Hello and welcome to my review of classic comics that I continue to enjoy over the years! In the column series, I cover comics that have become Key Comics Issues. The reason is that they introduce a new character, or idea, that continues in later issues. For this review, I have gone into the first series run of What If? by Marvel from 1977 to 1984, with 47 issues. The title series continues to find numerous use over the years with Marvel. There is a second series that starts in 1989 and ends in 1998, with 115 issues including a #0. After that, Marvel releases a few mini-series, or one-shot stories, that go under the title What If?.
The newest What If? mini-series released in the last few months called Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow. In this series, we get to see what happens if Peter Parker was taken over by Venom, which is written by Chip Zdarsky with art by Pasqual Ferry. This is a fun mini-series to pick up and add to your collection. The other area I will mention is that most of the series have the Watcher named Uatu narrating the story for us.
To make this not so overwhelming with information, I will break up this information into three parts. The reason for this is because the second series of What If? has so many issues along with the first run it would be too much at one time. I hope you enjoy my review of the first run and let’s jump into it then!
Issues #1 to #5
The first issue release is in February 1977 with the title, What If Spider-Man Joined The Fantastic Four? The writer is Roy Thomas with art by Jim Graig and Pablo Marcos. A fun first issue, which you can get a great copy still under $200 if you want just the first issue. Issue #2 is titled What If The Hulk Had The Brain Of Bruce Banner? from writer Roy Thomas with art by Herb Trimpe and Tom Sutton. This issue foreshadows what will happen in The Incredible Hulk series where Hulk becomes smart and speaks with high intelligence.
Issue #3: What If The Avengers Had Never Been? is by Jim Shooter and Gil Kane with art by Gil Kane and Klaus Janson. In this issue, we get to see what happens if the Avengers break up after the Hulk leaves in the early years. Issue #4: What If The Invaders Had Stayed Together After World War Two? is by Roy Thomas with art by Frank Robbins and Frank Springer. This story explains what happens after 1945 with Captain America keeping the team together. Issue #5 dons the title What If Captain America Hadn’t Vanished During World War Two? The writers are Don Glut and Roy Thomas with art by George Tuska and Russ Jones. This is a story based on the events in Avengers#4, and a great story to read and add to your collection.
Issues #6 to #10
Issue #6 What If The Fantastic Four Had Different Super-Powers? is by Roy Thomas with art by Jim Craig, Rick Hoberg, and Sam Grainger. A fun story to see how the Fantastic Four operate with different powers. Issue #7, What If Someone Else Besides Spider-Man Had Been Bitten By The Radioactive Spider? is by Don Glut with art by Rick Hoberg and Sam Grainger. This is an awesome issue where there could be over 50 possible people to be bitten, but they pick Betty Brant, Flash Thompson, and Colonel John Jameson. What makes this issue important is that they revamp it later with Flash Thompson in another What If? issue. Issue #8 is What If The World Knew That Daredevil Is Blind? by Don Glut with art by Alan Kupperberg and Jim Mooney. This is interesting because in the normal Daredevil series the world finds out that Matt is Daredevil.
The second story is What If The Spider Had Been Bitten By A Radioactive Human? with writing and art by Scott Shaw and Dave Stevens, and Carol Lay. Issue #9: What If The Avengers Had Fought Evil During The 1950s? is by Don Glut with art by Roy Thomas, Alan Kupperberg, and Bill Black. This is a great issue because the cover is done by fan favorite, the great Jack Kirby. Issue#10: What If Jane Foster Had Found The Hammer of Thor? is by Don Glut with art by Rick Hoberg and Dave Hunt. A very high-end book now and will keep its value over time. Why? Because Jane Foster did become Thor, and her first appearance as Thor was in Thor #1 (2014).
Issue #11 to #15
In this issue, #11 they did something different and fun for the staff of Marvel at the time. The title is: What If The Original Marvel Bullpen Had Become The Fantastic Four? by Jack Kirby along with Mike Royer. A silly issue, but we get to see Stan Lee as Mr. Fantastic. Issue #12 is What If Rick Jones Had Become The Hulk? by Don Glut with art by Sal Buscema and Bill Black. The title says it all and though at the time not thought to be possible, it did happen in the later years. In the Incredible Hulk series, Rick had become a teenage version of the Hulk and later he became A-Bomb in the Marvel Universe.
Issue #13 is What If Conan The Barbarian Walked The Earth Today? which is by Roy Thomas with art by John Buscema and Ernie Chan. A fun story where at the time it is 1979 and Conan transports it from the past. Issue #14 is What If SGT. Fury Had Fought World War Two In Outer Space? by Gary Friedrich and Don Glut with art by Herb Trimpe and Pablo Marcos.
In this issue, there is a major advancement in technology in the 1940s so we have war reaching space, which makes for an interesting issue. Issue #15: What If Nova Had Been Four Other People? there are four stories all by Marv Wolfman. Art is by John Buscema, Joe Sinnott, Walt Simonson, Bob Wiacek, Carmine, Frank Springer, Ross Andru, Frank Giacoia, and early work from George Perez. The first is What If Helen Taylor Had Become Nova?. The second, What If Jesse Had Become Nova?. The third, What If Peter Parker Had Become Nova? And the last one, What If A Criminal Had Become Nova? The stories are very entertaining as we get to see how each person would use these powers given to them.
Issue #16 to #20
Next, Issue #16, is What If Shang-Chi Master Of Kung Fu Fought On The Side Of Fu Manchu? by Dough Moench with art by Rick Hoberg. In this story, the hero decides to be on the bad guy’s side. Issue #17: What If Ghost Rider, Spider-Woman, And Captain Marvel Were Villains? we get three stories to cover the title. Also, this is the male Captain Marvel, the first one not the female in case you are wondering.
The stories are by Steven Grant, with art by Carmine, Frank Springer, Mike Esposito, and Pablo Marcos. This is one of my favorite issues because we get to see all three powerful heroes taking the wrong side of the law. Issue #18 is What If Dr. Strange were a disciple of Dormammu? is by Peter Gillis with art by Tom Sutton and Bruce Patterson. In this story, we get to see Steve decide to take the easier road to get the cure he wants instead of following the Ancient One’s teaching. Now that most people have seen the movie it makes it easier to explain this story without going into detail about who Dormammu is.
Issue #19 is What If Spider-Man Had Never Become A Crimefighter? by Peter Gillis with art by Pat Broderick and Mike Esposito. In this story, we get to see Peter stop the Burger before he kills his Uncle Ben. Issue #20 brings What If the Avengers Fought The Kree-Skrull War Without Rick Jones? by Tom DeFalco with art by Alan Krupperberg and Bruce Patterson.
Back in issues #89 to #97 of The Avengers there is a Kree-Skrull War story-arc and again thanks to Marvel’s movies you know who the Kree and Skrulls are. In the original story, the war ends with the destiny force because Rick Jones can summon the heroes of Earth to battle. But in this different version of the story, we have Ronan killing Rick Jones before he can call the Avengers. The first appearance of Ronan the Accuser is in The Fantastic Four #65.
Issues #21 to #25
In issue #21 we get three chapters to tell the story of, What If Invisible Girl Of The Fantastic Four Married The Sub-Mariner? by Bill Mantlo with art by Gene Colan and Bob Wiacek. This is a fun read, and it is also a continuation of issue #1. The story is great because we get to see Mr. Fantastic and the Human Torch being hell-bent to get Sue back to them, and of course, we get to see that not work out for many fun reasons.
Issue #22: What If Dr. Doom Had Become A Hero? is by Don Glut with art by Fred Kida and Dave Simons. This was a good story where we get to see Victor listen to Reed which prevents the destruction of his face. He continues his quest to save his mother’s soul from Mephisto and gets a new suit as well, and the ending is sad but again a good story.
Issue #23: What If The Hulk Had Become A Barbarian? we get three separate stories. The first is What If Hulk’s Girlfriend Jarella Had Not Died? by Peter Gillis with art by Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito. Jarella’s first appearance was in The Incredible Hulk #140. She is one of the great loves of the Hulk. The second is The First Celestial Host! by Mark Gruenwald with art by Ron Wilson and Chic Stone. This story covers the first time the Celestials visit Earth and start experiments. Finally, the third is What If Aunt May Had Been Bitten By A Radioactive Spider? by Steve Skeates with art by Alan Kupperberg. In this story, fans see Uncle Ben live and Aunt May becomes a hero.
Issue #24 is What If Spider-Man Had Rescued Gwen Stacy? by Tony Isabella with art by Gil Kane, Carl Gafford, Peter Poplaski, Ron Zalme, Joe Albelo, and Frank Giacoia. This is one of the best stories and my top favorite because all the fans want to know what would happen with Gwen in Peter’s life instead of Mary Jane. As most fans know in Amazing Spider-Man issue #121 and #122, Gwen dies by the Green Goblin and Peter. She is thrown off the Brooklyn Bridge by Green Goblin, and Spider-Man tries to save her but snaps her neck in the process. This is a treat of a story because we get to see things are great for Peter and Gwen until we get a surprise of an ending.
There is a second story called The First Eternals! by Ralph Macchio with art by Rich Buckler and Chic Stone. This is the second story as they tell a story in each issue of the Eternals. Issue #25: What If Thor And The Avengers Battled The Gods? is by Peter Gillis with art by Rich Buckler, Dave Simmons, Al Milgrom, and Jon D’Agostino. In the first story, we get to see what happens when Thor does not agree with Odin to stop seeing Jane. There is a huge battle with Thor getting help from the Avengers and a ton of characters falling. Jane Foster’s first appearance was also in Journey into Mystery #84.
Issue #26 to #28
Issue #26 is What If Captain America Had Been Elected President? by Mike Barr, Roger McKenzie, Don Perlin, Roger Stern, and John Byrne, with art by Herb Trimpe, and Mike Esposito. It is entertaining to see Captain America running the United States. Also, this is one of three entertaining stories inside this issue. Story two is What If the Man-Thing Had Regained Ted Sallis’ Brain? This is by Steve Grant with art by Herb Trimpe and Bob Wiacek. For fans not knowing who Ted Sallis is in the Marvel Universe, he is a biochemistry professor who becomes Man-Thing. As the Man-Thing he does not have any human personality or emotion.
So, in this story we see Man-Thing being able to think and interact with a mind which was fun. The first appearance of Man-Thing was in Savage Tales #1 (1971). The third story continues the story of the Eternals that is titled, Outpost on Uranus. This issue is by Mark Gruenwald with art by Ron Wilson and Bruce Patterson. For those of you that are reading this, there might be a smile coming across your face because of the title. Yes, this is the title of this story, where we get to see the Eternals facing off a Kree outpost on Uranus.
Issue #27: What If Phoenix Had Not Died? is by Jo Duffy with art by Jerry Bingham, John Stuart, Al Milgrom, and Terry Austin. The cover is by the awesome Frank Miller and because of that along with the story, a book worth getting. If Jean Grey lived how would the X-Men and the rest of the world be able to coexist with such a powerful being. There is a second story that continues the adventures of the Eternals called, Kree Encounter! The story is by Mark Gruenwald with art by Ron Wilson and Bruce Patterson. The issue covers the Kree finding their Sentry destroyed and go after Uranos for the destruction.
Issue #28: What If Daredevil Became An Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D.? is by Frank Miller and Mike Barr with art by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson. This is another cover that is done by Frank Miller, for that alone it is worth getting. The second story is: What If Ghost Riders Were Separated From Johnny Blaze? which is by Michael Fleisher with art by Tom Sutton. In this story, we get the separation of the two heroes, which ends sadly for both Jonny and Ghost Rider. The third story is another Eternals tale with the title New Life by Mark Gruenwald with art by Ron Wilson and Bruce Patterson. This is the last Eternal story where we see the next step for these heroes.
Issue #29 to #31
Issue #29 is known as What If the Avengers Defeated Everybody? There are three stories for us to enjoy. The first story is What If The Avengers Were The Last Superheroes On Earth? by Steven Grant with art by Alan Kupperberg and Al Gordon. This story is from The Avengers Annual #2, where Scarlet Centurion tricks the Avengers into taking out the rest of Earth’s heroes. But in this retelling, there is no thwarting them and after winning they retire only to return to finish one more mission.
The third story focuses on the Inhumans and is known as The Search for the Great Refuge! The story is by Peter Gillis with art by Ron Wilson and Joe Sinnott. This is a continuation from Thor #152, where Black Bold helps the Eternals find a new spot-on Earth to call home. The third story is What If the Sub-Mariner Never Regained His Memory? by Steve Grant with art by Rick Buckler and Bob McLeod. In this story, the Human Torch never discovered Namor who has amnesia which leads to a different path for Namor. All three stories are fun and great artwork makes this a great issue.
Issue #30: What If Spider-Man’s Clone Lived? is by Bill Flanagan with art by Rich Buckler, Jim Mooney, and Pablo Marcos. This story is taken from The Amazing Spider-Man #141 to #150, where we have a clone of Peter who is in a suspending animation pod. But the story has it that the clone tries to live Peter’s life but decided to go another way. This is the first clone saga we have from Marvel that has Spider-Man, but there will be future clone sagas to come for Spidey. The second story is Moving Day! by Peter Gillis with art by Ron Wilson and Joe Sinnott. This is a continuation of the Inhumans moving to their new home in the Himalayan Mountains.
Issue #31: What If Wolverine Had Killed The Hulk? is by Rich Margopoulos with art by Bob Budiansky and Mike Esposito. This one is a fan favorite and one of mine as well! We get to see Wolverine killing the Hulk, and then joining Magneto with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. For those that have been living anywhere but here on Earth, this is the appearance of Wolverine, and where this story comes from is The Incredible Hulk #181. The second story is What If There Was No Fantastic Four? by Roger Stern and Bill Mantlo with art by Alan Kupperberg and Frank Giacoia. In this story, we get to see what happens if the Thing did not stay with the Fantastic Four.
Issue #32 to #35
Next, we have Issue #32: What If the Avengers Had Become Pawns Of Korvac? by Mark Gruenwald and Peter Sanderson with art by Mark Gruenwald and Greg LaRocque. This story is from the events in The Avengers #177. In the original story, Carina the Collector’s daughter does not assist Michael (Korvac) to defeat the Avengers. However, in this story, we get to see what happens if she decides to help him, which leads to the Avengers dying off. This issue is one story and worth checking out. Issue #33 contains two titles. The first is What If Dazzler Had Become The Herald Of Galactus? by Danny Fingeroth with art by Mike Vosburg and Jon D’Agostino.
This story is from Dazzler series #10 and #11. Here Alison met Galactus for the first time. The second story is What If Iron Man Was Trapped In The Time Of King Arthur? by Steven Grant with art by Don Perlin and Bob Layton. This story is from Iron Man #149 and #150, in which both Iron Man and Dr. Doom were transported back in time to Camelot. In this story, we get to see Dr. Doom trick Iron Man as he leaves him in the past. Both are fun stories and if you are a fan of these characters, then this is one that is worth picking up.
Moving along, Issue #34 is a simple title: What If? This is because we have over 70 stories in this issue. They are fun, and silly like What If The Fantastic Four Were Bananas?, What If Odin Were Peter Parker’s Uncle?, and What If The Hulk Were Yellow? Again, just a silly issue but worth checking out all the stories inside this issue. Issue #35 is What If Elektra Had Lived? which provides three stories to read. The first is: What If Bullseye Had Not Killed Electra? by and drawings from Frank Miller with Terry Austin. This story is from Daredevil #181 where Bullseye kills Elektra, but in this version, she lives forever changing both her life and Daredevil.
The second story is And Thus Are Born The Cat People! by Roger Stern with art by Steve Diko. An interesting story as a sorcerer by the name Ebrok transforms cats into humanoids and finds that they are harder to control in time. The third story is What If Yellowjacket Had Died? by Alan Zelenetz with art by Greg LaRocque, Mike Esposito, and Sal Trapani. This is another story from The Avengers #212. In this story, Wasp is unable to save Yellowjacket from dying and this sets off a chain of events within the Avengers team.
Issue #36 to #40
Next, Issue #36 is What If the Fantastic Four Had Not Gained Their Super-Powers? The writing and art are by the an0ther great name, John Bryne. He is in charge of the cover as well. In this story, Reed Richards decides to wait before the launch that ensures the crew does not get their powers. This story shows how the team still saves the world without superpowers. The second story is What If Nova Had Not Given Up His Powers? by Bill Mantlo with art by Mike Vosburg. This story is from Rom #24, where Richard Rider decides to keep the Nov Force instead of giving them up.
Continuing, Issue #37 is What If The Beast And The Thing Continued To Mutate? This issue breaks down both stories along with a third story. The first story is What If The Thing Continued To Mutate? which is by Tom DeFalco with art by Arvell Jones and Sam de la Rosa. This story is from Marvel Two-In-One #82. Here, the Thing takes off before he knows that there is a cure for Virus X.
The second story: What If The Beast Had Truly Become A Beast? is by Alan Weiss with art by Jim Sherman. This story is also taken from another Marvel book Amazing Adventures #11. In this story, Hank McCoy’s mutation formula is more potent and his form is advancing. The third story is What If Galactus Had Turned The Silver Surfer Back Into Norrin Radd? This story is from The Fantastic Four #50 where Galactus decides to release Silver Surfer instead of keeping him as his Herald.
Again, Issue #38 is three stories. The first is The Leaving by David Michelinie with art by Paty Cockrum and Andy Mushynsky. This story takes us 50 years into the future with the Avengers still active and protecting the world. The second is What If Sharon Carter Had Not Died? by Rick Margopoulos with art by Dan Reed and Mike Esposito. This story is from Captain America #233, where Captain America saves Sharon from the National Force instead of her dying in the original story. The third story is Daredevil:2013! with writing and art by Alan Kupperberg.
In the year 2013, we find Daredevil and Black Widow are ready to retire but they do one more team-up to take down the Kingpin. Issue #39 is What If Thor Battled Conan The Barbarian? by Alan Zelenetz with art by Ron Wilson and Danny Bulanadi. This is a fun battle issue where we see both warriors going at each other. Issue #40 is What if Dr. Strange Had Never Become Master Of The Mystic Arts? by Peter Gillis with art by Jackson Guice and Sam Grainger. This is a good issue where we find Steven take a different path in life instead of becoming the Master of the Mystic Arts.
Issue #41 to #45
Next up, Issue #41 is What If Destiny Had Not Destroyed Atlantis? by Alan Zelenetz with art by Marc Silvestri and Mel Candido. This whole issue is dedicated to this one story where Namor battles Destiny who tries to destroy Atlantis with the Helmet of Power. In this story Destiny finds defeat and Namor’s cousin Byrrah betrays him. This will lead the whole empire in a power struggle, and it is an exceptionally good story with a lot of plot twists.
Issue #42 is What If The Invisible Girl Had Died?, but the story inside is What If Susan Richards Died in Childbirth? It is by Peter Gillis with art by Ron Frenz and Joe Sinnott. In the issue The Fantastic Four Annual #6, the team finds an element that saves Sue’s life, but in this story, Sue dies giving childbirth leading the while team down a dark path. This is another good story worth checking out because the ending is worth it.
Issue #43’s story is What If Conan The Barbarian Were Stranded In The 20th Century? by Peter Gillis with art by Bob Hall. This is an interesting story because Conan joins the team of The Savage Avengers #1 (2019), so he does become part of the 20th century in time. This is another fun book and a must for any Conan fan out there. Issue #44: What If Captain America Were Not Revived Until Today? is by Peter Gillis with art by Sal Buscema and Dave Simons. The year for this issue is 1984, so the things Steve experiences are new to him in this timeline and a great story to see how he figures out his place in this timeline.
Issue #45 is What If The Hulk Went Berserk? by Peter Gillis with art by Ron Wilson, Ian Akin, and Brian Garvey. In this story, Bruce does not save Rick Jones from the Gamma explosion, because of this one life things become hugely different for the Hulk. For those diehard Hulk fans, this is a must to read and add to your collection.
Issue #46 and #47
Rounding out Part 1: Issue #46 is What If Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben Had Lived? by Peter Gillis with art by Ron Frenz and San DeLa Rosa. This is the last great Spider-Man story that is told in this first series. In this story, we see that Uncle Ben does not meet his demise by a burglar, but Aunt May is killed! The story is perfectly entertaining and again they get you with a surprise ending that puts it all together. Issue #47 is the last issue in this classical run. The issue is What If Loki Found Thor’s Hammer First? by Peter Gillis with art by Kelley Jones and Sam DeLa Rossa. In the original story, it is Dr. Donald Blake who finds Thor’s Hammer and became the worthy one However, in this story, it is Loki that finds it and gets the power.
I genuinely enjoy this first run of this series and am happy to re-read this whole series again! It is rewarding to share what I think about each issue and give some advice on which ones to get if it interests you. Thanks again for taking the time to read my review of this famous series. Please remember to check out our other stories, columns, and videos on our site! I will post the second part next month so keep a lookout, and again, thank you!