Marvel has taken a bold step forward with their Disney+ series, Loki and Wandavision both, and “What If?” is another new chapter.
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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers. Get ready for The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series, coming soon, and the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates.