WW Chicago: What if Marvel announced more "What If?"

CBR News checked in with Marvel's Director of Editorial Operations Justin Gabrie and editors Nate Cosby and Mark Paniccia to ask some questions about the glorious return although admittedly, forgot to ask pointedly, the no-brainer: "What if Marvel produced more 'What If?' specials?"

Can you share with us which "What If?" specials are coming and who the creative teams are?

Mark Paniccia: "Fallen Son" is the story that answers the question: "What if Iron Man died instead of Captain America?"

Master scribe Marc Sumerak is writing "Fallen Son" with Trevor Goring on art.

Nate Cosby: I picked Greg Pak to write "What if Bruce Banner won World War Hulk?" because he wrote "World War Hulk." And he's an awesomely, awesome writer. And I'm a fan of his beard. It looks bristly, but is soft to the touch. Like a loofa. And I picked Chris Giarrusso to write and draw the end of his "Mini Marvel Hulk" haiku trilogy because he's the Charles Schulz of our time. Except I don't think he's ever drawn a pumpkin.

Justin Gabrie: I've got four this year. They are:

"House of M: What if Scarlet Witch said 'No More Powers?'"

Forget Decimation. This affects everyone in the Marvel Universe, not just mutant-kind. If you don't have great power, do you still have great responsibility? It's by co-writers Brian Reed ("Ms. Marvel," "New Avengers: Illuminati") and Jim McCann.

"Spider-Man - Back in Black: What If Mary Jane was shot instead of Aunt May?"

When MJ dies, the Spidey/Kingpin throw down gets nasty. My thoughts after reading the final script by Steven Grant ("Punisher"), it will not disappoint.

"Secret Wars: What If Doom kept the Beyonder's Power?"

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, but in Doom's case that's a far gone conclusion as he goes toe-to-toe with some of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. C'mon, you know you want to read it. This one is written by "Emma Frost" scribe Karl Bollers.

"What If the Runaways became the Young Avengers?"

The five-part back-up feature illustrates what would've happened if Iron Lad never finds out about the Avengers Fail-Safe Program. Instead, he recruits the Runaways, forcing them to be an actual super-hero team with costumes. It's written by C.B. Cebulski with art by Patrick "Spaz" Spaziante.

Most of you will be in for a real treat with Spaz's work, who has been one of the most requested artists on "Sonic The Hedgehog" for the last decade. If you dig his funny animal stuff, wait 'til you see his take on the superhero genre.

Why do you think the "What If?" specials remain so popular?

MP: That "Planet of the Apes" moment. Like Greg Pak had at the end of last year's "Planet Hulk What If?" You want to show readers that gut wrenching end that makes them think, "Thank God, it ended up ok in MU proper."

NC: Well, when I used to read "What If?" specials, I could never understand what was going on, because I'd never read the original stories that they were What-iffing. So I only liked the ones that a casual reader could understand. I hate having to study to enjoy a comic. And I ain't one for mounds of exposition, so I'm going to say that I liked the one where Punisher killed Daredevil, and the one where Wolverine became the lord of the vampires, and I like the one that had a Watcher in a dress. I think it was called "What If No One Was Watching The Watcher?" Yeah, that was good.

I just like fun comics. In "What If World War Hulk," we're not gonna overload you with what really happened. We'll begin fresh and entertain you.

And don't forget, in the back of the issue, the end of the "Mini Marvel Hulk" trilogy. Part I was in "World War Hulk: Worldbreaker" and Part II was in "World War Hulk: Aftersmash" and now the epic conclusion to Hulk being mad that the Illuminati shot him into space because Hulk ate one of their sandwiches. And there'll be haikus.

JG: Not to be outdone by all those haikus, the "What If?" specials I edit are like the ones I grew up with, coming down to that infinitesimal moment where it could've zigged instead of jagged, where the character made a different split-second decision, where the Chaos Theory is played out for all to see.

I agree with Mark that some of the best stories are those gut-wrenching twists at the end, but there are others I've enjoyed where they highlight how things could've gone right and it's the current state of the MU that's more gut-wrenching. Both were illustrated in last year's "What If? Civil War," which borrowed some themes from my favorite What If of all time, Frank Miller's "What if Bullseye had not killed Elektra?" (Vol. 1, #35). Check it out. It's good stuff.

What's the selection process like for stories? Does editorial seek out creators to write "What If?" subject matter or do you get a lot of "What If?" pitches?

JG: As the new flavor of "What If?" specials have been event-oriented stories/themes, we simply looked at what we could play with and there were plenty.

We got them down to four based on the stories we thought we could tell. This along with a five-part back-up in all five "What If?"s. We usually know what the event we're What-iffing off of is (say that five times fast) before we approach writers to pitch their take of the divergent event, where it goes from there and the overall theme for that story.

Can you give any examples of some "What If?" pitches that have been rejected?

JG: We reject everything and we reject nothing.

What would draw someone to writing a "What If?" title?

MP: The idea that you have that leeway to get away with almost anything. Greg Pak's story last year had Iron Man's decapitation for gosh sakes.

NC: They're fun. And they don't have to mess with that continuity thing.

JG: I agree with Nate in terms of the fact that there is no one worried of any long-term continuity repercussions, but writers soon find the challenge to not only cover so much ground in a very tight space, but that they also have to worry about continuity. For example, we once had a character attached as the main baddie of a piece only to find out that the character was completely off the table in that particular time in continuity. Oh, no! Also writers get excited to be able to work on a story based on the original event it stems from as if it were part of the event, especially if they didn't get the chance to be involved in the original or its tie-ins when it was coming out.

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