What the If?!?

Digging out an old issue of What If? last week really gave me a taste for the concept, enough so that you can expect some content on the subject. The original series was definitely my favorite, as mostly important moments and origins were used to spin off alternate histories. The second series was far less successful, wasting too much time on how recent crossover events might have turned out differently. As the book became more and more "90s", with gritted teeth, terrible art and Wolverine stories, it even lost its descriptive titles. You knew who was featured, but not what the What If was. It died the death it deserved, but it could have come sooner. What we might call the third series is basically a series of specials, usually based on a recent events, though there is some variety. I've yet to sample any of these, but I've heard that they can sometimes devolve into justifications for unpopular canonical choices.

It's possible that Marvel characters' origins and major historical moments have been exhausted, which is why there are so many What Ifs about the Age of Apocalypse or people joining SHIELD. It's too bad Marvel cornered the market on such stories with that wonderfully evocative title, because I'd LOVE to see a DC What If. There are a LOT of classic moments and origins to explore in the DCU. Elseworlds just aren't the same. Though a few of them HAVE taken the What If tack (like maybe Golden Age or that Superman Annual where the Kryptonians listened to Jor-El), most simply plop the hero into another time and space and retell the legend from that perspective. Even something like Red Son, which seems to ask "What if Superman landed in Russia as a baby?" isn't really a What If, not with the supporting cast and villains re-imagined to fit the Soviet world. (That said, What If also experimented with Elseworld-style stories at times, like having Captain America fight in the American civil war and Daredevil in feudal Japan.)

So for DC What Ifs, you have to look a little harder. That is to say, they're not all in the same place. They still have the largest backlog of "imaginary stories" going. Maybe if they had a Watcher to index the damn things...

What would be your favorite idea for DC What Ifs?

Off the top of my head, I'd try...
What if Supergirl had arrived on time?
What if Martha Wayne had survived?
What if Guy Gardner had been closer than Hal Jordan?
What if Plastic Man had remained a criminal?
What if the Invasion had succeeded?

Your turn!


Anonymous said...

"What if Guy Gardner had been closer?" was actually done, in Guy's first appearance no less. The short answer is, he would have been a pretty good GL but then would have died from a yellow alien virus, and Hal would've gotten the ring after that. So in its way it followed the tradition of "What If?" where things often return to the status quo after killing a few people.

Speaking of which, my word verification is "perishco".

Siskoid said...

More proof that someone should catalog these.

The Mutt said...

The "What if Bruce Wayne's parents had lived?" scenario has been done a few times to one extent or another, IIRC.

What if Janey Slater had gone with Jon to get his watch from the test chamber?

What if, instead of Steve Trevor, the first man Wonder Woman encountered was a Japanese pilot? Or a Nazi U-Boat captain?

What if Ambush Bush proved to the rest of the DC universe that they were characters in a comic book?

Siskoid said...

I'd pay to see those, Mutt! Great idea for Wonder Woman especially!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how Marvel's "What If?" projects have almost always had some "See? The 'best of all possible worlds' is in the Marvel comics that are on sale every month at your local newsstand!" message to them. With a few occasional exceptions (I particularly liked the What If? Bendis wrote, where Jennifer Jones - and Captain America, of all people - get a happy ending.)

Hmm. DC What If? concepts...
What If Wonder Woman arrived in Man's World sometime between 1776 and 1815? More an Elseworlds, I guess, but it'd be interesting to see Wonder Woman's message coming out at the same time as all these other revolutionary impulses. Lots of peculiarities, too, like how Wonder Woman would likely be on the side of republican revolutionaries in many ways... but she's actually, herself, part of a monarchy.

What If Dick Grayson stayed on the Bludhaven Police Department? (Probably this one would have to also involve him preventing Bludhaven from getting blown up real good partly because he was there....)

A classic Marvel-style What If? would be:
What If Barbara Gordon Didn't Get Crippled by the Joker?

You could even make it one of those multi-story things, along with What If Barbara Gordon Had Been Killed by the Joker and What If Barbara Gordon Killed the Joker?

Nik said...

What If Superman had landed in Atlantis?

What If Swamp Thing had never come back to Earth?

What If Barry Allen lived? (Er, the first time)

What if the Justice Society never broke up?

What if Sue Dibny Lived?

What if Batman killed the Joker?

etc etc!

Jeff R. said...

What if Terra hadn't betrayed the Teen Titans?

What if Aquababy had survived?

What if Superman stayed Electric Blue?

What if the Post-Crisis Universe had been based on Earth-2 rather than Earth-1?

Baal said...

What if Supergirl had been chosen for the original Teen Titans roster?

What if the DC/Fawcett lawsuit had resulted in DC owining Cap back when?

What if that same lawsuit had gotten Superman cancelled?

What if Thomas Wayne had been the sole survivor in that alley?

What if one of his parents, not Dick Grayson had been that family's sole survivor?

And: What if baby Kal-El had been found by a polygamous sect?

Sea-of-Green said...

The Guy-Gardner-before-Hal-Jordan story was also explored in an old JLI comic. It was pretty good. I guess we Green Lantern fans just can't get away from THAT particular "What If" story.

There was once a really good Batman story that was sort-of a "What If Batman's parents had never died." It was a time-travel tale in which Batman actually prevented the death of his own parents. The result was that Bruce became Batman, anyway -- out of gratitude for the man who saved his parents' lives.

Anonymous said...

What if the Post-Crisis Universe had been based on Earth-2 rather than Earth-1?

I actually think it kind of *was*, after all is said and done!

Earth-2 concepts and characters are now inextricably woven into the fabric of Earth-0. I actually think a reintroduced Earth-1 (which may happen, I figure - note how that numeral remains "unassigned") would feel even more "foreign" to readers than the new "Earth-2" does.

Jeff R. said...

Well, the specifics of that what-if would be if the New Earth Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman had been the Earth-2, debuting in the late 30s, versions. (And probably mostly retired and made into generational legacies like the rest of the JSA...)

Anonymous said...

What if Superman had been raised by the mob?

What if there was never an Earth 2 concept?

What if the Legion of Super Heroes were in the present time?

What if the Civil War story arc had occured in the DC Universe?

What if Green Arrow had betrayed Green Lantern?

What if Ronnie Raymond and the Professor switched Firestorm

Siskoid said...

What if Superman had been raised by the mob?
Move over Darkseid, Intergang's got a new boss!

What if the Civil War story arc had occurred in the DC Universe?
Superman would cry at the end.

What if Green Arrow had betrayed Green Lantern?
What do you mean? He hasn't?

What if Ronnie Raymond and the Professor switched Firestorm?
Stein as the main personality with a floating Ronnie head jabbering at him? A fate worse than death.

Anonymous said...

What if, instead of Steve Trevor, the first man Wonder Woman encountered was a Japanese pilot? Or a Nazi U-Boat captain?

Wonder Woman wasn't active during WW2 except on earth 2.

What If Barbara Gordon Didn't Get Crippled by the Joker?

Booster Gold already did that.

What if the Justice Society never broke up?

The miniseries trinity already did that.

What If Superman had landed in Atlantis?

Wouldn't he have died?

What if Batman killed the Joker?

Been done before oh so many time.

What if Thomas Wayne had been the sole survivor in that alley?

It's been done in JLA destiny.

Siskoid said...

To be fair, some of those stories hadn't been told yet when the original commenter suggested them.

Juan Castro said...

Someone up there predicted Flashpoint!Batman, huh?


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