WHY IT'S AWESOME: Marvel's What If?
Updated: Mar 27, 2019
A friend of mine suggested I write a blog about Marvel's popular What If? series after it was announced that Marvel would be producing a animated show based on the series for the new Disney+ streaming service. According to /Film, who broke the exclusive on this story, "The new animated show will be overseen by Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios, but the stories will not be canon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe."
In 1977, Marvel began What If? to allow creators to tell stories from a divergent standpoint. So often, comic book universes get mired in continuity and this series gave them the freedom to kill the Hulk or even see Dazzler become a Herald of Galactus. Where DC Comics might have had its multiverse, Marvel had its What If? stories.
Each story was narrated by a being called Uatu, a member of an ancient extraterrestrial race known as the Watchers who's sole role is to observe the groundbreaking events in history. However, they are not to get involved in any way. They're not even supposed to make their presence known. But, Uatu, the Watcher who watches Earth, became known to the Fantastic Four and, subsequently, the heroes of Earth.
If your connection to Marvel is through the movies, the Watchers appear in a scene with Stan Lee in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Some have even speculated that Stan is Uatu in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Stories ranged from the profound (Issue #61, Vol. 2 - What if Spider-Man's parents destroyed his family?) to the absurd ( Issue #11, Vol. 1 - What if the original Marvel Bullpen had become the Fantastic Four?). As crazy as the stories went, I ate every one of them up. I still buy them today because they're so fun.
Some of the stories even came true in the main timeline. For instance, Jane Foster did end up becoming Thor (Issue #10, Vol 1) in Jason Aaron's popular run of Thor. In issue # 5 (Vol 1), we saw Bucky Barnes become Captain America, which came true after the first Civil War event. And in issue #22 (Vol 1), Doctor Doom was a hero, which came true after the second Secret Wars.
It's a great format because of the blue sky concept for creators. I'm very excited that Marvel will be doing a show based on the series to see what they come up with. I'm glad that it sounds like they will be adapting classic storylines. /Film reported that they will be adapting the classic " What if Loki had found the hammer of Thor?" story (Issue #47, Vol. 1). That said, I really hope they explore concepts we have not seen before.
It also gives me reason to believe that, post Avengers: Endgame, we will be seeing a different universes as a result of traveling the Quantum Realm. So, I'm hoping that this series, although animated, will serve as a jumping off point for the multiverse.