In this week's Comic Book Legends Revealed, one of the legends was about whether Roy Thomas always intended for What If...? #4 to be part of Marvel's "main" continuity rather than it later becoming part of the main continuity but originally intended as an alternate continuity.
Well, a reader wrote in to say that he posed the question directly to Roy Thomas. So let's find out what Mr. Thomas said...
Reader Barry Pearl wrote in to say the following:
I have an answer directly from Roy Thomas, to your Captain America, What If #4? Inquiry and it comes from my research for my book, The Essential Marvel Age Reference Boom 1961-1977 (http://comicbookcollectorsclub.com/essential-marvel-age-reference-project/).
I know that sounds like a plug, but I wanted to present by credentials. Here is the story, and it comes from Roy Thomas: In 1972 Roy now Marvel’s editor, asked Captain America writer Steve Englehart to come up with a story explaining Cap’s absence from 1945-1963. Roy wanted Steve to write that there were several different Captain Americas. He also wanted the stories to incorporate the Atlas 1954 continuities. Englehart wrote a brilliant 4 issue story arc from Cap issues 154-157, but it only included one Captain America, the one that actual appeared in Young Men Comics, 1953-4. It did not cover the Cap in Captain America Comics from 1945-50.
Roy told me that he saw What If #4 as a way to correct that. So the story explained when Cap “disappeared” other Caps replaced him. This was incorporated into the later Invaders stories and many others, which I’ll mention in a moment
I mentioned to Roy that What If even says it’s an alternate reality and the letter’s page backs that up. Roy stated that it was his mistake being a bit to “cute” in the letter’s column saying it “coulda should mighta happen.” He wishes he was firmer.
The importance to my book is the identity of the Hate Monger in Fantastic Four #21 (1963) and many other Marvel Comics. When his identity is revealed is shown to be Hitler or a double. In What If #4, duplicating the scene from “The Return of the Human Torch” from Young Men #24 (1953) the Torch incinerates Hitler. That becomes important because in Marvel Super-Villain Team Up 16-17 (1979-80), we learn that Armin Zola took the ashes of Hitler and made a clone. That clone was the hate Monger in Fantastic Four. And that Hitler clone is transported into the Cosmic Cube.
Roy states that this story has become a “canon” (his word) of the Marvel Universe. To see if play out the best, Roy did a 12 issue run in 1988, the Saga of the Sub-Mariner and a 1990 Saga of the Human Torch which incorporates all this magnificently in one, well two long stories.
Very cool, Barry, thanks!