What If... the Original Marvel Bullpen Had Become the Fantastic Four?

I asked you to vote for Saturday's next regular feature, and you did to the tune of 79 votes in total, with What If? coming out on top with 48% of the vote. It appears that the others didn't have a chance against the parallel universe juggernaut.If you were a fan of the others, I'll a little something for you over the next week: A feature I like to call "Here's to the Losers" that will show you want an article from each losing proposition would have looked like. My friend Bass says I undersold some of them, and that if he'd known that Arak had so much nudity, that Godzilla essentially fights the Marvel Universe, and that U.S.1 features a high-tech 18-wheeler, they might have attracted more votes. Spilled milk and all that.

As for What If?, it's had (at least) three different incarnations, and the present commitment will cover the first, with a renewable contract at the end of next year. The first series was the best anyway (or at least didn't exist in the 90s). I've already covered the first 10 issues - here are the relevant links if you need to find them:
1-What if Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four?
2-What if the Hulk had the brain of Bruce Banner?
3-What if the Avengers had never been?
5-What if Captain American hadn't vanished during World War II?
6-What if the Fantastic Four had different super-powers?
7-What if someone else had been bitten by a radioactive spider?
8-What if the world knew that Daredevil was blind?
8.5-What if the spider had been bitten by a radioactive human?
9-What if the Avengers had fought evil during the 1950s?
10-What if Jane Foster had found the hammer of Thor?
Looking for issue 4? It's not a What If (see #5 for an explanation).

And now for your main feature presentation: What If? #11 conceived, written and drawn by Jack "The King" Kirby. This is his triumphant return to Marvel after his defection to DC in 1970. Naturally, it's the craziest What If? to date.

What If Vol.1 #11 (October 1978)
Based on: Fantastic Four #1 (very loosely)
The true history: Reed Richards and crew go up in a rocket, get hit by cosmic rays, and become the Fantastic Four.
Turning point: What if the real world was more like Marvel Comics?
Story type: Silly/Hockey Trade
Watcher's mood: Kirby Hype Machine
Altered history: In a world half-way between ours and the Marvel Universe (we could call it Marvel-Prime), Marvel Comics exists and is publishing such mags as Fantastic Four. However, some elements of those comics actually exist, including aliens who call themselves the "S" People (I won't spoil it quite yet) who start sending the bullpen weird fan mail.
One day, the "S" People step it up and send some kind of cosmic ray-firing box which irradiates pre-mustache Stan Lee, his secretary Flo Steinbergm production man Sol Brodsky, and Jack Kirby himself.
The rays of course transform them into the FF.
Jack is the Thing (though he doesn't saddle himself with Ben Grimm's problems - he can change back into human form at will), Stan is Mr. Fantastic (complete with inventor powers), hot under the collar Sol becomes the Human Torch (which isn't good for the business as pages of original art go up in flames), and emotional Flo gets to be the Invisible Girl. The comic's full of inside jokes we'd get if we knew everyone involved, with Flo getting the worst of it, her character always on the verge of tears. And Namor doesn't fall in love with her neither. Because yes, he exists on Marvel-Prime!
The main thrust of the Bullpen FF's adventures is trying to find the "S" People and stop them from mutating other people. This quest has just brought them to Atlantis, where with Namor's help, they uncover the identity of the S's. S... for Skrulls!
Together they defeat the secret invasion and hope to one day find a cure for their powers.
Books canceled as a result: None. There's a scene where they've hired John Romita, Marie Severin and Roy Thomas, so there no reason to cancel any mags just because Stan and Jack are busy with other things. But with Jack a part of the Marvel Universe, I don't see him leaving the company anymore. That means DC loses the Fourth World, OMAC, Kamandi and the Demon (catastrophic) and the world loses Captain Victory, Silver Star, Bombast and Nightglider (maybe not so catastrophic). Symbolically perhaps, the FF defeat Kalibak in this issue:
These things happen: The Marvel Universe is supposed to mirror our own, it has its own versions of Stan, Jack et al. (as well as Bill Mantlo, Steve Gerber and others) who have made appearances here and there. Not to this extent, of course. Stan and Jack made their first appearance as early as Fantastic Four #10.

Next Saturday: You've been waiting for it! What If? has been announcing it as "Next" since issue #3! At last...
Actually, hem, no. Not yet. Sorry. Instead: What If Rick Jones Had Become the Hulk? Yes, that's right... GAMMA-POWERED BUCKY! (I'm only guessing.)

11 comments:

SallyP said...

This...this is fabulous! That Skrull peeking through the porthole looks so...wistful.

And Arak had nudity? Who knew!

Siskoid said...

With all the right bits covered up, of course.

Anonymous said...

So in this world the Skrulls read Marvel comics. Nice.

Roger

Siskoid said...

I bet the read them in the other world too. It's a good place to gather intelligence on the people you want to impersonate.

Prime Director said...

Good stuff. Nobody died, though.

In true panglossian fashion, every issue of What If? is supposed to lead to a catastrophe that validates Marvel Prime as the best of all possible worlds.

Oh well. I'm sure there's a bloodbath right around the corner.

Siskoid said...

You're forgetting the other validator: Everything turns out the same.

chiasaur11 said...

If I remember right, some worlds even end up better. Weird, but true.

Of course, "What If Death's Head 1 had lived" was kind of a wash.

Jack Norris said...

Of course, to Skrull eyes, those Marvel comics look like some sort of high-def fumetti.

snell said...

Sigh...at least Shang-Chi had a What If...

Siskoid said...

And of course, my stated interest on all those series means I will generate SOME content about them regardless.

Shang-Chi on Tuesday!

Tyler said...

I got this in a quarter bin when I was a kid (well worn and water damaged) and remember thinking that it was some relic of comic history! Too bad it was a footnote, albeit a fanboyish dream. ;)

 

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