What if Marvel had a new batch of alternate stories coming out later this year? Well, they do—this weekend, at Wizard World Chicago, Marvel announced there will be another round of the wildly popular What If books hitting shelves later this year. Much like last year’s What If? projects—this year’s batch will feature a number of upcoming talents as well as industry veterans.
Newsarama sat down with What If? project editors Mark Paniccia, Nate Cosby, and Justin Gabrie to discuss the potential tangents that may be popping up in this year’s batch of What If? projects.
Newsarama: First off guys - what events in the Marvel Universe can readers expect to see in this batch of What If? specials?
Nate Cosby: I got Hulk. Hulk’s winnin’ World War Hulk. And in the Mini Marvels Hulk story, Hulk does haiku. It’s gonna be really funny. Hawkeye’ll be in it.
Mark Paniccia: Fallen Son answers the question “What if Iron Man had died instead of Captain America?”
Justin Gabrie: I’ve got four this year. They are:
• House of M, which responds to the following query “What If Scarlet Witch said “No More Powers?”” This affects everyone in the Marvel Universe, not just mutant-kind, so it’s everything and the kitchen sink.
• Spider-Man: Back in Black, in which we ask “What If Mary Jane was shot instead of Aunt May?” When MJ dies, the Spidey/Kingpin throw down gets nasty.
• Secret Wars, where we find out “What If Doom kept the Beyonder’s Power?” ‘Nuff said!
• There is also a What If back up that continues throughout all five What Ifs where we answer the question, “What If the Runaways became the Young Avengers?” You will like.
NRAMA: Can you name any of the creators involved with these projects so far?
NC: Sure! I always wanted to name things. I shall name Greg Pak “Pooh-Burr!” and Chris Giarrusso will be “Slotty Bumpkin.” They’ll be in the What If World War Hulk book that’s going to exist.
JG: House Of M is carefully crafted by Brian Reed & Jim McCann. Spider-Man: Back In Black is masterfully written by the great Steven Grant. Secret Wars will be done in one by Karl Bollers. And last but not least, Runaways/ Young Avengers will barely contain the team of C.B. Cebulski with art by Patrick “SPAZ” Spaziante. Most of you will be for a real treat with Spaz’s work who has been one of the most requested artists on Sonic the Hedgehog for the last decade. It’s not funny animal stuff so believe me, you won’t be disappointed.
MP: Master scribe, Marc Sumerak, is writing Fallen Son with Trevor Goring on art.
NRAMA: What kinds of considerations are made when the three of you looked for potential stories for publication?
NC: Well, I had to consider lots of things. I had to consider what kind of fruit baskets the writers were going to buy me in return for giving them work. And I had to consider - -
JG: Oops, he went off and started considering the secrets of the universe again and froze like a PC. Sorry about that. While Nate reboots for the next question, Mark and I can answer. We know the new flavor of What Ifs have been the event-driven storylines so we looked at what we could play with that haven’t been done (or in the case of Secret Wars done to our satisfaction) and took it from there.
NRAMA: Is there a real challenge to putting together a rock-solid "What If..." story? Or is there just one goal in telling a good story?
JG: A little bit of both. Sometimes there is so much story that you really need four issues to tell it right. But we don’t have four issues, we have one. So we do our best to reduce it down to its salient points to get the story across. Also it’s very easy to throw logic to the wind where the characters start doing anything the creators want, because there are no long-term continuity consequences. But that’s where the challenge comes in, forcing ourselves to keep all the characters within character and allowing the story to progress as if it really could’ve happened. Once you do these things, everything else falls into place.
NC: Don’t listen to what anyone says. What If’s are the easiest thing in the world. I actually wrote and drew three What Ifs while answering these interview questions. Look, I’ll come up with some off the top of my head:
• What If Thor was Mary Jane?
• What If the Mighty Avengers were the Meaty Avengers? (Black Widow would be Black Angus, Wonder Man would be Wonder Meat, Iron Man would be George-Foreman-Grill Man…)
• What If the New Avengers were the Nude Avengers? (oh wait, they were…)
• What If Jeph Loeb Had Hair?
NRAMA: [laughs] Right. Do the three of you have any favorite What If stories from the past?
MP: My all-time favorite is the very first issue from way back in the ‘70s, “What if Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four?”
NC: Hm. I remember the issue that had the one-page What If Galactus Fought Ant-Man? And it had Galactus squishing Ant-Man with his foot, and Galactus was saying “Yawn. Who?” That’s probably my favorite.
JG: That explains a lot. My favorite What If of all time is Frank Miller’s What If Bullseye Had Not Killed Elektra? It felt like it could’ve been a part of his original run in Daredevil.
NRAMA: What are some ideas that didn't quite make the cut that you can share with readers? Are there ever any really "out there" projects?
NC: I never get to use any of my great ideas. Look, here’s more!
• What If Daredevil Could Only See Cake?
• What If One of The Twelve Got Cut In Half, But Still Survived? Would They Be Called The Eleven And A Half?
• What If We Could Find A Way To Put Wolverine In More Monthly Books? (Cooking With Wolverine First Class…Wolverine Sock Saga…Greatest Wolverine/Greek Poets Team-Ups…)
JG: Nate is his own “out there” project.
NRAMA: What's the best way for upcoming writers to approach editors about pitching ideas for stories like these?
NC: Please writers, do not approach me in the wild. If cornered, I will attack with plastic spoons that I store in my pants for such occasions. If you see me out of the Marvel offices, I am thinking about football and bulldogs. I can’t be bothered to talk about comics…unless you wanna talk about Uncle Scrooge. Good stuff.
MP: Football. That feels so sacrilegious. As for writing, What If? is one of those things that we get pitched all the time because it seems like an easy in, but the fact is there’s a lot of competition for them.
JG: Also most writers do not realize how difficult it is to write one until they’re doing it.
NRAMA: As editors, what are the biggest challenges of your role in the production process?
NC: Taking anything seriously. And getting Chris Giarrusso to draw more than four pages a month.
NRAMA: What is it about these What If books that make them so appealing?
MP: You have that leeway to get away with almost anything. Greg Pak’s story last year had Iron Man’s decapitation fer gosh sakes.
NC: They’re fun! And we don’t have to mess with that continuity thing.
JG: I get to edit a story based on the original event the story stems from as if it were part of the event (especially since I didn’t get the chance to be involved in the original or its tie-ins when it was coming out). Working on What If? Civil War last year, for example, was just plain cool and I treated it as seriously as if it were the real deal.