By Jim Beard
Mark Guggenheim asks the big questions, and to celebrate a milestone of Mighty Marvel speculation he’s posing one with recent ramifications: “What If Norman Osborn Won the Siege of Asgard?”
WHAT IF? #200, in shops on December 29, continues the series’ long-standing tradition of exploring the “road not taken” and allowing popular Marvel characters and events to live another life. WHAT IF? resonates with readers on a level unequaled by any other such speculative fiction.
“Everyone's naturally fascinated by what could have been or might have been,” says Guggenheim. “I also think there's something inherently satisfying in a concept where the dominoes are so tightly arranged and fall in such quick succession. Because of the done-in-one nature of WHAT IF?, causality is really compressed such that the stories are more along the lines of ‘What if...then this...then that...’ etc. In a classic WHAT IF?, only one thing has changed—a character goes left when he could have gone right and the story explains all the consequences of that one decision.
“I designed WHAT IF? #200 with this exact formula in mind. Marvel came to me with the broad mandate of doing a WHAT IF? based on Siege but left it to me to pitch on ideas. I wanted to craft a story that was bottomed on one critical decision that changes the course of the rest of the story, just like in the classic WHAT IF? [stories] I grew up with. Re-reading Siege I realized that there's a critical moment when Ares decides whether to go along with Osborn's planned invasion of Asgard and once I knocked that domino over the opposite way—mayhem.”
We asked the writer to shoot us a few of his own favorites from the many years of the series, and just for you, dear Marvelite, we’ve compiled “What If Marc Guggenheim Picked His Top Five WHAT IF? Stories?”
WHAT IF? #35 (1982) – “What If Elektra Had Lived?” Everyone’s favorite female fury survived her assassination in this tale, but wound up the target of the Kingpin—and Daredevil himself.
WHAT IF? #36 (1982) – “What If the Fantastic Four Had Not Gained Their Super-Powers?” The close-knit quartet cleverly avoided the blast of cosmic rays and still managed to become heroes in their own right.
“These two are at the top of my list because they're great WHAT IF? stories and I'm a purist and there's nothing better than when the guys responsible for the actual stories - at the time – also did the WHAT IF?,” shares Guggenheim. “Plus, these guys—Frank Miller and John Byrne in particular—insane. I just wish Walter Simonson completed the hat-trick by doing a WHAT IF? based on his classic THOR run. Y'know, it's not too late, guys...”
WHAT IF? #27 (1981) – “What If Phoenix Had Not Died?” Jean Grey escaped her fate at the end of the Phoenix Saga and went onto face Galactus and eventually the entire Marvel Universe.
“Editor Justin Gabrie and I referenced this one a lot while working on WHAT IF? #200,” notes Guggenheim.
WHAT IF #28 (1981) – “What If Daredevil Became an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.?” Matt Murdock’s life took a different course after his childhood accident and the famous spy organization gained a unique operative.
“What a cool idea [with] Frank Miller art,” recalls Guggenheim. “'Nuff, as they say, said.”
“Just a great dystopian WHAT IF? classic.”
These and many more great WHAT IF? stories may be found in six volumes of WHAT IF? CLASSICS and on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.