What If... the Avengers Had Fought Evil During the 1950s?

Now, I skipped What If? #4's Invaders story because it wasn't a what if at all. It was an untold tale of the Marvel Universe as retconned from bits of Marvel's Timely and Atlas days. You never knew that other patriotic heroes continued in Captain America's stead, or whatever happened to the Whizzer or Miss America. What If? #9 is a lot like that. It takes the Atlas heroes still owned by Marvel and gives them a story that takes place in Marvel continuity. It's now most famous for serving as the inspiration for Agents of ATLAS. In other words, Mark Paniccia and writer Jeff "Master Cool" Parker decided IT WAS ALL TRUE!

Well, there ARE differences, and so it IS a What If story...

What If Vol.1 #9 (June 1978)
Based on: Atlas Comics, precursor to Marvel.
The true history: Superheroes in the 1950s banded together and chose to call themselves the Agents of ATLAS. They didn't let in characters not actually published at the time.
Turning point: What if 3-D Man actually existed int he 1950s?
Story type: Folded into continuity.
Watcher's mood: Lazy (he lets Iron Man tell it)
Altered history: Yes, the heroes now known as the Agents of ATLAS did meet and team up in the 1950s, but there is one anomaly here that accounts for every discrepancy, and that's 3-D Man. Created in the 70s by Roy Thomas as a homage to Simon & Kirby's Captain 3-D (Dec 1953), 3-D Man (Apr 1977) wasn't really an Atlas hero, and consequently isn't an Agent. But what if he HAD been in the Matlas Universe at the time? Well, first of all, he would have come to the aid of Jimmy Woo (Oct 1956) on the fateful day these guys all met.
Since Marvel Boy (Dec 1950) shows up seconds later, I'm pretty sure he would have helped Jimmy anyway. Jimmy starts assembling the team, including (erstwhile Agent ally) Jann of the Jungle (Nov 1955), Gorilla-Man (Mar 1954), Namora (May 1947), M-11 the Human Robot (May 1954), and Venus (Aug 1948) to fight his evil father, the Yellow Claw (Oct 1956). When they try to decide what to call themselves, they have the same stupid conversation our Avengers did, where somebody pounces on the word "avenge". And check out who actually has the offending sentence:
3-D Man! We might imagine an entirely different dynamic in our universe, where Jimmy gets that final word bubble and does something entirely different with it (he's an FBI agent). In the interests of full nostalgia, the villains are also culled from the post-WWII period.
If Skull-Face is a living skeleton, how can the Great Video's x-ray vision corroborate it? Isn't everyone a living skeleton to him? The Yellow Claw sends these guys to kidnap the president of the US of A. Meanwhile, 3-D Man arrives late at the secret HQ, cuz you know, he can only exist 3 hours at a time. He's a real wuss this one. It's like he can ALMOST do things at the best of times. He's definitely a whiney Marvel hero, which brands him as a man out of time. Proof:
He starts a fight with another hero! And thought-whines about it. Venus has to send little hearts to calm them and everything. Soon, they're off to rescue the president. Does 3-D Man cause more anomalies? Well, he almost gets put down by Video's death vision, then avoids Electro's blasts (without engaging him), and is the one that takes Ike into his arms and puts him about 10 feet further back from the action. No change, though he makes sure to call the team the Avengers in front of the president, making it a lock.
I know he says it's his triple-hearing that makes him hear the bomb ticking thanks to which he's able to save Jimmy, but if he hadn't been yammering on with the prez, any one of the Agents would have heard it, or followed Jimm, with the same effect. I know that in my heart of hearts. And then Ike... DISBANDS THE AVENGERS! Why?
That's right: He's afraid of Frederick Wertham. The Agents' solution in our universe is to operate in secret. Innocents unseduced!
Books canceled as a result: No Agents of ATLAS, but instead a new Avengers title we all find so incredibly retro. As for the Avengers books we've known for the past 45 years, I guess they had another name entirely. Maybe even one that makes sense!
These things happen: That's my whole point! Read Agents of ATLAS! It's really good!

6 comments:

Hube said...

Funny, too, that Kurt Busiek had Immortus totally DESTROY this timeline in AVENGERS FOREVER #5. I never read AGENTS, so I don't know if it's yet another retcon, standard Marvel continuity, or a play directly in the supposed "excised" timeline.

Siskoid said...

It's part of the Marvel continuity. Only the What If version apparently got zapped.

Michael May said...

Wait a minute. Jann of the Jungle was orginally a member? What happened to her?

Siskoid said...

She and Namora aren't "Avengers" in the What If, but they each have a scene where they help Jimmy, 3D and Marvel Boy find other members.

Jann can't go "as long as there's evil in Africa", and Namora is searching for her cousin.

Michael May said...

Cool! I had no idea there was a jungle girl connection. Hopefully Parker will work her back in someday. :)

SFF said...

I had this issue as a kid. Wow. What a classic. I remember my brother and my cousins pretending to be certain heroes and fighting each other.

 

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