What If... Four Other People Had Become Nova?

Not at the same time, mind you.

I'm not gonna make believe all previous issues of What If? have been excellent, far from it, but this is perhaps the worst one yet. On the one hand, we have the use of a hero Marvel was trying to shill at the time, which even today (and with no disrespect meant to the excellent current series) doesn't command the same interest as Marvel's Silver Age characters. To recap, we've had stories about Spider-Man, the FF, Daredevil, the Avengers, Captain America, Sgt. Fury, Conan, Thor and the Hulk. I think Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange, Namor and the X-Men should have gotten a turn before NOVA, don't you? Nova's original series had struggled to 25 issues and had been canceled just a month before this issue came out, with dangling plot threads left to be resolved in other comics. A dose of alternate reality from Nova writer Marv Wolfman came too late to save the book, despite making Nova seem like he could beat up the entire Marvel Universe.

Another problem is that at least 2 of the stories cheat. The Centurion's random power-up beam isn't really the turning point, it's actually used in an already alternate universe (one without superheroes, and the other where Peter Parker didn't become Spider-Man). In the following, I'll be singling out each of the four stories by letters:
(a) What if Nova had been a woman bent on revenge?
(b) What if Nova had been a homeless man in a Marvel Universe without superheroes?
(c) What if Nova had been Peter Parker?
(d) What if Nova had been a supervillain?

What If Vol.1 #15 (June 1979)
Based on: The Man Called Nova #1
The true history: In what must be one of the lamest superhero origins of all time, the dying Centurion comes to Earth in a rocket, all Abin Sur-like, and beams all his powers and accessories to a RANDOMLY CHOSEN successor. Richard Rider does Earth proud by becoming an outstanding hero.
Turning point: What if the random beam had hit someone else.
Story type: Multiple choice.
Watcher's mood: Toupee of the stars
Altered history: (a) The random beam hits a woman standing by the grave site of her murdered husband. It turns her into a pretty hot (I'm thinking Hawkgirl hot) version of Nova that brings entirely too much attention to that tri-burst symbol...
This Nova is obsessed with finding her husband's murderer and mows down every criminal she can find in her search, even killing the Kingpin in the process. Bizarrely, she leaves calling cards at the scenes of her vigilantism.
As her murder spree continues, and the collateral damage mounts, the Fantastic Four are called upon to capture her, which they do. Apparently on orders from Jimmy Carter, Reed Richards' only solution is to shunt her into the Negative Zone for all time. Wow. And the Punisher's still walking our dimension? Where WAS that criminal? Well, the police pull a car out of the bay one day and...
What If Nova Was an EC Comic?

(b) In a world without superheroes, Jesse is a homeless man with a cat companion who gets taken in by an old lady running an orphanage (so it's still a fantasy). What we don't know is that he's been hit by the Nova beam at some point, has all the right powers, but wouldn't be caught dead wearing the Nova suit.
Earth may not have any superhumans, but other worlds do! The Skrulls decide to investigate the Nova energies and attack. This causes Jesse to finally put on the uniform, which for about a page, turns him white.
Looking to save the kids from the orphanage, he lets the Skrull capture him and blows up their ship from within, giving his life to prevent an invasion. The old lady celebrates her new cat with some cocoa.

(c) What if that radioactive spider took in a larger dose of radiation? It would have sent Peter to the hospital and paralyzed his legs! Whaa--? (For the counter-argument, see THIS news story.) Aunt May gets upset and as a fatal heart attack, and Peter from then on thinks of himself as a jinx. Somehow, he still knows Betty Brant, despite getting his powers in high school and only working at the Daily Bugle after he's become Spider-Man. Go with it, the timeline get's screwier. Peter still goes to college and still becomes Professor Warren's assistant and then gets hit by the Nova beam. Raise your hand if you don't think the Centurion came to Earth until much later. Reveling in his new powers, Peter flies home just in time to stop that burglar from shooting Uncle Ben. Really Marv, WHEN IS THIS ALL HAPPENING???
Dude is killed by the ricochet and the already gloomy Peter, never having heard a speech about responsibility, goes directly to Amazing Spider-Man #50, does not pass go, and does not collect 200$.
(d) I don't know who the beam hits in the fourth reality, but it's a cigar-chomping villain who used his inherited powers and rocket HQ to band together with Doctor Doom, the Red Skull and the Sphinx to kill every single superhero on Earth. And they succeed too. Which only means the villains (Nova calls himself "the master of the Master Villains", so I guess that's the team name) will then turn on each other.
For the record, the Sphinx wins.
All he wants to do is find a cure for his immortality, which, in the original Nova comics, could be found inside Nova's mind (part of the heritage). But he's just killed his salvation, so we can look forward to the Sphinx draining every single human mind for nought. End Marvel Universe.
Books canceled as a result: In every case, The Man Called Nova could never be, which wouldn't stop Marvel from passing the mantle on to another character later. Further... (b) All titles canceled except maybe Millie the Model; (c) all Spider-Man titles canceled; and (d) all Earth-bound superhero titles canceled (which might leave the Silver Surfer as a possibility).
These things happen: Since the mantle of Nova can obviously change hands, I'm surprised it hasn't. Richard Rider is still Nova today. Even in the Spider-Girl alternate Earth, Nova is still Richard Rider.

Next week: What if Shang Chi Master of Kung Fu fought on the side of Fu Manchu?
My guess: We're all dead.

3 comments:

Bully said...

You last two lines made me laugh out loud like a complete loon.

Anonymous said...

Me too.

Perhaps the four alternative Nova was JJ Jameson?

And perhaps the girl was a repressed Kory anders? Red hair. Boyfriend obsession. Killing sprees. Marv Wolfman... all seems to coincide.

Roger

Siskoid said...

Yeah, I wish it'd been more explicit, give the story some weight.

 

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