This is Past Was Close Behind, a feature that spotlights moments, exchanges, etc. from older comics that take on a brand new light when read in concert with later comic books or events. Basically, stuff that looks hilarious in hindsight.
Today, based on a suggestion by reader Steve R., we look at an instance of a 1978 issue of What If…? predicting who would star in Conan’s movie four years later!
When What If…? launched in late 1976, the concept was not quite as solidified as it would become there for a while. Typically, the idea of the series was to show what would happen if notable thing X had not occurred. You know, what if Gwen Stacy DIDN’T die? What if Spider-Man DIDN’T get bitten by that radioactive spider? Stuff like that. Of course, the joke was that it turned out that nearly every decision heroes made, had they made a different one would result in lots of people dying. If Spider-Man had cereal for breakfast instead of a bagel, then the Avengers would all die. Stuff like that.
However, initially, Roy Thomas had the series work also for other things, like “What if the Atlas heroes had become Avengers” or “A look at the various heroes who had become Captain America over the years.” With this more open-ended idea of what the book could be (and really, over the years, most versions of What If…? tend to get open-ended, as well, as no one wants to do just “What if notable thing X had not happened?” stories), one of the most popular requests was to show Conan the Barbarian, one of Marvel’s biggest series of the 1970s, appear in the present day.
Finally, in late 1978, Thomas complied and wrote What If…? #13 (with art by regular Conan artists John Buscema and Ernie Chan), that showed Conan about to plummet into the Well of Stars, which he had avoided falling into in the original story…
So, Conan was stuck in 1978 and things did not go well for him. However, things improved when he attacked a taxi cab that he believed was attacking him. The driver turned out to be a beautiful young woman (you know, like most cab drivers in New York City in 1978)…
Dannette took Conan back to her apartment and they got romantic…
By the end of the issue, Conan was able to return to his own time through some magical spell at the Guggenheim museum.
The story was so well received that 30 issues later, they did a What If about this issue of What If…?, namely “What if Conan didn’t return to his own time at the end of that What If…? issue?” Check out the amazing Bill Sienkiewicz cover…
Okay, you might be saying, “Get on with it, Brian, what is the hilarious in hindsight moment?” I’m getting to that!
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