What If Some Random 1950s Marvel Characters Decided To Randomly Call Themselves The Avengers?

So, in a thrilling change from the last eight issues, we open with the Watcher. This time, however, instead of a thrilling and mysterious alternate reality, he just shows us Iron Man calling together some random Avengers to watch TV. Uatu invites all of us viewers at home to pull up a couch and watch a bunch of old Marvel characters from the 50s hang out together. Uh, after a splash page about stuff from the fifties featuring N

So we open with Jimmy Woo, FBI Agent and Asian-American which is pretty cool for a comic from the 50s, considering he’s just treated like a regular competent guy. Jimmy’s in an ongoing fight with… oh dear, the Yellow Claw. The Yellow Claw’s your basic Fu Manchu rip-off character, trying to dominate the world and making everyone uncomfortable. He’s also teamed up with an ex-nazi named Van Horstbaden to take over the United States, the Orient and then the world in that order.

Jimmy, meanwhile, recruits himself a bunch of great well-known super heroes like Marvel Boy, the pantsless wonder from Uranus! Gorilla-Man: The Gorilla Who Used To Be A Man And Is Now Basically The Thing Ten Years Early. Venus: The sheet wearing goddess of love! The Living Robot: Not actually living but immune to sarcasm!  And 3D Man: Two guys made into one guy with the strength of three guys. Math! Together they are the Avengers!

With that revelation, we cut back to Iron Man’s rec room where his gathered buddies realize why they’ve been watching this whole thing. There was apparently a group of super-heroes in the 1950s who called themselves Avengers for no particular reason (The robot thought it was a good idea.) and who haven’t tried to sue the current Avengers for some reason. Beast asks again “Seriously, why are we watching this?” and Iron Man hits play again.

So we jump forward a month to the Yellow Claw plotting to kidnap Dwight Eisenhower from his golf course using a bunch of random super villains. And a brainwashed super hero called Cold Warrior. There’s Electro (Not that Electro, another Electro. This one’s Russian.), the Great Video, a masked magician who got x-ray vision from an explosion and Skull-Face, a skeleton in a purple robe who is the greatest of all. Together, they kidnap Eisenhower down a hole.

Jimmy follows the President and summons the Avengers, who are arguing and picking fights with one another in the great tradition of Marvel characters. When they hear Eisenhower is in danger, they burst out the door, yelling the battle cry they all voted on: Go, Avengers, Go. Must have been up all night working on that one.

The Avengers follow Jimmy’s signal to the Washington Monument, bust in and fight for five  pages. It’s pretty standard, except for the part where the awesome Skull-Face bites Marvel Boy, cursing him to turn into a Were-Skull-Face every full moon. Also Cold Warrior freezes Venus in ice but the power of love frees her, proving once again to be a curious thing.

Finally, the Avengers prove to be bad enough dudes to free the President but the Yellow Claw escapes, leaving behind only an exploding Yellow Claw dummy to fool Jimmy. Eisenhower thanks the Avengers for saving him and then orders them to disband because… communism. Whatever. Marvel Boy takes Gorilla Man back to Uranus.

Back in the present, the regular Avengers realize why Iron Man showed them this video. Because all of them are sort of like the 50s Avengers. Kind of. I guess. Like, Iron Man’s sort of like Human Robot. And the Beast is a furry guy like Gorilla Man. It’s kind of a stretch and Tony is fired from getting to pick movie nights anymore. Then we cut back to the Watcher who tells us this was maybe an alternate future or maybe not and maybe we’ll see these guys again or maybe not, I dunno, forbidden to interfere, yaddda yadda yadda, go read Agents of Atlas, the end.

What If the World Knew Daredevil Was Blind?

After a brief lesson on who Daredevil is (Matt Murdock) and how he came to be (Belted by gamma rays) from the Watcher, we cut to a crime already in progress. It’s Electro, current star of a weak Spider-Man movie and big flappy mask owner! Apparently he was really into stealing cars until his arch-nemesis(?) Daredevil broke it up. Electro escapes by cunningly climbing a pole and resolves to rob the Fantastic Four instead. Because what do you do when you graduate from car theft? Rob the high security home of the most well-known super hero team on the planet!

Luckily for Electro, the FF are out of town receiving a prestigious award for failing to contribute anything to science despite Reed Richards being able to cure cancer on his day off. Everything’s going according to plan and Electro is just about to load the FF’s giant TV into his van when Daredevil and Spider-Man both happen to show up. Fucking typical. Everything’s going fine until Electro attempts to blind Daredevil with a flash of electricity, only to discover that nothing happens. This, combined with Daredevil’s sudden complete inability to lie, leads Electro to realize that Daredevil is blind.

Daredevil and Spidey leave Electro tied up for the cops and then Daredevil confesses to Spidey that yes, he’s a blind guy with super senses. Spidey rudely interrupts to recount his own origin (Dude, nobody asked.), insult DD’s costume (“Yeah, it LOOKS like a blind guy designed it.”) and then fucks off. “Everything will probably be fine!” he says as he swings away. What a dick.

The next day, while in court, Electro reveals to the world that Daredevil is blind. The Daily Bugle runs with the story (“Blind People: Heroes or Menaces?”) and soon everyone’s talking about it. We cut across the river where Daredevil villain and Penguin rip-off the Owl schemes in his giant owl-shaped house.

“If Daredevil is blind, he must have other special senses to get around with.” The Owl deduces, hastily stashing a copy of “The Complete Handbook to the Marvel Universe D-E”. “I can use this in my needlessly complicated plan to also have my own enslaved lawyer, Matt Murdock, who I randomly chose out of the phone book. Seriously.”

So the Owl shows up at Nelson and Murdock’s law offices to kidnap Matt when Daredevil bursts in (In a slick new red costume, having been shamed by Spider-Jerk.). Unluckily for DD, the Owl has installed a giant hooting farting robot at Nelson and Murdock, overwhelming Daredevil’s senses.

At that moment, future porn star, heroin addict and fake AIDS haver Karen Page arrives, further distracting Daredevil and allowing the Owl to escape. He vows to return with an even more needlessly elaborate plan and much larger stinking owl robots. Karen runs to Daredevil, quickly deducing that he’s her boss Matt Murdock because there are suddenly WAAAAAY too many blind people running around for this to be a coincidence. Karen vows to keep Matt’s identity a secret and Matt vows to make out with Karen in his Daredevil costume just as Foggy Nelson and the cops arrive. Foggy leaves, sad. HE wanted to make out with Karen.

A few weeks later, Karen mentions to Matt that she’s been in correspondence with Doctor Van Eyck, an eye specialist formally of Boston and now living in a tiny medevial country somewhere vaguely in Europe called Lichtenbad. Karen thinks the Doctor can cure Matt’s blindness. Matt argues that being able to see might also cure him of being Daredevil but Karen reminds him that nobody thinks he’s special any more and they head out, leaving Foggy Nelson behind confused and lovelorn as usual. Poor dumb dope.

Matt and Karen arrive in Lictenbad on a plane with the country’s dictatorial ruler and Matt’s former classmate Duke Klaus Kruger who is almost assassinated at the airport and then karate chops his assassin to death. That out of the way, he drops Matt and Karen off at the eye doctor.

Matt’s super hearing reveals to him that basically everyone in Lichenbad is planning to rebel against the Duke and his army of chainmail robots. Matt wants to help but Karen reminds him he has an eye doctor appointment. Luckily, the problem basically fixes itself when Kruger has the doctor and Matt arrested for seemingly no reason.

Matt quickly changes to Daredevil and then beats up the Duke until there is freedom. Unfortunately, the Duke is a bit of a sore loser and plans to flood the entire Earth with radiation just because he lost his shitty little country. Daredevil is able to disarm the giant radiation flood device (Not shaped like an owl, alas.) but get dosed with radiation, robbing him of his powers for some reason. At this point, Van Eyck removes Daredevil’s bandages, revealing that Matt can see now. Phew. That’s handy. Also Doctor Van Eyck manages to figure out that Matt is Daredevil because seriously look at all these blind people suddenly here.

Matt and Karen return home only to find that a famous judge has been kidnapped by the Owl. The judge was previously responsible for sentencing the Owl to jail and now the Owl wants to hold a trial for the judge on Owl Island in his giant Owl House. He gets Matt Murdock to defend the judge. All of this is needlessly ridiculous and I’m starting to think the Owl might be an idiot.

Matt does his best to defend the judge but the Owl’s pretty into his revenge plot so Matt calls his next witness. Daredevil. Then he runs away and hides. A few seconds later, Daredevil busts in. “Luckily, I got Matt Murdock to safety!” he says. Seriously, how did everyone not find out who Daredevil was years ago? Are you ALL fucking idiots?

So Owl turns on his hooting farting robot but now DD has no super senses to blind so that doesn’t work. Owl escapes and, after getting the judge to safety, Daredevil follows. In the next room, the Owl reveals his new giant non-farting robot owl that he was going to use to explode the judge with for some reason. The robot owl attacks Daredevil but DD manages to beat up the non-robot owl and then he and the judge ride it (the robot owl) to safety. Afterwards it explodes.

So, the regular Owl defeated and all the robot owls destroyed, Matt Murdock finally reveals to the world that he is Daredevil before literally everyone figures it out for themselves. He quits being Daredevil and instead runs for DA, winning in a landslide. Meanwhile, Foggy Nelson cries some more. HE wanted to be DA.

There’s also a short back-up feature called What If A Spider Had Been Bitten By A Radioactive Man that features the ‘mazing Man-Spider battling the can of Raid that killed his uncle. It’s not as good

What If Someone Else Had Been Bitten By The Radioactive Spider And Also That Person Designed A Hideous Costume?

It’s a quiet night in New York as the Watcher creepily observes Spider-Man swinging around New York and talking to himself, as is his wont. Just then, Spidey observes a tiny Mexican boy attempting to fall to his death from a high building. I note the boy’s race because GOOD LORD, does the comic make a big deal about it.

“Ohhhhh-” says the kid. “It is El Hombre Arana! You have saved me! Gracias!” He then invites Spidey back home for dinner. Spidey declines because he doesn’t want to try to eat refried beans through his mask. Wow.

Anyway, none of this actually matters, it just does what What If does best. Namely killing pages. Then we get the Watcher telling us the usual “Hey, alternate realities. What’s that about? Ever wondered what would happen if someone who wasn’t Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider?”

Then we get a Simpsons Halloween Special style three parter, starting with Flash Thompson busting in on Pete’s science experiment. Apparently someone told him that science experiments involving radiation were great places to pick up swinging chicks and harrass sweater vest fans. Everyone knows what happens next. Radiation. Spider. Bite.

Flash leaves with a pair of ladies while Peter investigates the dead radioactive spider. “Hmm! This spider absorbed a lot of radiation. Maybe I should keep it for no particular reason.” Meanwhile, Flash and his girlfriends head home when they are menaced by a speeding car, which Flash quickly beats up. Instantly realizing that he has gained super powers from the spider bite, he drags the girls to a near-by wrestling area so he can beat up what appears to be a giant naked baby for a hundred bucks.

Alas, all does not go as planned as Flash accidentally snaps the monstrous baby’s horribly thick pink neck. Whoops. The police arrive and Flash flees into the night through an open window. Luckily, he discovers that he can crawl on walls now since the arena is like fourteen stories up(?)

Finding himself on a nearby building, shirtless, a murderer and alone, Flash vows to never be caught by the police. He also vows to become a superhero to make up for what he did to that poor innocent wrestler. The wrestler’s family does not feature in our tale but if they did, I’m sure they’d take solace in the fact that their father and husband’s murderer was roaming the streets free and stopping muggers.

Flash breaks into a costume shop where he sews himself a costume and names himself “Captain Spider.”


 

Well, that’s just embarrasing.

 

Captain Spider (sigh) sets about defeating the criminals of New York, basically covering everyone that regular Spidey fought in his own comics. He easily defeats both the Chameleon and the Tinkerer. It’s only when the Vulture: Angry Old Man of the Sky arrives that he faces real trouble.

Captain Spider witnesses some typical thugs stealing a bird statue from a run-of-the-mill bird statue store. He’s about to intervene when the Vulture arrives to steal it himself, clearly taking a page from how themed crime works in Gotham City. Captain Spider and the Vulture fight before Vulture flies the Captain up into the sky and then bonks him on the head with the statue.Captain Spider falls to the ground, dying on impact, finally avenging the death of Crusher Hogan.

That unplesantness out of the way, we turn our attention back to the science experiment again and new protagonist Betty Brant. For the uninformed, Betty’s J Jonah Jameson’s secretary at the Daily Bugle. Why a secretary is covering a science experiment is not important right now. What IS important is that Betty is bitten by a radioactive spider. Peter Parker is also there and suavely uses this tragedy to make his move, taking Betty out for coffee.

At the coffee shop, Pete gets Betty angry and she accidentally smashes a table to pieces. Embarrassing. Fortunately for all concerned, Peter knows a superhero origin when he sees one and takes Betty home so he can dress her in a leotard and make her lift heavy objects while he makes notes. Odd boy, our Peter.

After some observation, Peter and Betty realize that Betty now has spider strength, speed and stickiness and they decide that Betty should become a superhero because why not. Betty, fearing her new strength, resolves to never actually use it. Which is fine, I guess. Peter promises to build her a set of web shooters anyway, so whatever. While he’s doing that, Betty sews herself the ugliest alternate Spider-Man costume since… definitely since Captain Spider’s. Back at the coffee shop, a lone barista mourns the death of his beloved table.

 

So Peter and Betty get themselves a pretty sweet gig, Betty fighting crime as Spider-Girl and Peter getting pictures to sell to the Bugle. It’s all going fine until they stumble on a burgler escaping from the cops. Unfortunately, Betty’s all out of web fluid and dares not use her spider strength to stop the villain. Come on, Betts. I know you’re both new at this but it’s a simple burglar. This is cime fighting 101. Jeez.

So the burgler escapes and SHOCK FOLLOWS SHOCK immediately goes out and kills Peter’s Ben. WHO COULD HAVE SEEN IT COMING? ONLY I, THE WONDEROUS WATCHER! AND I AIN’T TELLING CAUSE I’M A BIG JERK. While Peter weeps and tries to keep Aunt May from her thirty-second heart attack, Betty goes to the docks to arrest the Burglar. She discovers that he’s the guy she and Peter didn’t stop that morning, realizes that with great power must come great responsibility and resolves to NEVER BE SPIDER-GIRL AGAIN.

Uh… I don’t think that’s the lesson to be learned here, guys.

So finally we come to our last story, and also hopefully, the last time we need to go to this boring fucking science experiment. This time, it’s J Jonah Jameson’s son John who gets bitten and everyone figures out that he has powers pretty much right away. Which is good because I do not need to see another “Oh my god, I have spider powers” scene today. Jonah convinces his son to use his powers to become a superhero while Jonah plays up his heroics in the Daily Bugle. And thus is born… SPIDER JAMESON.

It just keeps getting worse.

So then we cut to the Bugle where Peter Parker is trying to get a job. Jameson isn’t interested until he and John notice that the spaceship that John was supposed be flying before he resigned from the Air Force is now crashing. Spider Jameson leaps into action, flying his jetpack (Yes, Spider Jameson has a jetpack.) to the shuttle’s location. JJ and Peter follow in Jameson’s car.

Spider Jameson manages save the shuttle by cushioning it with his stupidly dressed body. He dies a hero, with JJ there telling his son he’s proud of him. It’s a beautiful, touching scene only marred by the sounds of the dying shuttle pilot begging to be freed.

At the funeral, JJ unveils a giant gold statue to his dead son and then tells Peter that he’s going to use his newspaper to help all other superheroes that he finds. Pete fails to sell him photos of his son’s smooshed corpse.

So, after all these stories wrap up, we cut back to the Watcher, showing us Peter Parker working in his basement. “Behold!” says the Watcher. “This shit is happening in all three of these universes! Peter Parker recovered the corpse of that radioactive spider! Can you believe it?”

Sure enough, Pete experiments on the radioactive spider and is able to produce from the a serum that can give the spider powers that he never actually got in the first place. Once again, Spider-Man patrols the streets of New York, only this time he’s a crappy rip-off and nobody likes him!

What If The Fantastic Four Had Different Super Powers? Or, more accurately, What If the Fantastic Four Had Really Gross Powers?

 So, in reading and re-reading all of these What Ifs, I’ve made a startling discovery: There are a LOT of recaps. So first we need to tackle the Fantastic Four’s origin (Shitty scientist drastically mutates friend, girlfriend, brother in law.), then we need to address who the Watcher is (Bald moon creep.) and finally we talk about what would happen if something was different. In this case, it comes up because the FF beat the shit out of some muggers and Johnny Storm wonders what it would be like if they all had different powers.

“WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE INDEED, JOHNNY STORM OF EARTH 616” announces an especially big headed pantsless Uatu. “I TOO HAVE LONG PONDERED THIS VAGUE SENTIMENT FOR I AM THE WATCHER!” And with that, we are returned to… the Fantastic Four’s fucking origin again. This is, like, the third time I’ve read that thing in six issues of this comic. That is a lot of crashed spaceships for such a new series.

The ship crashes and out crawl Ben, Sue and Johnny, dusting themselves off and wondering where the hell Reed went. They don’t wonder for very long though, as Ben begins feeling pains in his back and goes to hide behind a rock in the tradition of great heroes.. These back pains quickly reveal themselves to be giant scaly wings, turning Ben into… well, basically Angel from the X-Men but interesting.

Ben flies out from behind his rock, revealing his new wings and naked chest. “Look,” cries Johnny. “Ben’s got wings. Like a dragon. Or a fly.” But there’s not time to further describe Ben Grimm’s new back deformity because now the cosmic rays are affecting Johnny, turning him into Colossus. You know, big stripey metal guy. But Johnny also makes a point of mentioning that he can feel his internal organs turning into metal and sure enough, it’s later revealed that his insides have been replaced by gears. This is, of course, disgusting and Johnny tries to relieve his anger by smacking Ben with a tree.

Luckily, Sue protects him by revealing her new stretchy powers although nobody seems to notice for a few seconds. This is also disgusting. And kind of hot. Moving on.

So, in all the flying and stretching and having clockwork lungs, everyone has sort of forgotten about Reed and they return to the crashed ship to see if they can find him. Eventually, they discover him at the bottom of a hole, now an enourmous brain without a body. Ben scoops him up in his arms (which for some reason causes Reed no damage but still makes ME wince.). The four of them resolve to use their new powers to help mankind and then start trying to think fo names for themselves.. Ben, remembering Johhny’s description of him as a dragon or possibly a fly, names himself Wings Guy. Johnny, proving himself a man after my own heart, goes with the portmanteau of Mandroid. Sue briefly toys with Rubber Girl before deciding on Ultra Woman. Not real clear on how ultra stretching makes you but I’m not here to judge. (This is a lie.)

So time passes and the Gross Fantastic Four pretty much do the same crap as they did in the original run. They beat up the Mole Man, the Skrulls, Namor. (No word on whether the Sub Mariner is into Stretchy Sue but if he’s seen the ‘More Flexible’ scene in the Incredibles he’ll probably give it a shot.) The story cuts over to a museum where a He-Man villain is trying to steal Blackbeard’s treasure. The Fantastic Three (Reed stays home due to not having… anything.) save the day, sending Beastman back to where ever after a brief fight scene where Ben wishes he were stronger. Count your blessings, Ben. You definitely got the sweetest deal out of this whole cosmic ray thing.

Next we head over to Latveria where Doctor Doom watches his summoned He-Man demon fail to steal Blackbeard’s treasure. I still have no fucking idea WHY Doom wants Blackbeard’s treasure but who am I to argue with a guy with that sweet a cape? He decides to enlist the help of the FF after learning a bit more about them. Well, mostly he learns that the gross brain in the tube is his old school buddy Reed Richards, the asshole he blames for blowing up his face back in the day.

Back at the Baxter Building, Reed is using his psychic powers to watch his teammates. Ben dodges some excited fans who are eager to get all up in his wingspan while Johnny is mocked at a record store for being made of metal. We also get a demonstration of Johnny’s less obvious power: turning electronics on and off. What a thrilling universe. Over at the playground, Stretchy Sue watches some children and thinks about how her relationship with Reed is drying up because he no longer has a penis. Then she terrifies the neighborhood by turning into a giant top and spinning the kids around.

Doctor Doom then arrives at the Baxter Building and attempts to convince Reed that Doom can build him a new body so he can be a real boy again and score with Giant Top Sue but Reed doesn’t really seem into it. He prefers being a giant brain and… thinking about stuff? There’s some mention that Reed has turned the Baxter Building into a giant body for himself but it never comes up and I suspect Reed is just trying to feel better about himself. Giving up on bargaining, Doom throws Reed into one of those pneumatic message tubes and takes him to Latveria.

Luckily, the rest of the FF soon follow in their pogo plane and arrive at Castle Doom just in time to be captured in three specific death traps which they can only escape using their specific powers. Ben flies around a big room while someone shoots poles at him. (I assume this was designed by Professor X since this is literally the only thing Angel has ever done in the Danger Room.), Stretchy Sue gets buried in cement and then escapes by going under a door, and Johnny gets magnetized to the ground and escapes by realizing that he can control magnetism. So… more X-men powers. Fine.

Meanwhile, Doom is using a device to drain Reed of his consciousness, making him a powerful computer that will allow Doom to travel through time, stealing history’s greatest treasure. Dude’s gonna feel damn stupid when he finds out Carmen Sandiego already got them all. The rest of the FF show up and Doom kicks the shit out of them easily. He also blows up Johnny’s arm which is pretty awesome. When Doom finally attacks Sue, Reed freaks out and psychically attacks Doom, overriding his personality and giving himself a… well, swank new body isn’t quite right since Doom’s face looks like hot buttered garbage but now he has arms and legs and a dick so that’s a plus. We end the story by showing the new Gross Fantastic Four, complete with Reed not just in Doom’s body but with Doom’s hood and half skirt thing.  Look, I get keeping the mask but the skirt, Reed? Really?