Over the years, Marvel Comics has amassed a vast collection of superheroes and villains for its universe. Being a comic book world, multiple events are always happening at the same time. Sometimes, those events are relatively minor bumps in a hero’s path, while others are world-changing and generally not in a good way. Events such as 2006’s “Civil War” and the “Secret Wars” of the 1980s have had a massive impact on the heroes we know and love.
These stories often leave readers wondering what might have happened if things went differently. That’s where the “What If?” series comes in. Since 1977, Marvel has been answering its readers’ demands to know things like what might have been had Captain America become president or Phoenix had not died. These “What If?” storylines occasionally lead to better outcomes and it can be heartbreaking to see that those events did not occur in the good ol’ 616-universe (the main comics universe). Here are 15 “What If?” storylines we want more of.
15. What If Gwen Stacy Had Lived?
Based on “Amazing Spider-Man #121”, Gwen Stacy is thrown off Brooklyn Bridge by the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn) in an effort to distract Spider-Man. Spidey fires a strand of webbing to catch her, though ultimately fails in saving the doomed Gwen Stacy’s life. It was a turning point (fittingly titled “Turning Point”) in Spider-Man’s life as well as in the comic book industry since it was so unusual for characters of that importance to be killed off. While Gwen Stacy has returned in some form or another throughout the years (mostly clones), readers have often wondered what it would have been like if she had lived. “What If?” Vol. 1 #24 aimed to answer that question.
The “What If?” issue revealed that the Peter marries Gwen and that the Green Goblin had released Spider-Man’s secret identity to the public through J. Jonah Jameson, thus sending Peter Parker into hiding. The exciting issue ends with Joe Robertson consoling a distraught Gwen Stacy, promising that they would help Peter in any way they could. But do they? How? Would Peter and Gwen have had a marriage as happy as 616 Parker’s marriage to MJ? We need to know.
14. What If Professor X Became the Juggernaut?
What would it have been like if Xavier was granted the powers of Cyttorak instead of Cain Marko, who normally uses it to become the Juggernaut? Since Charles Xavier never founded his School for Gifted Youngsters, Magneto was able to amass an army out of those who would have been X-Men, except they aren’t nearly as well trained and as a result, fail in their attack on humanity. The Xavier-Juggernaut then attacks the human armies and places all mutants under his protection. While there are those who try to protect humanity by putting a stop to this Juggernaut, such as the Fantastic Four, they fail and Charles, using the greatest minds on Earth, is able to develop a superpower-eliminating gas. One thing leads to another and Charles Xavier eventually becomes an unstoppable dictator.
In the end, it’s Cain Marko, Magneto, and the would-have-been X-men dispatch this Juggernaut by launching him into space where they hope he’ll stay forever. But does he ever return? What are the ramifications of the mutant-controlled Earth Xavier left behind? There’s more to the story here and we need to know.
13. What If Mr. Sinister Had Formed the X-Men?
Anyone who’s ever heard of Marvel’s X-men will know that they were originally a small group of teenagers led by a telepathic professor in a wheelchair. He taught them how to use their powers skillfully and responsibly so that they could fight for a future where humans and mutants live peacefully, side by side. But what if Xavier’s team wasn’t the only band of X-Men? What if another team was founded by one of their vilains?
It’s these questions that prompted the “What If?” issue titled “What If? Mr. Sinister Formed the X-men?” Sinister, beginning with Cyclops, whom he’d been manipulating since childhood, formed a team of mutants consisting of Sabretooth, Havok and Malice (pretty much a clone of Jean Grey). A fight between Sinister’s X-men and Xavier’s X-men breaks out over Ororo Monroe whom, in this comic, is much younger. Ultimately, Sinister fails (or at least allows himself to appear to fail), so Cyclops and Havok join Xavier’s team.
While it might appear that an equilibrium had been reached, it ends with us finding out that Sinister’s plan was actually to have sleeper agents infiltrate Xavier’s team of X-men. But how does he ever use them? What were you plotting, Sinister? Tell us!
12. What If Iron Man Lost the Civil War?
2006’s “Civil War” was a major turning point for the 616-universe. The Superhuman Registration Act required all vigilantes to reveal their identities to the government and thus be held accountable for damages caused during any of their battles. The act split heroes right down the middle: pro-registration, led by Iron Man, and anti-registration, led by Captain America. The former would ultimately see victory after Captain America finally surrenders, but not after both sides suffered enormous losses. The “”What If?” Civil War” series details what might have been had Tony Stark lost.
Instead of attacking the Secret Avengers, Stark reaches out to Cap for help. The Thor clone is activated accidentally and wreaks havoc. This time, Goliath survives thanks to Iron Man. The superheroes band together to defeat the clone and afterwards, a system is put in place to safely protect the identities of super-humans and satisfy the government’s demands for accountability. But it’s all in Cap’s hands. The forces that led to his apparent demise in “Civil War’s” aftermath would still have occurred. Does the peace remain intact without Cap’s presence? Would the government try re-enacting the original registration act once the leader of its opposition is dead?
11. What If Wolverine Was a Horseman of War?
Aside from being the oldest-known mutant in the world, Apocalypse is also known for taking and reshaping mutants as his horsemen. In one alternate reality, Apocalypse decides to take Wolverine as his Horseman of War. With heightened senses, two sets of adamantium-covered claws and a regenerative healing factor that made him nearly impossible to kill, Wolverine was the perfect killing machine.
A little too perfect, it seemed. In this alternate world, Wolverine, as War, ends up killing Apocalypse before setting his sights on the rest of the world’s villains. Being the best there is at what he does, Wolverine eviscerates every adversary the good guys have ever faced, including the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. A hundred years pass and War has disappeared, leaving behind, oddly enough, a more peaceful world. We find out that Wolverine has since gained more control and is now a monk using the name ‘Brother Xavier’.
We don’t find out much else, but surely there’s more to the tale of the former horseman! Wolverine is virtually immortal and is hardwired to kill. What happens when new villains arise or if his famous berserker rages makes him the new unstoppable big bad? There is no way his story would just end as shown.
10. What If Doom Had Become The Thing?
Originally, Reed Richard’s warning of a fatal flaw in a machine Doom was creating went ignored. In “What If?” Vol. 1 #1, Victor realises his mistake and never becomes Doom. In fact, he befriends Reed Richards, leaving Ben Grimm out on his own. Years later, Victor and Reed are exposed to the famous power-inducing cosmic event (which Doom prepares for with a suit of armor), while Ben Grimm, now in the military, is exposed to a gamma bomb which turns him into The Hulk. Doom finds that instead of protecting him, his suit of armor has strengthened the effects of the cosmic radiation and thus, turned him into The Thing.
The two titans clash, though the Thing is quickly defeated. Before Hulk can crush Mr. Fantastic, Reed reminds him of their friendship and successfully calms the Hulk, who reverts back to Ben Grimm. Doom escapes and Reed promises to find a cure for Ben’s condition, and the Fantastic Four form once more, only this time, with The Hulk on their side. The story shouldn’t end there, though. Everyone knows the Hulk’s anger is uncontrollable. A Fantastic Four with that kind of instability would surely never work, right? We want to see the consequences of this changeup in roster.
9. What If Daredevil Killed Kingpin?
In “Daredevil #228” we find out that Karen Page had given up Daredevil’s secret identity to the Kingpin who soon after began to dismantle Matt Murdock’s life. But what if Matt had abandoned his insistence on keeping his foes alive? “What If?” Vol. 2 #2 shows us just that. While being escorted by a guard, Matt acquires his gun and minutes later, shoots Kingpin in the head. The enraged Matt soon recovers from his fury and the guilt of that action sinks in, driving him mad.
Eventually, Matt turns to The Rose, Richard Fisk, the now-orphaned son of the Kingpin. As they talk, Hobgoblin attempts to assassinate Fisk, but Matt stops him, sacrificing his own life. This last heroic act leads to Richard Fisk’s donning of the Daredevil mask, but note that Fisk is from a whole different world. There would be a multitude of storylines that would have turned out very differently were it not for Matt. We need to see how Richard Fisk would have dealt with them. Would this Devil of Hell’s Kitchen be the hero it needs? Would he share Matt’s belief that it’s wrong to kill?
8. What If The Fantastic Four Had Not Gained Their Superpowers?
There were numerous factors in the Fantastic Four’s origin story that could have forever changed their future. If Reed hadn’t been so desperate, for example, and simply waited as he had in “What If?” Vol. 1 #36, the Fantastic Four would have never gained their powers on an ill-fated trip into outer space. Instead, humanity would have become a space-faring civilization and Richards a very wealthy man. However, all the villains the Fantastic Four faced still exist and run rampant, even in this reality. Though they still end up encountering Mole Man and his giant beast, the Fantastic Four runs away instead of fighting him. Mole Man detonates his bomb and seals himself beneath Monster Isle.
The story can go a lot deeper than that, though, can’t it? Would they still be a match for Dr. Doom? How is Galactus stopped from destroying Earth? Does Ben Grimm still end up with Alicia Masters? What about the subsequent Illuminati that Reed Richards is a member of? There are so many questions left unanswered here and we would really like to see a follow up.
7. What If Venom Possessed The Punisher?
The two characters featured in “What If?” Vol.1 #44 are not the gentlest of characters. The Venom symbiote is an alien creature from outer space that arrived on Earth thanks to Spider-Man, who unknowingly used it to replaced his tattered costume on Battleworld. After discovering its harmful bonding process, Peter removed the suit by using the sonic power of church bells. The symbiote then finds Eddie Brock instead in the main continuity, but in this “What If?” issue, the suit instead finds Frank Castle, a war veteran who, after losing his family in a tragic gang war, became the vigilante killer known as The Punisher.
Many criminals, such as The Kingpin and Tombstone, fall to the new Punisher’s lethal weapons, though the symbiote leads Frank into battle with heroes too. Thanks to Reed Richards, the symbiote is seemingly tamed, though fully bonded to Frank, who claims that he now has full control. But does he? Since Frank Castle already murders his enemies, wouldn’t it be easy for him to be tempted into more twisted warfare by the symbiote or even of his own volition? Surely that isn’t the end of this storyline and there’s more for us to see.
6. What If Captain America Lived In the American Civil War?
Captain America was a WWII veteran that soon found himself frozen in a block of ice after sacrificing himself to stop Baron Zemo’s bomb. In the modern era, he is found by the Avengers somewhere in the North Atlantic and goes on to join them and S.H.I.E.L.D., headed by Nick Fury. We all know his WWII-era life had a huge impact on his decision-making, so what would change if he was instead around during the American Civil War, fighting for liberty amongst regular folk and not the superhero community?
In this tale, Captain Stephen Rogers of the Union Army was under the command of Colonel Buck ‘Bucky’ Barnes until he discovered the colonel’s deep cruelty. The captain flees and is found near dead by private Sam Wilson. Wilson summons a great spirit to save the captain’s life, turning Rogers into a super-powered warrior. After witnessing this transformed Rogers, Barnes’ face burns off and the colonel is renamed the White Skull. Their conflict never ends and continues among their descendants.
That’s it, though? Surely it would have ended at some point, right? When would that be? How many generations later? How does the continuing conflict affect the timeline? You cannot leave it there, Marvel!
5. What If Tony Stark Became Sorcerer Supreme?
In the world of “What If?” Vol.2 #113, Tony Stark was giving Stephen Strange a ride home that ended in a car crash. With Strange’s hands damaged, seemingly beyond repair, Tony promised to rectify the problem, leading the two to Tibet where in this reality, it is Stark and not Strange who drives off Baron Mordo and becomes Sorcerer Supreme. Later, with both mystical and technological mastery at his disposal, Tony Stark battles Dormammu but is betrayed by Strange whom, in return, is given use of his hands back. Clea soon shows Strange the error in his judgement and it’s soon revealed that the magic that restored Strange’s hands is also draining him of his life force. Together, Tony and Strange defeat Dormammu and teleport him from the Dark Dimension. Stark returns to Earth and Strange becomes the new ruler of the Dark Dimension.
But what about the future? Dormammu is sure to return somehow and if Tony is Sorcerer Supreme how would events like Civil War have occurred differently? What about events where the two were needed at the same time? There’s a lot more to show here.
4. What If Spider-Man Had Rejected The Spider?
In the original version of “The Other” storyline, Peter embraces his inner spider in order to avoid dying of cellular degeneration. This also put him in possession of some new abilities such as being able to cling to surfaces using more than just his hands and feet and enhanced night vision. He then murders Morlun (a mage killing off Spider-Man in as many realities as he can) using poisonous stingers projected from his wrists and goes on to fight in Marvel’s Civil War.
If he hadn’t embraced it, however, the Venom symbiote, then bonded to Scorpion, would have broken out of prison just to bring Peter Parker back to life as a host to the alien monster that would have been in complete control. Spurned by Parker’s loved ones, the symbiote goes on to resurrect Gwen Stacy. That’s where “What If? Spider-Man Vol.1 #1” ends. With two monsters who seek to replicate. Come on, Marvel. That’s not an ending. That’s just the beginning.
3. What If Scarlet Witch Had Ended ‘The House of M’ By Saying ‘No More Powers’?
At the end of House of M, where Scarlet Witch, driven mad by the loss of her children, uttered the words “no more mutants,” thus reshaping the world into one where mutants are on the brink of extinction. There were obvious consequences to her actions, including the formation of a new villain, The Collective, as well as the return of an old one, Onslaught. But what would have happened if she’d ended most, if not all destructive conflict by uttering ‘No more powers’ instead? Surprisingly enough, “What If? House of M Vol. 1 #1” shows us that it might have been a better world.
There is one large battle wherein most of the heroes are given Iron Man-esque armor so they can fight the Red Skull and the cosmic cube. In the end, an older Tony Stark sits down with an older Peter Parker as he watches his child play on the monkey bars. They reflect on how regular humans are just as capable of fighting evil when the need arises. That’s all well and good, but that can’t be it. Over the years, there have got to have been more major events that occurred. How would they have been solved without the use of powers?
2. What If Uatu Killed Galactus?
This one was a big one. The Watchers are an immortal race of large-headed extra-terrestrials living on The Watcher’s Citadel, observing the universe in its entirety. Though they possess a variety of powers, they are held to a sacred vow to only observe and never interfere with the events that transpire in their respective regions. Uatu, the Watcher on our moon, observing Earth and our solar system, once debated the world-eater Galactus on why he should spare Earth as the Watcher had become fond of the planet. But what if, instead of merely talking, he had used his great powers to kill Galactus?
In “What If?” #200 Uatu kills Galactus and is almost immediately taken to trial by a council of Watchers. Uatu, despite the attempts of the Fantastic Four to free him, seems to accept his punishment. In the end, however, the council changes their mind and condemn Uatu to the role of the world-eater. Uatu becomes the new Galactus. A dozen major events have to change, since it’s always been Uatu who has warned Earth’s heroes of oncoming danger. Now that they’d have to fight him, what would happen? Would they even survive?
1. What If J. Jonah Jameson Adopted Spider-man?
“What If?” Vol.2 #82 sees a rocket with John Jameson crash before leaving Earth, resulting in the death of May Parker and J. Jonah Jameson’s son. Jameson then adopts young Peter and proceeds to enrol him in a better school. He even offers Peter a job as assistant editor at The Reveille. While his personal life seems better or it, Peter struggles with trying to get his new dad to see Spider-Man as a hero, which culminates in a Spider-slayer being developed and Flash Thompson taking the Scorpion serum. Finally, Peter decides to reveal his identity to Jameson before going after Thompson. Spidey is attacked by Vulture, Doctor Octopus and Sandman, all after a reward that Jonah had offered. A Spider-slayer shows up, controlled by Jameson, who is now on Spidey’s side.
Thus begins the adventures of a new crime-fighting duo operating out of the Daily Bugle, but with everything that has happened, there has got to be more from this storyline. If Jonah and Spidey team up, Spidey’s marriage would never be placed in jeopardy after the Civil War, and that’s just one major change that would occur. There’s a lot more meat left in this story.
What if there are other stories we forgot to mention here? Be sure to sound off in the comments.
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