What If... The Avengers Had Never Been?

Roy Thomas hands over his baby to other writers, so this one is by future editor-in-chief Jim Shooter and artist Gil Kane, with Klaus Janson on inks. Will Shooter be a little more sanguinary?

What If Vol.1 #3 (June 1977)
Based on: Avengers #2
The true history: After their first adventure, the Hulk chose to run off, so the Avengers pursued him and fought both him and his ally the Sub-Mariner. And though they did so unsuccessfully, they chose to remain together as the world's mightiest team.
Turning point: What if Giant-Man let the Hulk go?
Story type: Hockey trade.
Watcher's mood: Angry baby.
Altered history: When Giant-Man lets the Hulk leave because, after all, being on the team is strictly voluntary, Iron Man is the only one to argue. That pisses off Thor who promptly leaves, and without Thor's power behind them, Giant-Man and the Wasp realize they're strictly B-listers and retire from the hero game. But Tony can't let it go and gets trounced by the Hulk. New scheme: He build armors for Hulk sidekick Rick Jones and both Giant-Man and the Wasp. Of course, nothing's perfect:
Actually, it's more than the armors' color scheme. Iron Man shows his own true colors when the Iron Men make a few mistakes during their first hour wearing them. Jerk.
So they all leave and he alone flies off to stop the threat of the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner, albeit with a super-charged suit. The others realize he might well do this, get their suits and fly to his rescue. The battle royal only ends when Namor hurts Rick, which makes the Hulk kick his ass 'til he leaves. Alas, Iron Man is killed saving Giant-Man's life...
Books canceled as a result: Do the Iron Men stay together as a different version of the Avengers? Maybe they spun off into their own title after Iron Man's own title was cancelled. If not, then today's Marvel would probably have to significantly reduce its output.
These things happen: While a non-event like something NEVER having happened can't really happen in continuity, a pig-headed Iron Jerk would indeed wind up fighting the Hulk for lethal stakes and take part in events that would split up the Avengers. Marvel really is taking all its new storylines from old What Ifs, isn't it?

Still no massacre, but this is the first instance of a What If with deadly consequences. There are a lot more to come.


Sleestak said…
I really enjoyed that book when it came out. Also, the eye-shadow remark was a true throwback to the days of Silly, Flighty Jan.
Siskoid said…
A lot of these early What Ifs are written in the style of the original Silver Age stuff. It's fun!
Unknown said…
This is the book that got me into comics in the first place, and made me an Iron Man fan for life. Fun story, lots of action, and exceptionally true to the source material.
Siskoid said…
Wow. To start with a What If must be pretty uncommon!