Greetings from the Odinson,
For the last few weeks the Odinson has been exploring the Marvel/DC multiverse. There are three distinct angles from which I wanted to approach this subject matter. First, I explored Alternate Realities, a reality created by a paradox in time, realities that can be fixed or changed back. Then, I peered through the veil of time and space to look in on Parallel Worlds, planes of existence that exist and have always exited in a time and space just askew from our own. This week, I will conclude my trek through the Marvel/DC multiverse by discussing the phenomenon known as “What Ifs?” and Elseworlds.
The Odinson Explores the Marvel and DC Multiverse – Part 3 of 3: “What Ifs?” and Elseworlds
Every single person living and breathing at one point in time or another has asked that very simple question – What If? What if I had turned left instead of right? What if I had asked that girl out instead of this one? What if I had not skipped breakfast this morning? It is an endless conundrum that is brought to light in Marvel’s “What Ifs?” and DC’s Elseworlds. The list of such possibilities is as infinite as the multiverse itself, so the Odinson will simply list a few of his favorites.
What If Spider-Man Joined the Fantastic Four? (1977 Marvel) – This is just one of those combinations like peanut butter and chocolate that just makes sense. As the first teenage super heroes of the Marvel Age, Spider-Man and the Human Torch have had a long running rivalry that has developed into a strong friendship over years (see Amazing Spider-Man #17, 21, and 77, Fantastic Four #73, 250, 299, 347-349, and 362, and Marvel Team-Up #1-3, 10, 39, 61, 100, 121, and 133). This particular “What If?” is an extension on the events that happened in Amazing Spider-Man #1. Here, a neophyte Spidey attempts to wow Marvel’s First Family with his amazing new super powers and wants to the join the team. However, the audition does not go as planned. But, What if…?
What If Wolverine Killed the Hulk? (1982 Marvel) – When Wolverine made his first full appearance in the Marvel U in Incredible Hulk #181, it was as an adversary for the Green Goliath. As a battle between the Hulk and the savage Wendigo rumbles across the Canadian landscape, Logan is dispatched by his government to stop the monsters. Though this seminal brawl, the first of many to come between these combatants, ended in a stalemate, this shocking tale asks the question – what if Wolverine had pulled off the impossible and vanquished the Hulk? It’s an event that will set up tragedy not just for Wolverine, but for the Uncanny X-Men as well. For another take on this, check out What If the Hulk Killed Wolverine? This is a tale that stems out of the events of Incredible Hulk #340 and The Fall of the Mutants storyline.
What If the Hulk Went Berserk? (1984 Marvel) – Taking place sometime around the events of Fantastic Four #12 and Avengers #1, this horrific tale truly illustrates just how scary the Hulk would be if he ever lost complete control of his rage.
What If Wolverine was Lord of the Vampires? (1991 Marvel) – In the pages of Uncanny X-Men #159 and Annual #6, the Children of the Atom manage to defeat the Lord of the Undead. But, this “What If?” tale explores the fallout of what would have happened if Dracula had overpowered our mutant heroes. The results are one of the scariest scenarios ever to come out of the House of Ideas, as an undead Wolverine overruns the city with an army of super powered vampires. It’s a dark tale that leaves many of Marvel’s most prominent heroes and villains dead and/or undead.
Batman Vampire Trilogy (1992-1999 DC Elseworlds) – In Batman and Dracula: Red Rain, the Prince of Darkness comes to Gotham City. For all his skills and tech Batman is still just a man. In order to defeat this seemingly unbeatable supernatural foe, the Dark Knight succumbs and becomes a true child of darkness. In Bloodstorm, Batman must now deal with the consequences of his decision to become a vampire, and the Joker is making this even more difficult, as the Joker tends to do. Then in Crimson Mist, the Dark Knight rises from his tomb and reluctantly embraces his new macabre role in the DCU.
Brotherhood of the Bat (1995 DC Elseworlds) – Stemming from the events of Batman: Son of the Demon, this tale sees a future where Batman’s offspring has seized control of the League of Assassins and has turned the clandestine organization into a force for justice inspired by the Mantle of the Bat. But now, after the events of Batman and Son, Damian: Son of Batman, and Batman #666, the Brotherhood of the Bat may yet become a reality.
What If Captain America Were Revived Now? (1994 Marvel) – What if the Sentinel of Liberty were awakened in modern times? The answer is he would find a world at war. The seemingly benevolent Victor Von Doom, ruler of the Americas, struggles to topple the evil Red Skull, ruler of the rest of the world. Well, Cap knows the Red Skull is bad news, but as the tale unfolds, he will discover that there is more to this man called Doom than meets the eye. Without the leadership of Captain America, what would have become of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in this world? The answers are quite surprising. This is a seminal “What If?” story that truly illustrates just how important the arrival of Steve Rogers was to the early development stages of the Marvel Universe.
Kingdom Come (1996 DC Elseworlds) – In the not too distant future, the world’s greatest super hero is in a self-imposed exile. The new generation of heroes are an extremely violent lot who pose just as big a threat to the citizens of the world as the villains they fight against. When a nuclear level tragedy rocks the mid-west, Superman returns to show the world there is a better way. There’s just a few problems. Some of the younger generation isn’t ready to toe the line and a civil war in the super hero community that could destroy the world breaks out. Lex Luthor schemes from the shadows. And, the United Nations has a plan of its own, a plan to destroy the super hero community. Before Civil War and Injustice: Gods Among Us, there was Kingdom Come, a truly well executed drama that explores the pitfalls of ultimate power and ultimate responsibility. Plus, it’s one of the best Superman stories of All-Time.
Justice League: The Nail (1998 DC Elseworlds) – We all know the story about how the Kents found a baby in a rocket ship and that baby grew up to become the world’s greatest super hero. However, what if a single nail, a nail that caused a flat tire, prevented the Kents from ever finding that baby boy? How will events play out differently? How would the lives of heroes and villains turn out differently? How different would the world be due to the errant placement of just one nail? This is another truly great piece that illustrates just how important the Man of Steel is to the DC Universe.
Red Son (2003 DC Elseworlds) – What if the last Son of Krypton’s rocket had landed in communist Russia rather than a Kansas corn field? How different would the world be if Superman didn’t fight for truth, justice, and the American Way, but rather for the edicts of Mother Russia? What roles would Batman and Wonder Woman play in this new world? And, as the balance of power in the Cold War shifts dramatically, America looks to her greatest hero – Lex Luthor – for answers. This an interesting take on what could have been.
Honorable Mentions: Gotham by Gaslight, What If the Marvel Super Heroes had Lost Atlantis Attacks?, What If the Avengers Had Lost Operation: Galactic Storm?, Justice League: Another Nail, What If Juggernaut…?, What If Archangel…?, What If Secret Wars…?, and The Golden Age.
The multiverse is so vast and infinite and far too complex to even try to explore it in its entirety here. Some are duty-bound to observe and catalogue the events of the multiverse like Marvel’s enigmatic Watcher and his DC counterpart, the scheming Monitor. Others are charged with policing the multiverse and protecting the status quo like the Captain Britain Corps. While others are cursed to watch worlds die like the immortal Pariah. For a good look at just what the Marvel and DC multiverse has to offer check out the 2015 event tales Convergence and Secret Wars.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell