What If the Avengers Had Never Been?

What If: The Avengers Had Never Been?


Okay, let’s skip Uatu’s opening monologue because yes, he’s still doing them and just set the stage. So the original Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Giant Man and Wasp) formed to defeat Loki, a threat so powerful no one hero could stop him. Except that Thor routinely stopped him but whatever. The reason the team stayed together was that the Hulk freaked out and ran off to the surprise of absolutely everybody and everyone decided it might be a good idea to track him down before he breaks anything and maybe/maybe not kills somebody depending on the writer and if the Hulk is currently in a movie.

So in the normal continuity, Hulk hooks up with Namor the Sub-Mariner who has a fish up his dick about humanity and finding his lost people (See What If #1 for another time Namor got in a shitty mood, true belivers!) and the two jerks pick a fight with the Avengers for some reason. The Avengers show up, there’s a sweet silver age style fight in the Mighty Marvel Manner, Namor and Hulk get the floor wiped with them, and the Avengers resolve to be just sort-of popular until the 21st century when someone has the bright idea to stick Spider-Man and Wolverine in there and sales go fucking nuts.

Anyway.

So in this reality, the Avengers resolve to… not actually go after the Hulk. Giant Man reasons that, hey, we never said the Hulk HAD to be an Avenger. Why not just let him go? Iron Man responds by saying “Well, sure. Nobody said he HAD to stay but he is a giant, moronic green guy with a tendency towards temper tantrums. Maybe we should keep an eye on him, what with our being super-heroes and all.”

“Nah,” says Thor. “Fuck that guy. I’m out. Oh, uh… thou. Verily.”

And he bombs out of the story. Giant Man, watching Thor steal his dramatic exit, also heads for the door. The Wasp appears to want to stay but a quick “Shut up, Janet. Men are talking.” from Giant Man puts that shit to bed.

Still worried about the Hulk, Iron Man contacts the Hulk’s buddy Rick Jones (“Young Rick Jones is the Hulk’s friend. I’ll contact him! He’s a short-wave ham radio operator! I bet he’s at his set right now!”). Luckily, Rick is indeed ham radioing and agrees to help Tony find the Hulk. Then the Hulk kicks the door down and… well, he leaves actually. Just smashes up the wall to the room Rick is in and then goes and rampages somewhere else. Weird, Hulk. That’s really weird. Anyway, Tony arrives, Hulk whoops his ass and Iron Man carries Rick back to New York.

We then cut back to Uatu who tells us what happened to the Hulk, which is exactly what happened to the Hulk in the normal continuity. (He and Namor move into an electronic cave and plot to destroy the Avengers, unaware that laziness has done the job for them.) Namor sends a message to Iron Man, telling him and the rest of the Avengers to meet them at the electronic cave for some fist fighting. Iron Man agrees, worrying that, if he tells them that the Avengers have disbanded, they’ll think he is a coward. He decides that being beaten to death will be easier.

Fortunately, this plan doesn’t last too long and Tony falls back on the plan that will serve him well in the 2000s. He builds a whole bunch of new armors. Then he calls up Giant Man, Wasp and Rick to use them. Wasp is unsure but luckily Giant Man is there to tell her what to think. Seriously, it’s embarrasing how shitty that dude treats her. They all try testing their new armor and fail miserably at it. (My favorite scene involves Iron Man telling Rick that he doesn’t need to flap his arms to fly.) Finally, Tony loses his shit and fires them all again. So much for the Avengers again. That’s okay, nobody wants to read the adventures of Rick Jones.

So Tony fixes his armor so that it will be more powerful than ever (It has something to do with overloaded transistors because Iron Man used to be all about transistors.) and then flies off to fight Hulk and Namor. Meanwhile, Rick grabs Wasp and Giant Man and mentions that maybe they shouldn’t fucking bail on their buddy before he gets killed by a fish guy and the Hulk and try… oh, I don’t know BEING FUCKING SUPER HEROES.

Iron Man arrives at the electronic cave and fights Namor and Hulk for a while. He’s actually doing okay at first, bamboozling Namor into a rock and then gluing Hulk to the water(?) and electrocuting him. Unfortunately, Namor recovers from his head wound and the fight goes underwater, like all battles with the Sinister Sub-Mariner. Namor finally beats Iron Man and then gloats at Hulk for awhile when the cavalry arrives in their Iron Wasp, Iron Rick and the Iron Giant (“Sooooperman.”). They get Namor on the ropes by shooting him with needles and then Iron Giant bonks him with a rock. Namor is defeated but Hulk pretty much shit-kicks Iron Giant until Iron Man uses the last of his energy to make Iron Giant super powerful. They defeat Hulk but at what cost? Tony dies of a broken heart and the team resolves to… still be the Avengers without him? I guess. So the story ends basically the same as it normally would but more depressing! Hooray for What If!

 

Forbidden to Interfere 2: What If the Hulk had the brain of Bruce Banner?

We enter on the Hulk doing what he does best: smashing army guys and wanting to be left alone. We get the usual “Why men no leave Hulk alone?” from Hulk and the less regular “Why Hulk no let men arrest him for destruction of property?” from the army guys. Sad and shirtless, the Hulk retires to a mountain somewhere to weep about his inability to think about things. Unbeknownest to him, the Hulk is watched by… the Watcher! Because I guess it’s his turn or whatever.

Remembering last issue, the Watcher explains the premise of the book to everyone (BEHOLD, HUMAN! FOR THERE ARE MANY WORLDS AND I, UATU THE WATCHER, MUST BUT WATCH UPON THEM ALL! FOR SUCH IS THE SACRED VOW WHICH whatever.) and then tells us the origin of the Hulk (BEHOLD, HUMAN! DOC BRUCE BANNER! BELTED BY GAMMA RAYS! TURNS INTO THE HULK! AIN’T HE UNGLAMOUROUS!?). Then we get to the meat of the issue: What if the Hulk had the brain of Bruce Banner! Which turns out to mean, what if the Hulk was smart, not what if the Hulk had the actual brain of Bruce Banner. Like, in a jar or something. And it turns out that, in this universe, everything is bat shit crazy. Oh, and the Hulk shakes people’s hands like he is running for office.

Bruce is finishing up work on the extremely phallic looking gamma bomb in between ackward flirtations with the Dr Girlfriend-esque (Or Jackie Onassis, fine, fine.) Betty Ross and being called a milksop for the seven thousandth time by General Thadeus “Thunderbolt” Tiberius Ross. Everything’s going about as well as a devestating planned explosion can go when Banner notices Marvel’s Dumbest Teenager Rick Jones hanging out in the testing zone, playing some swinging tunes on his harmonica. Unfortunately, the bomb cannot be stopped due to the influence of russian spy Igor who sabotages the test by making sure it goes forward as planned, the fiend. Bruce sucessfully saves Rick, the dumb little shit, by pushing him into a radiation proof trench but finds himself bathed in gamma rays, making the gamma bomb the least successful explosion in history. (“How’d that new bomb we developed work?” “Well, nobody died and the country we attacked is now populated by giant green supermen.” “Hmm. Somebody fire Bruce Banner.”)

So, first of all, the reason why Banner never gets stupid is never revealed. He just doesn’t. That’s some real imaginative work there, Uatu. Nice job. Night falls, and the power of the moon or whatever turns Bruce into the Hulk, destroying his first of many, many shirts. Rick shows Bruce himself in the mirror and Bruce takes the time to remark that, while his body may have changed, his brain is just fine, thanks for asking. And to prove it, he smashes through a wall and runs away.

Bruce and Rick head for Bruce’s isolated cabin in the woods where they can make out, smoke pot and search for an antidote when they find Igor rifling through Bruce’s drawers looking for more effective bombs. Bruce realizes that Igor is a dirty commie rat and shakes him a little before he and Rick leave to alert the authorities. Igor is imprisoned in the unlocked cabin, presumedly under the honor system. Down, but not beaten, Igor uses an advance artificial thumbnail to contact his superiors in Moscow.

With Igor arrested or ignored or whatever, Rick and Hulk head home when they run into Betty looking for Bruce. Rick quickly explains that the bomb blast turned Bruce into the Hulk and absolutely no follow-up questions are asked. Then the tip of a rocket crashes next to everyone and a hideous russian  crawls out. It’s Igor’s superior, the Gargoyle! Lured to America by Igor’s promises of a shirtless green dynamo, Gargoyle shoots the Hulk with his Hulk piercing pellet gun. Luckily, the Hulk beats back this new and terrible weapon by believing in himself. In this way, any man can walk away from a gunshot. The Gargoyle starts crying because he is ugly and then the Hulk pats him on the shoulder. “So!” says Gargoyle. “You too know what it is to be branded a freak and an outcast by humanity!”

“No,” says the Hulk. “I’ve only been a monster for… like an afternoon. But I’m sure people will get around to ostracizing me soon enough. This is the Marvel Universe after all!”

Then the Gargoyle resolves to stop being an asshole and work for peace instead and they shake hands and the Gargoyle climbs back into his busted-ass rocket and heads home, promising to do good in Russia. And maybe get some surgery. Because Jesus. Dude is not attractive.

Dawn breaks and Bruce returns to normal because we’re going by classic Hulk rules, I guess so he and Betty go on a date. The Watcher, realizing that we’ve still got a bunch of shit to do, decides to skip Bruce and Betty’s actual relationship and just has them fall in love while on a picnic. Night comes again and Bruce takes Betty home to  meet the parents. Unfortunately, as he drives the car in,  he turns into the Hulk again, just in time for General Ross to see him. Ross calls him a milksop AND an oversized monster and Bruce gets pissed off and wrecks up his car, causing Ross to see the error of his ways. Nice one, General. Didn’t even need a pardon from NASA unlike SOME people. So Ross and the Hulk shake hands and then Hulk snaps Betty in half having hot, premarital sex in his science cabin. Wait, no.

So Bruce and Betty get married and stuff actually seems to be working out when Bruce gets a letter from Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. He invites Bruce to the Baxter Building in New York to see if Bruce can help turn the Thing back into a human. Because clearly, if there’s one thing Bruce knows, it’s de-freaking yourself.

Bruce arrives at the Baxter Building and he and Reed shoot rays at Ben until everything works out. Now Thingless, the FF breaks up because that’s just what happens in alternate realities, and Hulk and Betty move in, forming the Avengers’ science bros decades early! They are soon joined by Professor Charles Xavier, who pulls that Spider-Man shit by inviting himself to a job interview nobody agreed to and then using his powers to wreck up the place. The Fantastic Four: You broke our coffee table! You’re hired!

Once again, everything is totally awesome. The team of scientists do some great science and it’s all coming up Milhouse. And then Galactus shows up because fuck you, Earth. Bruce turns into the Hulk during the day for the first time ever (Once again, no explanation whatsoever is given for this.) and gets his ass whooped. Then Reed tries… stretching at Galactus. This works about as well as any time you try defeating a powerful foe by reaching for him. Finally Professor X attacks using all the power of his incredible psychic mind. Just kidding, he flies around in a little rocket-powered go-cart.

Their individual attacks proving useless, the Science Bros. do the only sensible thing they can. They combine themselves into a giant gold man in orange shorts who calls himself X-Man and then challenge Galactus to a staring contest. Seriously. Although the plan works… somehow, it turns out X-Man is a jerk and, before he turns back into three fully clothed guys, he bitchslaps Ben Grimm which turns him into the Thing again. For some reason. The Science Bros regain conciousness to discover that their various powers are gone. For such is the price that must be paid, when one has turned into a giant gold man. They also see the new Thing. Who is evil now by the way. Or at least a jerk now. So Jerk Thing jumps out the window and goes rampaging. “Hey, Reed.” Bruce asks. “You think we maybe outta do something about that?”

“Nonsense, Bruce.” Reed replies. “What could we, the three smartest people on the planet do without our super powers. Now let’s get back to our researches. Let the army chase down my best friend.”

Reed Richards is kind of a jerk.

So now it is the Thing who runs around, ducking the army and smashing stuff where, in another reality, it was the Hulk. A powerful lesson and one we will come back to in our exploration of What If time and again. No matter what happens in an alternate reality, it’ll more or less be the same as in our reality.

What if Spider-Man Joined the Fantastic Four?! WHAT IF THAT?

What If Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four?


So we start with a little introduction featuring famous giant bald white guy the Watcher, here to explain what exactly an alternate reality is. He’s also the Cryptkeeper of the What If series, minus the bad puns and rotting jaw line. Unfortunately.

So after a little (a lot.) of explanation about what the hell is actually going on and then a catch-up on who Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four are (Stan Lee lived by a single philosophy: Every comic book is somebody’s first comic book. And if your first comic book is an story about four guys in jumpsuits who hire another guy when normally they wouldn’t  have, God help you.) and what their whole deal is. And then we get about four pages of a scene in Amazing Spider-Man 1 where Spidey tries to join the FF by breaking in, ruining an expensive plexiglass cage and then beating everyone up. (Stan Lee lived by a second single philosophy: Never go into a job interview ready to beat up the guy interviewing you. And at least tell somebody you’re there for an interview too.)

Then the Watcher freezes everything, Out Of This World style, so he can explain what the concept of the book is again, in case the slow kids weren’t paying attention. Spider-Man goes to leave but Sue calls him back, explaining to Reed that the FF doesn’t have enough jerks in it. Considering this is set in the Silver Age and Reed is still in his “Shut up, Sue, I’m doing science. Go buy yourself a hat.” phase, this is saying something.

The FF hires Spidey and they have a big press conference where they can dramatically remove their “4” emblems to reveal a fancy new “5”. Then J. Jonah Jameson shows up to proclaim Spidey a menace because it’s day time. He goes into his usual rant about how Spider-Man ruined his son’s space adventure or whatever but what’s this?! Apparently, Reed has some pull at NASA and gets them to drop the charges on Spidey. Jonah, easily cowed by the all powerful National Aeronautics and Space Administration backs off. Tomorrow’s Bugle Headline will read “Daredevil: Menace or Asshole?”

What follows is a few short stories about what’s changed now that the FF and Spidey are best friends forever. Basically the Chameleon never shows up because he’s afraid of Reed Richards and the Vulture gets his ass kicked in about five minutes because he doesn’t like being set on fire. Then Reed presents his new spaceship, powered by energy he found in “certain meteors” and proclaims his plan to have the FF be the first people to set foot on the moon! Except he kind of built it with only four seats, whoops, so Sue, uh, maybe you should sit this one out, muffin, here’s the credit card, go get yourself something pretty.  

So the Fantastic Five minus One go on an adventure while Sue stays behind and justifiably fumes, when she receives a psychic booty call from the ever-aerodynamic but not actually psychic Prince Namor to meet her at the docks. Upon arriving, Namor smacks her with a hypno fish. One of nature’s miracles, the hypno fish can not only breathe air and fly, it also has the incredible ability to hypnotize people and then capture them in bubbles so they can be safely transported under the sea. Scientists refer to it as ichthyius bullshitus.

Having soundly whipped the shit out of some communist moon super gorillas, the FF-1 return home to discover that a) Sue is missing and b) fucking Namor’s hanging out in the rec room. It takes all four superheroes failing to punch Namor in the face to realize that this is actually a hologram. Namor, politely waiting, invites them to his swinging undersea pad where they can all beat on each other in safety. The FF- 1 hop into their handy submarine and randomly drive around the ocean until they run into Namor. Seriously. It’s a good thing the ocean isn’t really big or they never would have found him.

Meanwhile, this whole thing is being monitored by the Puppet Master, who is also around, looking fucking creepy. He’s used his horrible puppet powers to control Namor but not the FF, despite clearly having puppets of them. This is not explained, nor is the Puppet Master’s possession of a Submarine of his own. Presumedly, he has a clay shipyard stored somewhere in his attic.

The FF arrive at Namor’s bachelor pad to find Sue trapped in a bubble and being attacked by the largest squid in the ocean. Namor challenges them to hand to hand combat, as is the tradition of his people apparently. Then he uses his array of extremely specific sea creatures to defeat the FF, including a seaweed mop that eats fire, a fungus that grows on rock guys, and a blowfish that exclusively feeds on inattentive super-intelligent husbands. There’s some more fighting and then Ben throws the squid through the ceiling where it smacks into the Puppet Master’s submarine. The Puppet Master tries desperately to forge a clay octopus but only has time to make one of the arms. Somewhere in the ocean’s depths, an eel plans to kidnap Sue Storm.

Freed of the Puppet Master’s puppet mastery, Namor comes to his senses. And attacks Reed because, mind-controlled or not, he still wants him some of that sweet Invisible Girl action. Aw yeah. At this point, Sue finally speaks up and tells the men to for god’s sake knock it off. And then she dumps Reed and hooks up with Namor. Tired of feeling like the fifth wheel from that one time Spider-Man took her seat on a spaceship, she abandons the surface for a carefree life under the sea, searching for Namor’s people and… I dunno, looking at fish. Luckily for her, Namor has prepared a device ahead of time that turns humans into fish, Blood Waters of Dr. Z style so he kicks Sue in there, permanently keeping her from returning to land, her family and the life she knew. Good thing she gave that decision a whole six seconds to think over.

So the once again Fantastic Four return to the surface, Reed mopes and Johnny and Spidey talk about how, if Spidey had never joined the FF, none of this would ever happen. And then the Watcher explains the premise again in case anyone fell asleep.