Just letting you know FTI is going to be a couple days late this week while I spend time with my rarely seen wife for New Years. She couldn’t be here for Christmas so we’re trying to get as much out of this holiday as possible. FTI should post Friday and then we’ll be back to a regular Wednesday schedule in the new year when everything calms the hell down. Thanks for your understanding. See you in a few days.
So, after hours of exhaustive research, during which I actually did no research at all, I came to the conclusion that there is no What If Christmas Special (Well, okay, there was that Nova one I did a couple months back and I briefly considered just posting that but damnit, I am a professional unpaid obscure comic book summarizer.). I briefly considered taking the week off but… man, I am WAY too broken and paranoid and self hating to do that. So, I figured I’d bang this thing out, not bother with pictures and call it a festive new year. And what’s the next most Christmasy thing after What If? Why, it’s Clement Clarke Moore’s tale of heartache and revenge, ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas AKA A Visit From Saint Nicholas AKA the Grinch Grinches The Cat In The Hat.
We open with what I can only assume is our old buddy, Uatu the Watcher narrating his upcoming trip to dreamland as he prepares to sleep with his wife. And yeah, Uatu totally has a wife. I think her name is Uru or Ursa or Ursula the Sea Witch or whatever. Just picture one of those. They’re both getting ready to pass the everloving fuck out and decked out in the largest set of night caps in all of the multiverse when there’s an almighty crashing from outside. Uatu… look, the guy doesn’t really bound, okay. He sort of wanders over to the window and looks outside.
And what to his wondering giant pupil-less eyes should appear but Santa Claus rocketing to the goddamn moon in his sleigh. Also tiny reindeer which is pretty impressive. Aren’t they supposed to be like moose size? Anyway, then Santa blasts them all with a whip and starts shouting names at them. There’s Dasher (the fast one), Dancer (the spry one), Prancer (the other spry one), Vixen (the one that is either really hot or a fox. God, let it be the fox.), Comet (the frozen chunk of rock hurtling through space), Cupid (Secretly Mars: Bringer of War), Donner (the eater of flesh) and Blitzen (the communist one.). No Rudolf though. He hadn’t jumped fully formed from the forehead of Rankin Bass yet.
So the sleigh lands on Uatu’s roof and then there’s a long of crashing and bumping so he heads downstairs to see what the damn problem is. Turns out it’s Santa coming down Uatu’s chiminy. Which is a terrible device to have on the moon. Santa ignores Uatu and starts laying out presents and shit. And, of course, Uatu does nothing. For he is forbidden to hassle Santa. He spends a lot of time mentally discribing Santa though. Beard. Hat. Belly. Dimples. All that good shit. You know the drill, you’ve seen a coke can. Also he smokes because smoking is cool. You remember when Wolverine, Gambit, Nick Fury and the Thing all smoked? That shit is fucking metal.
Anyway, his present distribution done, Santa turns to the Watcher, lays a finger aside of his nose and says “You tell anyone I’m here and I’ll Original Sins your ass.” Then he rises up the chiminy. On the wings of a dove or something. But… as Uatu listens carefully, he can just hear these words on the wind: “Seriously! The Orb will take your fucking eyes. The ORB, man!”
Merry Christmas, guys. Thanks for reading this thing.
This week, we discuss the Thing’s path from lumpy orange rock monster to cancerous green rock monster. After the usual Uatu spiel, we get a quick recap of the now legendary ‘Marvel Two-In-One’ #81. As if we’d need it! Everyone remembers the story of Ben Grimm’s capture by MODOK* and the forces of AIM** and his infection with the insidious Virus X***. Ben escapes and meets up with the FF again and he’s eventually saved by Captain America and the Bill Foster version of Giant Man (You have no idea how impressed I was that they didn’t call him Black Giant Man.). Giant Man briefly considers taking the cure himself after learning that it will cure his cancer but instead sacrifices himself and dies. For a while. Ben is cured and returns to a life of not wearing shirts and yelling.
But what if, true believers? What if instead of returning to his oldest friend and smartest man on the planet Reed Richards, Ben stole a flying scooter and went and hid in a cave? That ought to add some conflict to this whole thing, right?
Back at the Baxter Building, a hideous drawing of Sue Richards attempts to comfort Ben’s long time girlfriend Alicia. Luckily, Reed’s built a giant Thing-tracking rocket ship for just such an occasion. And because Ben takes one of these hissy fits every couple of months (Sooner if the Human Torch hits him with enough pies.) The FF head out in the Fantasticar to find him.
Meanwhile, Captain America and Giant Man attack MODOK’s base, searching for the cure. Giant Man manages to get the cure (Luckily stored in an enormous cure firing gun!) and then defeats MODOK by shaking him like an particularly large and ugly baby. Afterwards, he cures himself with some of the anti-virus and they take it back to FF HQ.
Back at the Thing’s hideous ravaged face, problems are occurring. Ben’s body continues to mutate. It also turns green and starts giving off radiation. Oh no, he’s turning into the Hulk! Actually, no, he’s just dying horribly.
The FF and Alicia arrive but Reed warns them not to approach because of the Thing’s high levels of radiation. Alicia, having somehow never heard of radiation and what it can do DESPITE LIVING IN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE WHERE RADIATION IS LITERALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYTHING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED SINCE THE SIXTIES enters the cave. She eventually convinces Ben to come out to get help from his friends. Which is great news until he explodes.
Yes, no longer able to control the swirling mix of radiation and cosmic energy inside of him, the Thing goes off like an atomic blast. Only Sue’s invisible force field saves the team. Reed tells everyone to look away as the force of the blast is blinding but Alicia is already blind and terrible at following orders and refuses to cover her eyes.
It’s a good thing she does because this is a magical happy ending explosion that somehow restores her sight for some reason. It also turns the Thing back into a normal human without a trace of radiation in him.
Despite the fact that he literally exploded. So Ben and Alicia get married and Giant Man joins the team but refuses to wear the FF uniform because I guess he’s a jerk. I’d watch my step if I were you, Giant Man. You piss off Mr Fantastic, he’ll kill you with a Thor clone, wrap you in chains and bury you in the backyard.
Next up, we have another terrifying tale of tragic transformation as we take a step into the Wayback Machine with Marshmallow Fluff Uatu (Behold! For he has observed an infinite number of pies!) to visit the best of the All-Old X-Men: The Beast!
So once upon a time, Hank McCoy AKA the Beast left the X-men for an exciting career working for a chemical company and not being murdered by giant racist government robots. Eventually Hank discovered the chemical cause of mutations in human beings and then drank it to prevent The Man from getting a hold of it. Which is a great plan unless it turns you into a big furry monster man. It all worked out for the best though and Beast ended up joining the Avengers. And then less best when he joined the Defenders.
But imagine a world… a world where Hank McCoy continued to mutate. First into a grey monster. And then a blue monster. And then a cat. And then whatever the hell this is.
Oh wait, that all did happen. Alright, screw it. What if Hank got all monstery?
So, after mutating, Hank escapes from his science lab, retreating to Central Park like all crazy people in New York (Please be aware that all of my knowledge of New York City comes from Home Alone 2 featuring Tim “The Tool Man” Curry.) Fortunately, Professor X has been psychically monitoring Beast since he left the Xavier Institute. Because once you’re an X-Man, you’re an X-Man for life. He sends Angel out to look for Beast, knowing Warren’s natural ability to fly and see things will make him an asset. For the first time in his life, Warren Worthington knows what it is to be a useful member of the team.
Angel corners Beast, who chucks rocks at him like a common park pigeon. A fight ensues and Hank wrestles Warren to the ground, almost killing him and then waving his junk in Warren’s face like a Full Monty cast member. He’s chased away by the arrival of Cyclops and Marvel Girl.
After an unfortunate encounter with a tossed cornice, Beast easily defeats his fellow X-Men. He’s just about to smother Marvel Girl in Jean Grey Poupon when Professor X arrives. Seeing him, Beast momentarily regains his senses and begs the Professor not to let him turn into an animal.
But, of course, Charles doesn’t listen and instead of consulting Reed Richards, Tony Stark or one of the other genius in the Marvel U about curing Hank, the Professor carts Hank’s furry ass out to the savage land where he can be free, running, playing and remembering dimly a time when he was one of the most brilliant men on the planet. Then the Watcher pops up to declare this a happy ending. Fuck you, Uatu.
Finally, we return to Fantastic Four 50 and the Galactus trilogy (Sadly not nearly so well known as Marvel Two-In-One #81.). In our original continuity, the space faring Silver Surfer betrayed his master Galactus to save the earth. As punishment, Galactus exiled the Surfer to Earth where he could fly around moping all the time and mourning his vanished junk. But just imagine… I mean, uh, what if… Galactus removed the Surfer’s powers, returning him to boring bald Norrin Radd?
After removing Norrin’s powers, Galactus ditches the poor bastard on Earth like your drunken asshole friend leaving you on the side of the road. Norrin pleads for help in returning him to his home planet of Zenn-La from the Fantastic Four but it’s still pretty early into their series and Reed’s not that helpful yet. It’s at that point that Uatu steps up to the plate and proclaims that “Though I am forbidden to interfere…”
“I CAN let you guys root around in my library for stuff that lets you travel through space super fast. I mean… I probably don’t have anything useful but….”
So while the FF help Uatu clear out his basement, Galactus heads back for Zenn-La. Now that he’s heraldless, he needs to eat a planet and can’t be bothered to look for one so he just heads back to the last place he couldn’t eat. There he’s approached by the Surfer’s ex, Shalla Bal. When Galactus tells her he ditched Norrin, Shalla gets the bright idea to follow in her boo’s footsteps. She figures she can pledge herself as Galactus’ new herald and then ditch him and grab Norrin from Earth.
Alas, the mighty Galactus is not so easily ditched. He senses her traitorous motives, removes her emotions and transforms her into the golden goddess of the spaceways, Starburns! I mean glow. Starglow.
At this point, Norrin arrives at Zenn-La in some sort of ridiculous contraption forged from the Watcher’s old sink and encounters Starglow heading the other way.
He eventually recognizes her as Shalla Bal (after first mistaking her for a man.). Of course now, she wants nothing to do with his hairless pink ass. Galactus watches all this and (for some reason) takes pity on Norrin. He returns to Norrin the power of the Silver Surfer and leaves him bound to Zenn-La where he can protect it from… you know, whatever. Mostly, as in keeping with tradition, the Surfer mopes.
*Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Espionage Law-Enforcement Division!
If there’s one thing we know here at Forbidden To Interfere HQ, it’s how the Fantastic Four got their powers. Which makes sense. Every third issue of What If is about them. This week, we imagine a world where renowned genius and literally the smartest man on Earth, Reed Richards doesn’t make… just a list of stupid mistakes. For example, instead of ignoring his best friend and pilot Ben Grimm’s advice to develop better shielding for their rocket, Reed elects to wait two weeks and not drastically mutate his family. Instead of taking his girlfriend and her kid brother into deep space, Reed takes… you know, trained astronauts. Instead of breaking into his own lab and secretly launching the spaceship under cover of… Wait, how the hell do you secretly launch a rocket exactly? Is someone whispering the countdown to explosions blasting a small tube into the outer atmosphere? Look, long story short, the FF never develop powers.
And it works out great for them! The rocket trip is a complete success, interstellar travel becomes commonplace, Earth colonies dot the galaxy and a year later, Reed Richards and his friends are billionaires. It’s a great time to be alive! Or it would be if not for the giant holes that keep opening up all over the world? That’s… okay, that’s a little worrying. Reed resolves to start investigating it immediately. Except then Richards Labs is attacked by a giant green monster from the bowels of the Earth. Which, I guess is pretty lucky. As long as you or a loved one aren’t killed in the attempt.
The creature heads back into the Earth and Reed decides to head down after it, taking along… well, his best friend, wife and brother-in-law. All of whom are not even a little bit trained in monster fighting. Look, sometimes people just have to make the same goddamn mistakes.
The FF (or, I guess just F in this case.) travel down into the hole, eventually reaching some sort of bottom. Touching down, they are quickly attacked by Rock Monsters. Because what else lives in the center of the Earth? Reed and Johnny fall through a hole in the ground and are knocked unconcious because in this reality Reed doesn’t have stretchy powers to save them. Sue and Ben escape into a nearby vent because lucky for them, this giant underground cave is full of vents.
Reed and Johnny regain conciousness sometime later and start looking for escape routes. They eventually locate a giant underground monorail that takes them through a giant room full of blindingly bright diamonds. The diamonds shine so bright that they actually knock the two out again. I had no idea that being blinded could have this sort of effect on someone but then, I’m no geologist.
Reed and Johnny regain conciousness AGAIN (They should have called this one What If The Fantastic Four Slept Through Their First Adventure.) in the lair of a short ugly dude in a green onesie. It’s the terrifying Mole Man! So named because he’s small, blind and lives underground! Tremble, brief mortals, before the might of this terrible foe! He DOES control giant underground monsters though so he’s not entirely awful.
Mole Man tells our heroes of his plan to destroy all the cities on the planet and then take over the world. Then he wails on Johnny with a big stick so everyone knows how cool he is until Ben and Sue show up and shoot at him.
Moley tries to ring his “Giant Monster Summoning Bell” but Ben tackles him, saving the day. He may not look like a six foot orange thing that I pummiced off my foot but Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew can still beat up a blind midget in his pyjamas.
The F drag Moley to the surface but he fakes a leg injury and bumps another monster bell. This one summons the hoard of monsters from the “Real Ghostbusters” opening credits who chase our heroes back to the surface. They arrive on Monster Isle (Home of Godzilla!) where the army picks them up just before Mole Man blows the place up with an atomic bomb. So long, Monster Isle. You were a place too cool to exist.
Next up, we have another Nova adventure. I guess Nova was a pretty big deal back in the 80s. He’s been in like three issues of What If and the X-Men have only done two. Anyway, apparently after going into space and fighting in some big war or something on the Nova Force’s homeworld of Xandar, Richard Rider (AKA Nova the Human Bullet, I mean Rocket) is offered a trip home to Earth. But he has to give up the Nova Force. In the normal Marvel Universe, Rich gives it up to return to his family. And then gets it back the next time that Marvel wants to do a Nova series.
Here, however, Rich decides that being able to fly through space and blast lasers out of his hands are the only things that make him cool (He is correct.) and he stays on Xandar. Where he spends a year pacing around and complaining. Eventually, he’s had all he can stands, he can’t stands no more and he teleports home, smashing a hole in his parent’s house.
The family is… less than pleased to see him. Especially since he’s been gone a year, hasn’t called and OH YEAH, RUINED THE HOUSE. Things get even worse when the Champions of Xandar™ attack, trying to retrieve the Nova force. And then they all fight for a couple of pages.
Eventually, Rich’s parents speak up. “Hey, son? We appreciate you wanting to stay on Earth and also keep your awesome powers but you just blew up the neighborhood and also you are a dick. Give the nice alien people their powers back.”
Richard sees the wisdom in their words and awards the Nova Force to… some dude in a helmet, I don’t know. I like Nova and I can’t be bothered to care about these guys. They return to Xandar and Rich returns to obscurity. Again until Marvel decides to relaunch his book or put Nova in the New Warriors or whatever.
We begin our first story with Matt Murdock (AKA Daredevil) doing what he does best: moping in the rain. In this case, it’s because his long lost one true love (this week) and also hired murderer Elektra is dead. Matt’s approached by a giant bald guy with an umbrella and, while we know it’s just the Watcher being subtle for the first time ever, I’d be careful. The last thing a grief stricken Matt Murdock wants to see is a giant bald white guy. He’s had trouble with those before.
Uatu, spotting Matt’s obvious grief, does what any of us would do. Specifically, tell the mourner a story about an alternate reality where his girlfriend is alive. Nice! Thanks, buddy! The Watcher gives Matt and us a quick catch-up, reminding Matt of a time not so long ago when his ex-girlfriend tried to have his best friend killed. Which is a bi-annual occurrence for Daredevil.
Elektra has Matt’s friend, Foggy Nelson kidnapped. She’s about to execute him on behalf of the Kingpin when Foggy recognizes her. “Aren’t you Elektra Natchios? Matt’s old girlfriend? Wow, you always said you were going to grow up to be a ninja hitwoman but we never believed you. Because that’s insane.”
Elektra takes pity on Foggy and lets him go. Knowing she’s betrayed the Kingpin, she goes into hiding. And here’s where the timeline jumps off track. You see, in this reality, Elektra’s eventual murderer Bullseye has been killed a couple of months earlier in a prison break. As he’s no longer alive (The Kingpin has a strict “Do Not Hire Dead People” rule. Which is weird in the Marvel Universe where literally half the people have been dead.), Kingpin is forced to hire some cheap discount hoods to revenge kill Elektra. Kingpin completely forgets about killing Foggy, which is frankly ridiculous.
The hired goons track down Elektra and there’s a pretty goddamn sweet Frank Miller drawn fight scene for our enjoyment. Elektra kills a bunch of guys, apparently gets stabbed in the ass and eventually escapes, returning to Matt Murdock’s brownstone.
Meanwhile Foggy, terrified that he’s going to be murdered tracks down Matt and begs him for help. Matt calms his friend down and then leaves him alone. I hope Kingpin sent Matt a memo about the whole “Hey, I don’t want to kill Foggy any more” thing because otherwise leaving your friend alone to be murdered by mob guys is a pretty dick move.
Matt returns home to find Elektra bleeding on his couch. He’s about to take her to jail when Elektra tells him that she’ll just be murdered in prison instead. So instead, without another word, they both fuck off to some gorgeous beach somewhere, leaving poor Foggy to wonder whatever happened to his best friend and partner. Of course, he doesn’t need to worry for very long before the Kingpin remembers he’s going to have Foggy killed and has him executed. Probably by a shirtless dude holding a length of chain.
Next up, we have a tale of the Avengers. The current line-up is Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Tigra, Wasp and Hank Pym dressed as Yellowjacket. For those playing along at home, Yellowjacket is Pym at his shittiest, wife beatiest best. In fact, as the story begins, Hank is screaming at the Wasp (AKA Janet Van Dyne-Pym) for being… y’know, better than him. At everything.
Suddenly, the Avengers are called to fight an invading alien called Elfquest I mean Elfqueen. Elfqueen. Jan stays behind, still shaken by her piece of shit husband. During the fight, Yellowjacket’s laser wrist thingy disconnects, further embarrassing him. Unfortunately, it reconnects as Elfqueen is finally surrendering. Cap notices, calling for Yellowjacket to stop but it’s too late. He blasts Elfqueen in the back, and in retaliation, she drops a fucking truck on him. While in our universe, Jan arrives just in time to save Hank, here she spends a few minutes thinking about what an asshole he is and is too late to save him from smooshing.
After the funeral, the Avengers report that Yellowjacket was killed when he attacked Elfqueen after she surrendered. Jan freaks out, convinced he died a hero. She goes before reporters (in her new costume, complete with Dracula collar) and tells him Hank died a hero.
Next Avengers meeting, the group tries to comfort Jan while telling her that going against the team was NOT COOL. Unfortunately, she wants Cap to change his report on what happened, saying that Hank died in the line of duty. Cap refuses to lie because he’s Captain Goddamn America and Jan storms out.
Looking for revenge, Jan calls one of her many butlers (This story features three.) to drive her to the shittiest part of town. She wanders around in her finest jewels for about six seconds before some traditional 80s New York Street Punks attack her. And then she fucking wrecks them. “Tell them your asses were kicked by the Black Wasp!” she says, tossing away a cigarette as explosions go off behind her.
Reports start appearing in the Daily Bugle of the vigilante Black Wasp and her war on crime. The Avengers figure out who the Black Wasp is pretty quickly because they aren’t completely stupid. (Well, Thor probably is.) They get into another awkward argument but then they’re called to save a building from burning down, thank God.
Everything’s going fine until a big chunk of wall collapses, almost hitting Cap. Janet spots it tumbling but decides to do nothing. Unfortunately for her, but fortunately for friends of democracy, Tigra notices and saves Cap at the last minute. With this one act of heroism among many, many other acts of heroism today, Jan realizes that she’s actually a terrible person. She quits the team to go be a sad sack elsewhere. Relieved that he no longer has to fire her, Cap gets to looking for a replacement who won’t leave him to die.
An Infinite Number of Universes. All featuring Spider-Man.