By Jim Beard Every comic fan's posed the question-"What if?" Marvel's been asking it since 1977, and in that quest delivered answers both exciting and engaging and, most important of all, thought-provoking. Now, that famous interrogative's being raised again in a new series of one-shots. That's right - WHAT IF? makes its triumphant return this December! WHAT IF? editors Mark Paniccia, Justin Gabrie, and Nate Cosby checked in with Marvel.com on what exactly makes the new stories click and tick. "As the new flavor of WHAT IF? has been event-oriented stories/themes, we simply looked at what we could play with and there were plenty," notes Gabrie. "We got them down to four based on the stories we thought we could tell: 'World War Hulk,' 'House of M,' 'Spider-Man: Back in Black' and 'Captain America: Fallen Son.' "Also, due to the success of last year's WHAT IF? SPIDER-MAN VS WOLVERINE- based on the classic 1980s story-we decided to add one classic to this year as well: SECRET WARS." But wait, there's more! "We also have an extra treat," Gabrie notes. A back-up story continuing throughout all five WHAT IF [one-shots] this year that begs the question, 'What if the Runaways became the Young Avengers?' a pet project of mine that I'm glad will actually see print." To go into more detail... -WHAT IF? HOUSE OF M, co-written by Brian Reed and Jim McCann asks, "What if the Scarlet Witch had said 'No More Powers' instead of 'No More Mutants?'" -In WHAT IF? SPIDER-MAN: BACK IN BLACK, writer Steven Grant and artist Gus Vasquez ponder, "What if Mary Jane was shot instead of Aunt May?" -Writer Karl Bollers helms WHAT IF? CLASSIC SECRET WARS, centered around the question, "What if Dr. Doom kept the Beyonder's power?" -Lastly, the WHAT IF? CAPTAIN AMERICA: FALLEN SON and WHAT IF? WORLD WAR HULK specials' contents remain a mystery for now, but, as promised, "What If the Runaways Became the Young Avengers?" will run through all five books, written by C.B. Cebulski and drawn by Patrick Spaziante. What makes for the very best in WHAT IF? stories, in the opinion of such a fine cadre of editors? "That 'Planet of the Apes' moment," says Paniccia. "Like [writer] Greg Pak had at the end of last year's WHAT IF? PLANET HULK. You want to show the readers that gut wrenching end that makes them think, 'Thank God it ended up Okay in the Marvel Universe proper." "I always liked the ones that a casual reader could understand," adds Cosby. "I just like fun comics. [With me] not being one for mounds of exposition, in WHAT IF? WORLD WAR HULK-which I'm editing-we're not going to overload you with what 'really' happened. We'll begin fresh and entertain you." Gabrie brings it on home with his own outlook on what goes into these quirky questions to keep curious fans coming back for more: "The new WHAT IF? [specials] I'm editing are like the ones I grew up with. They came down to that infinitesimal moment where it could've zigged instead of zagged, where the character made a split-second decision, where the Chaos Theory is played out for all to see." Stay up to date with the latest Marvel news from Wizard World Chicago at our Convention Central page!